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  #1  
Old 10-29-2010, 09:58 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is offline
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Percent of White Americans with African-American ancestry

My wife and I were having this discussion the other day, and both of us were basically talking out our butts, so I thought I'd turn to this crowd that never ever ever talks out of their butts to see what answers turned up.

Frame the question this way.

-What percentage of
-Self-identified white Americans
-Have a self-identified black ancestor
-Within the past 10 generations?

My wife thinks the number is pretty high: you have in theory over 1,000 ancestors if you go back that far, and there's historically been tremendous advantage to a black American in "passing" for white, and during the massive migrations of black Americans to the north and to urban centers during the early-mid-twentieth century, there were a lot of opportunities for light-skinned black people to transition to a white identity.

I think the number is pretty low: although you have in theory more than 1,000 ancestors, small towns mean that your great-great-great-grandmother on your entirely maternal side may be your great-great-great-grandmother on your entirely (except one) paternal side. Also, with the exception of the rape of slaves, my impression is that people tended to have kids with someone who identified as the same race as themselves. Also, because people value community and culture so heavily, and because there were such distinct cultural markers for white and black culture during this timeframe, I suspect that not that many light-skinned black people were able or willing to transition to a white identity.

Does anyone know the answer to this question?
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  #2  
Old 10-30-2010, 12:16 AM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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From here:

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[T]he Black and White groups are not symmetrical. The mean African admixture among White Americans is low—roughly 0.7 percent African and 99.3 percent European admixture. To put this in perspective, this would have been the result if every member of the U.S. White endogamous group alive today had a single ancestor of one hundred percent African genetic admixture seven generations ago (around the year 1850). Of course, African alleles are not distributed evenly. Seventy percent of White Americans (like 5.5 percent of Blacks) have no detectable African genetic admixture at all. Among the thirty percent of Whites with African genetic admixture, the admixture ratio averages to about 2.3 percent, the equivalent of having a single ancestor of one hundred percent African genetic admixture from around the year 1880.17 Black Americans, on the other hand, have significant European admixture (averaging about 75 percent African and 25 percent European).
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Old 10-30-2010, 06:52 AM
Ludovic Ludovic is offline
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I would also think that the percentage of African genes the average White American has would be lower than the opposite due to white families being in the country shorter than Black americans.

For instance, all of my relatives migrated to America in the early 1900's from northern Europe, which didn't have very many Africans at the time. So our family has only had around 100 years of opportunity to gain African genes from the American pool of same. Contrastingly, the average African-American's family has probably been in America for more than 150 years, and so has had several more generations than me to gain a European admixture of genes.

Last edited by Ludovic; 10-30-2010 at 06:53 AM..
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  #4  
Old 10-30-2010, 09:19 AM
digs digs is offline
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This is great!

So now when when I'm trying to annoy my kids (just to get them out of bed for school) and I say something in a purposely bad "urban ebonics" accent, and my kids axe me what the hell I'm doing, I can say: "It's okay. I'm 2.3% black."

Last edited by digs; 10-30-2010 at 09:20 AM.. Reason: resisted urge to post in my Flip Wilson/Chris Rock voice...
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  #5  
Old 10-30-2010, 10:17 AM
Ruken Ruken is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ludovic View Post
I would also think that the percentage of African genes the average White American has would be lower than the opposite due to white families being in the country shorter than Black americans.

For instance, all of my relatives migrated to America in the early 1900's from northern Europe, which didn't have very many Africans at the time. So our family has only had around 100 years of opportunity to gain African genes from the American pool of same. Contrastingly, the average African-American's family has probably been in America for more than 150 years, and so has had several more generations than me to gain a European admixture of genes.
I'm in the same boat. I wonder what percentage of USAers have ancestors here X years ago.
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  #6  
Old 10-30-2010, 10:49 AM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
Frame the question this way.

-What percentage of
-Self-identified white Americans
-Have a self-identified black ancestor
-Within the past 10 generations?
Framed this way, however, I think the question is almost impossible to answer. Very few people without royal ancestry can trace their ancestry back 10 generations. And even if they had a black ancestor, given cultural norms, this would be very unlikely to be recorded in the official records. Given that miscegenation was often illegal, or at least highly frowned on, a person of African ancestry who married into a white family would probably be trying to "pass" as white and hence would not self-identify as black (and would conceal their own black ancestry). And informal relationships would be unlikely to be recorded at all.

In my case, although some of my ancestors were in the US by 1830, to the best of my knowledge they all married other immigrants from northern Europe. So although we have been in the US for five generations at least, I'm pretty sure we have no black ancestry since arriving.

Last edited by Colibri; 10-30-2010 at 10:54 AM..
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  #7  
Old 10-30-2010, 11:44 AM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is offline
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Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
Framed this way, however, I think the question is almost impossible to answer.
Actually, Colibri, your answer was just about perfect--thanks! I phrased it with those very specific parameters to avoid people saying dumb things about how we all have African ancestors if you go back far enough or the like. The link you provided appears to be based off of genetics, right? As such, it's plenty precise for what I'm trying to get at.
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  #8  
Old 10-30-2010, 12:02 PM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
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You also got to remember blacks didn't start going north in large numbers till the 1920s and then the Great Depressions stopped that, though WWII picked the numbers back up.

Most European immigrants settled in the Northeast (NYC became so large, in part, because not many immigrants could afford to move on farther west) or to the Midwest.

Younger people have a hard time imagining mixed marriages were still a big thing. Even as late, as the late 80s, the FOX network had a show about a black man and a white woman and that was considered "forward thinking." Since the Jeffersons was the last show to feature that.
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  #9  
Old 10-30-2010, 12:44 PM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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100% do.

Out of Africa, for H. Sapiens, you know.
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  #10  
Old 10-30-2010, 05:23 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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Quoth Colibri:
Quote:
Given that miscegenation was often illegal, or at least highly frowned on, a person of African ancestry who married into a white family would probably be trying to "pass" as white and hence would not self-identify as black (and would conceal their own black ancestry).
Yes, but presumably the black who managed to pass as white had at least one parent who self-identified as black, so all that does is push it back a generation (and the ten generations the OP allows us is probably enough room for that). And the lack of records isn't really a problem, either: A person might well have black ancestors without knowing it, but the OP was asking just about the situation of fact, not of how many know it or of specific cases. Which means that the genetics-based answer probably is actually the answer to the question as the OP framed it, or at least an excellent approximation to the answer.
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  #11  
Old 10-30-2010, 06:07 PM
code_grey code_grey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
Also, with the exception of the rape of slaves, my impression is that people tended to have kids with someone who identified as the same race as themselves. Also, because people value community and culture so heavily, and because there were such distinct cultural markers for white and black culture during this timeframe, I suspect that not that many light-skinned black people were able or willing to transition to a white identity.
the "rape of slaves" is not the only process of appearance of mixed race children back in the day. In America, just like in the Caribbean and South America, it was pretty obvious to blacks that the lighter skinned people are prettier (they still are, btw - at the very least for women being "high yellow" is deemed preferable to being black) and often do better in life (e.g. compare Booker T Washington born of a one night stand with his lawful brothers). In particular, it was very obvious that having the slave owner for a father might mean that he would free the son and help him learn a trade, that's where the original freedman black middle class came from in the South.

Besides, when women look for a boyfriend they prefer richer, higher status people to poorer lower status slaves - guess who was the higher status back in the day? How about white slave owners or other (free) white people living in the neighborhood?

Methinks a lot of the preoccupation with rape as the sole mechanism of miscegenation comes from back-projection of modern racial hatreds onto the early 19th century. In the past blacks did not hate whites - they respected and envied them and generally sought to emulate them to the best of their ability. In places with looser moral standards (Brazil being the case in point) they also had lots of children with them. Which is why the Brazilian north is populated mostly by mulattos rather than by blacks, whereas in Dominican Republic people with too prominent black features are euphemistically called "indios". When for centuries the easiest way to get a girlfriend is to be lighter skin than the competing suitors (and preferably pure white) it does add up. Besides, in the past they didn't have the government-imposed child support system either, making people like Booker T's white father all the more willing to spread the seed.
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  #12  
Old 10-30-2010, 07:29 PM
orcenio orcenio is offline
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Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
In America, just like in the Caribbean and South America, it was pretty obvious to blacks that the lighter skinned people are prettier (they still are, btw - at the very least for women being "high yellow" is deemed preferable to being black)
So what you're saying is that slave-era mixed race children did not occur solely due to rape because: Whites are clearly prettier then Blacks? Is this a whosh? or do you not realize the stupidity of claiming the 'ugliness of blacks' as some-sort of wholesale fact?

Your entire post (especially the part about the 'loose morals' of those miscegenating white Brazilians) is a dubious foray into opinionville.
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  #13  
Old 10-30-2010, 07:52 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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While much of the interbreeding was likely not forcible, it's still hard to say how it could have been exactly consensual, either. If a white man wanted to have sex with a black woman, she might have said yes, but if she had said no, it probably wouldn't have made much difference.
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  #14  
Old 10-30-2010, 08:55 PM
code_grey code_grey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by orcenio View Post
So what you're saying is that slave-era mixed race children did not occur solely due to rape because: Whites are clearly prettier then Blacks? Is this a whosh? or do you not realize the stupidity of claiming the 'ugliness of blacks' as some-sort of wholesale fact?

Your entire post (especially the part about the 'loose morals' of those miscegenating white Brazilians) is a dubious foray into opinionville.
no, I am saying that lighter skinned blacks are more attractive, to other blacks, than darker skinned ones. Especially the lighter skinned women. You want to disagree with this fact, buddy?

I also said that not all mixed race children had the father who was the owner of the mother. Some had the father who was a boyfriend or NSA of the mother. Neither were all mothers involved slaves. Free black women could have a white boyfriend too, you know. All the more so, again, in the less restrictive Latin America.

Last edited by code_grey; 10-30-2010 at 08:56 PM..
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  #15  
Old 10-30-2010, 09:00 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is offline
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Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor View Post
100% do.

Out of Africa, for H. Sapiens, you know.
I'm glad I made post 7 before yours, otherwise I might get warned for insulting another poster .

code grey, I opened this post in GQ specifically to avoid nonsensical and offensive arguments such as yours. You present a bunch of uncited absurdities. I'd appreciate your starting your own thread in the Pit if you want to continue in such a manner.

Last edited by Left Hand of Dorkness; 10-30-2010 at 09:03 PM..
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  #16  
Old 10-31-2010, 11:59 AM
hibernicus hibernicus is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
I'm glad I made post 7 before yours, otherwise I might get warned for insulting another poster .

code grey, I opened this post in GQ specifically to avoid nonsensical and offensive arguments such as yours. You present a bunch of uncited absurdities. I'd appreciate your starting your own thread in the Pit if you want to continue in such a manner.
The claim that "lighter skinned blacks are more attractive, to other blacks, than darker skinned ones" may be offensive, and may be true or false, but it is neither nonsensical nor absurd.
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  #17  
Old 10-31-2010, 12:17 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
no, I am saying that lighter skinned blacks are more attractive, to other blacks, than darker skinned ones. Especially the lighter skinned women. You want to disagree with this fact, buddy?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
I'm glad I made post 7 before yours, otherwise I might get warned for insulting another poster .

code grey, I opened this post in GQ specifically to avoid nonsensical and offensive arguments such as yours. You present a bunch of uncited absurdities. I'd appreciate your starting your own thread in the Pit if you want to continue in such a manner.
Quote:
Originally Posted by hibernicus View Post
The claim that "lighter skinned blacks are more attractive, to other blacks, than darker skinned ones" may be offensive, and may be true or false, but it is neither nonsensical nor absurd.
[Moderator Note]

Given it's heated nature, it will probably be better to take this particular aspect of the discussion to GD (or the Pit). I will note, however, that some studies indicate that light skinned females are considered more attractive across a range of cultures (including in generally dark-skinned populations); this does not hold for males. And the attractiveness of light skin within the African Americans populations is a matter of considerable discussion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_skin_color

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m.../ai_n16108105/

Colibri
General Questions Moderator
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  #18  
Old 10-31-2010, 12:20 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hibernicus View Post
The claim that "lighter skinned blacks are more attractive, to other blacks, than darker skinned ones" may be offensive, and may be true or false, but it is neither nonsensical nor absurd.
It depends on the definition of "attractive" you are using. If you mean "appears to be a better mate", that's one thing. But the poster explicitly said "prettier", which is subjective, not factual.

ETA: Ignore this. I typed it before Colibri's request to kill that particular discussion in this thread.

Last edited by John Mace; 10-31-2010 at 12:21 PM..
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  #19  
Old 10-31-2010, 01:52 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
Given it's heated nature, it will probably be better to take this particular aspect of the discussion to GD (or the Pit). I will note, however, that some studies indicate that light skinned females are considered more attractive across a range of cultures (including in generally dark-skinned populations); this does not hold for males. And the attractiveness of light skin within the African Americans populations is a matter of considerable discussion.
Without getting into the nitty-gritty, I'm aware of what you wrote, and I'll just say that it's different from what code grey wrote. In neither case is it germane to the question at hand, however, and as you correctly note, it'd be a much better topic in GD. I think my OP topic is a better one for GQ.
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  #20  
Old 11-01-2010, 12:09 PM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
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Originally Posted by Ruken View Post
I'm in the same boat. I wonder what percentage of USAers have ancestors here X years ago.
1620 for me, I'm decended from a Mayflower passenger. I also have much more recent immigrant ancestry, two of my great-grandparents entered through Ellis Island in the 1920's.
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  #21  
Old 11-01-2010, 01:20 PM
Pleonast Pleonast is offline
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I can't answer the OP question directly, but I can offer an anecdote that might be pertinent.

Most of my European ancestors arrived to Norht America in the 17th and 18th centuries. They lived exclusively in the north--New Netherland and Pennsylvania, later moving west into Ohio. There wasn't much chance to mix with people of African origin. There were, however, chances to mix with Native Americans. Both my parents have at least one Indian ancestor in the lineages we've traced back that far.

I would not be surprised if a long lineage in the south also had one or two non-Europeans, either Indian or black. There were plenty of opportunities for mixed-raced couples to avoid scrutiny by moving west to the frontier.
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Old 11-01-2010, 02:29 PM
rogerbox rogerbox is offline
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Originally Posted by digs View Post
This is great!

So now when when I'm trying to annoy my kids (just to get them out of bed for school) and I say something in a purposely bad "urban ebonics" accent, and my kids axe me what the hell I'm doing, I can say: "It's okay. I'm 2.3% black."
This passes for humor in your household?
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  #23  
Old 02-26-2012, 02:34 AM
TitanRamFan TitanRamFan is offline
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Yeah, my all four lines of my immigrant ancestry came to America mostly in the 1880's, with the exception of my Irish line in at least back to 1830 or so if not sooner. All lines since immigration are solidly white: Norwegian, Swedish, German, Irish, Greek. However, 1/8 of my immigrant ancestry is Greek, and I wonder if there was the possibility of African ancestry in that line in the old country because they appear to be a bit more cosmopolitan centuries back in the day. I'm going by biblical accounts (i.e. Canaanites). In fact, the first time I saw a photograph of my immigrant great-grandfather, I asked my mom, "Who's that black man?" She said, "That's not a black man. He's your great grandpa Gekas." Anyhow, no biggie on the possibility of having some African ancestry. I'm me regardless. I'm just always curious about the idea that I may indeed have some African blood from the B.C. years. It's rather cool actually. I figure, if God really didn't intend for the races to mix, reproduction wouldn't have been possible. In fact, even more so, human mixed race progeny are able to reproduce...unlike mules, for example.
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  #24  
Old 02-26-2012, 07:38 AM
Quartz Quartz is offline
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Is the necrotised tissue on zombies black?
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  #25  
Old 02-26-2012, 10:14 AM
Lanzy Lanzy is offline
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All of my family comes from East Tennessee, cumberland Gap region and we all have some percentage as we are: Melungeon
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  #26  
Old 02-26-2012, 01:15 PM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
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Originally Posted by Ludovic View Post
I would also think that the percentage of African genes the average White American has would be lower than the opposite due to white families being in the country shorter than Black americans.

For instance, all of my relatives migrated to America in the early 1900's from northern Europe, which didn't have very many Africans at the time. So our family has only had around 100 years of opportunity to gain African genes from the American pool of same. Contrastingly, the average African-American's family has probably been in America for more than 150 years, and so has had several more generations than me to gain a European admixture of genes.
I have a mix of white ancestors that started arriving in the 1600's as well as some ancestors who were processed through Ellis Island in the 1920's, and I haven't found any evidence of any African heritage, though I found an allegation of Native American ancestry that is, of course, not accompanied by any substantial proof
.
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  #27  
Old 02-26-2012, 02:25 PM
thelabdude thelabdude is offline
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I am curious where the people producing the numbers in post #2 came from. I am wondering if Northern and rural populations have less African markers. Was care taken to avoid bias?

Most of my family traces back to Jefferson and Clearfield counties in Pennsylvania, areas with very few blacks. Of course, there is the underground railroad factor already mentioned. My great great grandfather was a conductor. Were the escaped slaves mostly male?
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  #28  
Old 02-27-2012, 01:45 PM
DeweyDecibel DeweyDecibel is offline
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There's an interesting alternative angle to this. I am a white american with no known African-American ancestry. However, there is some geneological evidence that I may have an AFRICAN ancestor. Being descended partially from Sicilian immigrants, it is quite possible I have an African ancestor from before that side of the family immigrated in the early 20th century. I believe it is fairly common among Sicilians, and many Italian-Americans have ancestry in Sicily. I wonder if this is also true for other European immigrant groups?
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  #29  
Old 02-27-2012, 04:37 PM
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IIRC from historical novels, a fine source of history fact, the typical trick for light-skinned persons-of-color in the late 1800's was to pass as Spanish or some other mediterranean ethnic extraction when they moved to northern cities. Until the massive northern migration during industrialization near the turn of the century, northern white inhabitants would be less familiar with the difference and less prejudiced to hispanics. I imagine the same trick was also much easier in places like California, where the hispanic population was high enough to "blend in".
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  #30  
Old 02-27-2012, 05:01 PM
Normal Phase Normal Phase is offline
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Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
From here:
I would have said that the OP and his wife are both right -- in absolute terms very few interracial "couples" (for lack of a better word in many cases) would have children who would themselves be considered white -- the basic pre-requisite of the question. Yet over ten generations and 1000 or so ancestors, the overall percentage would be significant. And voila, 30%. Apparently my ass knows what it's talking about.
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  #31  
Old 02-27-2012, 08:51 PM
thelabdude thelabdude is offline
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I think most of my ancestors came from Ireland originally or the Scotch. They then settled in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. I doubt there were many blacks in Scotland, Ireland, and except for the underground railroad central Pennsylvania.
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