An Unknown Creole Musician
Creoles from the Bayou Country
In the South it became known as
" One Drop Rule "
meaning that a single drop of
"black blood" makes a person black.
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It is also known
as the "one black ancestor rule," some courts have
called it the "traceable amount rule," and anthropologists
call it the "hypo-descent rule," meaning that racially
mixed persons are assigned the status of the subordinate group.
The term "Negro,"
which is used in certain historical contexts, means the same
thing. Terms such as "African black, unmixed Negro,"
and "all black" are used here to refer to unmixed
blacks descended from African populations.
The term "mulatto"
was originally used to mean the offspring of a "pure
African Negro" and a "pure white." Although
the root meaning of mulatto, in Spanish, is "hybrid,"
"mulatto" came to include the children of unions
between whites and so-called "mixed Negroes."
In the United States, the terms
mulatto, colored, Negro, black, and African American all came
to mean people with any known black African ancestry.
are racially mixed, to whatever degree, while the terms black,
Negro, African American, and colored include both mulattoes
and unmixed blacks. As we shall see, these terms have quite
different meanings in other countries.
Many of the nation's black leaders
have been of predominantly white ancestry
. James Augustine
Healy was born in 1830 to a mulatto slave and an Irish planter
and taken north to a Quaker school on Long Island in 1837.
He graduated from Holy Cross College in 1849, and in 1854
was ordained a priest at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.
He became the first black bishop in the United States, serving
in the capacity in Portland, Maine.
Plessy v. Ferguson (163 U.S.
537). This case challenged the Jim Crow statute that required
racially segregated seating on trains in interstate commerce
in the state of Louisiana.
The U. S. Supreme Court quickly
dispensed with Plessy's contention that because he was only
one-eighth Negro and could pass as white he was entitled to
ride in the seats reserved for whites. Without ruling directly
on the definition of a Negro, the Supreme Court briefly took
what is called "judicial notice" of what it assumed
to be common knowledge: that a Negro or black is any person
with any black ancestry. (Judges often take explicit "judicial
notice" not only of scientific of scholarly conclusions but also rof opinion surveys. usion
The Census Bureau counts what
the nation wants counted. The definition of black used by
the Census Bureau has been the nation's cultural and legal
definition: all persons with any known black ancestry
nations define and count blacks differently, so international
comparisons of census data on blacks can be extremely misleading.
For example, Latin American countries generally count as black
only unmixed African blacks, those only slightly mixed, and
the very poorest mulattoes.
If they used the U.S. Definition,
they would count far more blacks than they do, and if Americans
used their definition, millions in the black community in
the United States would be counted either as white or as "colored"of different descriptions, not as black.
A New Orleans Creole of Color
In 1870 and 1880, mulattoes
were officially defined to include "quadroons, octoroons,
and all persons having any perceptible trace of African blood."
In 1980 enumerators were told to record the exact proportion
of the "African blood," again relying on visibility. In 1900 the Census Bureau specified that "pure Negroes"
be counted separately from mulattoes, the latter to mean "all
persons' with some trace of black blood." In 1920 the
mulatto category was dropped, and black was defined to mean
any person with any black ancestry, as it has been ever since.
No other ethnic population in
the nation, including those with visibility non-Caucasoid
features, is defined and counted according to a one-drop rule.
For example, persons whose ancestry is one-fourth or less
American Indian are not generally defined as Indian unless
they want to be, and they are considered assimilating Americans
who may even be proud of having some Indian ancestry. The
same implicit rule appears to apply to Japanese Americans,
Filipinos, or other peoples from East Asian nations and also
to Mexican Americans who have Central American Indian ancestry,
as a large majority do.