The historical taboo among American whites surrounding white-black relationships can be seen as a historical consequence of the oppression and racial segregation of African-Americans.
In many U.S. states interracial marriage was already illegal when the term miscegenation was invented in 1863. The first laws banning interracial marriage were introduced in the late 17th century in the slave-holding colonies of Virginia (1691) and Maryland (1692). Later these laws also spread to colonies and states where slavery did not exist.
The bans in Virginia and Maryland were established at a time when slavery was not yet fully institutionalized. At the time, most forced laborers on the plantations were indentured servants, and they were mostly white. Some historians have suggested that the at-the-time unprecedented laws banning interracial marriage were originally invented by planters as a divide and rule tactic after the uprising of servants in Bacon’s Rebellion. According to this theory, the ban on interracial marriage was issued to split up the increasingly mixed-race labor force into whites, who were given their freedom, and blacks, who were later treated as slaves rather than as indentured servants.
By forbidding interracial marriage, it became possible to keep these two new groups separated and prevent a new rebellion.
Repealing the Anti-miscegenation Laws
Most states in the Northeast, Northern-Midwest, and Western states with these laws repealed them by 1967 with some, including Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Maine, and Ohio, within a generation of the end of the US Civil War.
The final blow to these laws came with Loving v. Virginia, a landmark civil rights decision of the United States Supreme Court, that invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
The case was brought by Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated the state’s anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as “white” and people classified as “colored”. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision determined that this prohibition was unconstitutional and ended all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.In 2013, it was cited as precedent in U.S. federal court decisions holding restrictions on same-sex marriage in the United States unconstitutional, including in the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges.
There are still plenty of non-governmental organizations opposed to interracial relationships.
Bob Jones University banned interracial dating until 2000 and segregationists (yeah, they still exist), including modern Christian Identity groups, have claimed that several passages in the Bible should be understood as referring to miscegenation with certain verses expressly forbidding it. Most theologians interpret these verses and references as forbidding inter-religious marriage, rather than interracial marriage.
These are some examples of propaganda from the 1860s that were meant to scare the hell out of Northerners who were still on the fence regarding abolition and equal rights for all Americans regardless of race.
No. 2, Miscegenation or the millennium of abolitionism
The second in a series of anti-Lincoln satires by Bromley & Co. This number was deposited for copyright on July 1, 1864.
The artist conjures up a ludicrous vision of the supposed consequences of racial equality in America in this attack on the Republican espousal of equal rights. The scene takes place in a park-like setting with a fountain in the shape of a boy on a dolphin and a large bridge in the background.
A black woman (left), “Miss Dinah, Arabella, Aramintha Squash,” is presented by abolitionist senator Charles Sumner to President Lincoln. Lincoln bows and says, “I shall be proud to number among my intimate friends any member of the Squash family, especially the little Squashes.” The woman responds, “Ise ‘quainted wid Missus Linkum I is, washed for her ‘fore de hebenly Miscegenation times was cum. Dont do nuffin now but gallevant ’round wid de white gemmen!”
A second mixed couple sit at a small table (center) eating ice cream. The black woman says, “Ah! Horace its-its-its bully ‘specially de cream.” Her companion, Republican editor Horace Greeley, answers, “Ah! my dear Miss Snowball we have at last reached our political and social Paradise. Isn’t it extatic?”
To the right a white woman embraces a black dandy, saying, “Oh! You dear creature. I am so agitated! Go and ask Pa.” He replies, “Lubly Julia Anna, name de day, when Brodder Beecher [abolitionist clergyman Henry Ward Beecher] shall make us one!”
At the far right a second white woman sits on the lap of a plump black man reminding him, “Adolphus, now you’ll be sure to come to my lecture tomorrow night, wont you?” He assures her, “Ill be there Honey, on de front seat, sure!”
A German onlooker (far right) remarks, “Mine Got. vat a guntry, vat a beebles!”
A well-dressed man with a monocle exclaims, “Most hextwadinary! Aw neva witnessed the like in all me life, if I did dem me!”
An Irishwoman pulls a carriage holding a black baby and complains, “And is it to drag naggur babies that I left old Ireland? Bad luck to me.”
In the center a Negro family rides in a carriage driven by a white man with two white footmen. The father lifts his hat and says, “Phillis de-ah dars Sumner. We must not cut him if he is walking.”
Their driver comments, “Gla-a-ang there 240s! White driver, white footmen, niggers inside, my heys! I wanted a sitiwation when I took this one.”
No. 4, The miscegenation ball
Although slightly different in format, this appears to be the fourth in the Bromley series of anti-Republican satires. As in no. 2 of the series, “Miscegenation or the Millenium of Abolitionism,” the artist plays on Northern fears of racial intermingling.
Here, white men are dancing and flirting with black women in a large hall. Above the musicians’ stage hangs a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. At right hangs a banner “Universal Freedom, One Constitution, One Destiny. Abraham Lincoln Prest.”
The text below further describes the scene: