Sunday, August 19, 2007

Miscegenation in American history

Antimiscegenation laws did not keep everyone from crossing the color line. Before the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, many white slave masters secretly took advantage of black women, with whom they fathered scores of children. Also, not every state had laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Some estimates indicate that as many as 70 percent of African Americans are descendants of black and white couplings. Famous African Americans such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Frederick Douglass were of black and white ancestry. Douglass eventually married a white woman, Helen Pitts, after the death of his first wife. Douglass, one of the most vocal African American activists of the Civil War era, felt that intermarriage was the key to the assimilation and acceptance of the newly freed slaves into American society. According to Douglass, “The future of the Negro therefore is . . . that he will be absorbed, assimilated, and it will only appear finally . . . in the features of a blended race.”

Not all African Americans wanted to be absorbed however. “We have not asked assimilation; we have resisted it,” said W.E.B. Du Bois. “It has been forced on us by brute strength, ignorance, poverty, degradation and fraud.” Du Bois also condemned white America’s hypocrisy when it came to miscegenation. “It is the white race, roaming the world, that has left its trail of bastards and outraged women and then raised holy hands and deplored ‘race mixture.’”

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