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Closing the "Floodgate of Impurity": Moral Reform, Antislavery, and Interracial Marriage in Antebellum Massachusetts

Closing the "Floodgate of Impurity": Moral Reform, Antislavery, and Interracial Marriage in... amber d. moulton Until February 1843, when the state legislature repealed a statute that banned marriages between whites and "Negroes, Indians, or Mulattos," interracial couples in Massachusetts found their unions declared null and void, their children were classed as illegitimate, and any official who solemnized an interracial union could be fined. While many African American activists and some white abolitionists advocated interracial marriage because they viewed the ban as a race law created to degrade the social and political status of African Americans and support white supremacy, they had little success convincing the general public or their state legislators that racial discrimination justified changing the laws. In fact, their initial petitioning drives in 1838 and 1839, calling for the repeal of the marriage law because it "made distinctions on account of color," earned them nothing but derision. This essay examines the transition in petitioners' tactics, from stalwart demands for racial equality and fair citizenship to a multifaceted petitioning effort on behalf of the sanctity of marriage and family in a free state. To sway the public and legislators who would make the ultimate determination on their pleas, leading reformers appealed to the burgeoning moral reform movement, whose bourgeois http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of the Civil War Era University of North Carolina Press

Closing the "Floodgate of Impurity": Moral Reform, Antislavery, and Interracial Marriage in Antebellum Massachusetts

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
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Copyright @ The University of North Carolina Press
ISSN
2159-9807
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Abstract

amber d. moulton Until February 1843, when the state legislature repealed a statute that banned marriages between whites and "Negroes, Indians, or Mulattos," interracial couples in Massachusetts found their unions declared null and void, their children were classed as illegitimate, and any official who solemnized an interracial union could be fined. While many African American activists and some white abolitionists advocated interracial marriage because they viewed the ban as a race law created to degrade the social and political status of African Americans and support white supremacy, they had little success convincing the general public or their state legislators that racial discrimination justified changing the laws. In fact, their initial petitioning drives in 1838 and 1839, calling for the repeal of the marriage law because it "made distinctions on account of color," earned them nothing but derision. This essay examines the transition in petitioners' tactics, from stalwart demands for racial equality and fair citizenship to a multifaceted petitioning effort on behalf of the sanctity of marriage and family in a free state. To sway the public and legislators who would make the ultimate determination on their pleas, leading reformers appealed to the burgeoning moral reform movement, whose bourgeois

Journal

The Journal of the Civil War EraUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Feb 13, 2013

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