Wednesday, May 18, 2011 can be so

The Gibsons were hardly alone in their journey from black to white. Hundreds of families of color had gained their freedom in the colonial era because they had English mothers, and within a generation or two, they could claim to be white. Their claims were supported by law, which never drew the color line at "one drop" of African ancestry in the antebellum era. Most Southern states followed a one-quarter or one-eighth rule: anyone with a black grandparent or great-grandparent was legally black, and those with more remote ancestry were legally white. Antebellum South Carolina, though, never had a legal definition of race. "It may be well and proper," a state judge and leading defender of slavery wrote in 1835, "that a man of worth, honesty, industry and respectability, should have the rank of a white man, while a vagabond of the same degree of blood should be confined to the inferior caste."


Windy Wilson said...

The second-to-last line of that article is "Race is such bullshit."
As Exhibit B, I give you that in the 50's and 60's, to the South Africans, Japanese were considered "colored" while Chinese were considered "black".
Business contracts dictated that distinction.


Keith said...

The South Africans even had criteria for measuring shape of head, sizes of lips, noses, how curly hair was and would a pencil stay in it...

A lot of the Afrikaans have black ancestors (makes sense, there weren't enough white women to go around, and some probably fancied black girls anyway during the early days of settlement and treks).

There were occasional throwbacks to darker skin colour or curlier hair, which the authorities pounced upon and put into orphanages for "coloureds"

Absolute BS, but like so many other bureaucrats they probably believed in what they were doing.

Firehand said...

I remember, late 60's-early 70's, an article in some magazine tracing a number of SA families, some prominent, to having a particular black female in the line. Along with various denunciations I remember one guy who was asked what he'd think if it turned out he had a black ancestor and he said "That's fine, as long as it's Zulu blood; the best!"