What happened to biracial children of white women in the South?

During and prior to the Civil War, what kinds of things happened to the biracial children of white women?

Was it typical to take them from the woman and enslave them?

Or worse? (Or better?)


In general, they were considered to be slaves. See “the one-drop rule.”

I suspect that the incidence of bi-racial children born to white women was rather small. It was a severe social stigma; maybe the worst. White men did not want their women “defiled” in such a way.

What would have happened to the white women who bore biracial children?

I image they were few and far between. Most of them would have had illegal abortions, risking death and infertility over having a black child.

No. The one-drop rule was a rule for determining race, not status as a slave. Black or biracial people were never automatically enslaved. The law was that the status of the child followed the status of the mother.

WAG, but I bet many of the women who eventually gave birth would have claimed to have been raped.

In the South, it would not be conducive to a happy life, to say the least. Even in a less prejudiced society such as Victorian Great Britain, he or she would still have problems: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Adventure_of_the_Yellow_Face

Thanks for the correction.

Back then, any woman who was raped was seen as a slut who was asking for it.

I would guess that many woman said to have gone on Grand Tours of Europe or away to visit ailing relatives, etc etc were really in hiding until they gave birth and came back without the baby.

Which is different from the Islamic law of slavery, in which the umm al-walad rule held that the child of a slave-owner and an enslaved woman was born free. Additionally, the mother then could not be bought or inherited or enslaved by anyone else, and if she outlived her owner, she became automatically free.

The OP might be interested in this. Generally speaking, whites and blacks who co-habitated and/or produced children were breaking the law in many states.

That is correct. There were plenty of free people of color in the South especially in my native Louisiana. Just because someone was part black didn’t mean that they would be rounded up and sent to a slave market.

I don’t think that would be true in a biracial case, if lynchings based on rape allegations are considered.

How faithfully was this law carried out in reality? Islam has so many laws which look good on parchment…

And I doubt that most white women living in the Deep South in the antebellum, Civil War, and post-Civil War periods had the means to go on a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe.

A lot of FPOC (Free People of Color) were the descendants of white women (usually servant women) by black slave men. I recall seeing a runaway slave notice from Maryland asking for people to be on the lookout for a black man, his white wife, and their daughter who had fled their masters.

Here’s a topic on Afrigeneas discussing white women who married black men being listed as ‘mulatto’ on census forms. I’ve also seen census and other data discussed on that site regarding just this topic; one in particular that I can’t seem to find right now was a thread about a white woman who apparently kept her mulatto children and raised them, as they appear in several censuses with her.

For more details, I’d suggest White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South (1999) by Martha Hodes.

To answer the OP, black men could father children via white mothers under any of three circumstances: (1) open cohabitation or marriage; (2) illicit affairs outside of marriage; or (3) rape.

As contrapuntal notes, in many states, at many times, the first was illegal. However, in other times and places it wasn’t, and even when it was illegal, it happened. Among the lower classes, on the frontier, or if the man was light-skinned, you could perhaps get away with it. At least one historian has found greater tolerance for black male/white female relationships before the War than after, although other historians would probably dispute that claim. In any case, I’m not aware of any systematic enslavement of the children of such unions. If that ever happened, it was outside of the law.

As for cases (2) and (3), they were too shameful for white people to discuss. One imagines that many cases of (2) were passed off as (3), a la To Kill a Mockingbird. By law, the children of such a union would be free. There isn’t enough evidence–that I know of, anyway–to say whether the law was followed.

Nitpick: The situation in To Kill a Mockingbird was rape by a white man being passed off as rape by a black man. There was no consensual relationship involved at all.

I have never seen any indication that this law was widely violated. Western historians, not just Muslim apologists, always write that slavery in Islam was more humane in practice than the chattel slavery of America. Bernard Lewis’s book Race and Slavery in the Middle East is widely recognized as an authoritative work on the subject, if I get to the library I’ll check if it answers your question.

I imagine that law was more faithfully observed during the centuries when slavery was legal in Islamic countries and shari‘ah was enforced. Now that slavery is illegal in every country, there is no enforcement of such provisions in Muslim countries where slavery is still being practiced illegally, so I imagine in the present day the situation of slaves is considerably degraded compared to when it was governed by shari‘ah–there’s no check upon abuses any more.

My reading of To Kill a Mockingbird was that Mayella’s father caught her kissing a black man and the father beat her half to death as punishment. In my understanding, no rape actually occurred at all.

I think the reference in To Kill a Mockingbird was to Mr Dolphus Raymond. the guy at the courthouse sucking Coca Cola out of a brown paper bag: