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The Battle Over Racial Identity in Popular and Legal Cultures, 1810–1860

The Battle Over Racial Identity in Popular and Legal Cultures, 1810–1860

Chapter:
(p.11) 1 The Battle Over Racial Identity in Popular and Legal Cultures, 1810–1860
Source:
The Construction of Whiteness
Author(s):
Stephen Middleton
Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781496805553.003.0002

This chapter challenges the view of legal historians that the “one-drop rule” did not exist before the early twentieth century. It argues that the one-drop rule was enforced in white culture and entered the opinions of local judges during the early nineteenth century. Middleton shows that trial courts and circuit courts, while they are not the final authority on the law, frequently used one-drop language in racial identity cases. He also provides evidence illustrating that these judges frequently told juries that if a mixed race person had any black blood whatsoever, they should be looked upon as black.

Keywords:   The “one drop rule”, Legal history, Miscegenation, Hypo-descent, Mixed race person

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