Original Publication Date
1995 Meeting of the American Sociological Association
Date of Submission
This paper examines Virginia's "Racial Purity Laws" enacted to deny equal opportunity to black men and women who could "pass" as whites from the early 1600s to the U. S. Supreme Court decision (Loving v. Virginia) in 1967. When physical characteristics failed to match the legal definition of race, the state used records of vital statistics for boundary maintenance. Birth certificates, in particular, served as "internal passports" to school assignments, work eligibility, and marriage, denying citizens defined as "Negro" life chances available to whites. It was also found that over time the definition of "Negro" was expanded to include citizens with smaller proportions of African or even Native American blood in their ancestry. An example is presented illustrating how racial identity was defined and enforced.
Is Part Of
VCU L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs Publications