One Nation One Blood:Interracial Marriag

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The proscription against interracial marriage was for manyyears a flashpoint in American culture. In "One Nation, One Blood," Karen Woods Weierman explores this taboo by investigating the traditional link between marriage and property. Her research reveals that the opposition to intermarriage originated in large measure in the nineteenth-century desire for Indian land and African labor. Yet despite the white majority's overwhelming rejection of nonwhite peoples as marriage partners, citizens, and social equals, nineteenth-century reformers challenged the rule against intermarriage. Dismissing the new "race science" that purported to prove white superiority, reformers held fast to the religious notion of a common humanity and the republican rhetoric of freedom and equality, arguing that God made all people "of one blood."

The years from 1820 to 1870 marked a crucial period in the history of this prejudice. Tales of interracial marriage recounted in fiction, real-life scandals, and legal statutes figured prominently in public discussion of both slavery and the fate of Native Americans. In Part One of this book, Weierman focuses on Indian-white marriages during the 1820s, when Indian removal became a rallying cry for New England intellectuals.

In Part Two she shifts her attention to black-white marriages from the antebellum period through the early years of Reconstruction. In both cases she finds that the combination of a highly publicized intermarriage scandal, new legislation prohibiting interracial marriage, and fictional portrayals of the ills associated with such unions served to reinforce popular prejudice, justifying the displacement of Indians from their lands and upholding the system of slavery. Even after the demise of slavery, restrictions against intermarriage remained in place in many parts of the country long into the twentieth century. Not until the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision did the Supreme Court finally rule that such laws were unconstitutional.

Finishing on a contemporary note, Weierman suggests that the stories Americans tell about intermarriage today—stories defining family, racial identity, and citizenship—still reflect a struggle for resources and power.

"This is a painstakingly researched work—which, however, manages to present its massive archival legwork elegantly. . . . The book contains fascinating material and unites different disciplines and Native American, African American, and interracial history."— Werner Sollors, editor of "Interracialism: Black-White Intermarriages in American History, Literature, and Law"

"I enjoyed reading this study. It speaks to enduringly important themes in American history, and it adds new dimensions to our understanding of them. . . . By giving extended consideration to intermarriage between whites and American Indians, along with that between blacks and whites, it presents a fuller picture than we have been used to seeing and reminds us how complicated the problem of race has always been in this country. . . . The cases Weierman has recovered and explored are significant ones, and her analysis of them is careful and shrewd."— James O'Toole, author of "Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920"

KAREN WOODS WEIERMAN is assistant professor of English at Worcester State College.

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Editorial Reviews

Karl Kunkel
"With her thirty-plus pages of footnotes, the author creates a palatable stew of history, religion, politics, culture, and racial identity. The result is a question for Americans today in the face of growing multi-culturism: whether historical knowledge and cultural critique can help to reverse centuries of fear and prejudice so that we may see ourselves as one nation made 'of one blood.'"
ForeWord Magazine, September/October 2005
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558494831
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
  • Publication date: 5/26/2005
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction : narratives of disruption 3
Pt. I Indian-white marriages
1 "How our ladies marry Indian men" : the closing of the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut 11
2 A "wicked and mischievous connection" : the origins and development of Indian-white miscegenation law 34
3 Remembering and removing the Indian : Indian-white marriages in Sedgwick, Cooper, and Child 62
Pt. II Black-white marriages
4 "Amalgamation college" : intermarriage and abolitionism at New York Central College 101
5 "For the better government of servants and slaves" : the development of the law of slavery and miscegenation 125
6 Abolitionists and intermarriage : the interracial marriage question in Child, Webb, and Harper 145
Epilogue : into the post-Loving era 171
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