one-drop rule

Paul Frank paulfrank at POST.HARVARD.EDU
Thu Dec 2 04:56:15 UTC 2010

Hi Wilson,

I was quoting the OED, not writing in the "hist" bit. And I made
precisely your point a few weeks ago (specifically mentioning Obama
and Powell). Of course the one-drop rule still rules in the U.S. This
is what Langston Hughes wrote (in his autobiography) about this: "You
see, unfortunately, I am not black. There are lots of different kinds
of blood in our family. But here in the United States, the word
'Negro' is used to mean anyone who has any Negro blood at all in his
veins. In Africa, the word is more pure. It means all Negro, therefore
black. I am brown. My father was a darker brown. My mother an
olive-yellow. On my father's side, the white blood in his family came
from a Jewish slave trader in Kentucky, Silas Cushenberry, of Clark
County, who was his mother's father; and Sam Clay, a distiller of
Scotch descent, living in Henry County, who was his father's father."

But in recent weeks I've been trying to avoid expressing personal
opinions here, so this is as far as I'm going with this thread.


On Thu, Dec 2, 2010 at 3:19 AM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at> wrote:

> On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 7:02 AM, Paul Frank <paulfrank at> wrote:
>> hist.
> Not precisely true. As was pointed out in a thread from a while ago,
> were the concept truly merely a "blast from the past," the history of
> civil rights in the United States might very well have proceeded quite
> differently. Suppose that protagonists as disparate as Thurgood
> Marshall and Huey Long had been psychologically able to regard
> themselves as members of a group distinct from that to which, e.g.
> Martin Luther King, Jr. and Vernon Jordan belonged. Can you imagine
> what a difference it would make, if Obama were regarded as a *white*
> man who is "part-black" and not as a *black* man who is "part-white"?
> Somewhat OT: After the movie, Flashdance, made Jennifer Beals a
> temporary star, I was really caught off guard when she was "outed" as
> black by TIME. In an interview published in the Boston Globe, Ms.
> Beals revealed that her [white] mother had told her that she was
> "mixed." But, she was sure that her late [black] father would have
> wanted her to say that she was "black." EBONY subsequently published a
> cover story "outing" every notable personage in any field of endeavor
> whose ancestry could be traced to any sub-Saharan African on any limb
> whatsoever of the family-tree as "black," possibly motivating Tiger's
> dad to mount his campaign to keep (white) people from regarding his
> son as just another "black" athlete.
> --
> -Wilson

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list