Blurring the Lines of Race and Freedom: Mulattoes in English Colonial North America and the Early United States Republic

Posted in Dissertations, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2019-10-26 01:11Z by Steven

Blurring the Lines of Race and Freedom: Mulattoes in English Colonial North America and the Early United States Republic

University of California at Berkeley
Spring 2013
183 pages

Aaron B. Wilkinson

A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History

This project investigates people of mixed African, European, and sometimes Native American ancestry, commonly referred to as mulattoes, in English colonial North America and the early United States republic. This research deconstructs nascent African American stratification by examining various types of privilege that allowed people of mixed heritage to experience upward social mobility, with a special focus on access to freedom from slavery and servitude in the colonies and states of the southeast Atlantic Coast. Additionally, this work provides a framework for understanding U.S. mixed-race ideologies by following the trajectory of how people of mixed descent and their families viewed themselves and how they were perceived by the broader societies in which they lived. This study contributes to historiographical and contemporary discussions associated with mixed-heritage peoples, ideas of racial mixture, “whiteness,” and African American identity.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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People of Mixed Ancestry in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake: Freedom, Bondage, and the Rise of Hypodescent Ideology

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2019-02-26 01:58Z by Steven

People of Mixed Ancestry in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake: Freedom, Bondage, and the Rise of Hypodescent Ideology

Journal of Social History
Volume 52, Number 3, Spring 2019
pages 593-618
DOI: 10.1093/jsh/shx113

A. B. Wilkinson, Assistant Professor of History
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

This article examines the origins of mixed-race ideologies and people of mixed African, European, and Native American ancestry—commonly identified as mulattoes—in the seventeenth-century English colonial Chesapeake and wider Atlantic world. Arguably, for the better part of the century, English colonial societies in the Chesapeake resembled Latin America and other Atlantic island colonies in allowing a relatively flexible social hierarchy, in which certain mixed-heritage people benefitted from their European lineage. Chesapeake authorities began to slowly set their provinces apart from their English colonial counterparts in the 1660s, when they enacted laws to deter intimate intermixture between Europeans and other ethnoracial groups and set policies that punished mixed-heritage children. Colonial officials attempted to use the legal system to restrict people of mixed ancestry, Africans, and Native Americans in bondage. These efforts supported the ideology of hypodescent, where children of mixed lineage are relegated more closely to the position of their socially inferior parentage. However, from the 1660s through the 1680s, these laws were unevenly enforced, and mixture increased with the growth of African slaves imported into the region. While many mulattoes were enslaved during this period, others were able to rely on their European heritage or racial whiteness. This allowed them to gain or maintain freedom for themselves and their families, before Virginia and Maryland institutionalized greater restrictions in the 1690s.

Read or purchase the article here.

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‘Did Somebody Say “Mulatto”?’ Speaking Critically on Mixed Heritage

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-23 19:51Z by Steven

‘Did Somebody Say “Mulatto”?’ Speaking Critically on Mixed Heritage

The Huffington Post
The Blog
2014-11-21

A. B. Wilkinson, Assistant Professor of History
University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Photograph: Ken Tanabe

One of the main characters in the award-winning film Dear White People is a mixed “black and white” college student who works to make sense of her life and relationships. The movie addresses several thought-provoking subjects, and the storyline around this character raises the question: Should people of mixed heritage have to choose one part of their ancestry over another?

From Nov. 13 to Nov. 15, over 600 people came together at DePaul University in Chicago to explore this question and other issues surrounding ideas of race, perceptions of racial mixture, and the experiences of mixed-heritage people. The goal of the 2014 Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference, titled “Global Mixed Race,” was to “bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines around the world to facilitate a conversation about the transnational, transdisciplinary, and transracial field of Critical Mixed Race Studies.”

As the number of people who identify as “mixed” increases, discussions around various topics concerning people of mixed ancestry are also expanding and challenging our perceptions of race and racism. Both critical mixed-race studies and films like Dear White People accomplish the same goal of furthering conversations regarding race — dialogues that we can engage in with friends, family, and those in our communities at large…

…CMRS Asks: Is There a “Global Mixed Race”?

Activists, artists, and scholars who compose critical mixed-race studies (CMRS) are complicating questions beyond “What are you?” and combating the myth of the “tragic mulatta/o.” In past decades, CMRS has expanded over a number of academic fields spanning several disciplines.

While CMRS has fought over the years to gain legitimacy within scholarly circles, one of its greatest attributes is that the coalition is not made up of solely academics but includes community activists, students, educators, families, visual artists, independent filmmakers, and others interested in the varied experiences of mixed-heritage peoples. Of course, not all these categories are mutually exclusive, as many of the activists, artists, etc., are also scholars.

Laura Kina and Camilla Fojas of DuPaul University organized the third CMRS conference, “Global Mixed Race,” which featured a variety of people telling their own stories, sharing the stories of others, and dissecting theories that surround notions of ethnoracial mixture.* In the opening keynote address, sociologist Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain, co-editor of the book Global Mixed Race, explored the idea of a “mixed experience,” where she discussed the commonalities that people of mixed descent share widely across the globe.

King-O’Riain noted that people of mixed heritage have had to learn how to live and operate within their respective societies, often finding themselves ostracized by individuals within their local communities and battling exclusive national definitions of citizenship. King-O’Riain explained that people of mixed ancestry therefore have often had to skillfully create a flexible hybrid identity, one where they develop a keen ability to operate among several groups…

Read the entire article here.

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