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Who Is Black?: One Nation's Definition Paperback – June 1, 1991

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The ``one-drop rule'' (referring to ``one drop'' of black blood) defines as black ``any person with any known African ancestry.'' Both blacks and whites embrace this overly broad definition, which is peculiar to the U.S. Davis ( Society and the Law ) argues that this ``Big Lie . . . causes traumatic personal experiences, dilemmas of personal identity, misperceptions of the racial classification of well over a billion of the earth's people, conflicts in families and in the black community, and more.'' During slave days and the era of Jim Crow laws, whites used the rule to minimize the potential disruptions of miscegenation--usually illicit or coercive sex between white males and black females--by classifying the offspring as black. Blacks currently accept the one-drop rule, often disapproving of those with lighter skin who ``pass'' for white or marry across perceived color lines. Early chapters are thick with statistics, and chapter summaries mark the work as a textbook wannabe. However, later sections, such as the gripping narrative of Lena Horne's troubled experiences as a light-skinned black, are enlightening. This is an eye-opening appraisal of an issue often taken for granted in America.

Copyright 1991 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

African Americans and white Americans have been inbreeding since the beginnings of slavery. Offspring of these matches were often defined by the "one-drop rule" (one drop of black blood made one black). Davis, a sociology professor, offers a well-researched history of this rule and its social and legal effects on the people of mixed race in America. Many were harassed by blacks because they were too light, while others tried to "pass" as white, ignoring the one-drop rule and, as a result, part of their heritage. Davis also compares the United States with other countries to see how they handled this issue. Though scholarly in tone, this fascinating book answers many questions but will leave readers with other questions that need to be answered. A definite addition to the available work on miscegenation and African American studies. For all academic libraries.
- Danna C. Bell-Russel, Marymount Univ. Lib., Arlington, Va.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press; 1St Edition edition (June 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0271007494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0271007496
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #782,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Thomas R. Stedham on August 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best books I've ever read. Americans of all ethnic groups should read this, because it answers a lot of questions. To me it seems absurd to believe that human beings can be divided into discrete biological "races," and this book provides plenty of evidence for that view.
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This is a very thorough, compelling examination in determining who is black. Based on what I read, not much has changed in how Ethnicity is viewed in the United States, especially because this book was authored prior to the election of the nation's first black (African American) president. Many of the themes shared in this text have been examined by other scholars. At best, the fact of the "one drop rule" remains firmly entrenched in the U.S. psyche. I recommend this to anyone interested in a scholarly read on "Colorism".
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Format: Paperback
This book develops the need for compassion towards those of mixed race. It gives you an insightful view of how light skinned blacks feel about not being "black enough". I was hoping that the author would speak out and AGAINST the one drop rule, but instead he sort of leaves you with the feeling that he would rather keep the rule, but change the minds and attitudes of people.
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Format: Paperback
Black comes in all shades. Logically, the question of who is black means who, regardless of hair, features, skin tone and general appearance has black ancestors. Black has nothing to do with how a person speaks; how they behave or what their belief systems are. Being black is a matter of ancestry, not speech and behavior. However, the question of black is more of a socioeconomic and political one.

In the United States, there exists the "one drop rule," which has been recognized by courts and legislation. A caste system existed in the United States and this caste system has been glaringly apparent among blacks and by others in re blacks.

Sadly, insider racism does exist and historically, people who were darker in coloring and/or more ethnic in appearance tended to get the short end of the stick. People who were obviously "mixed race" as I believe everyone already is, sometimes had the best of both worlds, racially speaking. However, many people who are black have fewer black ancestors than white and other races. Such "racial groupings" occur in other parts of the world to this day.

Racism, as asinine and illogical as it is has an economic base. By creating an underclass, another group stands to profit financially and in other ways. By 1986 the "separate but equal" law was in effect and this, too, posed problems. People who were classified as black could count on ersatz services and racist responses and being denied access to places people not classified as blacks were free to enjoy. The "separate but equal" law is just as stupid as the asinine reasons Archie Bunker, the fictional bigot of "All in the Family (1971-1983) gave to rationalize bigotry. The character of Archie pointed out the absurdity of bigotry.
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Format: Paperback
Who Is Black?
F. James Davis asks this question in the title to his book by the same name as though there were an answer. He documents how we, the people of United States, have addoped a "one drop rule." This rule has been adopted by both courts and legislation. Brown vs Board of Education, which desegrigated our schools in 1954 which overrulled the 1896 Plessy case which established theold "seperate but equal" doctrine accepted the concept that public school students should be classified by race as was the mixed race Mr. Plessy who sat in the white section of the train when he in fact had more white ancestors than Aafrican.
Davis points out how silly this rule is in the light of late twentith century anthropology and genitics and yet he does not advocate for the end of unscientific race lables by all educated people. He frequently uses the term "miscegnation" which implies something wrong, when I could have better used the term "blending of gene pools."
I would recomend this book to anyone who would like to see the laws take a lead in declaring that the 13th, 14th & 15th make the special treatment of people by race unconstitutional.
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