From Black to Biracial: Transforming Racial Identity among Americans

From Black to Biracial: Transforming Racial Identity among Americans

From Black to Biracial: Transforming Racial Identity among Americans

From Black to Biracial: Transforming Racial Identity among Americans


Is a person with both a white and African American parent black? Thirty years ago in American society the answer would have been yes. Today, the answer most likely depends on whom you ask. According to the U.S. Census, a person with both a black and a white parent is, in fact, black. However, most young persons who fit this description describe themselves as biracial, both black and white. Most young Americans, whatever their racial background, agree. Since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 signaled the culmination of the Civil Rights Movement, a transformation has occured in the racial self-definition of Americans with both an African American and a white parent. This book describes the transformation and explains why it has occurred and how it has come about. Through extensive research and dozens of interviews, Korgen describes how the transformation has its roots in the historical and cultural transitions in U.S. society since the Civil Rights era. A ground breaking book, From Black to Biracial will help all,Americans understand the societal implications of the increasingly multiracial nature of our population. From affirmative action to the present controversy over the U.S. Census 2000, the repercussions of the transformation in racial identity related here affect all race-based aspects of our society. Students and faculty in sociology and multicultural studies, business leaders, and general readers alike will benefit from reading this work.


In 1630, a mixed crowd of Africans and white Virginia colonists assembled to see Hugh Davis, a white man, severely beaten with a whip. His crime was having sex with an African woman. the colonial leaders deemed this act a "dishonor of God and shame of Christians" [Williamson, 1980:7]. These leaders hoped that his whipping and subsequent public acknowledgment of his "fault" would discourage any further sexual intercourse between English colonists and Africans. While there is no clear record of whether this strategy worked with the beaten Hugh Davis, it is quite apparent that the overall effort was a failure. Miscegenation between blacks and whites, and the subsequent creation of biracial persons, has been a consistent and integral part of colonial and U.S. history.

The history of biracial Americans begins soon after the arrival of the first Africans in North America. in 1619, a Dutch man-of-war gave the English colonists of Virginia twenty Africans in exchange for food supplies. Shortly thereafter, the first black-white biracial individuals were born in what is now the United States. Africans worked side by side with indentured servants from England. Enduring similar hardships and demeaning labor, the white and black field hands became friends and, in some cases, lovers.

Over the years, the manner in which biracial individuals have been perceived and treated in the United States has undergone various transformations. Factors that have propelled these transformations include the American institutions of law, class, culture, and religion. This chapter examines the history of biracial Americans through the changing lenses of these institutions.

1619-1776: the colonial years

For approximately forty years, African and white servants were treated with equal harshness under the law. Over time, however, white and black labor became . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.