Loving in indian territory: Tribal miscegenation law in historical perspective

Carla D. Pratt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


State antimiscegenation laws aimed to regulate white desire for black bodies in an effort to preserve white racial purity and ultimately white supremacy. Facially, these laws did not regulate intimate relations when such relations involved only people of color. For example, state statutes typically did not preclude a Native-American person from marrying an African-American person. But a careful examination of the social and legal atmosphere that was created by state antimiscegenation laws reveals that these state laws did impact the desire of nonwhite people of color to marry black persons. State miscegenation laws that ultimately permitted whites to marry Indians aided the assimilation of Indians into mainstream white America by operating as a form of racial rehabilitation. Indian assimilation, however, required more than Indians intermarrying with whites; it required the total indoctrination of Indians into the system of white supremacy. This meant that Indians needed to adopt white sexual mores, including the aversion to race mixing with blacks. During the antebellum period, four of the tribes referred to by the federal government as the “Five Civilized Tribes” adopted miscegenation laws that attempted to preclude Indians from marrying or having sexual relations with blacks. Through the regulation of Indian-black sexual relations, the tribes sought to avoid mixed-race offspring and thereby protect Indian identity from “corruption.” Indians viewed themselves as a free and self-governing people, which was the basis for claiming tribal sovereignty. This view of self was in contradistinction to blacks who generally were not free, but bonded and without rights that the white man was bound to respect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLoving v. Virginia in a Post-Racial World
Subtitle of host publicationRethinking Race, Sex, and Marriage
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781139043298
ISBN (Print)9780521198585
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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