Laws and Court Cases

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One Drop Rule

aka: Act 320 of 1911
aka: House Bill 79 of 1911
In 1911, Arkansas passed Act 320 (House Bill 79), also known as the “one-drop rule.” This law had two goals: it made interracial “cohabitation” a felony, and it defined as “Negro” anyone “who has…any negro blood whatever,” thus relegating to second-class citizenship anyone accused of having any African ancestry. Although the law had features unique to Arkansas, it largely reflected nationwide trends. Laws against interracial sex were not new. Virginia declared extramarital sex a crime during Oliver Cromwell’s era and increased the penalty for sex across the color line in 1662. In 1691, Virginia criminalized matrimony when celebrated by an interracial couple. Maryland did so the following year, and others followed. By 1776, twelve of the thirteen colonies that declared …