Southern Jim Crow laws were premissed on two clearly discernable groups of people, blacks and white. This even by the 19th century was absurd. Large numbers of people had mixed ancestry. This was in large measure becuse slave owners could take advantage of their female slaves, both by force and by more subtle means. That this occurred is demonstrated by the large number of mullato children, including some who were indestinguishable from whites. The Southern states solved this problem by simply defining blacks as pople with any or a small fraction of black ancestors. The NAZIs when they drafted their Nuremburg Race Laws (1935. looked at Southern Jim Crow laws. There were other complications such as Native Americans. The Federal Government during the Jackson Administration had removed Eastern tribes beyond the Mississppi (1830s), but remanents remained as well as individuals with mixed ancestry. There were also small numbers of Asian Americans, although this was primarily a consideration in California. Mexican Americans lso experienced desrimination, but in the southwestern states. All of these complications were handled by each state and there were some differences. Despite the 14th Aendment, there was no intervention from the Federal Government until the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century.
Large numbers of Americans had mixed black-white ancestry. The term for this is mulatto. The term is not, however, commonly used in America. This is because there is no Americam mulatto community and Americans do not identify as mulatto. This is because the tendency has been for mulattos to be idetified as black and gravitated toward the black community which generally accepted them. In fact mulattos (generally meaning ligh-skinned blacks) emerged as a kind of upper class within the black community. This was in part because they generally were more accepted by white Americans. To an extent these values were internalized by the black community. The substantial American mulatto population was in large measure the result of male slave owners could take advantage of their female slaves, both by force and by a range of more subtle means. This was almost always a white man and a black woman. That this occurred is demonstrated by the large number of mullato children, including some who were indestinguishable from whites. The Southern states solved this problem by simply defining blacks as people with any or a very small fraction of black ancestors. Often 1/16th became the standard. Thus we see fair-complexioned slaves and after the Civil War, fair complexioned people classified as coloreds. A good example was the Griffin children in 1936. The NAZIs when they drafted their Nuremberg Race Laws (1935) looked at Southern Jim Crow laws.
There were other complications such as Native Americans. The Federal Government during the Jackson Administration had removed Eastern tribes beyond the Mississppi into the Indian Terriroty (1830s). Remanents remained in both the South and North as well as individuals with mixed ancestry. Southern race laws might have addressed Native americans like blacks if they were present in larger numbers. We are not entirely sure how this issue was addressed in the early years before the removal. After the Civil War, the numbers were generally speaking to small to warrant serious attention. And there were costs to segregation. Maintaining two separate school systems was expensive. And a third system fioe small numbers was just not feasible.
Some authors have adopted the term Melungeon peoples. This is a term rejected by some scholars and considered pejorative by some people. The term is used for "tri-racial isolate" groups of the Southeastern United States, particularly in Appalachia. Groups there are thought to be mixtures of Americans of European, African, and Naive American stock. These groups for a time established isolated communitirs because tey refused to associate with the bklack community, but were not accepted by the white community. As they were small and isolated there was little or no contact with similar communities. This is not a well-studied subject. Some scholars believe that there may be as many as 200 of these small groups. Since the Civi Rights movement and reversal of descrinatory state legislation, these groups have tended to disappear and be assimilated. Some of these groups include the Dominickers (Florida panhandel), Cajans (Mobile and Washington counties in Alabama--not the better known Cajuns of Lousisiana), the Dead Lake People (Gulf and Calhoun counties in Florida), Redbones (Rapides and Vernon parishes in Louisiana), and many others.
The Dominickers lived in the Florida Panhandle county of Holmes, a corner of the southern part of the county west of the Choctawhatchee River, near the town of Ponce de Leon. The group was classified as one of the "reputed Indian-White-Negro racial isolates of the Eastern United States" by the United States Census Bureau in 1950. They are believed to have been descendants of the widow of a plantation owner's widow and one of her slaves. They reportedly had five children. The slave may have been the mulatto half-brother of the woman's deceased husband. There is no defintive account of the origins of the Dominickers, but an association of the widow would seem more likely if the slave was a mulatto. After the Civil War the descendents formed an isolated community. They were rejected by the white coimmunity, but refused to associate with the black community in the county. As they were classified as blacks by Florida state law, the children had to attend black segregated schools. Some attended small one-room rural schools where most of the children were other Dominickers. This can be seen at the Mt. Zion School about 1910 (figure 1). They had features that seemed mostly white. Many could have passed as whites which would have been expected from the ansesters of a mulatto and white woman. Some of the children were reportedly allowed to atend the white high school, but not allowed to graduate. I am not sure just why, perhaps because their attendance was in violatin of state law.
Most Hispanics in the United States were Mexicans until fairly recent times. They were descendents of the original Mexican population of the Southwestern states. These Mexican Americans also experienced descrimination. Unlike other non-black communities, Mexicans were present in substantial numbers in Texas and the southwestern states obtain as a result of the Mexican-American War (1846-48). We do not yet have details on how Mexican Americans were treated in these states. Texas was the only state of the Old Confederacy that had large numbers of Mexicans.
There were also small numbers of Asian Americans, although this was primarily a consideration in California. Here Chinese and Japanese people emigrated before state and Federal laws were enacted to limit or prevent Asians from emigrating to the United states.
Small numbers of Jews settled in the South efore and after the Civil war. They were treated as Whites in legal terms. They were not, however, generally socially aceptable. And with the rise of Klan violence, Jews wre occassional targets. The most egregious case was the Leo Frank trial and lynching in Atlanta. Southern Protestants viewed both Jews and Catholics with considerable disdain. The Klan while primarily focused on blacks was virulently anti-Semetic and anti-Catholic. Interstingly, the strongest defenders of Israel other than Jews in the United States has become Southern Protestants. That in itself is a fascinating religious-political journey worthy of further discussion.
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main Jim Crow page]
[Return to Main segregation page]
[Return to Main Civil Rights page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]