Julianne Jennings: Race, blood quantum and identity politics

"Today those who are mixtures of Indigenous peoples of the Americas and Black Africans are called Zambos while those who are mixtures of African American and Native American are called Black Indians (another subjective term) and sometimes are solely classified or self-identify as African American.

The 1790-1930 Federal Censuses gave this technical definition for persons listed as “Mulatto: A person of mixed race, part black and part white. Someone even came up with different “levels” based on how much black blood a person had (Quadroon for 1/4 black, for example). Generally speaking, a “Mulatto” is someone of medium dark skin, or even “yellow” skin as described in some old records. In the early years of the census there were not enough race codes to cover every possible race; so many people listed as “Mulatto” were of some other origin. So keep in mind, that those listed as “Mulatto” could be mixed Black-White, White-Indian, Black-Indian, or a combination of all three, “Tri-racial”. This doesn’t even account for those who might be dark skinned, but some other origin like Melungeon, “Black-Dutch,” as you can imagine this was a catch-all category on early census records. In 1790, anyone considered “Mulatto” would have been listed on the “Other” columns. In 1800 through 1840, they would have been listed in the “Free Colored” columns. In 1850 and later, they would have been listed with a race code of “M” in the “Color” column. In many cases you will find these same people listed as “White” on some other census records."

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Julianne Jennings: Mulatto: Less than Human (Indian Country Today 1/16)

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