NOTE: W.A. Plecker, acting as Virginia's first Registrar of Vital Statistics, was determined to "mark" all Melungeons as not-white. Here is one of many articles and essays that he wrote and published on behalf of the American eugenics movement, a movement with haunting similarities to Hitler's genocide against European Jews and Gypsies. The views expressed below are those of W.A. Plecker and his racist colleagues; they are presented here to illustrate the hostility and vigor he showed inpersecuting mixed-ancestry Americans. An excellent discussion of Plecker'sdubious "legacy" can be found in Pocahontas'People by Helen Rountree.
VIRGINIA'S ATTEMPT TO ADJUST THE COLOR PROBLEM*
W. A. Plecker, M.D., FELLOW A.P.H.A.
State Registrar of Vital Statistics, Richmond, Virginia
* Read at the joint session of the Public Health Administration and Vital
Statistics Section of the American Public Health Association at the
Fifty-third Annual Meeting at Detroit Michigan, October 23, 1924. This copy from The American Journal of Public Health, 1925.
When two races live together there is but one possible outcome, and that is*the amalgamation of the races. The result of this will be the elimination ofthe higher type, the one on which progress depends. In the mixture the lower race loses its native good qualities which may be utilized and developed in the presence of a dominant race.
The mongrels are superior in mental power to the lower race. They are more cunning and more capable, but they lack the creative power of the higher race, and cannot sustain a lasting civilization that will rank with the best of the world.
History affords many examples. Egypt in the day of her greatness was white. But the white Pharaohs began to extend their dominion south into the negro land, and to bring back multitudes of captives for laborers and soldiers, special mention being made also in their records that women in large numbers
were included. Interbreeding with these negroes began and continued through many centuries until the country became largely negroid.
The climax was finally reached when one of the Pharaohs took to himself a negro wife and his mulatto son Taharka succeeding to the throne. The colorline had vanished and with it Egypt's greatness. Assyrian invaders met with no effective resistance. From that day to this Egypt has been a mongrel nation, incapable of initiative, and now dependent upon foreign protection and leadership.
India affords a parallel example. Four thousand years ago the invasion of India by Aryans occurred. These came into contact with a mixed population of white-yellow- black composition. The conquerors attempted to prevent their own amalgamation with the natives by establishing a rigorous caste system, which was not like the present one based upon occupation, but upon color.
This system failed, and though caste is still in force in India the reason for it no longer exists.
Modern South Africa is a melancholy example of what may occur when the intermixture which inevitably results is hastened by fanatical religious teaching and misguided legal interference from the mother country. Major E.S. Cox, who spent years in that region and in other countries studying race conditions, in his book "White America," (White America Society, Richmond, VA) gives a graphic account of the struggle made by the determined colonists against the imposition. They lost out, and the population of Cape Colony province is today largely mixed, showing how quickly this condition results when the natural process is speeded up by negrophilism and the law.
Let us return now to our own country, and, as we are considering Virginia, to that state in particular.
There are about twelve million negroes; of various degrees of admixture in the Union today. Of the population of Virginia, nearly one-third is classed as negro, but many of these people are negroid, some being near-white, some having actually succeeded in getting across into the white class.
The mixed negroes are nearly all the result of illegitimate intercourse.The well known moral laxity resulting from close contact of a civilized witha primitive race makes illegitimate intermixture an easy matter. This is illustrated by the fact that the illegitimate birth-rate of Virginia negroes is thirty-two times that of Rhode Island, while the District of Columbia rate is thirty-seven times, and that of Maryland forty-six times.
In the days when slavery was still a blight upon our state, it was quite acommon occurrence for white men to father children born to the negroservants. The history, as related to me, of at least one colony of people known as "Issue" or "Free Issue," now spread over several counties, is that they originated in part in that manner.
It was considered undesirable to retain these mulattoes on the place, bearing the family name, and a number from one county were given theirfreedom and colonized in a distant county. These intermarried amongs tthemselves and with some people of Indian- negro-white descent, and receivedan additional infusion of white blood, either illegitimately or by actual marriage with low-grade whites.
At present these people are claiming to be white, or Indian, and under theformer law when a person with one-sixteenth negro blood could be declared white, they were able in some instances to establish their claim legally.
These mixed breeds are not classed as white by the people of the community, and they will not associate with the genuine negroes. Five hundred or more in number they thus constitute a class of their own, and a serious problem in that county and others to which they migrate. If refused classification as white they claim to be Indian, and as such have been accepted in the birth reports to avoid listing them as white.
In a recent test case, the court upon evidence submitted from our birthrecords reaching back to 1853, and from the testimony of old residents, decided that these people under the new "Racial Integrity" law cannot be permitted to intermarry with whites.
Another large colony which extends over into North Carolina probably has a similar origin. We have also compromised with these, and accept certificates as Indians, which indicates to us that they are not white.
In another county are about forty descendants of an illegitimate mating of a negro man and white woman four generations back. All of these haveformerly succeeded in being classed as white. though under the new law our office has supplied to the clerks who issue marriage licenses, school authorities, commonwealth's attorneys, physicians and local registrars, a complete family tree, with the injunction to class them as colored.
Similar conditions exist in other localities, though not yet so far advanced. A case was recently discovered where a white man married a mulatto woman (probably in another state), and now has nine children, four of them being reported to our office as white. Investigation revealed the fact that two other women bearing the same family name had mated with white men and were raising large families of children.
Another man whose birth was reported in 1878, both parents being registered as colored, had the court declare him a white man under the one-sixteenth law; married a white woman, and has four children reported as white by physicians.
The question of their color was referred to our office by the school authorities when the facts were discovered, and the white school advised under the new law not to receive them, though they engaged a lawyer to assist them.
These examples illustrate the fact that even in Virginia where the questions of race and birth receive as much attention as anywhere in thecountry, the process of amalgamation is nevertheless going on, and in some localities is well advanced. Complete ruin can probably be held off for several centuries longer, but we have no reason to hope that we shall prove the one and only example in the history of the world of two races living together without amalgamation.
In Mexico, much of South America and the West Indies the process is practically complete, the mixture being Spanish or Portuguese, Indian and negro. Some portions of southern Europe have undergone a similar admixture. Immigrants from these lands to this country, while really negroid, are classed as white.
Several South American countries, or portions of them, still retain a considerable degree of race purity, which is being maintained by European immigration.
The immigration law recently passed by our Congress will stop the legal admission of Mongolians and will check much of the negroid immigration from elsewhere in the old world, but it will not prevent negro and negroidimmigration from other parts of the western hemisphere. It is estimated that there are today from 500,000 to 750,000 Mexicans in the state of Texas alone, and that Mexicans compose more than half of the population of .
But it is possible to stop the legal intermixture, and that Virginia has attempted to do in the above mentioned law, which defines a white person as one with "no trace whatsoever of blood other than Caucasian," and makes it a felony punishable by confinement for one year in the penitentiary to make a willfully false statement as to color.
Clerks are not permitted to grant licenses for white persons to marry those with any trace of colored blood. It is needless to call attention to the sad plight of a white person who is thus imposed upon or of a white woman who under such circumstances would give birth to a child of marked negro characteristics, as will occur from time to time under Mendel's law.
The new law places upon the office of the Bureau of Vital Statistics much additional work, but we believe it will be a strong factor in preventing the intermarriage of the races and in preventing persons of negro descent from passing themselves off as white.
We are greatly encouraged by the interest and cooperation of physicians, local registrars, clerks, school authorities, the general public, and even the midwives. Our success during the first four months of the enforcement of this law, in securing more accurate statements as to color on our birth certificates and in correcting previously existing errors is far beyond our expectation.
The states which now permit free intermarriage of the races, as listed in"American Marriage Laws", (Russell Sage Foundation, New York, 1919) are:
Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan,
Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York,
Ohio, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and
Wyoming. The most urgent need is the speedy adoption by these states and the
District of Columbia of a law forbidding the intermarriage of the white and colored races.
The white race in this land is the foundation upon which rests its civilization, and is responsible for the leading position which we occupy amongst the nations of the world. Is it not therefore just and right thatthis race decide for itself what its composition shall be, and attempt, as Virginia has, to maintain its purity?
This is working no hardship and no injustice upon the other races; for the same effort tends at the same time to maintain the purity of their races as well.
That the mongrel races are liable to perpetuate the undesirable qualities of both their constituent stocks is abundantly demonstrated by a study of the larger and older of the mongrel groups in Virginia, as well as upon a study on a far larger scale in various other parts of the world.
The colored races therefore should be equally zealous in preventing both the legal and illegal admixture of the races. We are glad to say that the true negro of Virginia is beginning to appreciate this point and is agreeing to the wisdom of this movement. Our chief trouble is with some of the near-whites who desire to change from the colored to the white class.
Virginia Health Bulletin, November 1925
Vol. XVII, Extra No. 12
Shall America Remain White? *
By W. A. Plecker, M. D.
From the Booklet:
THE NEW FAMILY AND RACE IMPROVEMENT
Fifth of NEW FAMILY SERIES
Bureau of Vital Statistics
State Board of Health
* Read before Section on Public Health, Southern Medical Association,
Eighteenth Annual Meeting,
New Orleans, La., Nov. 24-17, 1924.
The negro as a laborer is valuable, and if it were possible to preserve the race in purity with him in our midst, he would be a great asset. Because this cannot be done, and because the mixed breeds are a menace and not an asset,we have them as the greatest problem and most destructive force which confronts the white race and American civilization.
Both remote and recent history of many nations shows that in none of them have white and colored races lived together without ultimate amalgamation, and without the final deterioration or complete destruction of the white or higher civilization.
We behold with awe the evidences which we now find in Egypt of the wonderful civilization of the past, when that country was white. The Pharaohs extended their conquest south and brought back as captives large numbers of negro men and women. Intermixture of the races began and progressed to such a point that one of the Pharaohs took as wife a negro woman whose son succeeded to the throne. This was about the time when Jeremiah the Prophet warned Israel to break with Egypt and affiliate with Babylon. His warning was disregarded, Egypt was as a broken staff upon which to lean. The fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity resulted.
Egypt, then a mongrel nation, soon went down before Assyria and is today a feeble and helpless nation of brown-skinned people devoid of initiative and dependent upon white leadership and protection.
Four thousand years ago, India was ruled by Aryan conquerors, who instituted an elaborate caste system to prevent intermixture of the races. This system failed and the few survivors who might be called white are now looked upon as curiosities.
South America and Mexico were subdued by Spanish and Portuguese adventurers, who began at once to raise up a mixed breed.
Indians would not make docile slaves, and negroes in large numbers were brought in.
Much of South America and Mexico is today inhabited by a mongrel race of white-black-red mixture, one of the most undesirable racial intermixtures known, as I can testify from my own observation of similar groups in Virginia.
Professor A. E. Jenks, of the University of Minnesota, and his assistant,made a house-to-house study of families the result of mixed marriages, the marriage records not even showing the color of the man and woman. These people have in Minneapolis an organization known as the Manassas Society, membership in which is dependent upon the intermarriage of a negro man and white woman. Already 200 such families are included in this society, with probable omissions.
Similar conditions exist in many parts of the North and West. That condition alone, if unchecked, will in a few centuries legally mongrelize that portion of our country.
If we turn our eyes southward, we find a different but even more serious situation. None of our Southern States permits the intermarriage of whites and pure blacks, but all except Virginia and perhaps two others allow the intermarriage of whites with those of one-sixteenth or one-eighth negro blood.
This serious situation calls for the speedy enactment of laws based upon that of Virginia, which defines a white person as one with no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian and forbids the intermarriage of whites with those with the slightest trace of negro blood.
Clerks who issue marriage licenses are required to assure themselves that both parties are white, according to the new definition, when that fact is claimed and are instructed to withhold the license, when in doubt, until satisfactory proof is submitted to them.
The enforcement of the law naturally falls upon the Bureau of Vital Statistics, to which are reported the births, deaths, marriages and divorces of the State, all of which require a statement as to color. Our office has accepted this task and has undertaken seriously, as far as possible, to secure from all sources the truth as to this point.
Circular letters have been sent to all clerks physicians, local registrars, undertakers and midwives, with copies of the law, urging them to use all possible care to furnish us with correct statements.
School authorities have been reached through their journal, and the public is being instructed by newspaper articles and lectures.
Much interest has been aroused and many cases of mixture are being called to our attention.
When this condition is found on the birth certificate if the mother has other children, we refer back to previous births to the same parents and make the certificates agree. We have thus caught a number of families in the act of passing over from the colored to the white class, some of their children being already recorded as white and some as colored.
Our custom is to notify the head of the family that this situation cannot be allowed and that if one of his children is colored, they are all colored.
The case is different, however, when the process of intermixture has so far advanced that communities of mixed breeds have been formed, particularly if they have or claim to have some intermixture of Indian blood.
Virginia Health Bulletin, November 1925
Vol. XVII, Extra No. 12
Discussion (by other doctors)
From the booklet:
THE NEW FAMILY AND RACE IMPROVEMENT
Fifth of NEW FAMILY SERIES
Bureau of Vital Statistics
State Board of Health
Dr. A. T. McCormack, Louisville, Ky. - I had the opportunity of going to Panama, where every race had contributed something, and the negroid influence was predominant, and where degeneration of all races had been more rapidly brought about by that element. I think it of extreme importance to white civilization to prevent the contamination.
Dr. W. A. Evans, Chicago, Ill. --Dr. Plecker calls attention to the fact that, independent of the strength or weakness of the strain, when strains are crossed there is begotten a something which fails to have the characteristics of either parent stock. That is well recognized in animal breeding.
The health officer, whether working in epidemiology or not, who does not recognize racial hygiene and racial peculiarities, the advantages and disadvantages of mixing these stocks, is failing in the responsibility that rests upon his shoulders.
Dr.Geo. Dempsey, New Orleans, La. - No mixture of Japanese, Chinese, negro, etc., has ever attained the high pinnacle for which the white race is known.
Dr Carl F. Raver, Charleston, W. Va. -- During slave days it no doubt was advantageous, from a commercial standpoint, to produce as many offspring of negro parentage as possible and many slave owners must have encouraged the mixing of the races.
This produced the mulatto. Now it is this mulatto, or his offspring, thatis causing all the trouble. They do not wish to be classed as negroes and, if light enough in color, try to pass as white and marry into white families. Every possible means should be used to prevent this. The strongest weapon is public opinion. Public opinion allowed the mulatto to become started as an institution. It condoned the situation.