Arica L. Coleman

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[Cross-posted from New Books in LawArica Coleman did not start out to write a legal history of “the one-drop rule,” but as she began exploring the relationship between African American and Native peoples of Virginia, she unraveled the story of how the law created a racial divide that the Civil Rights movement has never eroded. Virginia’s miscegenation laws, from the law of hypo-descent to the Racial Integrity Act, are burned into the hearts and culture of Virginians, white, black and Indian.

That the Blood Stay Pure: African Americans, Native Americans, and the Predicament of Race and Identity in Virginia (Indiana University Press, 2014)  demonstrates how people continue to insist on racial discrimination and racial purity even though the legal barriers have been lifted and the biological imperatives of “blood purity” have been discredited. Dr. Coleman traces the origins the one-drop rule—that one African American ancestor made a person “colored”—from the days of slavery to the present. She shows how Indians came to disavow their African American descent in the wake of the Virginia racial purity statutes, and how the Bureau of Indian Affairs process continues to perpetuate a fear of admitting racial mixing. She also reveals how one of the most famous Civil Rights cases of our time, Loving v. Virginia, is not about what everyone thinks; it is not, she argues, about the right of blacks and whites to marry.

Dr. Arica L. Coleman is Assistant Professor of Black American Studies at the University of Delaware and a lecturer for the Center for Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She has a four-year appointment to the Organization of American Historians Alana committee, which focuses on the status of African American, Latino/Latina American, Native American and Asian American histories and historians. Dr. Coleman has lent her expertise on the history and politics of race and identity formation to the Washington PostIndian Country Today and most recently NPR’s “Another View,” a weekly program with a focus on contemporary African American issues.

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