Biracial cohabitation in Miss. is old news

Biracial cohabitation in Miss. is old news

Desoto Times Tribune

Bill Minor, Syndicated Columnist (Covering Mississippi politics for more than 50 years.)

Mississippi Republicans dismissed as Democratic hogwash a recent report of a poll showing that nearly half of the state’s GOPers believed interracial marriages should be illegal.

The poll—showing that 46 percent of Mississippi Republicans believed marriages across racial lines, notwithstanding what the U.S. Supreme Court has said, should not be legal—was done by a Democratic-leaning North Carolina group, Public Policy Polling.

On the other hand, state Republicans did not find fault with other parts of the PPP poll, namely that Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant held a solid lead (63 percent) in his bid for the party’s gubernatorial nomination.

Actually, the subject of racial intermarriages was only a side issue in the PPP poll. Importantly, the poll dusted off a subject that has long floated just below the surface in Mississippi. We must remember that Mississippi has the highest percentage African-American population among the nation’s states.

The question of racial intermarriage in Mississippi came up in the poll only a few days after an in-depth story in the New York Times spotlighted a black-white Hattiesburg couple whose 11-year marriage has caused not a ripple in the city’s 50,000 population…

…In his prize-winning “Dark Journey… Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow,” former University of Southern Mississippi historian Neil McMillen relates that biracial cohabitation in Mississippi flourished in the post-Civil War Reconstruction era prior to the state’s 1890 Constitution. Many of those unions led to intermarriage, McMillen writes, because there was no law against it during Reconstruction.

However, the 1890 “redemption” constitutional convention, wrote a specific prohibition against racial intermarriages into Mississippi’s new basic law, banning unions if either person had “one-eighth Negro blood.” It remained there for three-quarters of a century until stricken by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Of note, I (as well as several national reporters) covered the state’s first known biracial wedding in 1967 after the legal ban was lifted. It was conducted by the Rev. Rims Barber, who is white, with a white female bride and a black male husband, in a Methodist church on Farish Street. The fact that the marriage was covered by the media back then indicated how such an event in this race-conscious state was regarded as a major news story…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,