The Two-Tier System  

Though it took as its model the system long employed in the West Indies, colonial America radically altered the institution of slavery. They adopted the system but they modified it according to the emerging Aryan ideology. The legislators of the American colonies were determined to stem the development of an intermediate socio-racial class under their system. They had a “brave new world” in mind, one in which there would be sharp division between black and white and none at all between black and mulatto. They had in mind a radical restructuring of what had by that time become the traditional relationship between the two races.

Throughout the Spanish, Portuguese and French colonies a three-tier system of racial categorization was used. Despite the efforts of British colonists/early American authorities to  eliminate the rights of the intermediate socio-racial class, the three-tier system became particularly well established in the former French colony, Louisiana, and in North Carolina.

Nevertheless, the colonial legislators pressed relentlessly towards a two-tier system of black/white relations. In a two-tier system the mixed individual is considered black. This being the case and because the features and skin color of mixed individuals vary so greatly, the precise dividing line between the two races became a critical issue. For mixed individuals it meant the difference between freedom and enslavement. For whites it was crucial to maintaining the purity of the white race. By the end of the 17th century, colonial America’s system of indentured servitude had been completely replaced by chattel slavery, focusing almost exclusively upon blacks and mulattoes. Whites were no longer kept as servants. Furthermore, there was no longer any perceivable distinction between slave and servant. Black and mulatto slaves/servants alike were required to serve in perpetuity.

28 responses to “The Two-Tier System  

  1. thanks for this, nomad. sorry my mind is a bit ‘otherwise engaged’, but i did fetch this good poem; i really like the poet. and the man.


    I am your son, white man!
    Georgia dusk
    And the turpentine woods.
    One of the pillars of the temple fell.
    You are my son!
    Like Hell!
    The moon over the turpentine woods.
    The Southern night
    Full of stars,
    Great big yellow stars.
    What’s a body but a toy?
    Juicy bodies
    Of nigger wenches
    Blue black
    Against black fences.
    O, you little bastard boy,
    What’s a body but a toy?
    The scent of pine wood stings the soft night air.
    What’s the body of your mother?
    Silver moonlight everywhere.
    What’s the body of your mother?
    Sharp pine scent in the evening air.
    A nigger night,
    A nigger joy,
    A little yellow
    Bastard boy. Naw, you ain’t my brother.
    Niggers ain’t my brother.
    Not ever.
    Niggers ain’t my brother.
    The Southern night is full of stars,
    Great big yellow stars.
    O, sweet as earth,
    Dusk dark bodies
    Give sweet birth
    To little yellow bastard boys.
    Git on back there in the night,
    You ain’t white
    The bright stars scatter everywhere.
    Pine wood scent in the evening air.
    A nigger night,
    A nigger joy. I am your son, white man!
    A little yellow
    Bastard boy.

    ~ Langston Hughes

    • Reminds me of my own word of mouth family history. My mother was light skinned. The story was that her great grandmother (I think it was) was a ‘light skinned woman sold into slavery”.

      • ooof. then the graphic works for you? i’d meant to ask, but i spent a hella lot of time searching for one, and indeed learned a few things along the way. had your post been about the One Drop Rule, i’d have been tempted to use the Taoist symbol; know what i mean?

  2. While “the colonial legislators pressed relentlessly towards a two-tier system of black/white relations” the English supremacists masked their innovation, the coolie-trade, behind corporations. They anticipated the use of corporations to legitimate subjugation.

    The supremacists will exploit opportune “original sins” and then blame the gullible for allowing them the opportunity …

  3. “Beer Summit” notable Louis Henry Gates has some interesting details on the three-caste and two-caste systems that go into so strange byways of American ideology at the turn of the 19th century.

    He is talking primarily about free blacks of the period, some of whom retained their freedom up to the Civil War. The key points that I noticed of relevance are these:

    Free blacks in the Upper South (essentially the diffusion of settlement from Virginia) were often manumitted on the basis of religious of ideological commitments of a few owners and tended to be darker in complexion. Some were the products of the few free marriages of white women and black men. They tended to remain in rural areas.

    Free blacks in the Lower South (essentially the diffusion of settlement from South Carolina and Georgia) tended to be lighter and congregated in the cities of the lower South.

    His curiosity in his article is why free blacks stayed in the South.

    Slaves who were mulattoes tended to be the offspring of rape, even if it was perceived as goldbricking patronage. Duress takes many forms.

    After the Nat Turner rebellion in 1830, states began to pass fugitive slave laws that de facto permitted the internal slave traders (international slave trade ended in 1808, inflating the price of slaves and creating an internal market from the coastal South to the Old Southwest Lower South) to kidnap free blacks and mulattos, transport them westward, and sell them into slavery. That put pressure on legislatures in the Lower South to end the third tier of free mulattoes. Those discussions likely were in the 1840s and 1850s, which also included the defenses of slavery that appealed to the latest anthropological science and philological studies available. And the assumption of white supremacy was embedded from the beginning in both of those, producing appeals to Aryan or Nordic linguistics and the physical anthropology of the caucasoid, mongoloid, and negroid races, Interest in the “scientific racism” of that time was strong in Southern university natural history faculties. The broad history of ideas is presented in this Wikipedia article on scientific racism, which ends with defenses by Pinker and Jenner.

    I found this to be very interesting concerning the one-drop rule.

    Legislation of the one-drop rule was not passed until the 1920s (post “Birth of a Nation”) mainly because of the situation that South Carolinian George D. Tillman argued when the idea came up during the passage of the 1895 Jim Crow South Carolina Constitution:

    If the law is made as it now stands respectable families in Aiken, Barnwell, Colleton, and Orangeburg will be denied the right to intermarry among people with whom they are now associated and identified. At least one hundred families would be affected to my knowledge. They have sent good soldiers to the Confederate Army, and are now landowners and taxpayers. Those men served creditably, and it would be unjust and disgraceful to embarrass them in this way. It is a scientific fact that there is not one full-blooded Caucasian on the floor of this convention. Every member has in him a certain mixture of… colored blood. The pure-blooded white has needed and received a certain infusion of darker blood to give him readiness and purpose. It would be a cruel injustice and the source of endless litigation, of scandal, horror, feud, and bloodshed to undertake to annul or forbid marriage for a remote, perhaps obsolete trace of Negro blood. The doors would be open to scandal, malice, and greed; to statements on the witness stand that the father or grandfather or grandmother had said that A or B had Negro blood in their veins. Any man who is half a man would be ready to blow up half the world with dynamite to prevent or avenge attacks upon the honor of his mother in the legitimacy or purity of the blood of his father

  4. veryveryvery interesting. thanks. explains that phrase passed down in my family history: ‘sold into slavery”

  5. Calculated MINIMUM Reparation Due to Slave Descendants: $1.5 Million to Each Black Citizen of the USA by the truth speaker, Denis Rancourt.

    No wonder the sadists want to reduce (minimum) wages.

    Comes Hilary Beckles, chair of the Caricom [Caribbean economic Community] Reparations Commission, before The Right David Cameron

    We ask not for handouts or any such acts of indecent submission. We merely ask that you acknowledge responsibility for your share of this situation and move to contribute in a joint programme of rehabilitation and renewal. The continuing suffering of our people, Sir, is as much your nation’s duty to alleviate as it is ours to resolve in steadfast acts of self-responsibility.

    Clever strategy, no? Personalize the debt and the wolf-dominoes will fall.
    No. !0’s response:

    This is a longstanding concern of theirs and there is a longstanding UK position, true of successive governments in the UK, that we don’t think reparations are the right approach.

    The PM’s point will be he wants to focus on the future. We are talking about issues that are centuries old and taken under a different government when he was not even born. He wants to look at the future and how can the UK play a part now in stronger growing economies in the Caribbean.”

    Maybe George Soros will pay Jamaica for following this toolish approach?

  6. I could use a few hundred thousand.

    • You need a band of pirates to get Soros’ public conscience money.

    • O. And then there is the question of what every other repaired person would do with the money. Would it circulate like IMF money (and other first world scams) largely back to banks and Wall Street?

      What say you, comrade nomad?

  7. I’d buy predator drones. Don’t ask what for.

  8. Soros is Grand Capitalist Rehabilitator for Compradors For Reconciliation.


  9. “Perceptible”, not “perceivable”.

    • oh, comrade x, sometimes axe, other similar iterations. how are you doing, then? are you still hanging out at washington’s blog? dagnabbit, i keep forgetting to check in there these days.

      why make that change after all these years? and any comment on my recent diaries?

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