Almighty God Created the Races

Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law

Fay Botham
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9780807899229_botham
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Almighty God Created the Races
    Book Description:

    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 ofPerez v. Lippold(which successfully challenged California's antimiscegenation statutes on the grounds of religious freedom) and the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court caseLoving 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0460-2
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    In early June 1958, eighteen-year-old Mildred Delores Jeter and twenty-four-year-old Richard Perry Loving drove from their hometown of Central Point, Virginia, to Washington, D.C. Sweethearts for some six years, Mildred, who was part black and part Cherokee with a light brown complexion, and Richard, who was of English-Irish descent, had decided to get married in the District of Columbia. Once their union was legalized there, they returned home to Central Point and began to build their life together.

    The Lovings’ matrimonial bliss ended abruptly about five weeks later. During the wee hours of a sultry July morning, three Caroline County...

  5. [1] Catholic California The Historic Junction of Religion, Region, and Law in Perez v. Lippold (1948)
    (pp. 11-50)

    In his essay on everyday life in California during the Second World War, historian Arthur Verge observes that during this tumultuous period, a spirit of cooperation prevailed among the American people. “Haunted by the carnage of World War I and hardened by the ten long years of the Great Depression,” he writes, “the American people entered this war without frivolity. Resignation, determination, and an attitude of ‘we’re all in this together’ became the prevailing spirit upon entering the Second World War.” Despite, or perhaps because of, the unprecedented atrocities of this war, Americans rallied together, united in the face of...

  6. [2] The Historical Origins of American Laws on Interracial Sex and Marriage The Role of Religion and Region
    (pp. 51-68)

    The United States is one of a few countries in the world to have enacted laws restricting and prohibiting sex and marriage between whites and blacks or other persons of color. Nazi Germany and South Africa share most famously in this dubious distinction.¹ Under Hitler’s regime, obsession withRassenschande(“race defilement”) was codified into the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. The “Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor” categorized Germans into Jews,Deutschblütiger(“of German blood”), orMischlinge(“mixed blood”) and forbade both sex and marriage between “Jews and citizens of German or some related blood.”² Faced with...

  7. [3] Church Authority or States’ Rights? Protestant and Catholic Theologies of Marriage
    (pp. 69-90)

    Several months before he filed a petition with the California Supreme Court, Catholic attorney Daniel Marshall explained his intention to make Catholic doctrine the basis of his legal challenge against California’s antimiscegenation statutes. In his April 1947 letter to Los Angeles auxiliary bishop Joseph McGucken, Marshall stated that “the Church recognizes the right of the State to legislate in certain respects concerning marriage, on account of its civil effect, e.g., alimony, inheritance and other like matters. When the State enacts laws inimical to the laws of the Church, practically denying her right to protect the sacred character of marriage, she...

  8. [4] Noah’s Sons and Common Origins in Adam and Eve Protestant and Catholic Theologies of Race
    (pp. 91-130)

    In the 1947 legal arguments between Daniel Marshall and Los Angeles County attorney Charles Stanley, both attorneys addressed the role of religion in prohibitions of interracial marriage. “It is interesting to note,” Stanley remarked, “that the Bible is not silent upon the question of the mingling of races.” He cited a story from the book of Genesis in which Abraham made his son swear not to take a wife “of the daughters of the Canaanites,” and another, from the book of Nehemiah, in which the writer claimed to have cursed and “smote” Hebrew men who had married non-Hebrew women. According...

  9. [5] States’ Rights and the Southern White Protestant Theology of Race in Antimiscegenation Laws and Cases, 1867–1964
    (pp. 131-158)

    During the one hundred years following the American Civil War, several influential antimiscegenation cases offered Protestant theologies of marriage and race as legitimate bases for upholding antimiscegenation statutes. From district- and state-level courts to the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys and judges who argued for the validity of antimiscegenation statutes affirmed the sacred status of marriage and the states’ right to regulate marriage. In nearly every case—fromScott v. State of Georgiain 1869 toLoving v. Virginiain 1967—and in nearly every region of the country, the states’ right argument formed the most commonly cited legal basis for...

  10. [6] The Southern Lingua Franca of Race Judge Leon M. Bazile and White Catholics
    (pp. 159-178)

    In February 1949, four months after the California Supreme Court validated their right to marry, Andrea Perez and Sylvester Davis exchanged wedding vows at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Los Angeles, partaking of the Catholic sacrament of matrimony. True to the church’s hopes for married couples, Andrea and Sylvester had a son and two daughters, the cherished prize of married life. Later the couple purchased a house in the racially mixed town of Pacoima, California, in the western end of the San Fernando Valley. Until his retirement Sylvester continued to work at Lockheed Aviation, where he had first met Andrea,...

  11. Epilogue A Postmodernist’s Reflections on History and Knowledge
    (pp. 179-192)

    On 12 June 2007, Mildred Loving, widowed for thirty-two years from the man she had fought so hard to wed legally, released a statement commemorating the fortieth anniversary of theLovingdecision.¹ Titled “Loving for All,” the statement recounted the circumstances by which she and Richard “took [their] case for the freedom to marry all the way to the Supreme Court.” Quoting Judge Leon M. Bazile’s “almighty God” statement, Mrs. Loving observed that many people in her generation had believed “it was God’s plan to keep people apart and that the government should discriminate against people in love.” Not a...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 193-234)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-262)
  14. Index
    (pp. 263-271)