PBS Online Film Festival

S2020 E7 | FULL EPISODE

The History of White People in America

In the decades after Bacon's Rebellion, an African man and an English woman - husband and wife - sing of their fate, their future as law by law, edict by edict, their family, their marriage, their love made illegal. "How America Outlawed Interracial Marriage" is a part of the series THE HISTORY OF WHITE PEOPLE IN AMERICA, which examines how skin color has come to define race in our country.

AIRED: July 13, 2020 | 0:05:01
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TRANSCRIPT

(upbeat music)

- [Narrator] For most of American history,

marriage between races was against the law.

(somber music)

However, in the 17th century, in colonial Virginia,

Africans and English could be allies,

lovers, parents. and married.

That is, until the Virginia Legislature convened in 1705.

- [Judge] Order!

There will be order in the House of Burgesses.

Order in the house!

- [Man] We land owning gentlemen of the crown

can not afford another rebellion.

- [Man] We must divide the poor.

- [Man] We must divide the poor.

- We must separate the races. - Separate the races.

- [Men] African, English, Scottish, Irish, Indians.

- [Man] We must break the alliance between the poor.

- [Man] Break the alliance.

- [Judge] All in favor?

- [Assembly Members] Aye.

- [Judge] All opposed?

(pen scratching) (somber music)

The measure passes.

(people speaking in foreign language)

(paper rips) (man gasps)

(haunting music)

- [Husband] We are no longer allowed.

- [Wife] To marry.

- [Husband] We are no longer allowed.

- [Wife] To start a family.

- [Many] We are no longer allowed.

- [Husband] Can we say aloud?

- [Wife] Should we stay inside?

- [Husband] That we have a child?

- [Wife] Can we stay alive?

- [Husband] We not coming out.

- [Wife] Why are we vilified?

- [Husband] Let's go underground.

- [Many] We are no longer allowed.

- [Both] To carry a child.

- [Many] We are no longer allowed.

(woman gasping) - To exchange vows.

- [Many] We are no longer allowed.

- [Husband] I am her father.

- [Wife] Are you all right?

- [Husband] And you are my wife.

- [Wife] This isn't right.

- [Husband] They're not taking our daughter.

- [Wife] Let them try.

- [Husband] That's on my life.

Be it enacted.

- [Wife] Be it enacted.

- [Husband] No Negro.

- [Wife] No Negro.

- [Husband] No mulatto.

- [Wife] No mulatto.

- [Husband] No Indian.

- [Wife] No Indian.

(child coughs)

- [Both] Be it enacted.

- [Child] I love you, daddy.

- Be it enacted. - Be it enacted.

- [Husband] Be it enacted.

Be it enacted, be it enacted.

- [Wife] Be it enacted.

- That no minister. (man knocking on door)

- [Wife] Be it enacted.

- Who's there?

Should hereafter marry.

(sighs) No. - Why are they here?

- No, no, no, no. - Be it enacted.

No, I won't let them do this. - I have to go.

- Shall hereafter marry a white.

You can't, it's not fair!

With a Negro or mulatto. - I have to.

- Or Indian. - Be it enacted.

All Negro, mulatto,

and Indian slaves. - Be it enacted

that all children. - Shall be held as property.

(dogs barking) - Of Negros, of mulattoes.

- I will be held as property. - Of slaves.

Will be slaves.

- Until the day I die. (husband groans)

- [Husband] Be it enacted.

- [Wife] Be it enacted,

if any master kills a slave,

that master shall be free of all punishment,

as if such a accident never happened.

- [Husband] Be it enacted.

- [Wife] Be it enacted.

- When a Negro goes away. - My children

will be forbidden to read,

To write, to vote, to marry. - It shall be lawful

to dismember, to kill. - I love you.

- To testify. - And destroy.

- [Both] Be it enacted.

- [Wife] My child will be bought and sold.

- It shall be lawful. - Be it enacted.

My child will labor until death

because of the color of her skin.

- To dismember, to kill. (wife sighs shakily)

- Be it enacted. (whip cracks)

- And destroy. - My husband will be whipped,

branded, maimed. (brand sizzles)

Be it enacted. (fire crackles)

Be it enacted.

Be it enacted.

That it shall be lawful.

It shall be lawful.

It shall be lawful

to fix a perpetual brand,

to fix a perpetual brand,

to fix a perpetual brand

upon Negros, mulattoes, and Indians.

Upon us.

- [Man] Be it enacted.

- [Man] No Negro, no mullato.

- [Man] No Indian.

- [Man] By the advice and consent.

- [Men] Be it enacted.

- [Man] No Negros, no mulatto, no Indian.

- Of his Lordship's governor. - Be it enacted.

No Negro, no mulatto. - No Negro, no mulatto.

- No Indian. - And the Houses of Assembly.

- [Both] Be it enacted.

No Negro, no mulatto, no Indian.

- [Man] And by the authority of the Senate.

(somber music)

(upbeat music)

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