Who Is Black?: One Nation's Definition / Edition 1

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Honored in 1992 as an "Outstanding Book" by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in the United States

Reprinted many times since its first publication in 1991, Who Is Black? has become a staple in college and university classrooms throughout the United States, helping students understand this nation's history of miscegenation and the role that the "one-drop rule" has played in it. In this special anniversary edition, the author brings the story up-to-date in an Epilogue, where he highlights some revealing responses to Who Is Black? and examines recent challenges to the one-drop rule, including the multiracial-identity movement and a significant change in the census classification of racial and ethnic groups.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Nothing has been more fateful for the history of race in America than our peculiar decision to categorize as ‘black’ every person known or believed to have any degree of African ancestry. Now Professor Davis has provided us with a much needed, richly informative study of the ‘one-drop rule’ and its consequences. An important, provocative contribution.”
—Bob Blauner, University of California, Berkeley

Who Is Black? is a major contribution to our understanding of how ‘race’ is defined in American society. Unlike most other countries in the world, the United States still adheres to the ‘one-drop rule,’ but only for American blacks. The rule doesn’t apply to other racial groups. How and why this rule developed, efforts to change it, and the impact it has had are discussed in clear, non-technical language. Davis has written an important book for social scientists and the public at large.”
—Rita J. Simon, American University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271021720
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 1,028,173
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

F. James Davis is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Illinois State University and the author of Society and the Law (1962), Social Problems (1970), and Minority-Dominant Relations (1978).

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 The Nation's Rule 1
The One-Drop Rule Defined 4
Black Leaders, But Predominantly White 6
Plessy, Phipps, and Other Challenges in the Courts 8
Census Enumeration of Blacks 11
Uniqueness of the One-Drop Rule 13
Ch. 2 Miscegenation and Beliefs 17
Racial Classification and Miscegenation 19
Racist Beliefs About Miscegenation 23
The Judge Brady Paradox 27
Miscegenation in Africa and Europe 28
Race vs. Beliefs About Race 29
Ch. 3 Conflicting Rules 31
Early Miscegenation in the Upper South: The Rule Emerges 33
South Carolina and Louisiana: A Different Rule 34
Miscegenation on Black Belt Plantations 38
Reconstruction and the One-Drop Rule 42
The Status of Free Mulattoes, North and South 46
The Emergence and Spread of the One-Drop Rule 47
Ch. 4 The Rule Becomes Firm 51
Creation of the Jim Crow System 52
The One-Drop Rule Under Jim Crow 54
Effects of the Black Renaissance of the 1920s 58
The Rule and Myrdal's Rank Order of Discriminations 60
Sexual Norms and the Rule: Jim Crow vs. Apartheid 66
Effects of the Fall of Jim Crow 68
De Facto Segregation and Miscegenation 70
Miscegenation Since the 1960s 73
Development of the One-Drop Rule in the Twentieth Century 77
Ch. 5 Other Places, Other Definitions 81
Racial Hybrid Status Lower Than Both Parent Groups 82
Status Higher Than Either Parent Group 87
In-Between Status: South Africa and Others 90
Highly Variable Class Status: Latin America 99
Two Variants in the Caribbean 105
Equality for the Racially Mixed in Hawaii 109
Same Status as the Subordinate Group: The One-Drop Rule 113
Status of an Assimilating Minority 117
Contrasting Socially Constructed Rules 119
Ch. 6 Black Acceptance of the Rule 123
Alex Haley, Lillian Smith, and Others 124
Transracial Adoptions and the One-Drop Rule 128
Rejection of the Rule: Garvey, American Indians, and Others 132
Black Acceptance: Reasons and Implications 137
Ch. 7 Ambiguities, Strains, Conflicts, and Traumas
The Death of Walter White's Father and Other Traumas 142
Collective Anxieties About Racial Identity: Some Cases 144
Personal Identity: Seven Modes of Adjustment 149
Lena Horne's Struggles with Her Racial Identity 150
Problems of Administering the One-Drop Rule 156
Misperceptions of the Racial Identity of South Asians, Arabs, and Others 160
Sampling Errors in Studying American Blacks 164
Blockage of Full Assimilation of Blacks 167
Costs of the One-Drop Rule 168
Ch. 8 Issues and Prospects 171
A Massive Distortion? A Monstrous Myth? 172
Clues for Change in Deviations from the Rule 175
Clues for Change in Costs of the Rule 176
Possible Direction: Which Alternative? 180
Prospects for the Future 184
Epilogue to the Tenth Anniversary Edition 189
Works Cited 201
Index 209
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