All content (c) 2018, Alex Colvin




For most of the 19th century, and well into the 20th, the scholarship on American mixed-race marriage was replete with arguments and pseudo-science casting  "out marriages"  as a danger to the social good. Yet, there is much evidence that these marriages flourished, hiding in plain sight in various records.  And although the literature on miscegenation offering a counterpoint to the “danger” thesis came of age in the 1960s and has begun to mature since, there remains a serious gap in its approach. There exist virtually no narratives of the couples themselves.[1]


My principle interest in this topic is to address the aforementioned gap by asking fundamental socio-historical and biographical questions which will guide and inform the research thereby empirically examining these unions in detail. Beyond their inclusion as statistics in other examinations, I seek to understand and detail who some of these couples were.  Where did they live? Why would they form marital bonds in the face of such hostile laws? Who were their descendants and how, just as importantly, has knowing of their biracial ancestral links shaped their own experience and perception of “race” and social norms?


Compiling data to support overlooked narratives or treatments of how mixed race marriages actually flourished in places where laws made such marriages criminal,  I propose to engage a rigorous examination of available historical and genealogical records from the 19th century onward which will be organized through a specially-build database the data from which will  inform the narratives; the records themselves exists in a plethora of mediums such as physical and online archives, as well as monograph citations, and well as unpublished records held with their descendants such as diaries, Bibles, letters, etc. – resources which have heretofore not been tapped or collated in order to produces the narratives already described.


Because Narratives  occupies the intersection of genealogical and historical research, and  because I have worked on genealogical projects for nearly two decades as well as having received excellent advanced-level academic research training at the University of Houston, I am not only acutely aware of many repositories , (both physical and online resources,)  which provide digitized versions of primary records, this skill set uniquely qualifies me for this pioneering in-depth historical research. 


Understanding that “out marriages” existed despite severe social prohibitions, is no longer historically satisfying. We need a much more nuanced understanding of American race relations across time. Thus, this project seeks to humanize the subjects, rather than continue to re-inscribe them as cohorts in cold statistical analysis or as footnotes in monographs. This more focused and humanizing approach will be of value to students of American history, of race relations, and to those readers seeking a finer-grained view of the topic, particularly those researchers challenging the hegemony and longevity of the historical Eurocentric master narrative: it will matter, especially, because the lives of the subjects  under consideration were deeply interwoven throughout the tapestry of  the American story even as they defied social injunctions. 



[1]      Alex Colvin, “Miscegenation in America from the Antebellum to 2014: Toward A Historiographic Overview" Senior essay, University of Houston, 2017.