What Blood Won't Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America

ISBN13: 9780674047983
Release Date: May 1st 2010
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 368

Is race something we know when we see it? In 1857, Alexina Morrison, a slave in Louisiana, ran away from her master and surrendered herself to the parish jail for protection. Blue-eyed and blond, Morrison successfully convinced white society that she was one of them. When she sued for her freedom, witnesses assured the jury that she was white, and that they would have known if she had a drop of African blood. Morrison s court trial and many others over the last 150 years involved high stakes: freedom, property, and civil rights. And they all turned on the question of racial identity.

Over the past two centuries, individuals and groups (among them Mexican Americans, Indians, Asian immigrants, and Melungeons) have fought to establish their whiteness in order to lay claim to full citizenship in local courtrooms, administrative and legislative hearings, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Like Morrison s case, these trials have often turned less on legal definitions of race as percentages of blood or ancestry than on the way people presented themselves to society and demonstrated their moral and civic character.

Unearthing the legal history of racial identity, Ariela Gross s book examines the paradoxical and often circular relationship of race and the perceived capacity for citizenship in American society. This book reminds us that the imaginary connection between racial identity and fitness for citizenship remains potent today and continues to impede racial justice and equality."

More work like this

Book Conversation on May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem
Imani Perry, Kinohi Nishikawa
Conversations with Maya Angelou
Claudia Tate
The Difficult Miracle: The Living Legacy of June Jordan
Imani Perry
Reimagining Science and Technology
Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., Ruha Benjamin

Upcoming Events

Film Screening 'Uptight' (1968)
Apr 24, 2018 @ 7:30 pm
Race & Housing 50 Years Later: The Legacy of the Fair Housing Act
Apr 28, 2018
Film Screening and Discussion ‘Cruel and Unusual - the Story of the Angola 3’ (2017)
May 2, 2018 @ 5:00 pm
Corey Robin & Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor on 'The Reactionary Mind'
May 3, 2018 @ 6:00 pm
Princeton Research Day
May 10, 2018 @ 10:00 am - 4:30 pm
AAS Reunions Mixer
Jun 1, 2018 @ 2:00 pm - 4:30 pm

African American Studies for the 21st Century

© 2017 The Trustees of Princeton University
  1. 'The Making of the Modern Black Diaspora' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Joshua Guild 35:17
  2. 'The Pulse of Black Life in the Long 19th Century' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Autumn Womack 30:42
  3. 'Rethinking Empire and Democracy' Reena N. Goldthree, Eddie S. Glaude Jr. 44:49
  4. 'The Formation of Religio-Racial Identity' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Judith Weisenfeld 47:32
  5. 'What Was African American Marriage?' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Tera Hunter 44:59
  6. 'Before Cornel West, After Cornel West' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Cornel West 52:46
  7. 'An Insistence on Not Being Discouraged' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Chika Okeke-Agulu 55:19
  8. 'A Through Line for African American Studies' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Imani Perry 44:07
  9. 'Activism and Risk in the Face of Trump' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Asanni York, Destiny Crockett 43:02
  10. 'Langston Hughes, Religious Thinker' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Wallace Best 45:50
  11. 'Convergences and Dissonance' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Keeanga-Yamahatta Taylor, Naomi Murakawa, & Imani Perry 60:08