PERSECUTION AND PERSEVERANCE: BLACK-WHITE INTERRACIAL RELATIONSHIPS IN PIEDMONT, NORTH CAROLINA
1 online resource (164 pages) : PDF
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Although black-white interracial marriage has been legal across the United States since 1967, its rate of growth has historically been slow, accounting for less than eight percent of all interracial marriages in the country by 2010. This slow rate of growth lies in contrast to a large amount of national poll data depicting the liberalization of racial attitudes over the course of the twentieth-century. While black-white interracial marriage has been legal for almost fifty years, whites continue to choose their own race or other races and ethnicities, over black Americans. In the North Carolina Piedmont, this phenomenon can be traced to a lingering belief in the taboo against interracial sex politically propagated in the 1890s. This thesis argues that the taboo surrounding interracial sex between black men and white women was originally a political ploy used after Reconstruction to unite white male voters. In the 1890s, Democrats used the threat of interracial sex to vilify black males as sexual deviants who desired equality and voting rights only to become closer to white females. Their campaign championed white supremacy and united all classes of white men by declaring it their Christian duty to protect white womanhood from black men. This tactic resulted in a landslide victory for Democrats in the 1898 election, while also leading to an increase in vigilantism as white men began increasingly lynching black men for sexual crimes against white women. While the taboo had its origins in the nineteenth-century, it remained in the state to some degree throughout the twentieth-century. The threat of racial mixing was used as an excuse to fight school integration in the 1950s. And in the 1960s, North Carolina witnessed the largest Ku Klux Klan reemergence of any southern state, coming to power with a familiar message: white supremacy, Christian duty and the protection of white women from deviant black men. This thesis further argues that the early criminalization of black men and deeply engrained taboo against racial mixing has continued to affect the white approval rate of interracial marriages and white approval in North Carolina. In 1976 two magistrates in Winston-Salem refused to marry a black-white couple because of deeply held religious beliefs against racial mixing. In the late 1980s, a Catawba County black-white couple reported having a cross burned on their lawn. While black-white interracial marriages were legal after 1967, a national Gallup poll found white approval of interracial marriage did not breach fifty percent until the late 1990s. While white North Carolinians did not publicly denounce interracial relationships and marriage, some discrimination still lingered privately and into the mid-1990s, interracial couples in the state continued to face disapproval from family members who believed such unions were unnatural. While the taboo against interracial marriage still exists for some North Carolinians, national studies depict that these tend to be older, white southerners who lived through segregation. White acceptance, however, should continue to rise with future generations of North Carolinians, who, studies have shown, are less inclined to view these relationships as taboo.
Goldfield, DavidHicks, Cheryl
Thesis (M.A.)--University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2017.
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