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Counting AmericansHow the US Census Classified the Nation$
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Paul Schor

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199917853

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199917853.001.0001

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From “Mulatto” to the “One Drop Rule” (1870–1900)

From “Mulatto” to the “One Drop Rule” (1870–1900)

(p.103) 10 From “Mulatto” to the “One Drop Rule” (1870–1900)
Counting Americans

Paul Schor

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses changes in racial categories applied to African Americans in the censuses from 1870 to 1900. At the time of the 1870 census, the schedules offered five choices of “color”: white, black, mulatto, Chinese, and Indian. The instructions for censustakers emphasized the importance of the “mulatto” category, which from that time on explicitly included quadroons and octoroons, and went all the way down the line to the “one drop rule.” The question of unions between members of subordinate groups was not addressed, but this was a secondary concern since the point of the system was to make it impossible for any person of mixed origin to claim membership in the white race. Only from 1900 onward was the question of racial mixing between non-whites formalized by the census.

Keywords:   race, racial categories, mulatto, racial mixing, mixed race, US census

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