Reconstruction Period Research Forum
Sex and Love in the Segregated South.
Charles F. Robinson II. Dangerous Liaisons: Sex and Love in the Segregated South. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2003. xv + 196 pp. Tables, notes, bibliography, index. $29.95 (cloth), ISBN 1-55728-755-4.
Reviewed by: Elizabeth Alexander, Department of History, Texas Wesleyan University.
Published by: H-SAWH (November, 2004)
In 1944, sociologist Gunnar Myrdal ranked interracial marriage as the most important concern that white southerners had about their relationships with black southerners. According to Myrdal, prevention of intermarriage was the basis for all southern laws establishing segregation. In Dangerous Liaisons: Sex and Love in the Segregated South, Charles F. Robinson II suggests that the South's enforcement of its anti-miscegenation laws was more nuanced than Myrdal had recognized.
Dangerous Liaisons makes clear that southern legislatures and courts selectively enforced their anti-miscegenation statutes, focusing on interracial relationships as opposed to interracial sex. Public, domestic unions between blacks and whites, particularly unions between black men and white women, threatened the political, social, and cultural structure of white supremacy and suggested the possibility of racial equality. Robinson persuasively argues that southern whites enforced an "intimacy color line rather than a sexual color line" (p. xiii). Previous works on miscegenation, such as Martha Hodes's Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History (1999) and Peter Wallenstein's "Tell the Court I Love My Wife": Race, Marriage, and Law--An American History (2004), do not consider the selective enforcement of anti-miscegenation laws that Robinson has teased out of his sources.
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