"The color problem settled by exact scientific methods"
Circa 1920
Pages:1 of 1
American Philosophical Society, ERO, MSC77,SerI,Box 61: Trait Files
View this image in our new website.
&quote;The color problem settled by exact scientific methods&quote;

The Color Problem Settled by Exact Scientific Methods. But when a white man married a mulatto woman, the children would be varying degrees of color, not one would be darker than the mother, or the darker parent; that is to say, the mother having only two factors and the father none at all, none of the children would inherit more blackness than there was in the melting pot. The same thing held true in the marriage of a white man with an octoroon or quadroon woman. No child was born darker than the mother. From which purely scientific piece of abstract investigation emerged the interesting, practical result that the individual, either knowing or suspecting that he has some slight trace of negro blood, need have any serious fear of having a child born to him darker in color or more negro-like in feature than he is himself if he mates with a white partner. This so strongly contravened the popular belief, embalmed in legend and story of the "Black Frankenstein" order, that the Commission at once proceeded to investigate the evidence upon which this belief is a "throw-back" in the original type was based, and made a thorough and careful search for all reported or recorded instances of the occurrence of such a distressing incident. Two of their most skillful trained pedigree-tracers worked for over a year on the research, and records. The result was considerably to their own surprise, that they were unable to find a single authentic and documented case of such a catastrophe ever having happened! This, of course, does not prove that it never did happen-still less than it never will. But it does make it, to say the least, highly improbably that such a gruesome calamity ever occurred. Oddly enough, the only apparent instances of such "reversions" occurring that could be discovered by the Commission were the appearance in the family group of two mulattos or of a quadroon and mulatto of very dark, or even coal-black negroid children, much darker and more negro-like than either of their parents. This is not at all uncommon, and the writer has found several instances of it in our own Southern States, but, of course, it is easily explained by the fact that both parents being mulattos had each two factors of black, so that it was possible for any child by inheriting all the blackness of both parents to be born black. Mathematical illustrations are not always illuminative, but, perhaps, a brief arithmetical statement may make the matter a little clearer. Between a black parent and a white parent there are, of course, four possible combinations of color in the offspring: White-white, black-black, black-white, and white-black. Now, applying this formula to the mating of two mulattos, we might have one white-white, which would mean a light-colored child, inheriting all the white blood of both parents, and probably lighter in color and more apparently white than either of them. Both white-black and black-white would be of the approximately same grade of color as their parents, and the one black-black child inheriting all of the black blood of both parents (two factors in each) would have the full four factors and be pure black negro. But in the mating of a pure white with a "pass for white" it is, to say the least, highly improbable that any child could be more negroid in its appearance than it darkest parent. Incidentally another biological inaccuracy in the play may be pointed out, and that is the tense and spectacular moment when the mother, who can no longer be denied seeing her new-born baby, leaps from her couch, bursts from the arms of her husband and discovers, to her horror, that her baby is black, followed by an inhuman revulsion of feeling against her innocent child. The only defect in this situation is that it could never have happened, for the simple reason that negro babies, even of purest African strain, are never born black, or any that approaching it, still less a child of such highly diluted mixture as represented in this situation. Negro babies at birth are of a dull, slaty or bluish white tint skin, and remain so for several weeks. The reason for it is the same as for white babies never being born with black, brown, or bright blue eyes, namely, that it takes light to develop color or pigment. All babies are born with eyes of the same color, like kittens and puppies - that is, a dull lead color, which is sometimes romanticized into blue by adoring parents and relatives but which gradually, under exposure to light, develop in from two to four months time the black, brown, hazel or blue color which will distinguish it for Similarly many white children are born with light flaxen or even golden hair, which, to the bitter regret of their mothers, gradually darkens to brown, mud-color or even black. Nor is there any clear clue distinguishable, save by an expert, to the race of a new-born baby from features or hair. For the good and sufficient reason that all babies, rich and poor, black, white, yellow, and brown come into the world with exactly the same set of features - that of the primitive ancestors of all human breeds, the Congo dwarfs, who are thousands of years older than any of the so-called Four Great Races of mankind. The same uncertainty applies to the hair, which, in many babies, is neither kinky nor straight at first, but (such as there is of it) of a curious wavy, half-frizzly texture, with a strong tendency toward a rusty brown or reddish orange tint, regardless of the degree of kinkiness and blackness or straightness or flaxennes which it may assume later in life. Copyright 1916, by the Star Company Great Britain Rights Reserved

Copyright 1999-2004: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; American Philosophical Society; Truman State University; Rockefeller Archive Center/Rockefeller University; University of Albany, State University of New York; National Park Service, Statue of Liberty National Monument; University College, London; International Center of Photography; Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Berlin-Dahlem; and Special Collections, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
The images and text in this Archive are solely for educational and scholarly uses. The materials may be used in digital or print form in reports, research, and other projects that are not offered for sale. Materials in this archive may not be used in digital or print form by organizations or commercial concerns, except with express permission.