A historical look at racial classification & representation
through cinema, law and census



Historical View

1661 (English Colony of) Maryland - Passed the United States’ first miscegenation statute criminalizing marriages between black male slaves and white women. (Although subsequent statutes criminalized interracial sex and marriage, it was still generally accepted when between a white man and a black woman, as any offspring of the slave would have provided an economic benefit for the slaveowners.)

1691 Virginia - Interracial marriage prohibited against white race and non-white race, wherein the couples were banished from their town forever.


A Historical Look

1785 Virginia - Legislature changed “Mulatto” to mean having 1/4th or more Negro blood.


Hisorical Mapping

1808 Louisiana - Civil Code 1808, page 24, article 8: "Free persons and slaves are incapable of contracting marriage together; the celebration of such marriages is forbidden, and the marriage is void; it is the same with respect to the marriages contracted by free white persons with free people of color."

1861 Ohio - Law forbids intermarriage between a person of pure white blood and a person having a visible mixture of African blood.

1869 Scott v. Georgia, Georgia Supreme Court indicted a black woman, Charlotte Scott, for "cohabitating and having sexual intercourse" with a white man, Leopold David, although they claimed to be married by a black preacher. Ruling argued: “The amalgamation of the races is not only unnatural, but is always productive of deplorable results. Our daily observation shows us, that the off-spring of these unnatural connections are generally sickly and effeminate, and that they are inferior in physical development and strength, to the full-blood of either race. ...Such connections never elevate the inferior race to the position of the superior, but they bring down the superior to that of the inferior. They are productive of evil, and evil only, without any corresponding good."

1883 Pace v. Alabama. Court convicted Tony Pace, a black man, and Mary Jane Cox, a white woman, under Section 4189, for “living together in a state of adultery or fornication.” Each received 2 years in a state penitentiary – the shortest sentence permissible by law. Alabama Supreme Court upheld the convictions because they were both given equal treatment. U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision.

1883 California - CA Civil Code, Section 60 prohibiting marriages between white persons and “Negroes or Mulattoes.”



1901 California - CA Civil Code, Section 60 amended to prohibit marriages between white persons and Negroes, Mulattoes, and Mongolians.

1908 Oklahoma - banned marriage "between a person of African descent" and "any person not of African descent."

1910 Tennessee - Adopted legal “one-drop rule”, any person with any African ancestry is considered to be black.

1924 Virginia - Passed “An Act to Preserve Racial Integrity” which seperated the population into two distinct racial categories: “White” and “Colored.” A central figure of the legislation was to narrow the definition of a white person to a person “who has no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian” under the provision forbidding any white person from marrying anyone other than a white person. All other persons were to be recorded as “colored,” which now including Indian and all discernible mixed race persons.

1933 California - CA Civil Code, Section 60 amended to prohibit marriages between white persons and Negroes, Mulattoes, Mongolians, and members of the Malay race.

1948 California - Perez v. Sharp, California Supreme Court recognized that bans on interracial marriage were in violation of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. First court of the 20th century to determine that state anti-miscegenation laws violated the Federal Constitution.

1948 30 of the 48 states still had laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Because statutes made interracial marriages void, all offspring were considered illegitimate. The only states to never enact anti-miscegenation laws are Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Alaska, Hawaii, and the federal District of Columbia.

1965 Oklahomah - Jones v. Lorenzen. Case ruling denied for a Black woman and a Mexican man to marry, as OK miscegenation statute still prohibited marriage between a person of African descent with anyone not of African descent.

1970 Virginia - Changed law to define a black person from having “any African ancestry” to one who is at least one thirty-second black.

1983 Louisiana - Jane Doe v. State of Louisiana - Legislature abolished its one thirty-second statute and gave parents the right to designate the race of newborns.