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Related ethnic groups

Mulatto is a term used to refer to persons born of one white parent and one black parent or to persons born of a mulatto parent or parents. In English, the term is today generally confined to historical contexts. English speakers of mixed white and black ancestry seldom choose to identify themselves as "mulatto."


The English term, mulatto, is believed to derive from the Spanish and Portuguese mulato. The origin of mulato is uncertain.

The term may derive from mula (old Galician-Portuguese, from the Latin mūlus), meaning mule, the hybrid offspring of a horse and a donkey.[6][7] The Real Academia Española traces its origin to mulo in the sense of hybridity; originally used to refer to any mixed race person.[8]

Some dictionaries and scholarly works trace the word's origins to the Arabic term muwallad, which means "a person of mixed ancestry".[9] Muwallad literally means "born, begotten, produced, generated; brought up", with the implication of being born and raised among Arabs, but not of Arab blood. Muwallad is derived from the root word WaLaD (Arabic: ولد direct Arabic transliteration: waw, lam, dal), and colloquial Arabic pronunciation can vary greatly. Walad means, "descendant, offspring, scion; child; son; boy; young animal, young one".

In al-Andalus, Muwallad referred to the offspring of non-Arab/Muslim people who adopted the Islamic religion and manners. Specifically, the term was historically applied to the descendants of indigenous Christian Iberians who, after several generations of living among a Muslim majority, adopted their culture and religion. Notable examples of this category include the famous Muslim scholar Ibn Hazm. According to Lisan al-Arab, one of the earliest Arab dictionaries (c. 13th century AD), applied the term to the children of Non-Muslim (often Christian) slaves, or Non-Muslim children who were captured in a war and were raised by Muslims to follow their religion and culture. Thus, in this context, the term "Muwalad" has a meaning close to "the adopted". According to the same source, the term does not denote being of mixed-race but rather being of foreign-blood and local culture.

In English, printed usage of mulatto dates to at least the 16th century. The 1595 work Drake's Voyages first used the term in the context of intimate unions producing biracial children, with the Oxford English Dictionary defining mulatto here as "one who is the offspring of a European and a Black". This earliest usage regarded "black" and "white" as discrete "species", with the "mulatto" constituting a third separate "species".[10]

According to Julio Izquierdo Labrado,[11] the 19th-century linguist Leopoldo Eguilaz y Yanguas, as well as some Arabic sources[12] muwallad is the etymological origin of mulato. These sources specify that mulato would have been derived directly from muwallad independently of the related word muladí, a term that was applied to Iberian Christians who had converted to Islam during the Moorish governance of Iberia in the Middle Ages.

The Real Academia Española (Spanish Royal Academy) casts doubt on the muwallad theory. It states, "The term mulata is documented in our diachronic data bank in 1472 and is used in reference to livestock mules in Documentacion medieval de la Corte de Justicia de Ganaderos de Zaragoza, whereas muladí (from mullawadí) does not appear until the 18th century, according to [Joan] Corominas".[nb 1]

Scholars such as Werner Sollors cast doubt on the mule etymology for mulatto. In the 18th and 19th centuries, racialists such as Edward Long and Josiah Nott began to assert that mulattoes were sterile like mules. They projected this belief back onto the etymology of the word mulatto. Sollers points out that this etymology is anachronistic: "The Mulatto sterility hypothesis that has much to do with the rejection of the term by some writers is only half as old as the word 'Mulatto.'"[14]


Of São Tomé and Príncipe's 193,413 inhabitants, the largest segment is classified as mestiço, or mixed race.[15] 71% of the population of Cape Verde is also classified as such.[16] The great majority of their current populations descend from unions between the Portuguese, who settled the islands from the 15th century onwards, and the black Africans they brought from the African mainland to work as slaves. In the early years, mestiços began to form a third-class between the Portuguese colonists and African slaves, as they were usually bilingual and often served as interpreters between the populations.

In Angola and Mozambique, the mestiço constitute smaller but still important minorities; 2% in Angola[17] and 0.2% in Mozambique.[18]

The Christmas Bands are a popular Cape Coloured cultural tradition in Cape Town

In Namibia, a current-day population of between 20,000 and 30,000 people, known as Rehoboth Basters, descend from liaisons between the Cape Colony Dutch and indigenous African women. The name Baster is derived from the Dutch word for "bastard" (or "crossbreed"). While some people consider this term demeaning, the Basters proudly use the term as an indication of their history.

In South Africa, the term Coloured (also known as Bruinmense, Kleurlinge or Bruin Afrikaners in Afrikaans) used to refer to individuals who possess some degree of sub-Saharan ancestry, but not enough to be considered black-African under the law of South Africa. Under Apartheid law there were seven categories of Coloured people: Cape Coloured, Cape Malay, Griqua, Indian, Chinese, or other Asiatic, and Other Coloured - the aim of subdivisions was to enhance the meaning of the larger category of Coloured by making it all encompassing. In contemporary society, however, to redress the unfair privileges of the past Apartheid regime the policy of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) was adopted to level the economic playing field. BEE policy favored indigenous Black Africans for employment, scholarships, government contracts and loans, whereas before such opportunities were strictly reserved for the White minority. Suddenly, the racial hierarchy of the past were reversed; those who suffered the greatest injustices were put first on the list for advancement. African women were of top priority with African men close behind, next came Coloured women followed by Coloured men. Subsequently, Indian men followed Indian women. Legally and politically speaking, all people of color were classified “black” in the non-racialist terms of anti-Apartheid rhetoric of the Black Consciousness Movement.[19] In addition to European ancestry, they may also possess Asian ancestry from immigrants from India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, China and/or Saint Helena. As an interesting note, because Indians did not fall within the definitions of either European or African but were people of color they were classed as “coloureds.” . Based on the Population Registration Act to classify people, laws were put in place prohibiting mixed marriages. Therefore, many people that were descendants of the "Asian" category were able to legally intermarry with "mixed-race" people because they shared the same nomenclature.[19] There was extensive combining of these diverse heritages in the Western Cape, but in other parts of southern Africa, the coloured usually were descendants of two primary ethnic groups - primarily Africans of various tribes and European colonists, with generations of coloured forming families.

In KwaZulu-Natal, most Coloureds (that were classified as "other coloureds") had British and Zulu heritage, while Zimbabwean coloureds were descended from Shona or Ndebele mixing with British and Afrikaner settlers. Griqua, on the other hand, are descendants of Khoisan and Afrikaner trekboers. The Griqua were subjected to an ambiguity of other creole people within Southern African social order. According to Nurse and Jenkins (1975) the leader of this “mixed” group, Adam Kok I, was a former slave of the Dutch governor who was manumitted and provided land outside Cape Town in the eighteenth century. With territories beyond the Dutch East India Company administration, Kok delivered refuge to deserting soldiers, runaway slaves, and remaining members of various Khoikhoi tribes.[19]

Zimbabwe[edit source]

Coloured and Indian military personnel on parade in Southern Rhodesia, 1940. The earliest Coloured communities in central Africa were formed in Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), mainly by those who had emigrated as servants of Afrikaners and other white South African settlers from the Cape of Good Hope. Coloured immigration from South Africa spiked throughout much of the early twentieth century, but by the 1930s most local Coloureds had been born in Southern Rhodesia as offspring of British administrators and colonists and local women. The Coloured populace increased to about 24,000 through intermarriage, and by 1969 about 91% were considered Rhodesian citizens, a smaller number being Zambians, Malawians, and South Africans.[3] During World War II, Coloureds served with distinction alongside Southern Rhodesian units during the East African Campaign.[4]

Southern Rhodesia, which had unilaterally declared independence as Rhodesia in 1965, classified Coloureds as persons of mixed ancestry who did not follow a traditional African way of life and whose culture was European in origin and form. Coloureds who lived with black African families were notably excluded, as were those who physically passed for Europeans and Asians, respectively.[3] Coloured Rhodesians were heavily urbanised, and the colonial government permitted them to live in segregated neighbourhoods reserved for Europeans. In 1969 the largest proportion of working Coloureds—about 30%— were employed by the Rhodesian manufacturing sector, the remainder being tradesmen or engaged in service delivery.[3]

At the outbreak of the Rhodesian Bush War, conscription was enforced for all male Coloureds of military age, who were expected to contribute four to five months of service to the Rhodesian Security Forces. In 1966, the Ministry of Defence gave notice that it would henceforth extend conscription to all foreigners with residency status, making Coloureds of South African or other nationalities in Rhodesia also liable for military service.[4] Most Coloured recruits were assigned to the Reinforcement Holding Unit (RHU), which was primarily concerned with transport and logistics. They were also tasked with providing convoy security and guarding installations targeted for sabotage by insurgents. In 1978 the RHU was reorganised into the Rhodesian Defence Regiment. As the war intensified, Coloured personnel deployed to operational areas successfully petitioned to receive the same pay as white soldiers.[4]

When Rhodesia was reconstituted as the new Republic of Zimbabwe in 1980, accompanied by the electoral triumph of leading black nationalist Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union, Coloureds numbered about 20,000.[5] Mugabe won the country's first general elections held under a universal franchise, despite facing militant opposition from Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and a number of minority parties. All Coloureds registered in the Rhodesian electoral system prior to December 31, 1979 were permitted to vote, and those that did so overwhelmingly endorsed the Rhodesian Front.[6] As a conciliatory gesture Mugabe later nominated a leading member of the Coloured community, Joseph Culverwell, to the Zimbabwean senate.[6] Nevertheless, ZANU's ascension was greeted with caution. During the bush war, black nationalists frequently decried Coloureds as having benefited unjustly from the colonial racial hierarchy, and those who attempted to join ZANU and ZAPU's guerrilla armies were often detained or executed as spies.[7] Less educated, blue collar Coloured workers were also concerned they would face job displacement from an advancing black workforce once they lost the advantage of preferential employment by white supervisors. Others seemed convinced only blacks would benefit economically under Mugabe's rule, at the expense of themselves and other ethnic minorities.[7] For their part, community activists were disappointed they weren't invited to participate at the Lancaster House talks on behalf of their people, and felt this demonstrated both white and black Zimbabweans were uninterested in Coloureds' future political and social welfare. [7]

Since the 1980s, Coloured Zimbabweans have complained of being increasingly disenfranchised, and being projected as foreigners with limited rights. A Coloured lobby group, the National Association for the Advancement of Mixed Race Coloureds (NAAC), was formed in 2001 to protest what they perceived as severe discrimination against their community by the state.[8] The NAAC has issued a statement claiming that "Coloured people are visibly and verbally treated with disdain contemptuously dismissed with xenophobic comments" urging them to "go back to Britain".[8] NAAC activists have also highlighted the removal of Coloureds from important positions in the public service, usually following complaints by ruling party officials, and the government's steadfast refusal to grant loans to Coloured entrepreneurs. At the height of President Mugabe's land reform programme, Zimbabwean Minister of Education, Sports, and Culture Aeneas Chigwedere demanded that Coloureds be excluded from the redistribution process on racial grounds, insisting that "if we give them land it will be giving it back to the white man".[8]

Zambia[edit source] Unlike Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia (present-day Zambia), a British possession which remained governed directly by the Colonial Office, considered "Coloured" to be a strictly South African racial distinction, and evoked the term only when referring to immigrants of mixed race from South Africa accordingly.[9] This resulted in considerable ambivalence towards local Coloureds born in Northern Rhodesia, whom colonial officials described with a menagerie of labels as varied as "half-castes", "Anglo-Africans", "Indo-Africans", and "Eurafricans". Northern Rhodesian Coloureds often bore distinguished British surnames, having descended from some of the colony's earliest pioneers, administrators, and officials.[9] Nevertheless, beginning in the 1920s such individuals posed a particular classification problem for the Colonial Office, which remained frustrated by the fact it could classify Coloureds neither as European nor African.[10] The British paternity of mixed children was an especially contentious issue, allowing Coloureds to petition for recognition as British subjects, entitled to British passports. Their requests were ignored by the Colonial Office, which regarded them only as protected subjects, a status otherwise reserved for black Africans.[9]

The question of Coloureds' legitimacy and status hinged on the legality of marriage between their European and African parents.[11] Under the Northern Rhodesian Immorality Suppression Ordinance, it was a criminal offence for a white woman to marry or cohabit with a black man. Marriages between white men and black women, although not expressly forbidden, were likewise unrecognised by the state.[9] As marriages of this nature were not recognised as marriage under law, the Welfare Department was empowered to seize any first-generation mixed race children resulting from such unions as "orphans".[9]

Since Coloureds lacked segregated schools of their own, and Northern Rhodesian authorities forbade children of other races from attending the same educational institutions as Europeans, most Coloureds studied at Roman Catholic missions in Southern Rhodesia.[10] Their exclusion from schools severely limited Coloured economic and social prospects.[9] In 1927, the missions criticised Northern Rhodesia's practice of building schools specifically for white and black pupils while failing to provide similar facilities for Coloureds. It was proposed that the administration erect Coloured schools or at least furbish the funds for their independent construction. This scheme was approved by the Northern Rhodesian Native Education Advisory Board but rejected by Governor James Crawford Maxwell.[11] Maxwell regarded the label "Coloured" as a purely artificial distinction, and did not believe they constituted a separate race from Europeans or Africans. He insisted that the construction of Coloured schools equated to official recognition of an ethnic group that did not exist.[11] Maxwell's habit of arguing that Coloureds should identify either as Europeans or Africans, rather than a distinct mixed race population, became policy in Northern Rhodesia for the next three decades. Coloureds who physically resembled Europeans and lived like Europeans were treated as such, while those who lived as Africans or with black families were classified as native.[11] In this regard Northern Rhodesia represented a marked departure from South Africa, where racial legislation strictly defined the rights and status of individuals from birth.[9] Some Coloureds became integrated with African society; others joined white social clubs, received managerial jobs reserved for whites, and lived in affluent white neighbourhoods.[9]

In 1952, the Coloured community petitioned Henry Hopkinson, the United Kingdom's newly appointed Minister of State for the Colonies, for recognition as British subjects. The Coloureds argued that the British Nationality Act 1948 had reaffirmed their status as protected subjects instead, and expressed disappointment that unlike white Rhodesians they could only obtain British subject status through naturalisation.[11] Their grievances were discussed in the Colonial Office, which responded that if a marriage between a male British subject and an African woman was properly documented, any children should be allowed to take up their father's nationality. The Colonial Office also observed through its inquiries that Coloured housing in Northern Rhodesia was almost nonexistent and ordered the administration to see the issue resolved.[11] Their request resulted in the establishment of "Coloured Quarters", residential areas in all major towns built specifically for Coloured people, often situated near the railway lines. The Coloured Quarters included segregated schools and social clubs. Most of their residents were employed by the Public Works Department and Rhodesia Railways, which also offered economic housing.[9]

When Northern Rhodesia became a constituent territory of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, most Coloureds failed to qualify for citizenship under federal law, which stipulated all citizens must also be British subjects.[11] The new electoral roll established that voters had to possess a secondary education and earn an income of at least £720 a year. While a percentage of Southern Rhodesian Coloureds could meet these standards, owing to their longstanding educational disadvantages and the lack of schools few Coloureds in Northern Rhodesia had received anything more than the most basic primary education. This, in turn, restricted their avenues of employment: the average monthly income for Coloured men in Lusaka was between £15 and £25 a month.[11]

Following the dissolution of the federation and Zambian independence in 1964, many Coloured parents began sending their children abroad to avoid military conscription into the Zambian Defence Force.[11] The British Nationality Act 1981 aroused considerable interest among Zambia's Coloured population, since it revoked a legitimacy clause from the 1948 legislation wherein only children born to legitimate marriages of their British fathers were considered British subjects.[11] As mixed race marriages were not recognised as legitimate under Northern Rhodesian law, this excluded Coloureds.[10] Under the statutes of the new British Nationality Act, any Zambians able to prove beyond reasonable doubt they were consanguineous descendants of a specific British citizen could apply for right of abode in the United Kingdom, irrespective of their ancestor's marital status. During the 1980s and 1990s, roughly half of Zambia's Coloured population immigrated to the United Kingdom.[1Zimbabwe[edit source]

Coloured and Indian military personnel on parade in Southern Rhodesia, 1940. The earliest Coloured communities in central Africa were formed in Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), mainly by those who had emigrated as servants of Afrikaners and other white South African settlers from the Cape of Good Hope. Coloured immigration from South Africa spiked throughout much of the early twentieth century, but by the 1930s most local Coloureds had been born in Southern Rhodesia as offspring of British administrators and colonists and local women. The Coloured populace increased to about 24,000 through intermarriage, and by 1969 about 91% were considered Rhodesian citizens, a smaller number being Zambians, Malawians, and South Africans.[3] During World War II, Coloureds served with distinction alongside Southern Rhodesian units during the East African Campaign.[4]

Afro-European clans

Latin America and the Caribbean

Mulattoes represent a significant part of the population of various Latin American and Caribbean countries:[20] Dominican Republic (73%; all mixed-race people),[20][nb 2] Brazil (49.1% mixed-race, Gypsy and Black, Mulattoes (20.5%), Mestiços, Mamelucos or Caboclos (21.3%), Blacks (7.1%) and Eurasian (0.2%)),[21][22] Belize (25%), Colombia (10,4%),[20] Cuba (24.86%),[20] Haiti (15%).[20]

In colonial Latin America, mulato could also refer to an individual of mixed African and Native American ancestry.[23] In the 21st century, persons with indigenous and black African ancestry in Latin America are more frequently called zambos in Spanish or cafuzo in Portuguese.

In the United States, due to the influence and laws making slavery a racial caste and later practices of hypodescent, white colonists and settlers tended to classify persons of mixed African and Native American ancestry as black, regardless of how they identified themselves, or sometimes as black Indians. But many tribes had matrilineal kinship systems and practices of absorbing other peoples into their cultures. Multiracial children born to Native American mothers were customarily raised in her specific tribal culture. Federally recognized Indian tribes have insisted that identity and membership is related to culture, and that individuals brought up within tribal culture are fully members, regardless of whether they have some European or African ancestry. . than race, and many have had mixed-race members who identify primarily as of the tribes.

If the children were born to slave women, they were classified under slave law as slaves, and more likely raised within the African-American community and considered black. A number of African Americans in contemporary United States have ancestry including some Native American.[24]


A Redenção de Cam (Ham's Redemption) (1895) by Modesto Brocos, painting shows a Brazilian family where the Black grandmother is praising God because her biracial daughter had a child who passes for white.

Studies carried out by the geneticist Sergio Pena conclude the average white Brazilian is 80% European, 10% Amerindian, and 10% African/black.[25] Another study, carried out by the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, concludes the average white Brazilian is (>70%) European.[26]

According to the IBGE 2000 census, 38.5% of Brazilians identified as pardo, i.e. of mixed ancestry.[27][28] This figure includes mulatto and other multiracial people, such as people who have European and Amerindian ancestry (called caboclos), as well as assimilated, westernized Amerindians, and mestizos with some Asian ancestry. A majority of mixed-race Brazilians have all three ancestries: Amerindian, European, and African. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics census 2006, some 42.6% of Brazilian identify as pardo, an increase over the 2000 census.[29]

According to genetic studies, some of those who identify as White Brazilians (48.4%) also have some mixed-race ancestry (both Subsaharan African and Amerindian ancestry), not surprising given the multiracial history of this country. Brazilians who identify as de raça negra or de cor preta, i.e. Brazilians of Black African origin, make up 6.9% of the population; genetic studies show their average total ancestry is still mixed: 40% African, 50% European, and 10% Amerindian, but they likely grew up within visibly black communities.

Such autosomal DNA studies, which measure total genetic contribution, continue to reveal differences between how individuals identify, which is usually based in family and close community, with genetic ancestry, which may relate to a distant past they know little about.[30] Such DNA studies were conducted of students at a school in the poor periphery of Rio de Janeiro. It found that the multiracial "pardos" were genetically more than 80% European in ancestry. "The results of the tests of genomic ancestry are quite different from the self made estimates of European ancestry", say the researchers. The test results showed that the proportion of European genetic ancestry was higher than students expected. When questioned before the test, students who identified as "pardos", for example, identified as 1/3 European, 1/3 African and 1/3 Amerindian.[31][32] On the other hand, students classified as "white" tended to overestimate their proportion of African and Amerindian genetic ancestry.[31]


Mulattoes account for up to 5% of the nation’s population. In Haitian history, such mixed-race people, known in colonial times as free people of color, gained some education and property before the Revolution. In some cases, their white fathers arranged for multiracial sons to be educated in France and join the military, giving them an advance economically. Free people of color gained some social capital and political power before the Revolution, were influential during the Revolution and since then. The people of color have retained their elite position, based on education and social capital, that is apparent in the political, economic and cultural hierarchy in present-day Haiti. Numerous leaders throughout Haiti's history have been people of color.[33]

The struggle within Haiti between the people of color led by André Rigaud and the black Haitians led by Toussaint Louverture devolved into the War of Knives.[34][35] In the early period of independence, former slaves of majority-black ancestry led the government, as it was the many more numerous slaves who had done most of the fighting in the North, where the largest plantations were, to achieve independence.

Puerto Rico

Don Miguel Enríquez, a Puerto Rican privateer, is the only known mulatto knighted by the Monarchy of Spain. After being born illegitimate, he became a shoemaker and privateer, ultimately one of the wealthiest men of the New World.

In a 2002 genetic study of maternal and paternal direct lines of ancestry of 800 Puerto Ricans, 61% had mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from an Amerindian female ancestor, 27% inherited MtDNA from a female African ancestor and 12% had MtDNA from a female European ancestor.[36] Conversely, patrilineal direct lines, as indicated by the Y chromosome, showed that 70% of Puerto Rican males in the sample have Y chromosome DNA from a male European ancestor, 20% inherited Y-DNA from a male African ancestor, and less than 10% inherited Y-DNA from a male Amerindian ancestor.[37] As these tests measure only the DNA along the direct matrilineal and patrilineal lines of inheritance, they cannot tell what total percentage of European or African ancestry any individual has.

In keeping with Spanish practice, for most of its colonial period, Puerto Rico had laws such as the Regla del Sacar or Gracias al Sacar. A person with African ancestry could be considered legally white if he could prove that at least one person per generation in the last four generations had been legally white. People of black ancestry with known white lineage were classified as white, in contrast to the "one-drop rule" put into law in the early 20th century in the United States. In colonial and antebellum times in certain locations, persons of three-quarters or more white ancestry were considered legally white.[38] If born to slave mothers, however, this status did not overrule their being considered slaves, like Sally Hemings, who was three-quarters white, and her children by Thomas Jefferson, who were seven-eighths white, and all born into slavery.

United States

Antebellum era

Creole woman with black servant, New Orleans, 1867.

Historians have documented sexual abuse of slave women during the colonial and post-revolutionary slavery times by white men in power: planters, their sons before marriage, overseers, etc., producing multiracial children born into slavery. But, Paul Heinegg has documented that most of the free people of color in the 1790–1810 censuses in the Upper South were descended from unions and marriages during the colonial period in Virginia between white women, who were free or indentured servants, and African or African-American men, servant, slave or free. In the early colonial years, working-class people lived and worked closely together, and slavery was not as much of a racial caste. Slave law had established that children in the colony took the status of their mothers. This meant that multi-racial children born to white women were born free. The colony required them to serve lengthy indentures if the woman was not married, but nonetheless, numerous individuals with African ancestry were born free, and formed more free families. Many of these free people of color became leaders in the African-American community; others continued to marry into the white community.[39][40] His findings have been supported by DNA studies as well.[41]

According to historian F. James Davis,

Rapes occurred, and many slave women were forced to submit regularly to white males or suffer harsh consequences. However, slave girls often courted a sexual relationship with the master, or another male in the family, as a way of gaining distinction among the slaves, avoiding field work, and obtaining special jobs and other favored treatment for their mixed children (Reuter, 1970:129). Sexual contacts between the races also included prostitution, adventure, concubinage, and sometimes love. In rare instances, where free blacks were concerned, there was marriage (Bennett, 1962:243–68).[42]

Some mixed-race persons in the South became slave owners, and many who were accepted in the society supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. For example, William Ellison owned 60 slaves. Andrew Durnford of New Orleans, which had a large population of free people of color, mostly of French descent and Catholic culture, was listed in the census as owning 77 slaves. In Louisiana free people of color constituted a third class between white colonists and the mass of slaves.[43]

Other multiracial people became abolitionists and supported the Union. For example, Mary Ellen Pleasant and Thomy Lafon used their fortunes to support the abolitionist cause. Francis E. Dumas of New Orleans, a free person of color, emancipated all his slaves and organized them into a company in the Second Regiment of the Louisiana Native Guards.[44]

Historically in the American South, the term mulatto was also applied at times to persons with mixed Native American and African American ancestry.[24] For example, a 1705 Virginia statute reads as follows:

"And for clearing all manner of doubts which hereafter may happen to arise upon the construction of this act, or any other act, who shall be accounted a mulatto, Be it enacted and declared, and it is hereby enacted and declared, That the child of an Indian and the child, grand child, or great grand child, of a negro shall be deemed, accounted, held and taken to be a mulatto."[45]

In early American history, the term mulatto was also used to refer to persons of Native American and European ancestry. Certain tribes of Indians of the Inocoplo family in Texas referred to themselves as "mulatto".[46] At one time, Florida's laws declared that a person from any number of mixed ancestries would be legally defined as a mulatto, including White/Hispanic, Black/Indian, and just about any other mix as well.[47]

Contemporary era

Mulatto was used as an official census racial category in the United States until 1930. (In the early 20th century, several southern states had adopted the one-drop rule as law, and southern Congressmen pressed the US Census Bureau to drop the mulatto category: they wanted all persons to be classified as "black" or "white".) At that time, the term was primarily applied as a category to persons of mixed African and European descent. During the colonial and early federal period, in the Southern colonies and states, it was sometimes applied persons of any mixed ethnicity, including Native American and European. During the early census years of the United States beginning in 1790, "mulatto" was applied to persons who were identifiably of mixed African-American and Native American ancestry.[48][49][50][51] Mulatto was also used interchangeably with terms like "Turk", leading to ambiguity when referring to North Africans and Middle Easterners, who were of limited number in the colonies.[52] In the 2000 United States Census, 6,171 Americans self-identified as having mulatto ancestry.[53] Since then, multi-racial people have been allowed to identify as having more than one type of ethnic ancestry.

The term "mulatto" was also used to refer to the children of whites who intermarried with South Asian indentured servants brought to the British American colonies by the East India Company. These were not numerous in the mainland colonies. But a daughter born to a South Asian father and Irish mother in Maryland in 1680 was classified as a "mulatto" and sold into slavery.[54] Starting with Virginia in 1662, colonies adopted the principle of partus sequitur ventrem in slave law, which said that children in the colony were born into the status of their mother. Thus, children born to slave mothers were born into slavery, regardless of who their fathers were; children born to white mothers were free, even if mixed-race.

Colonial references

See also


  1. ^ Corominas describes his doubts on the theory as follows: "[Mulato] does not derive from the Arab muwállad, 'acculturated foreigner' and sometimes 'mulatto' (see 'Mdí'), as Eguílaz would have it, since this word was pronounced 'moo-EL-led' in the Arabic of Spain. In the 19th century, Reinhart Dozy (Supplément aux Dictionnaires Arabes, Vol. II, Leyden, 1881, 841a) rejected this Arabic etymology, indicating the true one, supported by the Arabic nagîl, 'mulatto', derived from nagl, 'mule'."[13]
  2. ^ In the Dominican Republic, the mulatto population has absorbed the Taíno Amerindians historically present in that country, based on a 1960 census that included colour categories such as white, black, yellow, and mulatto. Since then, racial components have been dropped from the Dominican census.
  1. ^ Pardo Brazilian (Pardo group includes Mulattoes but also Mestizos, Castizos, Eurasians, and Gypsies)
  2. ^ official 2012 Census Archived 2014-06-03 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Demographics of South Africa
  4. ^ Mixed (United Kingdom ethnicity category)
  5. ^ 2010 US census p.5
  6. ^ "Chambers Dictionary of Etymology". Robert K. Barnhart. Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd. 2003. p. 684. 
  7. ^ Harper, Douglas. "mulatto". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  8. ^ "Mulato". Real Academia Española. Retrieved 14 June 2017. De mulo, en el sentido de híbrido, aplicado primero a cualquier mestizo 
  9. ^ Jack D. Forbes (1993). Africans and Native Americans: the language of race and the evolution of Red-Black peoples. University of Illinois Press. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-252-06321-3. 
  10. ^ David S. Goldstein; Audrey B. Thacker, eds. (2007). Complicating Constructions: Race, Ethnicity, and Hybridity in American Texts. University of Washington Press. p. 77. ISBN 0295800747. Retrieved 19 August 2016. 
  11. ^ Izquierdo Labrado, Julio. "La esclavitud en Huelva y Palos (1570-1587)" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  12. ^ Salloum, Habeeb. "The impact of the Arabic language and culture on English and other European languages". The Honorary Consulate of Syria. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  13. ^ Corominas, Joan and Pascual, José A. (1981). Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico, Vol. ME-RE (4). Madrid: Editorial Gredos. ISBN 84-249-1362-0.
  14. ^ Werner Sollors, Neither Black Nor White Yet Both, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 129.
  15. ^ "São Tomé and Príncipe". Infoplease. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  16. ^ "Cape Verde". Infoplease. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  17. ^ "Angola". Infoplease. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
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Further reading

  • McNeil, Daniel (2010). Sex and Race in the Black Atlantic: Mulatto Devils and Multiracial Messiahs. Routledge. 
  • Tenzer, Lawrence Raymond (1997). The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue. Scholars' Pub. House. 
  • Talty, Stephan (2003). Mulatto America: At the Crossroads of Black and White Culture: A Social History. HarperCollins Publishers Inc. 
  • Gatewood, Willard B. (1990). Aristocrats of Color: The Black Elite, 1880-1920. Indiana University Press. 
  • Eguilaz y Yanguas, Leopoldo (1886). Glosario de las palabras españolas (castellanas, catalanas, gallegas, mallorquinas, portuguesas, valencianas y bascongadas), de orígen oriental (árabe, hebreo, malayo, persa y turco) (in Spanish). Granada: La Lealtad. 
  • Freitag, Ulrike; Clarence-Smith, William G., eds. (1997). Hadhrami Traders, Scholars and Statesmen in the Indian Ocean, 1750s-1960s. Social, Economic and Political Studies of the Middle East and Asia. 57. Leiden: Brill. p. 392. ISBN 90-04-10771-1. Retrieved 2008-07-14.  Engseng Ho, an anthropologist, discusses the role of the muwallad in the region. The term muwallad, used primarily in reference to those of "mixed blood", is analyzed through ethnographic and textual information.
  • Freitag, Ulrike (December 1999). "Hadhrami migration in the 19th and 20th centuries". The British-Yemeni Society. Archived from the original on 2000-07-12. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  • Myntti, Cynthia (1994). "Interview: Hamid al-Gadri". Yemen Update. American Institute for Yemeni Studies. 34 (44): 14–9. Archived from the original on 2008-06-18. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  • Williamson, Joel (1980). New People: Miscegenation and Mulattoes in the United States. The Free Press. 

External links

  • A Brief History of Census “Race”
  • Surprises in the Family Tree
  • The Mulatto Factor in Black Family Genealogy
  • Dr. David Pilgrim, "The Tragic Mulatto Myth", Jim Crow Museum, Ferris State University
  • At "Race Relations", in-depth research links on Mulattoes,
  • Encarta's breakdown of Mulatto people (Archived 2009-11-01)
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Mulatto". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
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