The Legacy of Perceptions of Interracial Relationships as Demonstrated in Late 19th and Early 20th Century Black Literature and Events
The history of interracial relationships in America is a painfully loaded issue which is still evolving in the consciousness of the 20th century. Because the first instances of sexual integration occurred under the institution of slavery, our understanding of them is necessarily beset with dominance, violence, and rape. Interracial relationships and the children they produced became another manifestation of power relationships between whites and blacks in our contorted social atmosphere. Even to the present day, interracial relationships are often looked upon as being propelled by impure motives and compounded by the social dynamics that have been inherited in our culture.
Francis E.W. Harper's Iola Leroy
One of the themes that is addressed by Iola Leroy is that of African Americans that can pass as white, yet reject that selfish option in order to proudly identify themselves as black. Iola Leroy, a light skinned black woman who could pass as white, has the alternative of marrying a wealthy white doctor, Dr. Gresham, and living her life as a white woman. However, although she deeply cares for him, she refuses his offer and the "comfortable" life that could have come with it. In analyzing Iola Leroy and her rejection of Dr. Gresham's proposal, the reader can come to the conclusion that it was Iola who had to deal with inner struggle, whereas Dr. Gresham was able to overlook issues of racial difference as long as Iola would not publicly admit her heritage. Dr. Gresham would have remained unaffected by the conflict she faced if she had chosen to do this. It would be impossible for him to fathom Iola's racial conflict because he is "fortunate" enough to be blind to the nature of her struggle. Dr. Gresham wants her to marry him but he wants her race to be kept from his family. Iola realizes that by agreeing to his proposal, her life and existence would be a facade, and that by concealing her race, she would be concealing implicit aspects of herself. Iola decides that she is unwilling to reject her race. Thus, she has to repress her feelings toward Dr. Gresham and of a life of "happiness," as she puts it, no matter how much joy she would have felt or how much she actually sought his "manly love," for there was too much at stake for her.
W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk
In Chapter XI in The Souls of Black Folk, "Of the Passing of the First Born," Dr. DuBois discusses the death and "escape" of his son. He struggles emotionally when he notices the white characteristics of his child. As he perceives the white blood that is flowing through his black child's vein, DuBois writes: "...(I) felt a vague unrest. Why was his hair tinted gold? An evil omen was golden hair in my life. Why had not the brown of his eyes crushed out and killed the blue? ...And thus in...