In the same ways in which courts and legal codes were defining and attaching meaning to whiteness, they were also defining blackness as well. As demonstrated in the pre-requisite cases, contrary to popular belief, racial lines had never been clearly drawn. From the founding of the country, there have always been conversations on identity and how to deal with demographic changes in the country.
One contributing factor to that conversation was the Eugenic movement in the United States. The term “eugenics” refers to a scientifically based, ideological movement dedicated to the reification of the race (Reynolds, 2019). The movement was widespread across the country and given validity by some of America’s academic institutions including Yale. Similar to the Age of Classification, and in the context of persistent nationalism, academics were trying to mold what they believed to be the perfect society. Accordingly, anyone exhibiting traits deemed to be “dysgenic” or “unfit” was considered to be a threat to the nation, something to protect against (Reynolds, 2019 ).
These fears and anxieties parlayed into the legal constructions on race by serving as a mechanism to aid in the purification of societies. Anti-Miscegenation Laws or the movement against interracial marriage utilized the instrument of the law to control who would reproduce and with who. Out of the fifty states, only nine had never had anti-miscegenation laws, and sixteen states were forced to overturn their laws in Loving v. Virginia.
Often times miscegenation is focused through the villains, victims and victors triangle. We focus our attention on the individual plight of Mildred and Richard Loving. We focus on their love story and place all opposition to their individual love as the villains. However, as evident from the preceding topics, these laws do not emerge in a vacuum. The purpose of the unit placing the Loving v Virginia case in context with the larger Eugenics movement.
To begin the lesson, students should be provided a worksheet7distinguishes the different variances of blackness according to anti-miscegenation laws. They can ask questions and make connections to the terminology from the Pre-Requisite Cases lesson. Depending on class size, another cool way introducing this would be making it an entry activity in which students can pick a sheet of paper that only details a definition from the worksheet such as octaroon, quadroon or mulatoo. On the whiteboard, the states that had anti-miscegenation cases during the 1930s and 1940s, along with their definitions of blackness. Students can then complete a sheet to determine their race status in each state. After coming together, students can then discuss their results and visually see how varying definitions of the race could be.
After this, students will build upon their knowledge of the law and Blumenbach, as well as be introduced to the Eugenics movement. A way in which to begin this unit is to have students read primary sources from the Eugenics movement.8 The Burden of the Feebleminded is a great source because it is a quick look into how the evidence used in eugenics research and how it was used to understand different medical cases. Another primary source that can be used as a primary source that students can be introduced is an article and recording of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. Sanger was known eugenics and has continuously gained notoriety as a problematic figure in history on her opening up on abortion clinics in black neighborhoods to forcibly sterilizing black women. Students can use primary source analysis worksheet to dissect deeper into the purposes of this movement and make connections from previous units.
As a primary source shout out, students can read and analyze the 1963 Article Relating to Anti-Miscegenation Laws.9 The article is from a North Carolina discussing the controversy surrounding the fights against anti-miscegenation laws. The article has interesting subheadings such as Other States Rule, the rule of law and who is negro? The source is a great look at political and legal discourse at the time. After students can complete a similar context chart we used with Blumenbach to contextualize the Loving v. Virginia case.
Another extension or specific case to look out other than the Loving v Virginia case might be to have students read an article on Filipino resistance 10to Anti-Miscegenation in Washington State. This will take a step out of the binary lens of Black and White and similar to the Pre-Requisite cases, look how other minority groups were impacted by miscegenation legislation. An article that would help enlighten this struggle would be “When Hilario Met Sally: The Fight Against Anti-Miscegenation Laws” by Alex Fabros, an American military professor who details the fight for Asian Americans living in the United States under anti-miscengation laws. This will help to reclaim the victim voices and place them once again at the center of the fight against the tool of the law.