Monday, November 17, 2008
Middleton on State Legislatures and the Legal Construction of Black Racial Identity
Posted by Mary L. Dudziak
Richard T. Middleton IV, University of Missouri, St. Louis, has a recent essay, The Historical Legal Construction of Black Racial Identity of Mixed Black-White Race Individuals: The Role of State Legislatures. It appeared in Jackson State University Researcher: An Interdisciplinary Journal (Summer 2007). Here's the abstract: In this paper, I analyze the historical legal construction of black racial identity of mixed black-white race individuals in the United States. In particular, I investigate how state legislatures constructed black racial identity through the enactment of laws and constitutional provisions. In this paper, I reveal the two-part framework by which state legislatures historically used the language of the law to coerce mixed black-white race individuals to adopt a personal sense of collective identity with people of black African ancestry: (1) identification of mixed black-white race individuals and blacks/Negroes as constituting two separate racial groups yet speaking of them in the same blush and disadvantaging them the same, and (2) abandoning recognition of mixed black-white race individuals (mulattoes) as a distinct racial group from Negroes/blacks through the enactment of statutes that espoused the rule of hypodescent. I conducted a survey of statutes across all fifty states ranging from the colonial period up to the mid-1900s to provide empirical support for this paper's thesis.