Mixed Race

“Mixed race” is an outcome of racial formation that has been variously defined in relation to blackness throughout the course of U.S. history. The development of slavery in the U.S. and elsewhere accounts for how mixed race has routinely been absorbed within the category of blackness. As reliance on indentured and slave labor grew in the colonies and states from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, the definition of blackness—­a social classification to which slaves were relegated—­expanded to absorb larger numbers of laboring, captive bodies. The rule of “hypodescent,” which is the basis for what is colloquially termed the “one-­drop” rule, refers to the means by which this expansion occurred.

In 1662, the colonial assembly in Virginia enacted a statute that deviated from English doctrine, which determined that children follow a patrilineal line of descent. According to Act XII of the statute, “Children got by a Englishman upon a Negro …

This essay may be found on page 112 of the printed volume.

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