Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Racial Reorganization and the United States Census 1850–1930: Mulattoes, Half-Breeds, Mixed Parentage, Hindoos, and the Mexican Race

  • Jennifer L. Hochschild (a1) and Brenna Marea Powell (a1)
Abstract

Between 1850 and 1930, demographic upheaval in the United States was connected to reorganization of the racial order. Socially and politically recognized boundaries between groups shifted, new groups emerged, others disappeared, and notions of who belonged in which category changed. All recognized racial groups—blacks, whites, Indians, Asians, Mexicans and others—were affected. This article investigates how and why census racial classification policies changed during this period, only to stabilize abruptly before World War II. In the context of demographic transformations and their political consequences, we find that census policy in any given year was driven by a combination of scientific, political, and ideological motivations.

Based on this analysis, we rethink existing theoretical approaches to censuses and racial classification, arguing that a nation's census is deeply implicated in and helps to construct its social and political order. Censuses provide the concepts, taxonomy, and substantive information by which a nation understands its component parts as well as the contours of the whole; censuses both create the image and provide the mirror of that image for a nation's self-reflection. We conclude by outlining the meaning of this period in American history for current and future debates over race and classification.

Copyright
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Paul Schor , “Mobilizing for Pure Prestige? Challenging Federal Census Ethnic Categories in the USA (1850–1940),” International Social Science Journal 57 (2005): 99

Claire Kim , “The Racial Triangulation of Asian Americans,” Politics and Society 27 (1999): 103–36

Reuel Rogers , “Race-based Coalitions among Minority Groups: Afro-Caribbean Immigrants and African-Americans in New York City,” Urban Affairs Review 39 (2004): 283317

Mae Ngai , “The Architecture of Race in American Immigration Law: A Reexamination of the Immigration Act of 1924,” Journal of American History 86 (1999): 6792

Rita Jalali and Seymour Martin Lipset , “Racial and Ethnic Conflicts: A Global Perspective,” Political Science Quarterly 107 (1992): 585606

Kim Williams , Mark One or More: Civil Rights in Multiracial America (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2006)

Terry Moe , “Power and Political Institutions,” Perspectives on Politics 3 (2005): 215–33

David Epstein and Sharyn O'Halloran , Delegating Powers: A Transaction Cost Politics Approach to Policy Making under Separate Powers (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999)

Clarissa Hayward , De-Facing Power (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000)

John Gerring , Party Ideologies in America 1828–1996 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998)

Claudette Bennett , “Racial Categories Used in the Decennial Censuses, 1790 to the Present,” Government Information Quarterly 17 (2000): 161–80

Sharon Lee , “Racial Classifications in the US Census: 1890–1990,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 16 (1993): 7594

F. James Davis , Who Is Black?: One Nation's Definition (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001)

Christine Hickman , “The Devil and the One Drop Rule: Racial Categories, African Americans, and the U.S. Census,” Michigan Law Review 95 (1997): 1161–265

Trina Jones , “Shades of Brown: The Law of Skin Color,” Duke Law Journal 49 (2000): 1487–557

Martha Hodes , “Fractions and Fictions in the United States Census of 1890,” in Haunted by Empire: Race and Colonial Intimacies in North American History, ed. Ann Laura Stoler (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 240–70

Francis Walker , “The Eleventh Census of the United States,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 2 [1888]: 136–37

Howard Bodenhorn , “The Mulatto Advantage: The Biological Consequences of Complexion in Rural Antebellum Virginia,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 33 (2002): 2146

Bodenhorn and Christopher Ruebeck , “Colorism and African-American Wealth: Evidence from the Nineteenth-Century South,” Journal of Population Economics 20 (2007): 599620

Robert Porter , “The Eleventh United States Census,” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 57 (1894): 655

Richmond Mayo-Smith , “The Eleventh Census of the United States.” The Economic Journal 1 (1891): 46, 48

Edward Reuter , “The American Mulatto,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 140 (1928): 3643

Robert Park , “Mentality of Racial Hybrids,” American Journal of Sociology 36 (1931): 534–51

E. Franklin Frazier , “Children in Black and Mulatto Families,” American Journal of Sociology 39 (1933): 1229

Melville Herskovits , “A Critical Discussion of the ‘Mulatto Hypothesis’,” Journal of Negro Education 3 (1934): 389402

Kelly Miller , “Review of The Mulatto in the United States,” American Journal of Sociology 25 [1919]: 220

Desmond King , “The Racial Bureaucracy,” Governance 12 (1999): 345–77

William Steuart , “The Conduct of the Fourteenth Census,” Quarterly Publications of the American Statistical Association 17 (1921): 575

J. M. Gillette , “Immigration and the Increase of Population in the United States,” Social Forces 5 (1926): 3751

Brian Gratton and Myron Gutman , “Hispanics in the United States, 1850–1990: Estimates of Population Size and National Origin,” Historical Methods 33 (2000): 137–53

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Studies in American Political Development
  • ISSN: 0898-588X
  • EISSN: 1469-8692
  • URL: /core/journals/studies-in-american-political-development
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×