Miscegenation: Marrying of Whites and Blacks
(This page was developed by a Berea College student as part of a course on Chesnutt)
As shown above, the typical idea of what physical characteristics that whites thought Negroes should have differs greatly with the physical characteristics of the mulatto girl below. According to A.L. Kroeber, the author of Anthropology, a common way of classification between the colored and whites is that Negroes have darker skin, fuller lips, the broadest noses, rounder heads, and frizzier hair. Caucasians, on the other hand, are said to have lighter skin, straighter hair, longer faces, thinner lips, and narrow noses.
During the Restoration, the animosity against mulattos and miscegenation in the South became very powerful, reaching it's peak in 1907. Hostility was expressed in the 1850's about who was and was not a Negro, and about mulattos passing as white. Census' taken during the time show that mulattos increased from 11.2 percent of the black population in 1850 to 20.9 percent in 1910. (Both were based on visible white ancestry, so may be an undercount.) Due to the mulatto African black unions, there was an increase in the number of mulattos, although some white-black liaisons continued in the South, mainly between white men and black women.
Stereotyped beliefs began to escalate about the mulattos as never before, the analogy to the mule, for example, received much attention. Many of the same white men who fought to protect white women, helped to mold the Jim Crow practice of sexually exploiting black females by white males, which contributed to the miscegenation they were so vehemently fighting against. By reinforcing the one drop rule, as had been done on the plantation, they defined mixed children born to black women as black.
With the passing of the post Reconstruction laws on racial intermarriage,
pressure was put on the state legislatures to define what constituted
being a "Negro." Louisiana courts usually defined "persons of
color" to mean those who are visible black, and many mixed people continued
to go around being defined as white. Fourteen of the remaining
Southern states adopted the one-drop rule as a definition of what a
Negro was; anyone of black ancestry. In 1910 Virginia abandoned
the one-fourth rule and finally settle for the one-sixteenth, which
assumed that lesser amounts could not be detected. Not until the
1930's did Virginia adopt the one-drop rule, which said that "any Negro
blood at all" makes a person black.