Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Colonial Times, Interracial Marriage, and the 14th Amendment

I thought this was an interesting discussion that showed a line of Court cases and history I was not aware of till I read it. See The original meaning of the 14th Amendment regarding interracial marriage

The history of interracial marriage in the United States and indeed colonial times have always been a tad more complicated than portrayed. This is seen especially in the early colonial era. In fact , and I think this is important, it was the State that came in and put an impediment in where one was not before as to the Common Law liberty right of marriage. This was because there was a shift from a society with slaves to a slave society which are two different animals.

If one has an interest in genealogy where one is tracking one ancestors early migration patterns one gets hints of this.

Paul Heinegg has done extensive work on this:

...Heinegg's studies of free black families bear with particular force on the period when the South was a society-with-slaves. During those years--prior to the advent of the staple producing plantation, tobacco in the Chesapeake and rice in the Carolinas-- the line between freedom and slavery was extraordinarily permeable. Various peoples of European, African, and Native American descent crossed it freely and often. In such socially ill-defined circumstances, white men and women held black and Indian slaves and white servants, and black men and women did like. Peoples of European, African and Native American descent--both free and unfree--worked, played, and even married openly in a manner that would later be condemned by custom and prohibited by law.

Such open relations have long been known to students of the colonial past, but Heinegg's genealogies--by the weight of their number and by their extraordinary detail--make evident their full complexity and expose their extraordinary intimacy. Everywhere whites, blacks, and Indians united in both long-term and casual sexual relations, some coerced and some freely entered. That mixing took place at the top of the social order, where white men of property and standing forced themselves on unwilling servant and slave women, often producing children of mixed racial origins. But Heinegg maintains such relationships produced a scant one percent of the free children of color. Inter-racial sex was far more prevalent at the base of colonial society, where poor and often unfree peoples--mostly slaves and servants of various derivations -lived and worked under common conditions. Indeed, as Heinegg demonstrates, most free people of color had their beginnings in relations between white women (servant and free) and black men (slave, servant, and free). These relations, moreover, often represented long-term and loving commitments. It was precisely the lowly origins of free people of color--outside the ranks of the propertied classes--that condemned free people of color to poverty and excluded them from "respectable" society in the colonial South. The poverty of their parents--particularly their black fathers--denied free children of color the patrimony and the allied connections necessary for social advancement.
Such egalitarian intermingling ended with the advent of the plantation. Legal proscriptions on sexual relations between white and black, particularly between white women and black men accompanied the transformation of the colonial South from a society-with-slaves into a slave society. As Heinegg observes, with the prohibition on inter-racial sexual unions, mixed race children became illegitimate by definition and could be bound out for upwards of thirty years. Their mothers, if servants, received additional terms of servitude. During their captivity, the term of service of both mother and child could be extended for any one of a number of offenses. As a result, free people of color spent a large portion of their lives in the service of others. "In some instances," as Heinegg concludes, "the indenture laws virtually enslaved a person for life."

Of course by the time of the Framers we were in a Slave society. Still a interesting line of Court cases there that are referenced.

1 comment:

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