Are black babies really born white?

Are black babies really white when they are born?


“The children of the blackest Africans are born white.[088] In this state they continue for about a month, when they change to a pale yellow. In process of time they become brown. Their skin still continues to increase in darkness with their age, till it becomes of a dirty, sallow black, and at length, after a certain period of years, glossy and shining.”



Let me add you should take the exploratory books, and the like from a century ago, as being full of what it takes to sell books.

There was this Yahoo! Answers thread as well, with anecdotal evidence it’s true in the case of babies who’re half white and half black.

But wouldn’t these be called ‘spotted babies’, rather than ‘black babies’ or ‘white babies’?

IME, a large number* of black babies are born several shades lighter than they will be as adults. In the case of a person who will grow up to be lighter skinned, they can look white as newborns. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few years for the person to reach their final color. I’ve seen light to medium brown skinned babies and toddlers grow into very dark skinned older children. It takes awhile for the melanin to kick in, similar to the way some babies are born with lighter eyes that darken with age.

I’ve never seen anything that the quote mentions though.

*I won’t say all, because I haven’t seen every black newborn, but I’ve never seen a newborn who had Wesley Snipes’ color, although I’ve seen lighter newborns grow up to be that color.

Since the quote in question is from 18th century anti-slavery activist Thomas Clarkson’s famous essay, “An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, Particularly the African Translated from a Latin Dissertation, Which Was Honoured with the First Prize in the University of Cambridge, for the Year 1785, with Additions”, I doubt whether he was reporting on an actual, observed phenomenon. Much more likely that he was “reporting” a completely manufactured factoid in order to further his anti-slavery agenda: “Africans are born white, so they’re really just like us…”

This can also be said of Caucasian babies. Caucasian children can have much lighter hair as toddlers than they do as older children; they start out blonde and are frankly brown-haired by age 7 or 8.

And of course there’s the proverbial fairness of “skin like a baby’s”, as in, “He dropped trou, and his buttocks were like a baby’s”. IOW, very pale.

I have. My Walgreens store is in the “disadvantaged” section of town, and I’ve seen newborns of every shade of black, the same way I’ve seen their parents in every shade of black.

I know that the things mentioned in the quote don’t take place in real life. I just wanted to make sure the OP knew that while black newborns don’t make that particular transition, therre is a transition made.

Yes, I was mostly talking about white babies when mentioning eye color. I’ve never seen a light eyed black newborn, although they are out there, especially in cases of people who will grow up to be light eyed adults.

Just for reference purposes.

Photo of dark-skinned Nigerian baby.

Photo of dark-skinned African-American baby.

And another dark-skinned Nigerian baby.

Wesley Snipes’ color seems to change with his movies; a Google Image search turns up an impressive array of shades. Presumably this is his everyday off-camera look.

Actually, I did, once. The effect was…startling. Which is why it sticks in my mind.

Yep, that’s me!

Oh sure, I’m not saying that there aren’t dark babies. My photo album is full of pictures of them. :wink: When I said newborn, I meant right out of the oven, so to speak, as in hours to days old. Re: Wesley Snipes, I just picked the name of the darkest famous person I could think of off hand. Lighting can definitely affect the shade that a person comes out in a picture, along with summer tans (dark skinned people can get darker in the summer, which is surprising to some non dark skinned people, including a certain doctor I know).

Yeah, I know, it was mainly for the benefit of the OP.

If he comes back.

Those are adorable pictures, but none of them are newborns. The third one looks the closest, at maybe 8-10 weeks or so. Plenty of time to “dark up” according to the story.

I’m a little astonished that someone hasn’t simply set up a website with a bunch of newborn and 1 month pictures on it to address this issue. 'Cause yeah, anecdotally, all the mixed race and black babies I’ve seen as newborns do dark up later on. Then again, so do most white babies, they just don’t “dark up” as far or as evenly - we get moles or areas of hyperpigmentation starting somewhere after the age of 2 and they can keep popping up for the rest of our lives. The overall skintone of white people generally tends to darken as it thickens with age and sun exposure - I haven’t paid much attention to the skin color of my black friends and acquaintances over the years, so I can’t say for sure theirs does or doesn’t.

Photo of Tiger Woods’ baby.
Photo of Tiger, Elin and baby.

No, no, his argument is much more ‘since colour is so variable, it can’t be used as a means for deciding people are inferior’.

Again, I can’t speak for everyone etc. etc. but it has for a great deal of people I’ve seen over the years.

Anecdotal: One of the ladies I work with is quite dark skinned African-American, and her newborn (two weeks) was very pale. Her husband is also quite dark-skinned. She told me that I had to look to the baby’s ears to see what colour she’d turn out to be.

The essay’s footnotes also say:

This circumstance, which always happens, shews that they are descended from the same parents as ourselves; for had they been a distinct species of men, and the blackness entirely ingrafted in their constitution and frame, there is great reason to presume, that their children would have been born black.”

So it’s a common conception?

I suppose I’m the one who has to do it:
I Can Instantly Tell Whether Someone Is African-American With My Amazing 'Blackdar’

In my experience, most newborn babies are that particularly attractive shade of pinky-purple that brings to mind corned beef, whether caucasion, asian, south east asian or african.

They only turn anything like their “proper” colour after a few hours, and even then they’ll probably still tan a fair bit.