The Biological Status and Social Worth of the Mulatto

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-07-26 22:07Z by Steven

The Biological Status and Social Worth of the Mulatto

The Popular Science Monthly
June 1913
pages 573-582
Source: University of California via The Hathi Trust Digital Library

Harvey Ernest Jordan, Professor of Anatomy and Director of the Anatomical Laboratories
University of Virginia

The United States has something more than a “negro problem”; it has a mulatto problem. Our 10,000,000 coloredd fellow-citizens comprise somewhat less than 8,000,000 full-blooded negroes; approximately 2,000,000 contain varying percentages of “white” blood.  This “white man’s burden” has several cardinal aspects, notably, social, economic and political. The fundamental aspect, however, is the biologic. Does the presence of this vast company of “half-breeds” complicate or facilitate the “problem”? Certain it is that they must be reckoned with. Are they an aid or a hindrance to a permanent satisfactory adjustment of full relationship between the white race and the colored? To one man their presence is a source of black despair, to another of radiant hope. Which is the more rational attitude? It depends upon the scientific facts in the case. The first point concerns the biological status of this mulatto hybrid.

It may help the subsequent discussion to note at this point the fact that Jamaica does not have a “negro problem” as we know it in the United States. And on the face of things it would appear that it might well be present there in even more aggravated form. For in Jamaica there are only about 15,000 whites among a colored population of about 700,000, including about 50,000 mulattoes. It should be noted that in this “Queen of the Greater Antilles” the mulattoes, as a class, are more nearly at the level of the whites, than at that of the pure negroes. The mulattoes contribute the artisans, the teachers, the business and professional men. They are the very backbone of wonderful Jamaica. To be sure, Jamaica has had 30 years more than the United States during which to “solve” her “negro problem.” But perhaps the perfect adjustment between the races in Jamaica and the elimination of any “problem” of this kind finds its explanation in a more rational and more consistent political treatment made possible by the absence of any constitutional prescription. We may well suspect that the inconsistency of according to the negro legal (constitutional) equality and withholding it practically (politically and socially) has had a morally harmful effect upon both black and white. To stultify oneself as between one’s theory and practise is always subversive of high moral tone.   We shall return to this point below. Suffice it to note here that the Honorable Mr. Olivier, governor of Jamaica, recognizes in the presence of the mulatto only a past blessing, a present advantage, and a future promise of great good.

In the beginning we shall need to raise the question once more as to whether the Negro and Caucasian are actually different man-species, as was held by the eminent zoologist, Louis Agassiz, and as is still held by many, as, for example, the noted French psychologist, Le Bon; or whether they simply represent different “races” or varieties of the same species homo, as is more commonly believed. Le Bon quotes with

If the Negro and the Caucasian were snails, all zoologists would affirm unanimously that they constitute excellent species, which could never have descended from the same couple from which they had gradually come to differ.

However, simply external gross appearance is no infallible criterion by which to judge of species. And the more highly developed the organism the wider do the individuals differ within the species. Two human brothers may differ infinitely more than two true snail-species. Zoology can furnish many examples where a larval form, or individuals of opposite sex, or the same form modified by peculiar environmental conditions, have been mistaken for separate species. The real scientific test is that of impossibility of effecting a cross, or of infertility inter se of hybrids of a possible cross. A cross between the horse and the ass produces a mule. But mules are infertile if interbred. Hence horse and ass are separate species. A very valuable cross can also be effected between the cow and the buffalo. But the offspring are barren bred among themselves.  Hence cow and buffalo are at least of different species. The mulatto is the product of a negro-white cross. He is as fecund with his own kind, or when he mates with white or negro, as either pure-breeding negroes or whites are. As a matter of fact, the mulatto is probably more prolific than the normal average of either white or negro. During the past twenty years he has increased at twice the rate of the Negro. The Negro is then simply a black variety of the human species. He is the white man’s brother; and we may both be cousins of the apes.

The second question that presents itself is this: Is the mulatto necessarily degenerate? The idea has been and is very eminently and widely held that the crossing of races is intrinsically bad, biologically harmful; that it inevitably and inexorably works deterioration. Agassiz noted in Brazil a

decadence that results from cross-breeding which goes on in this country to a greater extent than elsewhere. This cross-breeding is fatal to the best qualities whether of the white man, the black, or the Indian, and produces an indescribable type whose physical and mental energy suffers.

Humboldt and Darwin held the same opinion, Hilaire Belloc in “The French Revolution” notes regarding Marat

Some say . . . that a mixture of racial types produced in him a perpetual physical disturbance: his face was certainly distorted and ill-balanced (p. 78).

Schultz claims to have noted an intrinsic deterioration in Gentile-Jew crosses.   Le Bon expresses himself as follows:

To cross two peoples is to change simultaneously both their physical constitution and their mental constitution . . . the first effect of interbreeding between different races is to destroy the soul of the race, and by their soul we mean that congeries of common ideas and sentiments which make the strength of people, and without which there is no such thing as a nation or a fatherland . . . a people may sustain many losses, may be overtaken by many catastrophes, and yet recover from the ordeal, but it has lost everything and is past recovery, when it has lost its soul (pp. 53-55).

Le Bon explains this supposed necessary degeneration in half-breeds as due to the “influence of contrary heredities” which “saps their morality and character.” We shall return to Le Bon’s idea of a loss of “soul” as consequent of inter-racial crosses…

…I admit the general inferiority of black-white offspring. Defective half-breeds are too prevalent and obtruding to permit denying the apparently predetermined result of such crosses. But I emphatically deny that the result is inherent in the simple fact of cross-breeding. There are not a few very striking exceptions among my own acquaintances. Absolutely the best mulatto family I have ever known traces its ancestry back on both the maternal and paternal side to high-grade white grandfathers and pure-type negro grandmothers. The reason for the frequently inferior product of such crosses is that the better elements of both races under ordinary conditions of easy mating with their own type feel an instinctive repugnance to intermarriage. Under these usual circumstances a white man who stoops to mating with a colored woman, or a colored woman who will accept a white man, are already of quite inferior type. One would not expect superior offspring from such parents, if it concerned horses or dogs. Why should we expect the biologically impossible in the case of man? If the parents are of good type, so will be the offspring. And even with the handicap of frequently degraded white ancestry, the mulatto of our country, as in Jamaica, forms the most intelligent and potentially useful element of our colored population.

The fact then is established, beyond all possibility of disproof, it seems to me, that a negro-white cross does not inherently mean degeneracy; and that the mulatto, measured by present-day standards of Caucasian civilization, from economic and civic standpoints, is an advance upon a pure negro. In further support of the potency of even a relatively remote white ancestry may be cited the almost unique instance of the Moses of the colored race, Booker T. Washington. As one mingles day by day with colored people of all grades and shades, one is impressed with the significance of even small admixtures of Caucasian blood. What elements of hope or menace lie hidden in these mulatto millions? How can they help to solve or confuse the “problem”?…

…The mulatto has appeared through the white man’s acts. He will greatly increase in the coming generations, by breeding with both his kind and with pure negroes. A high fertility is increased relative to the negro by a lessening death-rate. It is fortunate that he represents an advance on the negro, and a real national advantage in our efforts to adjust the negro ” problem.”…

…The truth is that the hybrid finds himself alive and human, with all that this signifies in terms of capacity for soul development. The pure-bred has no better initial equipment. In the matter of human fundamentals they come to differ only as a different nurture plays upon a very similar human nature. There surely are no real data for the support of Le Bon’s notion that contrary heredities sap the vitality of hybrids and leave them barren of soul…

Read the entire article here.

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Multiracial Health Risk Claims

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes, Health/Medicine/Genetics on 2012-07-26 05:06Z by Steven

The claim that persons identifying as multiracial suffer health risks due to the lack of a federal multiracial category is without foundation. On March 1 and 2, 1993, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry conducted their Workshop on the Use of Race and Ethnicity in Public Health Surveillance. One of the general principles agreed upon by workshop participants was that “the concept of race as assessed in pub­lic health surveillance is a social measure. Biological or genetic reference, or both, should be made with extreme caution.” Clearly, the call for instituting a mul­tiracial category for purposes of disease screening is medically insupportable. According to epidemiologists and workshop participants Robert Hahn and Donna Stroup, medical screening by biological race is not desired since “what is mea­sured as ‘race’ in public health surveillance is not a biological characteristic, but rather a self-perception for which phenotypic characteristics may be one among many criteria… Even were distinctive biological markers of race determined, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to assess such markers in common surveil­lance processes and in the census.”

Rainier Spencer, Spurious Issues: Race and Multiracial Identity Politics in the United States, (Boulder: Westview Press,1999), 158.


Film & Literary Festival Awards 2012 Loving Prize to UCSB’s G. Reginald Daniel

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-07-26 02:40Z by Steven

Film & Literary Festival Awards 2012 Loving Prize to UCSB’s G. Reginald Daniel

University of California, Santa Barbara
Office of Public Affairs


Andrea Estrada: 805-893-4620
George Foulsham: 805-893-3071

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– G. Reginald Daniel, a professor of sociology at UC Santa Barbara, has received the 2012 Loving Prize from the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival.

Source: University of California, Santa Barbara

Established in 2008, the Loving Prizes are presented each year to outstanding artists, storytellers, and community leaders who have shown a dedication to celebrating and illuminating the “mixed” experience. Previous recipients include UCSB’s Kip Fulbeck and Paul R. Spickard, professors of art and performative studies and of history, respectively; James McBride, author of “The Color of Water“; Maya Soetoro-Ng, a writer, educator, and the half-sister of Barack Obama; former Pittsburgh Steeler Hines Ward; Maria P.P. Root, a scholar and clinical psychologist; and Angela Nissel, a writer and co-producer for the television series “Scrubs.”

G. Reginald Daniel Accepts Loving Prize at Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival (2012-06-16) ©2012, Steven F. Riley

The recipients were honored at the three-day Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival, which brought together innovative and emerging artists, and multiracial families and individuals for workshops, readings, and film screenings. The festival, held in Los Angeles in June, celebrates stories of the mixed experience and of interracial and intercultural relationships, blended families, and anyone who identifies with having mixed roots…

Read the entire press release here.

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Indigenous Studies (INST) 370/History (HIST) 370: The Métis (Revision 2)

Posted in Canada, Course Offerings, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation on 2012-07-26 02:06Z by Steven

Indigenous Studies (INST) 370/History (HIST) 370: The Métis (Revision 2)

Athabasca University
Athabasca, Alberta, Canada

INST 370 traces the historical development of Canada’s Métis from the period of the fur trade to the present. It includes discussion and debates about the origins of Métis nationalism, the validity of Métis land claims, and the character of Métis struggles for social justice from the Seven Oaks rebellion of 1816 through the two Northwest rebellions to the present.

It also examines the changes in the lives of Métis women that occurred as a result of the impact of churches, education, and racism. Throughout there is an attempt to examine the evolving character of Métis societies and the impact of Euro-Canadian government policies on these societies.


  • Unit 1: Métis Identities and Origins
  • Unit 2: The Historic Métis Nation to 1869
  • Unit 3: The Métis Diaspora, 1870-1890
  • Unit 4: The Re-Emergence of the Métis, 1890-1950
  • Unit 5: Land Claims
  • Unit 6: Les Métisses in the Canadian West

Irrevocable Ties and Forgotten Ancestry: The Legacy of Colonial Intermarriage for Descendents of Mixed Ancestry

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Dissertations, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Women on 2012-07-26 01:57Z by Steven

Irrevocable Ties and Forgotten Ancestry: The Legacy of Colonial Intermarriage for Descendents of Mixed Ancestry

University of British Columbia, Vancouver
April 2008
56 pages

Kim S. Dertien


The identities of mixed Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal descendents in British Columbia is as varied as it is complex. In this paper I examine what caused some people of mixed Native and non-Native ancestry not to identify as Aboriginal while others did. The point of fracture for those who identify with their Aboriginal origins and those who do not can be traced to a specific time in our history. More importantly, specific variables were instrumental in causing that divergence of identity, spurred by a pervasive social stigma in colonial society. For many of mixed ancestry, the disassociation from their Aboriginal identity led to generations of silence and denial and eventually to a ‘complete disappearance of race’. It was a deliberate breeding out of cultural identity through assimilative ideology and actions in order to conform to European norms.

Determining what factors caused this divergence of identity for mixed-descendents entails considering why many Aboriginal women married non-Native partners in B.C. during the mid-19th century, how intermarriage affected identity formation for offspring, and what the multi-generational effects have been on the identities of mixed descendents. Today, this leaves a dilemma for those in-between who are eligible for status, and for those who are not but who choose to reconnect with, acknowledge and learn more of their ancestry. Both assertions of First Nations identity and choices to reconnect with a First Nations heritage while maintaining a non-Native identity, challenge the assumed inevitability of assimilation, and the federal government’s continuing reluctance to understand the cultural significance of identification as ‘Indian’.

Read the entire thesis here.

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The core of the doctrine disseminated under Vargas was that no matter what their ethnic background, Brazilians are all mixed and hence one.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2012-07-26 01:43Z by Steven

Race is an elusive category and provides an even more elusive way to forge a sense of collective belonging. Nobody is more aware of this elusiveness than Brazilian black-power activists. For most of the history of blacks in Brazil, Africans and their descendents had a strong sense of being different from their white slaveholders. This difference was forced onto them and used to hold them at the bottom of Brazil’s social hierarchies, and it left no doubt that Brazilian whites had no intention whatsoever to accept the moral and legal equality of blacks, which held true well into the twentieth century. The sense of black identity was indeed so strong during most of the colonial period and slavery, which lasted until 1888, that African and Brazilian blacks of different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds and of different degrees of biological mixture repeatedly united to contest white supremacy and attempted to overthrow the system that held them at the bottom. On several occasions, Brazil barely escaped its “Haitian moment.” As late as 1931, the radical Frente Negra Brasileira, the Brazilian Black Front, had a membership of about 200,000, mostly concentrated in the industrialized south (Davis 1999: 187). In 1936, however, the authoritarian government of Vargas outlawed the Black Front, together with all other oppositional political parties. The Vargas government sought to discourage any association that had the potential to endanger his project of national unity. The risk of factionalism and even secession was so great during the 1930s that the Vargas government undertook extraordinary measures to forge a sense of nationality, national pride, and even a sense of what it meant to be Brazilian.

Among the most successful in this cause was sociologist Gilberto Freyre (1986). Freyre’s writings on the Brazilian national character provided the ideological foundation upon which a unified nation could be constructed, and the Vargas regime left no means untouched to disseminate this ideology. Brazil would be a racial paradise, inhabited by one race, the Brazilian version of “cosmic race”—a tropical mulatto republic. Anybody daring to say differently was transformed into a naysayer and a reactionary. The concept of a racial paradise promised a solution to finally catch up to the developed world, even if—and especially because—Brazil had such a large mixed population.

To the black-power movement, this move proved devastating. Up until the 1930s, Brazilian blacks were forcefully united by the perverse power of racism and social Darwinism; after the 1930s, asserting one’s blackness was transformed into an act of civic upheaval and antipatriotism and little by little, as the Vargas regime made sure that its version of the truth was accepted, asserting ethnic difference became an act of political incorrectness not only aimed against the state, but against mainstream society. Under Vargas, race was removed from textbooks, censuses, and from the official discourse about Brazil. The state thus produced the main and only official way to represent the country, and any Brazilian—black or white, mixed or indigenous—had no other choice but to accept that reality and to find ways of social mobility that explicitly took it into account. The core of the doctrine disseminated under Vargas was that no matter what their ethnic background, Brazilians are all mixed and hence one. Nevertheless, this was not an “imagined community,” as Benedict Anderson (1991) suggests. Rather, it was a designed community, designed by the state and forced onto its people. The only one imagining, dreaming, and sometimes hallucinating such a community was the father of the idea, Gilberto Freyre.

The Vargas years severely delegitimized any attempt to forge a sense of racial solidarity among excluded blacks. Just as black-power movements regrouped during the 1950s and early 1960s, the state stepped in again, this time to avoid a potentially explosive bonding between labor and racialized groups. During the military regime, black-power activism became subversive and was subject to prosecution in the best-case scenario, but also to state-sponsored persecution, imprisonment, torture, and even death. The military regime also ensured that the category race would disappear again from the census, and it thus sought to curtail even the prospects for an emerging racial solidarity that would embrace and represent all those affected by the forces of racism and racialized exclusion. Categories, after all, are the building blocks of group consciousness (Brubaker 2004). Without numbers, mobilization is greatly complicated, as there can be no sense of a shared destiny if it is not known with whom, and with how many, this destiny is shared. Political activism is all but rendered impossible if there are no data and no existing categories other than being Brazilian.

Bernd Reiter and Gladys L. Mitchell (Gladys Mitchell-Walthour), “The New Politics of Race in Brazil” in Brazil’s New Racial Politics, edited by Bernd Reiter and Gladys L. Mitchell, (Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2012): 3-5.

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Novel focuses on region’s multi-ethnic heritage

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2012-07-26 00:37Z by Steven

Novel focuses on region’s multi-ethnic heritage

The Coalfield Progress Post
Norton, Virginia

Katie Dunn, Staff Reporter

BIG STONE GAP — America is often described as a melting pot, a nation where different ethnicities and cultures have assimilated into a cohesive union.

In her recently published novel, Washed in the Blood, author Lisa Alther, a Kingsport, Tenn. native, focuses on this notion by exploring the early history of the southern Appalachians and chronicling the story of several generations of a multi-ethnic family who lived in the region.

The book begins with the arrival of Diego Martin, a hog drover who came to the region with a Spanish exploring party in the 16th century. Martin is abandoned by the expedition’s leader in the wilderness, but is rescued by “friendly natives.” Alther’s book chronicles Martin’s descendants through the early 20th century as they struggle to survive and gain acceptance in a racially charged era.

Alther discussed this and another of her recently published books during the Melungeon Heritage Association’s gathering last weekend.

She told those gathered that she had researched the novel for 10 years, beginning in 1996; the book was published last fall.

The novel focuses on the racial mixing that occurred in the region, though Alther said she abstained from using the term “Melungeon,” noting that through her research she has concluded that there is no such thing as the “Melungeon Story.” Each family whose ancestors made their way inland from the coast to the mountains has stories of the different ethnicities that were absorbed along the way, she said.

Read the entire article here.

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