The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, December 20, 2003

From Strom to Maternity: the mini-series looms

I've been taking a breather from all things Strom - the story seems to to be spinning its wheels right now, though there's still clearly a great deal to come out - but was interested to see my December 14 prediction on the way to fruition, according to the Greenville News (December 19):
Several producers and publishers have contacted Essie Mae Washington-Williams' attorney, Frank Wheaton, including Craig Anderson, who produced a television mini-series on the romance between Thomas Jefferson and one of his slaves.

"I've heard from feature-film producers, television networks and I just completed a meeting with a book publisher," said Wheaton, an entertainment lawyer based in Los Angeles.

The reference to Jefferson [1] suggests one should not expect more than the usual degree of fidelity to the historical record!

Worth making a mental note to consider the husband in the case, Julius T. Williams, as the facts become known. Apparently, they met at South Carolina State at Orangeburg, where he was one of the first to graduate as a lawyer; and also he
once was a local NAACP leader

  1. Even the Thomas Jefferson Foundation admits there is room for doubt on the matter.


While the URL is to hand, there's the 60 Minutes II interview transcript.

The anachronised, Oprah-thon continues: a piece from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (December 20) quotes Larry Davis, director of the University of Pittsburgh's Center on Race and Social Problems:
"[Strom Thurmond] fought against the well-being of African Americans while having an African-American child himself," Davis said. "You'd think you'd root for your kid."

Sometimes, Essie Mae is biracial, sometimes she's black: the debate on that point doesn't seem to have opened up yet.

But Davis has to forget what he ever learnt about American history to utter such a flabby, sentimental, Disneyfied line as
You'd think you'd root for your kid

Or is he just establishing copyright to set up a suit against the miniseries producers down the line?

And, to show that the piece really wasn't edited at all, there's this:
About 85 percent of blacks and whites in America have ancestors of the other race because of the history of slavery, said Bucknell University professor T. Joel Wade, who has conducted research on attitudes toward biracial children and interracial marriage.

Now, that number seems excessive when applied to blacks: how can he possibly get to 85% of whites with some African ancestry? Do the math: essentially, we're saying that 85% of the white population consists of the descendants of Negroes who at some stage in the last three hundred years managed to pass! (And all their descendants need to have been equally skillful or fortunate.)

The piece also makes reference to the mythical
one-drop rule

Fortunately, we have online Stetson Kennedy's 1959 Jim Crow Guide to the USA (albeit in an inconvenient format), which states the rules as they then were.

Not only did each state have its own definition of race; but different definitions applied for different purposes. Kennedy states the definitions of Negro for Mississippi thus:
Anyone having 1/8th or more Negro blood.-Anti-miscegenation law. Anyone having any "appreciable" Negro blood.-Court ruling on school segregation. Anyone having 1/8th or more Mongolian blood.

Alabama did seem to have something of a one-drop rule; Arkanas, in one statute at least, went on appearance:
"Persons in whom there is a visible and distinct admixture of African blood shall be deemed to belong to the African race; all others shall be deemed to belong to the white race. "Anti-miscegenation law.

The very variegation in these rules is what made them self-satirising: Kennedy's book is as much ridicule as rant. Unfortunately the equally self-satirising apartheid race typing of the University of Michigan did not meet a similar fate. I've mentioned it before, and I daresay I'll mention it again...


The most causal mooching produces what look like course notes on the Sociology Quantitative Research Laboratory site - motto: Reason Proposes, Research Disposes - at North Illinois University which say, in relation to the US population,
Today, depending on the region of the country, as high as an estimated 12 percent of "Whites" have some African ancestry.

That's one region (which?) maxing out at 12%, with, presumably, the national average for whites being a lot lower.

In any case, we're clearly talking about nothing approaching the 85% of
Bucknell University professor T. Joel Wade

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