Societal Views on Interracialism Throughout American History

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"-- we are all complicit and we all carry a certain responsibility for America's original sin: racism." -- David Bedrick, The Huffington Post, 10 April 2015

"Half-breed”, “Mulatto”, “Octoroon.” All of these terms at one point served to describe individuals of mixed race, particularly African and Caucasian. The controversy of interracialism has transcended generations, as well as cultures. It is a subject that, historically, has held the potential to incite savage racial discrimination, loathing, and violence. Indeed, even in today’s significantly more enlightened and politically correct views on race, interracial relationships and individuals still possess the potential to make many uncomfortable.

Two historical periods in which racial topics, including interracialism, were the source of much social unrest are the eras of the pre-Civil War and the Harlem Renaissance. During these times voices were raised in protest from all sides of racial debates. These voices were in the forms of organized protests, speeches, writings in books and periodicals, as well as violent acts of rioting, burning, and lynching. In addition to these, a very important medium through which beliefs on racial topics were expressed was art.

It has been said by many scholars that the arts of a society can serve as a social barometer. Popular, influential, and controversial theatrical pieces offer a window through which one can observe aspects of a culture, including values, virtues, and ideas on a particular subject. Hence, in looking at and comparing the eras of the pre-Civil War and the Harlem Renaissance, in regard to the ideas held on mixed race relationships and individuals, one needs to consider theatrical pieces of the ...

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Smalley, Webster. Five Plays by Langston Hughes. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968.

Thomson, Peter. Plays by Dion Boucicault. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

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