Illicit Love: Interracial Sex and Marriage in the United States and Australia

Illicit Love: Interracial Sex and Marriage in the United States and Australia

Illicit Love: Interracial Sex and Marriage in the United States and Australia

Illicit Love: Interracial Sex and Marriage in the United States and Australia

Synopsis

Illicit Love is a history of love, sex, and marriage between Indigenous peoples and settler citizens at the heart of two settler colonial nations, the United States and Australia. Award-winning historian Ann McGrath illuminates interracial relationships from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century through stories of romance, courtship, and marriage between Indigenous peoples and colonizers in times of nation formation.

The romantic relationships of well-known and ordinary interracial couples provide the backdrop against which McGrath discloses the "marital middle ground" that emerged as a primary threat to European colonial and racial supremacy in the Atlantic and Pacific Worlds from the Age of Revolution to the Progressive Era. These relationships include the controversial courtship between white, Connecticut-born Harriett Gold and southern Cherokee Elias Boudinot; the Australian missionary Ernest Gribble and his efforts to socially segregate the settler and aboriginal population, only to be overcome by his romantic impulses for an aboriginal woman, Jeannie; the irony of Cherokee leader John Ross's marriage to a white woman, Mary Brian Stapler, despite his opposition to interracial marriages in the Cherokee Nation; and the efforts among ordinary people in the imperial borderlands of both the United States and Australia to circumvent laws barring interracial love, sex, and marriage.

Illicit Love reveals how marriage itself was used by disparate parties for both empowerment and disempowerment and came to embody the contradictions of imperialism. A tour de force of settler colonial history, McGrath's study demonstrates vividly how interracial relationships between Indigenous and colonizing peoples were more frequent and threatening to nation-states in the Atlantic and Pacific worlds than historians have previously acknowledged.

Excerpt

We are waiting on a file. Sitting together in the archives of the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Clara Sue and I are having lively chats while hoping to learn more about the Cherokee chief John Ross. Although he had opposed intermarriages between Cherokees and whites, after his Cherokee wife died, he ended up marrying a white woman. The opening cast of this part of the story: Clara Sue Kidwell and the author. From different sides of the hemispheric divide, we are time-line jumpers, historians of frontier, especially of the colonizing interface. Myself, a Queensland-born Australian, and Clara Sue, a senior Native American scholar from Oklahoma in the United States of America. Our research expeditions have crossed the Equator and the date line — those invisible geometries that partition the world. Although we sit on different sides of the settler-colonizer divide, these cross-lines are not so simple. Clara Sue Kidwell’s ancestry is Choctaw, Chippewa, French, English, and Scotch-Irish. Despite our Scottish, English, and other ancestors, my grandparents and great-grandparents said we were Irish. My paternal grandfather was indeed the son of a Galway man, but along with Viking genes, his deep-toned skin suggested the Spanish or Roman heritage that people referred to as dark Irish. Then there was his English-born mother, my great-grandmother, Marion Smith. Illegitimate, she never knew who her father was, or her birth name. Brought up by foster parents, she traveled alone to faraway Australia at age sixteen. Soon married, she eventually bore and raised ten children. Her daughter-in-law, my . . .

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