The Old South's taboo against love between blacks and whites has cast a long shadow. No cross-racial relationship has been so pathologized by American society. Even in 1967, when the Supreme Court finally declared antimiscegenation laws unconstitutional in the case of Loving v. Virginia, sixteen states still prohibited interracial marriage, down from thirty states as recently as 1948. Not until 1998 and 2000 did ballot initiatives in South Carolina and Alabama finally eliminate the last of the antimiscegenation laws, although no one had tried to enforce them for years. Recent U.S. census figures show interracial unions increasing--up from 3 percent in 1980 to 5 percent in 2000, or just over 3 million couples. But American inhibitions about black-white marriages still remain comparatively strong. The United States has the lowest black-white intermarriage rate among Western nations and the 450,000 black-white couples make up only 14 percent of all interracial marriages in the United States, although the numbers are increasing among young people--young blacks are marrying across the color line at double the overall average, with 11 percent marrying outside their race. Although 40.1 percent of the black interracial marriages occur in the South (as compared to the 19.3 percent in North-east, 21.3 percent in the Midwest, and 19.3 percent in the West), a 1997 survey by Interrace magazine does not list a single Southern city in its top ten cities most hospitable to interracial couples. Contemporary Southern fiction is only somewhat more hospitable--even when the author's heart is in the right place--in large part because this fiction is almost always set in the past.
Copyright © 2005 University of Virginia Press. This chapter first appeared in Virginia's Civil War.
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Jones, Suzanne W. "Interracial Love, Virginians' Lies, and Donald McCaig's Jacob's Ladder." In Virginia's Civil War, edited by Peter Wallenstein and Bertram Wyatt-Brown176-185. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2005.