The 18th century bore many mulatto children on plantations throughout the south. Although there are no records for this time, Jacksonville, Florida had four plantation owners who have children born of their free black wives. They were the Kingsleys, the Frasers, the Erwins and the Clarkes. Mr. Kingsley strongly advocated the intermarriage between races as a way to improve the human race. To Kingsley, "the intermediate grades of color are not only healthy, but when condition is favorable, they are improved in shape, strength and beauty." Mr. Kingsley said this in the 18th century, a time where there are not many records of these children. This proves to be the same through the first half of the 19th century.
However, in 1835, Judge William Harper of South Carolina was asked to declare the fate of two mulatto men. This is what I believe he would say to us today:
I, Judge Harper, am a proud judge from the state of South Carolina. They brought before me two fair-skinned brothers who exhibited none of the distinctive mark of the African race. One of them was a military officer. Both had married into respectable families, been received into society and been recognized as white men. They were brought to the court as witnesses. Their genealogy was announced because in 1835 a person of color could not testify as a credible witness in court. The evidence showed each of the brothers was 1/16 black. The black heritage of these witnesses was certainly invisible. The grandfather who was of mixed heritage, although dark complexioned, had been recognized as a white man also. It was up to the jury and myself to rule on their "blackness."
I refused to make a ruling on the whiteness or blackness of a free person of color involved in a case simply according to the proportion of white blood in his veins. I wrote for the court..."We cannot say what admixture of Negro blood will make a colored person....The condition of the individual is not to be determined solely by distinct and visible mixture of Negro blood, but by reputation, by his reception into society. And his having commonly exercised the privileges of a white man....It may be well and proper,that a man of worth, honesty, industry and respectability should have the rank of a white man, while a vagabond of the same degree of blood should be confined to the inferior caste. It is hardly necessary to say that a slave cannot be a white man..it belongs for these men to settle questions of common usage and the meaning of the popular terms."
My friends, Judge William Harper made more sense 161 years ago than the OMB makes today!!! Does it make sense that a judge in SC in the year 1835 decided that it was the choice of these men to decide for themselves the matter of who they were, and yet the United States in the year 1996, our judges, Senators, Representatives and the President don't have the same wisdom?! We ask these leaders of our great country to have the fortitude to pass laws to allow multiracial people their right to the pursuit of happiness which is our Constitutional Right! And our pursuit of happiness includes the proper and accurate choice of self-identification! (to be continued...)