Nation and Miscegenation: Comparing Anti-Miscegenation Regulations in North America

Posted in Canada, History, Law, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, United States on 2009-09-24 01:40Z by Steven

Nation and Miscegenation: Comparing Anti-Miscegenation Regulations in North America

Canadian Political Science Association
80th Annual Conference
2008-06-04 through 2008-06-06

Paper Dated: 2008-05

Debra Thompson, Assistant Professor of Political Science
Ohio University

Nearly forty years after Loving v. Virginia, the historical prohibition of interracial relationships in the United States exemplifies the state’s regulation of intimate life.  Anti-miscegenation laws were not simply about the prevention interracial sexual relations; rather, the discourse also concerned the transgression of gendered/raced social boundaries, the exposure of raced/gendered sexualities, the threat of non-white access to white capital, and the potential of mixed-race progeny and the predicament of racial categorization.  While a number of legal and historical studies consider the emergence and existence of anti-miscegenation laws in the United States (Williamson, 1980; Davis, 1991;) comparative studies on this subject in political science are virtually non-existent.  However, the Canadian state also enacted antimiscegenation laws in the same era throughout various Indian Act regimes and informally regulated other white/non-white sexual relations.  This paper will explore the similarities and differences among discourses of anti-miscegenation in North America, seeking to demonstrate that: a) the decision to enact formal legislation can be partially attributed to a number of factors, including the demographic size of the non-white population and the threat posed by mixed-race progeny to the dominant group’s access to power, privilege and resources; b) contrary to the popular belief of the so-called ‘tolerance’ of Canadians, racist sentiments towards non-whites existed during the same era that anti-miscegenation laws were created and implemented in the United States; and c) the differences in anti-miscegenation regulation in Canada and the United States are strongly linked to discourses of white masculine nationalism.

Read the entire paper here.

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The One-Drop Rule in Reverse? Interracial Marriages in Napoleonic and Restoration France

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Law, New Media, Slavery on 2009-09-19 20:47Z by Steven

The One-Drop Rule in Reverse? Interracial Marriages in Napoleonic and Restoration France

Law and History Review
Volume 27, Number 3
Fall 2009
University of Illinois

Jennifer Heuer, Associate Professor
Department of History
University of Massachusetts at Amherst

In the early nineteenth century, an obscure rural policeman petitioned the French government with an unusual story.  Charles Fanaye had served with Napoleon’s armies in Egypt.  Chased by Mameluks, he was rescued in the nick of time by a black Ethiopian woman and hidden in her home.  Threatened in turn by the Mameluks, Marie-Hélène (as the woman came to be called) threw in her lot with the French army and followed Fanaye to France.  The couple then sought to wed.  They easily overcame religious barriers when Marie-Hélène was baptized in the Cathedral of Avignon.  But another obstacle was harder to overcome: an 1803 ministerial decree banned marriage between blacks and whites.  Though Fanaye and Marie-Héléne begged for an exception, the decree would plague them for the next sixteen years of their romance.

As we will see, Fanaye’s history was atypical in several regards.  But he was far from the only person to confront the ban on interracial marriage. The decree, which seemed to reinstate a 1778 edict, went hand in hand with the reestablishment of slavery after the French Revolution.  It was officially applied to metropolitan France, rather than the colonies, and was circulated throughout the continental Napoleonic Empire.  It would remain in effect even after Napoleon fell from power, quietly disappearing only in late 1818 and early 1819.

This quiet disappearance has persisted in the historical record: both the ban and its application have been almost completely forgotten.  The reasons for this oversight are both conceptual and practical.  While there is burgeoning interest in the history of slavery in the French empire, historians tend to focus on the drama of emancipation during the Revolution, rather than on the more painful return of slavery after 1802.  When scholars of European history think of miscegenation laws, we often turn immediately to colonial arenas, or look to the later nineteenth and twentieth century when social commentators were particularly obsessed with interracial sex; metropolitan France in the early nineteenth century seems an unlikely site for contestations over racial and family law.  More generally, the supposedly race-blind French model of citizenship, that of republican universalism, has often made it difficult to think about racial categories when discussing French history and politics.

There are also pragmatic reasons why the decree has been forgotten.  The black and mulatto population in metropolitan France was small in the period, at most 5000 people, and there are few records that address them as a group.  Many of the relevant documents are buried in a series at the French National Archives on dispensations for marriage.  While a few are grouped together thematically, many are organized alphabetically, within at least 160 cartons of records.  Others are in a series of administrative correspondence catalogued geographically.  A few are scattered in municipal and departmental archives, often under the rubric of local administration.  These are not categories that promise obvious connections to racial or colonial history…

Read the entire article here.

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Racial Ideas and Gendered Intimacies: the Regulation of Interracial Relationships in North America

Posted in Articles, Canada, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Social Science, United States on 2009-09-15 18:05Z by Steven

Racial Ideas and Gendered Intimacies: the Regulation of Interracial Relationships in North America

Social & Legal Studies
Volume 18, Number 3 (September 2009)
DOI: 10.1177/0964663909339087
pages 353-371

Debra Thompson, Assistant Professor of Political Science
Ohio University

This article compares the regulation of interracial intimacies in North America, contending that anti-miscegenation laws in the United States and Canada’s Indian Act regimes are both striking and comparable examples of the state’s regulation of the intimate sphere. The author argues that the social signifiers of race and gender, tied together with sexuality, are interlocking sets of power relations and these intersecting discourses are integral to understanding the comparative regulation of interracial intimacy in North America.  In the circumstances of anti-miscegenation laws and the Indian Act, the transgression of gendered/raced social boundaries, the control of raced/gendered sexualities, the interlocking and mutually reinforcing nature of patriarchal, white supremacist and capitalist systems of domination, the threat of non-white access to white capital, and the predicament of racial categorization exist as a corollary of the state’s regulation of interracial intimate life. This article reveals the law and state as important sites of the creation and manipulation of racial boundaries, acting as producers and reproducers of racial ideas, and demonstrates that the interracial transgressions of sexual space were also perceived as transgressions of social, economic, and political boundaries between races, posing a threat to the dominant white and masculine hegemony in North America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Read or purchase the article here.

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amalgamation (history)

Posted in Definitions on 2009-08-30 21:45Z by Steven

Amalgamation is a now largely archaic term for the intermarriage and interbreeding of different ethnicities or races. In the English-speaking world, the term was in use into the twentieth century. In the United States, it was partly replaced after 1863 by the term miscegenation. While the term amalgamation could refer to the interbreeding of different white as well as non-white ethnicities, the term miscegenation referred specifically to the interbreeding of whites and non-whites, especially African Americans.

The term amalgamation was derived from metallurgy (see amalgam). It has been linked to the metaphor of the melting pot, which also originated in the US, and which described the cultural assimilation and intermarriage of different ethnicities. The intermarriage of whites with African Americans and, to a lesser degree, other non-whites was until recently in social disfavor in the United States, despite the long history of informal liaisons between white men and nonwhite women during the long years of slavery and after emancipation. Until 1967, interracial marriages were prohibited in many US states through anti-miscegenation laws.


See also book: The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory.



Posted in Definitions, History on 2009-08-23 03:35Z by Steven

Miscegenation (Latin miscere “to mix” + genus “kind”) is the mixing of different racial groups, that is, marrying, cohabiting, having sexual relations and having children with a partner from outside one’s racially or ethnically defined group.

The term “miscegenation” has been used since the nineteenth century to refer to interracial marriage and interracial sex, and more generally to the process of racial admixture, which has taken place since ancient history but has become more global through European colonialism since the Age of Discovery.  Historically the term has been used in the context of laws banning interracial marriage and sex, so-called anti-miscegenation laws. It is therefore a loaded word and is considered offensive by many.

Today, the word miscegenation is avoided by many scholars, because the term suggests a distinct biological phenomenon, rather than a categorization imposed on certain relationships. The word is considered offensive by many and other terms such as “interracial,” “interethnic” or “cross-cultural” are more common in contemporary usage. However, the term is still used by scholars when referring to past practices concerning multiraciality, such as anti-miscegenation laws that banned interracial marriages…



Loving v. Virginia

Posted in Definitions, History, Law, Virginia on 2009-08-21 16:50Z by Steven

From Wikipedia: Loving v. (versus) [Commonwealth of] Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), was a landmark civil rights case in which the United States Supreme Court by a [unanimous] 9-0 vote declared [on 1967-06-12] Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute, the “Racial Integrity Act of 1924“, unconstitutional, thereby overturning Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.

Source: Talking Points Memo

The plaintiffs, Mildred Loving (nee Mildred Delores Jeter, a woman of African and Rappahannock Native American descent, July 22, 1939 – May 2, 2008) and Richard Perry Loving (a white man, October 29, 1933 – June 1975), were residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia who had been married in June 1958 in the District of Columbia, having left Virginia to evade the Racial Integrity Act, a state law banning marriages between any white person and any non-white person. Upon their return to Caroline County, Virginia, they were charged with violation of the ban.

Comments by Steven F. Riley:

Read the entire decision here.

It should be noted that the Loving v. Virginia ruling in 1967 applied to the 16 remaining states that had enacted anti-miscegenation statutes.  Thus it is a fallacy to state that ‘interracial marriage was illegal in the United States until Loving v. Virginia. Most states had in fact, repealed their anti-miscegenation laws and a few never enacted any such laws at all (New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Wisconsin, District of Columbia, Hawaii and Alaska).

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