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What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America Hardcover – January 16, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0195094633 ISBN-10: 0195094638 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

This compelling history of the United States miscegenation law demonstrates its centrality to maintaining white supremacy in the century following the Civil War. Pascoe, broadening her focus beyond black-white relations, considers Western states� prohibition of marriage between whites and American Indians, Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos, as well as blacks. She weaves a fascinating story out of significant court cases, including McLaughlin v. Florida, an often overlooked 1964 case in which a co-habiting white woman and black man were successfully defended. This case�s use of the Fourteenth Amendment�s equal-protection clause led the way for the Supreme Court�s decision in Loving v. Virginia, three years later, that miscegenation law was unconstitutional. Showing how marriage law can reinforce discrimination based on what is considered �natural,� this timely argument also has relevance for the current debate over gay marriage.
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"Enormous breadth and depth...What Comes Naturally is a wonderfully written and copiously documented book that will appeal to both scholars and laypeople." --The North Carolina Historical Review


"Highly original and important.... The writing is admirably accessible, while the analyses and arguments are deeply nuanced.... What Comes Naturally is an outstanding work of politically engaged research conducted by a creative and gifted scholar."--Mark Kessler, Law and Politics Book Review


"This compelling history of the United States miscegenation law demonstrates its centrality to maintaining white supremacy in the century following the Civil War. Pascoe...weaves a fascinating story out of significant court cases, including McLaughlin v. Florida, an often overlooked 1964 case in which a co-habiting white woman and black man were successfully defended.... Showing how marriage law can reinforce discrimination based on what is considered 'natural,' this timely argument also has relevance for the current debate over gay marriage."--The New Yorker


"Pascoe's study of the race-making work of marriage prohibitions will be regarded as the definitive book on the history of miscegenation law in the United States for the foreseeable future. Her unprecedented attention to Western states' bans on intermarriage of whites with multiple categories of racial 'others' make this a newly comprehensive and remarkably revelatory treatment of a subject that scholars thought they knew."--Nancy F. Cott, author of Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation


"A masterwork of erudition and consequence, What Comes Naturally reveals the hegemonic power of miscegenation through its naturalizing of race, gender, sexuality, and citizenship and their claims to purity, property, morality, and legitimacy."--Gary Y. Okihiro, author of Island World: A History of Hawai'i and the United States


"What Comes Naturally is a sweeping, provocative and compelling reexamination of the three-centuries of law concerning interracial marriage in the United States. Peggy Pascoe argues that property and power rather than the desire for racial purity propelled the creation of the body of legislation that stood at the center of racial discrimination against people of color. This book challenges much of what we know, or rather, much of what we think we know about race and marriage in America."--Quintard Taylor, University of Washington


"It would be hard to overestimate Pascoe's impact on the fields of U.S. History and American Studies. In this accessible, engagingly written and deeply nuanced picture of the economic, social, and ultimately political stakes in race thinking and miscegenation law, she brings together the individual stories, the different regions of the country, and the larger questions of nation-building and nation-formation. She exposes the eager, obsessive, and completely inconsistent categorizing of people into 'races.'"--Sarah Deutsch, Duke University


"Peggy Pascoe's book offers the distinctive pleasures of a large and fully imagined and beautifully researched work of history. What Comes Naturally explores the complexities and contradictions of a largely lost world--an almost inaccessible world for most people living in the America of the early 21st century--in which the power to use marriage laws to promote and to reinforce racial subordination was legitimate throughout much of the United States, even as couples across the country continued to insist on their right to marital freedom."--Hendrik Hartog, author of Man and Wife in America, A History


"An uncannily timely history of laws against miscegenation...in the United States...a good book that recounts a fascinating history." --The New Republic


"A comprehensive, accessible, and finely-crafted history of miscegenation law." --Alexandra Street Press


"[Pascoe's] readable, meticulous, engaging, and comprehensive history of contingent and contested intercultural social constructions and interconnections of gender, race relations, personal identity, and the law should become a long-standing reference." --Law and History Review


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195094638
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195094633
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.4 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #752,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Eric A. Isaacson on January 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Professor Pascoe provides a sweeping historical and sociological review of America's laws against interracial marriage, their origins, and demise, focusing not just on Southern states' statutes targeting and limiting relationships of African Americans, but also the Western states' many laws targeting people of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Hawaiian descent - with particular attention to the cultural attitudes that once sustained these laws.

Professor Pascoe is a careful scholar and a brilliant author, whose book represents academic historical writing at its very finest. She provides an extensively documented and objective yet gripping, indeed often moving, account - one that personalizes the effect of the laws explored on the lives of specific individuals who found themselves caught up in a legal system that denied legitimacy to their most important familial relationships.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had the opportunity to get to know Peggy Pascoe before her unfortunate death. This is a very well written and researched book. I had previously read a library copy but wanted one for myself. It is hard to believe that as late as the 1960's - not the 1860's - that interracial marriages were still banned in some states and that interracial couples had to live in D.C., could not live in Virginia. At the time I read it originally we were getting ready for my daughter's wedding. I was half way through this excellent book before I realized that since her husband's parents were from Taiwan, her marriage would have been banned in the not so distant past. The justifications of laws against interracial marriage that were given at the time, painting African American's as sub human, citing the bible as a justification of hate are breathtaking. I firmly believe that in the future a book about the fight for marriage equality will be written. Hopefully it will be as good as this excellent book. It is too sad that Ms. Pascoe will not be here to write. it.
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0 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Linda Tabb on July 20, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It was interesting to read about, but I believe we are all human beings and should be treated as equal.
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