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Dangerous Liaisons
Sex and Love in the Segregated South
Charles F. Robinson II

Why was marriage against the law?

In the tumultuous decades after the Civil War, as the southern white elite reclaimed power, “racial mixing” was the central concern of segregationists who strove to maintain “racial purity.” Segregation—and race itself—was based on the idea that interracial sex posed a biological threat to the white race. In this groundbreaking study, Charles Robinson examines how white southerners enforced anti-miscegenation laws. His findings challenge conventional wisdom, documenting a pattern of selective prosecution under which interracial domestic relationships were punished even more harshly than transient sexual encounters. Robinson shows that the real crime was to suggest that black and white individuals might be equals, a notion which undermined the legitimacy of the economic, political, and social structure of white male supremacy.

Robinson examines legal cases from across the South, considering both criminal prosecutions brought by states and civil disputes over marital and family assets. He also looks at U.S. Supreme Court decisions, debates in state legislatures, comments in the U.S. Congressional Record, and newspaper editorials. He not only shows the hardening of racial categories but assesses the attitudes of African Americans about anti-miscegenation laws and intermarriage.

Dangerous Liaisons vividly documents the regulation of intimacy and its fundamental role in the construction of race.

“A useful volume for those who want to know more about the variety of antimiscegenation laws in the South or the gap between statutory law and legal enforcement.”
Journal of American History

“Valuable not only for its catalog of laws and cases but also for Robinson’s unwavering attention to enforcement and defiance alike.”
Journal of Southern History

“The most important book on the actual workings of anti-miscegenation law ever written. . . . Robinson shows over and over again that white authorities were less concerned about interracial sex per se than they were with the possibility of white and black people establishing bona fide romantic and domestic relationships. This is an absolutely novel point.”
—James T. Campbell, author of Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa (Yale, 1997)

“A comprehensive account not just of the anti-miscegenation laws on the books but also of the implementation of those laws. Thorough, informative, valuable, intriguing. . . . Worthwhile reading.”
—Rachel Moran, author of Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance
(Chicago, 2001)

 

Charles F. Robinson II is an associate professor of history and program director of the African American Studies program at the University of Arkansas.

 

6"x9"
160 pages
August 2006
$19.95 (s) Paper
1-55728–833-X (978-1-55728-833-2)
2003
$39.95, cloth (s)
1-55728-755-4 (978-1-55728-755-7)