Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law

Paul Harvey

The history of race and marriage has been the subject of many books in recent years by Peter Wallenstein, Renee Romano, and many others. Here's a new entrant in the field, which puts religion front and center of the subject; I'm reprinting here the review from Choice, for the new work by Fay Botham, one of the current participants in the Young Scholars in American Religion program:

Botham, Fay
. Almighty God created the races: Christianity, interracial marriage, & American law. North Carolina, 2009. 271p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780807833186, $35.00. Reviewed in 2010jun CHOICE.
Incorporating history and law in the US regarding interracial marriage, Botham (Univ. of Iowa) addresses the effect that various legal decisions had on marriage post-Civil War. Botham's book is divided into two sections: history of US law on interracial sex and marriage, and states' rights and antimiscegenation laws. She begins with a rich discussion of the junction of religion, region, and law. Botham notes that in order to completely understand the role of Christian beliefs in California history, she must "first examine the colonial development of laws on interracial sex and marriage in America and their relationship to racialized slavery." The second half of the book is devoted to states' rights issues. Botham explains, as clearly as any legal scholar can, the argument that most segregationists/racists gave against interracial sex and marriage: religion requires that the state follow the dignity and divine purpose of marriage. Botham's work is a must read for scholars interested in law and marriage. She writes without judgment or condescension and allows the data to show the role law played in discriminating against interracial couples. This book's creativity makes it a necessity for graduates and laypeople interested in interracial sex and miscegenation laws in the US.Summing Up: Highly recommended.

A bit more information, from the book's webpage:

In this fascinating cultural history of interracial marriage and its legal regulation in the United States, Fay Botham argues that religion--specifically, Protestant and Catholic beliefs about marriage and race--had a significant effect on legal decisions concerning miscegenation and marriage in the century following the Civil War

Botham argues that divergent Catholic and Protestant theologies of marriage and race, reinforced by regional differences between the West and the South, shaped the two pivotal cases that frame this volume, the 1948 California Supreme Court case of Perez v. Lippold (which successfully challenged California's antimiscegenation statutes on the grounds of religious freedom) and the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia (which declared legal bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional). Botham contends that the white southern Protestant notion that God "dispersed" the races, as opposed to the American Catholic emphasis on human unity and common origins, points to ways that religion influenced the course of litigation and illuminates the religious bases for Christian racist and antiracist movements.


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