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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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Color, Race, and Origin of Slaves and Free Persons

Color, Race, and Origin of Slaves and Free Persons

“White,” “Black,” and “Mulatto” in the Censuses of 1850 and 1860

(p.52) 5 Color, Race, and Origin of Slaves and Free Persons
Counting Americans

Paul Schor

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the racial classification of slaves and free persons in the 1850 and 1860 censuses. The categories that were adopted and the procedures put into place in the field by 1850 defined the statistical population of black slaves, divided into two groups of different size, blacks and mulattoes. That there were two possible colors for slaves—black and mulatto—while there was no provision for “white” had two lasting implications for the American statistical apparatus and, more generally, for the definition of racial groups in American society: black individuals could be divided into two groups, and only two groups. Whatever the definition adopted for those who visibly were the product of a mixing between blacks and whites, called miscegenation, all such individuals remained within the confines of the black population, and they in no way occupied an intermediary position between the two races.

Keywords:   race, color, racial classification, blacks, whites, mulatto, racial groups, miscegenation, racial mixing

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