The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis (Book Review)

Posted in Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2009-10-26 22:10Z by Steven

The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis (Book Review)

Journal of Southern History
Vol. 67

Lloyd A. Hunter
Franklin College of Indiana

The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis. By Cyprian Clamorgan. Edited and with an introduction by Julie Winch. (Columbia, Mo., and London: University of Missouri Press, c. 1999. Pp. xiv, 122. $27.50, ISBN 0-8262-1236-0.)

When Cyprian Clamorgan wrote The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis in 1858, he described what it took to “make it” as an anomaly in that city. He recognized that, in St. Louis as in antebellum communities throughout the United States, to be free and of African descent meant that one did not fit into a society that assumed that black people were meant to be slaves and that only white people could know freedom. Yet Clamorgan observed that there existed in the Mound City “a certain circle; … a peculiar class–the elite of the colored race” who attained their high status through “wealth, education, or natural ability” (p. 46). And the greatest of these was wealth. This stress on wealth as the key component of St. Louis’s black aristocracy comes through clearly in Julie Winch’s reprint of Clamorgan’s brief work. Through her informative introductory chapters, meticulous editing, and extensive annotation, Winch enriches our perception of the African American community of pre-Civil War St. Louis.  She also makes a valuable contribution to the study of free blacks.

The Cyprian Clamorgan who emerges on these pages was a barber and a well-traveled steward on numerous Mississippi River boats. He was also a mulatto with an exceedingly complex ancestry. Winch adeptly unravels the snarled tale of Clamorgan’s family and of Cyprian’s descent from an apparently unsavory French voyageur, the ambitious slave trader Jacques Clamorgan (ca. 1734-1814), and one of Jacques’s parade of “Negro wives” (p. 23). Although Jacques amassed a considerable estate, he failed to gain entry to the white upper class of St. Louis. Later his equally opportunist grandson Cyprian sought to benefit financially both from the sale of Jacques’s land claims and the marketing of a literary challenge to the white “notion that black people were all alike because they were black” (p. 2). Hence his publication of The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis in 1858, a propitious time when the Dred Scott case, which also emanated from St. Louis, was commanding national attention.

Clamorgan’s little book is a virtual tour of the free black neighborhood of antebellum St. Louis. Through colorful vignettes and often humorous comments, the reader meets the African American elite while also receiving, in Winch’s view, “a serious message about race, class, and power” (p. 3). Here for example is Mrs. Pelagie Rutgers, a former slave who bought her freedom for three dollars but who is now “worth half a million dollars” (p. 48). Around the corner is Mrs. Pelagie Nash, who owns nearly the entire block on which she lives. Here also are the “inveterate gambler” but “strictly honest” Samuel Mordecai (p. 51) and the “nearly white” Antoine Labadie (p. 56). Interspersed with the visits are some of Clamorgan’s bold judgments. Although adamantly opposed to slavery, he believed that abolitionists suffered from “the same morbid and diseased brain” as that of Harriet Beecher Stowe (p. 45). Moreover, the colored aristocracy, while unable to vote, controlled elections because “wealth is power” (p. 47).

It is Winch, however, not Clamorgan, who tells the more balanced story of St. Louis’s black elite. Her voluminous annotations provide a wellspring of information based on a wide array of primary sources ranging from church records and court cases to deeds and census data. The annotations occasionally contain more facts than are necessary, and many of the archival materials could be more adequately dated, but Winch’s careful research and its insightful presentation offer a valuable window on black society, and on the roles of class and race, in a vital southern river city.

Tags: , , , ,

The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2009-10-26 21:53Z by Steven

The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis

University of Missouri Press
1999 (originaly written in 1858)
ISBN 978-0-8262-1236-8
136 pages
6 x 9
Bibliography, Index, Illustrations

Cyprian Clamorgan

Edited with an Introduction by

Julie Winch, Professor of History
University of Massachusetts, Boston

In 1858, Cyprian Clamorgan wrote a brief but immensely readable book entitled The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis. The grandson of a white voyageur and a mulatto woman, he was himself a member of the “colored aristocracy.” In a setting where the vast majority of African Americans were slaves, and where those who were free generally lived in abject poverty, Clamorgan’s “aristocrats” were exceptional people. Wealthy, educated, and articulate, these men and women occupied a “middle ground.” Their material advantages removed them from the mass of African Americans, but their race barred them from membership in white society.

The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis is both a serious analysis of the social and legal disabilities under which African Americans of all classes labored and a settling of old scores. Somewhat malicious, Clamorgan enjoyed pointing out the foibles of his friends and enemies, but his book had a serious message as well. “He endeavored to convince white Americans that race was not an absolute, that the black community was not a monolith, that class, education, and especially wealth, should count for something.”

Despite its fascinating insights into antebellum St. Louis, Clamorgan’s book has been virtually ignored since its initial publication. Using deeds, church records, court cases, and other primary sources, Winch reacquaints readers with this important book and establishes its place in the context of African American history. This annotated edition of The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis includes an introductory essay on African Americans in St. Louis before the Civil War, as well as an account of the lives of the author and the members of his remarkable family—a family that was truly at the heart of the city’s “colored aristocracy” for four generations.

A witty and perceptive commentary on race and class, The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis is a remarkable story about a largely forgotten segment of nineteenth-century society. Scholars and general readers alike will appreciate Clamorgan’s insights into one of antebellum America’s most important communities.

Tags: , , , ,

Blind Boone: Missouri’s Ragtime Pioneer

Posted in Arts, Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2009-10-26 21:16Z by Steven

Blind Boone: Missouri’s Ragtime Pioneer

University of Missouri Press
136 pages
6 x 9.
Biblio. Index. 25 illus.
ISBN: 0-8262-1198-4

Jack A. Batterson

Often overlooked by ragtime historians, John William “Blind” Boone had a remarkably successful and influential music career that endured for almost fifty years. Blind Boone: Missouri’s Ragtime Pioneer provides the first full account of the Missouri-born musician’s amazing story of overcoming the odds.

Boone’s background and his approach to music contributed to his ability to bridge gaps–gaps between blacks and whites and gaps between popular and classical music. Boone’s thousands of performances from 1879 to 1927 brought blacks and whites into the same concert halls as he played a mixture of popular and classical tunes.  A pioneer of ragtime music, Boone was the first performer to give the musical style legitimacy by bringing it to the concert stage.

The mulatto child of a former slave and a Union soldier, Boone was born in Miami, Missouri, in 1864 amid the chaos of the Civil War.  At six months he was diagnosed with “brain fever.” Doctors, believing they were performing a lifesaving procedure, removed Boone’s eyes and sewed his eyelids shut.

Despite blindness and poverty, Boone was a fun-loving, cheerful child.  Growing up in Warrensburg, Missouri, he played freely with both black and white children, undaunted by racial differences or his own disabilities. He exhibited a keen ear and musical promise early in life; at only five years of age he recruited older boys and formed a band.

Recognizing Boone’s talent, the town’s prominent citizens sent him to the St. Louis School for the Blind. There he excelled at music and amazed his instructors. However, Boone became increasingly unhappy with the school’s treatment of him and he frequently ran away to the tenderloin district of the city, where he first experienced ragtime. As a result of his forays, he was expelled after only two and a half years.

After some harrowing experiences, Boone met John Lange Jr., a benevolent black contractor and philanthropist in Columbia, Missouri. Boone and Lange began a lifelong friendship, which developed from their partnership in the Blind Boone Concert Company.  Although the two experienced hardships and racism, fires and train wrecks, Lange’s guidance and Boone’s talent secured 8,650 concerts in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Blind Boone: Missouri’s Ragtime Pioneer offers an engaging and readable account of the personal and professional life of Blind Boone. This book will appeal to the general reader as well as anyone interested in African American studies or music history.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Injun Joe’s Ghost: The Indian Mixed-Blood in American Writing

Posted in Anthropology, Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2009-10-26 20:55Z by Steven

Injun Joe’s Ghost: The Indian Mixed-Blood in American Writing

University of Missouri Press
ISBN 978-0-8262-1530-7
288 pages
6 x 9

Harry J. Brown, Assistant Professor of English
DePauw University

What does it mean to be a “mixed-blood,” and how has our understanding of this term changed over the last two centuries? What processes have shaped American thinking on racial blending?  Why has the figure of the mixed-blood, thought too offensive for polite conversation in the nineteenth century, become a major representative of twentieth-century native consciousness?

In Injun Joe’s Ghost, Harry J. Brown addresses these questions within the interrelated contexts of anthropology, U.S. Indian policy, and popular fiction by white and mixed-blood writers, mapping the evolution of “hybridity” from a biological to a cultural category. Brown traces the processes that once mandated the mixed-blood’s exile as a grotesque or criminal outcast and that have recently brought about his ascendance as a cultural hero in contemporary Native American writing.

Because the myth of the demise of the Indian and the ascendance of the Anglo-Saxon is traditionally tied to America’s national idea, nationalist literature depicts Indian-white hybrids in images of degeneracy, atavism, madness, and even criminality. A competing tradition of popular writing, however, often created by mixed-blood writers themselves, contests these images of the outcast half-breed by envisioning “hybrid vigor,” both biologically and linguistically, as a model for a culturally heterogeneous nation.

Injun Joe’s Ghost focuses on a significant figure in American history and culture that has, until now, remained on the periphery of academic discourse. Brown offers an in-depth discussion of many texts, including dime novels and Depression- era magazine fiction, that have been almost entirely neglected by scholars. This volume also covers texts such as the historical romances of the 1820s and the novels of the twentieth-century “Native American Renaissance” from a fresh perspective. Investigating a broad range of genres and subject over two hundred year of American writing, Injun Joe’s Ghost will be useful to students and professionals in the fields of American literature, popular culture, and native studies.

Tags: , , ,


Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, Women on 2009-10-26 20:23Z by Steven


W. W. Norton & Company
September 2007
584 pages
5.2 × 8.4 in
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-393-97916-9

Nella Larsen

Edited by

Carla Kaplan, Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature
Northeastern University

Nella Larsen is a central figure in African American, Modernist, and women’s literature.

Larsen’s status as a Harlem Renaissance woman writer was rivaled by only Zora Neale Hurston’s. This Norton Critical Edition of her electrifying 1929 novel includes Carla Kaplan’s detailed and thought-provoking introduction, thorough explanatory annotations, and a Note on the Text. An unusually rich “Background and Contexts” section connects the novel to the historical events of the day, most notably the sensational Rhinelander/Jones case of 1925. Fourteen contemporary reviews are reprinted, including those by Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Mary Griffin, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Published accounts from 1911 to 1935—by Langston Hughes, Juanita Ellsworth, and Caleb Johnson, among others—provide a nuanced view of the contemporary cultural dimensions of race and passing, both in America and abroad. Also included are Larsen’s statements on the novel and on passing, as well as a generous selection of her letters and her central writings on “The Tragic Mulatto(a)” in American literature. Additional perspective is provided by related Harlem Renaissance works. “Criticism” provides fifteen diverse critical interpretations, including those by Mary Helen Washington, Cheryl A. Wall, Deborah E. McDowell, David L. Blackmore, Kate Baldwin, and Catherine Rottenberg. A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included.

Table of Contents

A Note on the Text
The Text of Passing
Backgrounds and Contexts

  1. Mary Rennels – “Passing” Is Novel of Longings (April 27, 1929)
  2. Beyond the Color Line (April 28, 1929)
  3. Margaret Cheney Dawson – The Color Line (April 28, 1929)
  4. The Dilemma of Mixed Race: Another Study of Color-line in New York (May 1, 1929)
  5. Alice Dunbar-Nelson – As In a Looking Glass (May 3, 1929)
  6. W. B. Seabrook – Touch of the Tar-brush (May 18, 1929)
  7. Esther Hyman – Passing by Nella Larsen (June 1929)
  8. Aubrey Bowser – The Cat Came Back (June 5, 1929)
  9. Mary Griffin – Novel of Race Consciousness (June 23, 1929)
  10. W. E. B. Du Bois – Passing (July 1929)
  11. Mary Fleming Larabee – Passing (August 1929)
  12. Do They Always Return? (September 28, 1929)
  13. “M. L. H.” – Passing (December 1929)
  14. Passing (December 12, 1929)


  1. When Is a Caucasian Not a Caucasian? (March 2, 1911)
  2. [Publisher’s Preface to the 1912 Edition of Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man]
  3. Writer Says Brazil Has No Color Line (October 1925)
  4. Blood Will Tell (July 24, 1926)
  5. Don Pierson – Does It Pay to “Pass?” (August 20, 1927)
  6. Juanita Ellsworth – White Negroes (May-June 1928)
  7. Lewis Fremont Baldwin – From From Negro to Caucasian, Or How the Ethiopian Is Changing His Skin (1929)
  8. Emilie Hahn – Crossing the Color Line (July 28, 1929)
  9. Caleb Johnson – Crossing the Color Line (August 26, 1931)
  10. Langston Hughes – Passing for White, Passing for Colored, Passing for Negroes Plus (1931)
  11. 75,000 Pass in Philadelphia Every Day (December 19, 1931)
  12. Careful Lyncher! He May Be Your Brother (January 21, 1932)
  13. Blonde Girl Was ‘Passing‘ (January 23, 1932)
  14. Swedish Negro Baby! (April 28, 1932)
  15. Virginia Is Still Hounding ‘White’ Negroes Who ‘Pass’ (June 29, 1935)


  1. Mark J. Madigan – Miscegenation and “the Dicta of Race and Class”: The Rhinelander Case and Nella Larsen’s Passing (1990)
  2. Selected newspaper articles on the case (list pending)


  1. About Nella Larsen
  2. Miss Nella Larsen Bids for Literary Laurels (May 12, 1928)
  3. Thelma E. Berlack – New Author Unearthed Right Here in Harlem (May 23, 1928)
  4. Mary Rennels – Behind the Backs of Books and Authors (April 13, 1929)
  5. [Letter about Nella Larsen] Jean Blackwell Hutson to Louise Fox (August 1, 1969)
  6. Thadious M. Davis – Nella Larsen’s Harlem Aesthetic (1989)
  7. George Hutchinson – Nella Larsen and the Veil of Race (1997)
  8. Larson on birth, Passing, and death
  9. Davis on birth, Passing, and death
  10. Hutchinson on birth, Passing, and death

Author’s Statements

  1. Nella Larsen Imes, “Author Statement,” 1926
  2. Nella Larsen Imes, Guggenheim Application
  3. [In Defense of Sanctuary]


  1. To Carl Van Vechten [1925]
  2. To Charles S. Johnson [August 1926]
  3. To Eddie Wasserman
  4. To Eddie Wasserman
  5. To Dorothy Peterson
  6. To Dorothy Peterson
  7. To Dorothy Peterson
  8. To Dorothy Peterson
  9. To Langston Hughes
  10. To Gertrude Stein
  11. To Carl Van Vechten
  12. To Carl Van Vechten


  1. Lydia Maria Child – The Quadroons (1842)
  2. Williams Wells Brown– From Clotel (1853)
  3. Frances Harper – From Iola Leroy (1892)
  4. William Dean Howells – From An Imperative Duty (1892 or 83?)
  5. Kate Chopin – The Father of Désirée’s Baby (1893)
  6. Mark Twain – From Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894)
  7. Charles Chesnutt – From The House behind the Cedars (1900)
  8. Georgia Douglass Johnson – The Octoroon (1922)
  9. Countee Cullen – Near White (1925)
  10. Langston Hughes – Mulatto (1927)
  11. Fannie Hurst – From Imitation of Life (1933)


  1. Frank Webb – From The Gairies and Their Friends (1852)
  2. Frances Harper – From Iola Leroy (1892)
  3. Charles Chesnutt – From House behind the Cedars (1900)
  4. James Weldon Johnson – From Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912)
  5. Jessie Redmon Fauset – The Sleeper Wakes (1920)
  6. Countee Cullen – Two Who Crossed a Line (1925)
  7. Walter White – From Flight (1926)
  8. Jessie Redmon Fauset – From Plum Bun (1928)
  9. Rudolph Fisher – From The Walls of Jericho (1928)
  10. George S. Schuyler – From Black No More (1931)
  11. Langston Hughes – Passing (1934)


  1. Joseph Seamon Cotter, Jr. – The Mulatto to His Critics (1918)
  2. Countee Cullen – Heritage (1925)
  3. W. E. B. Du Bois – Criteria of Negro Art (1926)
  4. Nella Larsen [Pseud. Allen Semi] – Freedom (1926)
  5. George S. Schuyler – The Negro-Art Hokum (1926)
  6. Carl Van Vechten – From Nigger Heaven (1926)
  7. From Negro Womanhood’s Greatest Needs: A Symposium (1927)


  1. Nathan Irvin Huggins – [Schizophrenia from Racial Dualism]
  2. Mary Mabel Youman – Nella Larsen’s Passing: A Study in Irony
  3. Claudia Tate – Nella Larsen’s Passing: A Problem of Interpretation
  4. Mary Helen Washington – Nella Larsen: Mystery Woman of the Harlem Renaissance
  5. Cheryl A. Wall – Passing for What? Aspects of Identity in Nella Larsen’s Novels
  6. Deborah E. McDowell – [Black Female Sexuality in Passing]
  7. David L. Blackmore – “That Unreasonable Restless Feeling”: The Homosexual Subtexts of Nella Larsen’s Passing
  8. Jennifer DeVere Brody – Clare Kendry’s “True” Colors: Race and Class Conflict in Nella Larsen’s Passing
  9. Helena Michie – [Differences among Black Women]
  10. Judith Butler – Passing, Queering: Nella Larsen’s Psychoanalytic Challenge
  11. Ann duCille – Passing Fancies
  12. Kate Baldwin – The Recurring Conditions of Nella Larsen’s Passing
  13. Gayle Wald – Passing and Domestic Tragedy
  14. Catherine Rottenberg – Passing: Race, Identification, and Desire
  15. Miriam Thaggert – Racial Etiquette: Nella Larsen’s Passing and the Rhinelander Case

Nella Larsen: A Chronology
Selected Bibliography

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Plight of Mixed Race Adolescents

Posted in Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, United States on 2009-10-26 17:43Z by Steven

The Plight of Mixed Race Adolescents

First Draft: August 2005
This Version: July 2008

Roland G. Fryer, Jr., Professor of Economics
Harvard University and NBER

Lisa Kahn, Assistant Professor of Economics
Yale School of Management

Steven D. Levitt, William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics
University of Chicago and American Bar Foundation

Jörg L. Spenkuch
University of Chicago

Over the past 40 years the fraction of mixed race black-white births has increased nearly nine-fold. There is little empirical evidence on how these children fare relative to their single race counterparts. This paper describes basic facts about the plight of mixed race individuals during their adolescence and early adulthood. As one might expect, on a host of background and achievement characteristics, mixed race adolescents fall in between whites and blacks. When it comes to engaging in risky/anti-social adolescent behavior, however, mixed race adolescents are stark outliers compared to both blacks and whites. We argue that these behavioral patterns are most consistent with the “marginal man” hypothesis, which we formalize as a two-sector Roy model. Mixed race adolescents—not having a natural peer group—need to engage in more risky behaviors to be accepted. All other models we considered can explain neither why mixed race adolescents are outliers on risky behaviors nor why these behaviors are not strongly influenced by the racial composition at their school.

Read the entire paper here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Racial Mixture and Affirmative Action: The Cases of Brazil and the United States

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2009-10-26 01:59Z by Steven

Racial Mixture and Affirmative Action: The Cases of Brazil and the United States

The American Historical Review
Volume 108, Number 5
December 2003

Thomas E. Skidmore, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Professor of History Emeritus
Brown University

For me, as a historian of Brazil, North America’s “one-drop rule” has always seemed odd. No other society in this hemisphere has defined its racial types in such absolutist terms. David Hollinger, like many American historians before him, is clearly intrigued by this apparently unique “approach to the question of ethnoracial mixture.” How can we account for it? How could such a different racial classification have arisen in North America and not in any of the many other European colonial experiments in the New World?

Hollinger cites three features that in combination allegedly made U.S. racial evolution different. The first is a regime that tolerated slavery and thereby produced a significant population of slave descent. The second is massive immigration that enriched American society. The third is survival of an Indian population, even if only in token numbers.

But Hollinger examines the influence of these three factors on racial attitudes and behavior in the United States alone. If we add one other country, Brazil, to the picture, we find something rather startling. All three of Hollinger’s conditions also obtained in Brazil. Yet they did not produce the one-drop rule. Something else must have been at work.

If I had been writing this commentary a half century ago, I would have stressed the enormous difference between the two countries in the racial status given to the offspring of mixed unions.  Throughout the United States (multi-racial societies emerged in Charleston and New Orleans, but only temporarily), the one-drop rule defined mixed bloods (even the lightest mulattos) as black. In Brazil, by contrast, racial attribution depended on how the person looked and on the particular circumstances of that person, which led to the racial fluidity for which Brazil is famous

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

The Mulatto Advantage: The Biological Consequences of Complexion in Rural Antebellum Virginia

Posted in Articles, Economics, History, Social Science, United States, Virginia on 2009-10-26 00:57Z by Steven

The Mulatto Advantage: The Biological Consequences of Complexion in Rural Antebellum Virginia

Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Volume 33, Number 1 (Summer 2002)
pp. 21-46
E-ISSN: 1530-9169; Print ISSN: 0022-1953
DOI: 10.1162/00221950260029002

Howard Bodenhorn, Professor of Economics
Clemson University

Although historians have long noted that African-Americans of mixed-race in the antebellum Lower South were given economic and social preference over those with darker skin, they have denied that people of mixed race received special treatment in the antebellum Upper South as well. Examination of data on the registrations of free African-Americans in antebellum Virginia, however, reveals that adolescents and adults with lighter complexions tended to have a height advantage, which suggests that they enjoyed better nutrition.

Tags: , ,

The Significance of Color Declines: A Re-Analysis of Skin Tone Differentials in Post-Civil Rights America

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2009-10-26 00:23Z by Steven

The Significance of Color Declines: A Re-Analysis of Skin Tone Differentials in Post-Civil Rights America

Social Forces
Volume 84, Number 1
September 2005
pp. 157-180

Aaron Gullickson, Assistant Professor
University of Oregon

Skin tone variation within the United States’ black population has long been associated with intraracial stratification. Skin tone differentials in socioeconomic status reflect both the inherited privileges of a mulatto elite and contemporary preferences for lighter skin. Three influential studies have claimed that such differentials in educational, occupational and spousal attainment have remained strong in the post-Civil Rights era, based on results from large nationally representative surveys. However, these studies used a period conception of change which ignored the potential for changes across cohorts within the same period. I re-analyze the available data and find significant declines in skin tone differentials for younger cohorts, in terms of educational and labor market outcomes, but not in terms of spousal attainment. These declines begin with cohorts born in the mid-1940s. In addition, there is evidence of period declines of skin tone differentials in occupational attainment in the 1980s. I discuss possible explanations for the declines.

Tags: , ,

Racial Boundary Formation at the Dawn of Jim Crow: The Determinants and Effects of Black/Mulatto Occupational Differences in the United States, 1880

Posted in Census/Demographics, Economics, History, Live Events, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Social Science, United States on 2009-10-26 00:09Z by Steven

Racial Boundary Formation at the Dawn of Jim Crow: The Determinants and Effects of Black/Mulatto Occupational Differences in the United States, 1880

Department Colloquium Series
University of Washington, Department of Sociology
Savery Hall
2009-10-06 15:30 PDT (Local Time)

Aaron Gullickson, Assistant Professor
University of Oregon

Much of the literature within sociology regarding mixed-race populations focuses on contemporary issues and dynamics, often overlooking a larger historical literature. This paper provides a historical perspective on these issues by exploiting regional variation in the United States in the degree of occupational differentiation between blacks and mulattoes in the 1880 Census, during a transitionary period from slavery to freedom. The analysis reveals that the role of the mixed-race category as either a “buffer class” or a status threat depended upon the class composition of the white population. Black/mulatto occupational differentiation was greatest in areas where whites had a high level of occupational prestige and thus little to fear from an elevated mulatto group. Furthermore, the effect of black/mulatto occupational differentiation on lynching varied by the occupational status of whites. In areas where whites were of relatively low status, black/mulatto differentiation increased the risk of lynching, while in areas where whites were of relatively high status, black/mulatto differentiation decreased the risk of lynching.

Tags: , ,