Horizon Hall, #3223
July 06, 2022, 10:00 AM to 01:00 PM
This dissertation explores the Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924 and the fight of American Indian against this act. It examines how the Anglo-Saxon Clubs of America, a Virginia-based white supremacist organization, succeeded in enacting the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 and thus revised the definition of “race” to maintain white supremacy. This law, for the first time, established a legal definition of a white person as one “who has no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian.” The purpose of the law was to prohibit intermarriage between whites and non-whites and to protect the “whiteness” of the race. I focus on how a law created primarily to maintain white supremacy over African Americans unexpectedly created a controversy about how to racially categorize Native Americans. A third racial category presented white supremacists with a difficult challenge in a society that, under the law, was strictly biracial: white and Black. I am interested in seeing how the white supremacists advanced their views and implemented the law, as well as how Indians reacted against the 1924 law and fought to claim their racial identity as Indians.
While I examine the implementation of the law and the damage to Native communities, this dissertation also explores how Virginia Indians regained their racial status after the repeal of the law. White supremacists’ racial campaign to eliminate Indians in Virginia made it difficult for many tribes to achieve tribal recognition and claim their independent racial status. The dissertation shows the current issues and impacts the Racial Integrity Act had on the tribes. Examining Virginia tribes’ decisions and their strategies for recognition helps illuminate the situation American Indians faced.
Drawing on a variety of primary sources from the viewpoints of both white supremacists and those who challenged them, this dissertation helps develop a new interpretation of white supremacists’ racial campaign against non-whites and a discussion about racial identification of American Indians and their struggles navigating the biracial society. White supremacists’ ideology of racial purity persisted and pervaded into indigenous communities, which further escalated racial divisions inside the tribes. Indians were also compelled to redefine “race” within their tribal communities. Studying the Racial Integrity Act allows us to see how “race” has been made and remade in the twentieth century.