History 270: Topics In American History – Mixed Race Identity in American Culture

History 270: Topics In American History – Mixed Race Identity in American Culture

Spring 2010

Greg Carter, Assistant Professor of History
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Through most of the United States’ history, laws have been in place to prevent interracial intimacy and the production of mixed-race offspring, and the Tragic Mulatto figure, victim of confusion and isolation, has remained in the popular imaginary since the nineteenth century, reappearing in novels, movies, and even social science writing that addresses the challenges of multicultural societies. At the same time, writers have equated American identity with the creation of new, hybrid men since Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur asked “What then is the American, this new man?” in 1782. While less prevalent than ideas that disparage racial mixing, fascination with it has always gone hand in hand with ideas of citizenship, American identity, and progress. Why has there been a combination of appeal with mixed-race Americans along with an antipathy towards them as “half-breeds,” “intermediary,” or marginal”? Have stereotypes of them altered through the past two hundred years? Do they reflect how mixed-race people identify themselves? Lastly, how have these issues changed in the decades since the Supreme Court invalidated anti-miscegenation laws in 1967? This course aims to answer these questions through a variety of interdisciplinary sources. We will be reading fiction, essays, newspaper articles, and texts from the behavioral and social sciences that address a number of topics, including: the one-drop rule, abolition, assimilation, racial passing, the proposed “Multiracial” category for the Census, and representations in popular culture…

Read the entire syllabus here.

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