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Interracial dating in Richmond (VA) - Interracial dating
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I love and enjoy the simple things in life. Using large statistical studies, eugenicists purported to scientifically demonstrate that mental illness and criminal tendencies were inherited and should be specifically limited in the human population. They also argued that African Americans, Indians, poor people, criminals, prostitutes, and alcoholics all suffered from inferior genes. For this reason, many eugenicists maintained, it was critically important that whites not mix with supposedly inferior races.
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Eugenics was later widely discredited as pseudoscience. In part in order to accomplish this separation of races, the state found it necessary to keep track of who was white, black, and Indian. From until , Virginia required that all births and marriages be recorded, and that the race of all parties be noted. Local registrars were required to report all births, deaths, and, beginning in , marriages to the state registrar, along with people's racial identification.
The new state registrar, Walter A. Plecker, was a white supremacist and a believer in eugenics who recognized that his new position could be used to prevent the mixing of races. In , Plecker, Ernest S. According to Powell, the group was dedicated to finding the "fundamental and final solutions of our racial problems in general, most especially of the Negro problem. On August 4, Plecker released a statement arguing that his position at the Bureau of Vital Statistics "is perhaps the greatest force in the state today combating this condition," because it was his power, specifically, to apply the state's racial definitions and so decide who could marry one another.
Indeed, Plecker admitted to applying a standard beyond the law when identifying people as African American. Whereas the General Assembly had defined "colored" in as someone with one-sixteenth or more "negro blood," Plecker defined it as someone "with even a trace of negro blood on either side. In , the Anglo-Saxon Clubs suggested that a new racial integrity bill be enacted, and the group's motivation, in part, was for the law to catch up with how government officials such as Plecker were already behaving with regard to race.
In its original form, it required that all Virginians fill out a certificate of racial composition to be approved by the Bureau of Vital Statistics. This certificate would be necessary in order to marry in Virginia, and it would be against the law for a white person to marry anyone but a white person. Although interracial marriage had been banned previously in Virginia, this was the first time that marriage between whites and Asians—or other people who were legally neither "colored" nor white—was prohibited. Another law passed in defined a colored person as having one-sixteenth or more "negro blood" the same as in and an Indian as having the same proportion of "Indian blood" a broadening of the definition.
The Racial Integrity Act went a step further and attempted a first for Virginia: According to the proposed law, to be white a person must have "no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian"—in other words, the standard already being applied by Walter Plecker. However, people who had less than one sixty-fourth part Indian and no African American heritage would still be considered white.
This exception catered to those elite Virginians who counted themselves as descendants of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. Douglas Smith has noted that the African American press "remained relatively quiet" about the bill. Not all whites were pleased with the bill, either. Senator Holman Willis , of Roanoke, called it an "insult to the white people of the state," largely because of its requirement that all Virginians register their race. The Senate eventually amended the bill to make such certificates voluntary for all people born before June 14, , or when the Bureau of Vital Statistics was established.
The new version also allowed white people to have up to one-sixteenth "Indian blood. The Senate passed the modified bill on February 27 by a vote of 23 to 4. The future governor , Harry F. After voting down the earlier version on February 21, the House followed the Senate's lead, approving the bill on March 8 by a vote of 72 to 9.
Shields, determined that Connor was white but that Johns, in addition to being part white, was also part Indian and African American. Testifying before Judge Henry W. Holt , Walter Plecker presented birth records showing Johns's "colored" ancestry in Amherst County , and Silas Coleman, a resident of Amherst County, provided anecdotal corroboration.
Johns's attorney argued that those family members referred to as "colored" were, in fact, Indian, an ambiguity common to nineteenth-century record keeping. Judge Holt refused to issue the license, finding sufficient evidence that Johns was at least part African American. He did, however, note the ways in which the case suggested problems with the Racial Integrity Act. For one, there was no consistent definition of "Indian" in Virginia law, making it difficult to use historical records to determine ancestry. For another, he foresaw problems related to the burden of proof laid out by the law.
Would it always be possible for a legally white person to satisfactorily prove that he or she had no non-white ancestors? Another case raised similar questions. A few weeks later, the same clerk in Rockbridge County refused a marriage certificate to Robert Painter and Atha Sorrells for exactly the same reason he had refused one to Connor and Johns.
Sorrells, he claimed, was part white, part African American, and part Virginia Indian. Silas Coleman was asked to present evidence again, as well, but declined out of fear of community retribution. This time, Holt ruled in favor of Sorrells. While suggesting that he generally supported the intent of the Racial Integrity Act, he again raised concerns about the burden of proof the law placed on individuals.
And because testimony in the Sorrells case had demonstrated "no strain present in the applicant of any blood other than white, except Indian, and there is not enough of that to come within the statute," he had no choice but to grant a license. In an editorial published on November 20, , the Richmond Times-Dispatch urged the state to appeal the Sorrells decision, but the attorney general decided against it. Plecker, meanwhile, decided to target Virginia Indians, seeing them as obstacles to a pure white race. He made efforts to prove that all Indians were actually African Americans and attempted, unsuccessfully, to persuade the director of the federal census to not recognize Indians in Virginia.
George Major Cook , chief of the Pamunkey Indians , wrote a strongly worded defense of the Virginia tribes to the Richmond News Leader on July 8, , and in a letter dated December 1, Governor Trinkle admonished Plecker "to be conservative and reasonable and not create any ill feeling if it can be avoided between the Indians and the State government.
On January 14, , Robert O. It redefined a white person in Virginia as someone "whose blood is entirely white, having no known, demonstrable or ascertainable admixture of the blood of another race. It also responded to Judge Holt's concerns by making it easier for courts to deal with the uncertainties inherent in nineteenth-century records.
Still, the concerns that had led to the Pocahontas Exception in the first place had not gone away. Some estimated that as many as 20, white Virginians possessed small amounts of "Indian blood," which would, under this revision, make them legally "colored.
On March 5, , the House passed the amended revision of the Racial Integrity Act by a vote of 52 to 18, but one week later, the Senate voted 20 to 9 to indefinitely postpone its consideration. It began when Grace Copeland, a childhood friend of John Powell, attended a concert at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute later Hampton University , a private school founded in to train black teachers. Copeland, who arrived late, was forced to sit next to African Americans, a fact that angered her husband, Walter Scott Copeland , the editor of the Newport News Daily Press.
In an editorial published on March 15, , he accused Hampton of practicing "social equality between the white and negro races.
Hampton's principal, James E. Gregg , responded cautiously, while the prominent black intellectual W. An editorial in the black-owned Norfolk Journal and Guide , published on July 25, , asked why Hampton, which employed white teachers and administrators, such as Gregg, was being singled out for criticism, especially when many institutions in Richmond did the same. The Anglo-Saxon Clubs, however, sided with Copeland and demanded a new law. Baptist missionary groups worried that the law would force them to provide separate seating at events for visiting Chinese and Japanese students, a concern mocked by J.
Rogers, a mixed-race journalist from the North. On February 5, the House passed Massenburg's bill 63 to 3 and the Senate followed suit on March 9, by a vote of 30 to 5. Byrd, now governor, felt pressure to exercise his veto, but he let the Public Assemblages Act become law on March 22 without his signature.
Privately, he called the legislation "extremely regrettable," but he did not publicly oppose it. Hampton's board of trustees, meanwhile, under the leadership of Chief Justice William Howard Taft, declined to either protest publicly or sue. Rather than comply with the law, however, the school stopped opening to the public events such as the concert attended by Grace Copeland.
During the same session of the General Assembly, bills to criminalize interracial sex and to seek support from Congress for colonizing all of the state's African Americans failed to pass. In a letter to Byrd, dated October 17, , Grace Copeland suggested how far, perhaps, she and her allies in the Anglo-Saxon Clubs had come from strictly scientific claims about the mixing of genes. She wrote "that it was impossible to reason with a negro—that the only way to keep him in his place was to keep him under fear.
In , the General Assembly attempted to fix a problem with its racial definitions. According to the law, a "colored" person was someone with one-sixteenth or more "negro blood," while a white person had no trace of non-white blood. So how should the law define someone who was part African American, but less than one-sixteenth?
Rather than create a new category, House Bill No.
Price , of Richmond, on January 18, redefined "colored. Virginia Indians vigorously opposed the bill, fearing that such language would lead to their being legally identified as "colored," and, by extension, to their legal and cultural identity being erased. The black press in Virginia took issue with Cook's statements for their perceived insult to African Americans.
Two years later, though, the issue arose again. The Richmond Times-Dispatch had reported that white schools in Essex and King and Queen counties were being forced to educate young people who fit neither the legal definition of white nor "colored. In a hearing on February 1, Cook told the assembly: The Senate responded by amending the bill to provide that "members of Indian tribes living on reservations allotted them by the Commonwealth of Virginia having one-fourth or more Indian blood and less than one-sixteenth of Negro blood shall be deemed tribal Indians so long as they are domiciled on said reservations.
The amended Senate bill passed on February 13, , by a vote of 36 to 0. The House passed it one week later, 81 to 3. Governor John Garland Pollard signed it into law on March 4. Race relations in Virginia were harmed for more than a generation by the Racial Integrity Act and the Public Assemblages Act, which prevented whites and non-whites from marrying or gathering together in public.
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