Timeline

1883

January 29th, 1883

Supreme Court Upholds Anti-Miscegenation Laws

In November 1881, a jury in Clarke County, Alabama, convicted Tony Pace, a black man, and Mary Cox, a white woman, under section 4189 of the Alabama Code, which criminalized "fornication" and "adultery" between persons of different races and outlawed interracial marriage. Pace and Cox were sentenced to two years in prison.

On January 29, 1883, in Pace v. Alabama, the United States Supreme Court unanimously upheld their convictions, reasoning that the anti-miscegenation statute was not discriminatory and did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because the penalty applied equally to each member of the interracial couple.

Pace failed to overturn the reasoning of the Alabama Supreme Court, which had held that fornication between persons of different races was exceptionally "evil" because it could result in the "amalgamation of the two races, producing a mongrel population and a degraded civilization, the prevention of which is dictated by a sound public policy affecting the highest interests of society and government."

State courts in the South relied on Pace to uphold anti-miscegenation laws until 1967, when the United States Supreme Court overturned it in Loving v. Virginia and invalidated anti-miscegenation statutes in the sixteen states that still enforced them.

1908

January 29th, 1908

Federal District Court Rules “Mixed Blood” Children Must Assimilate to Attend White Schools

With the Nelson Act of 1905, the United States federal government took control over the education of the Alaska territory’s Native children and appointed the Alaskan territorial government to oversee the education of “white children and children of mixed blood who lead a civilized life.” Soon after, four children of “mixed blood” petitioned the Alaska Federal District Court for a writ of mandamus requiring the Sitka School District to admit the students to the locally controlled schools established by the Nelson Act. The schools in Sitka served white children and had refused to allow the “mixed blood” pupils to enroll.

On January 29, 1908, the District Court issued its ruling. Reasoning that Congress understood that “where mixed bloods live among and associate with the uncivilized, they become subject to and influenced by their environment as naturally as water seeks its level,” the Court held that Congress only intended the Nelson Act to mandate the enrollment of “mixed bloods” who:

"Had for themselves, or, in cases where they were minors living with parents or guardians, the parents or guardians had, put off the rude customs, modes of life, and associations, and taken up their abode and life free from an environment which retarded their development in lines of progressive living, systematic labor, individual ownership and accumulation of property, intellectual activity, and well–defined and respected domestic and social relations."

In contrast, the Court reasoned, children in families “which preferred the other life, without its attendant responsibilities and obligations to society at large, was provided a system of education under the control of the Secretary of the Interior, more appropriate to their undeveloped mental condition, and through which they could, in view of their surroundings, be better instructed.”

Applying this new rule to the case at hand, the Court went on to analyze pictures of the parents, their clothing, residence, place of worship, associates, and occupation to determine whether the families, in fact, led civilized lives. The Court concluded that the children and their families were not civilized and not entitled to admission to the Sitka schools, and that they were required to instead attend the federally-run, assimilation-focused schools for Native children.