Project Title

The 1/8th Rule: An Exploration of Race, Sex, and Dion Boucicault’s The Octoroon

Presenters

Academic department under which the project should be listed

COTA - Theatre and Performance Studies

Faculty Sponsor Name

Dr. Angela Farr Schiller

Abstract (300 words maximum)

In 2009, 42 years after anti-miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional, a Justice of the Peace in Louisiana, Keith Bardwell, refused to grant a marriage license to an interracial couple. Bardwell argued, “I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way”. As evidenced in Bardwell’s quote, laws around race and sex are still being challenged today in support of a fundamental idea that whiteness should remain pure. Many white americans, such as those who participated in the Charlottesville rallies in 2017, continue to fight for the exclusion of diversity in the name of white supremacy and the idea of white purity. This movement, in the name of white lives matter, erodes the progress we have made with regards to equality. Former President Barack Obama suggests that as a nation, “[W]e have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again”. The 1/8th Rule: An Exploration of Race, Sex, and Dion Boucicault’s The Octoroon looks directly into the eye of history by considering Boucicault's 1859 play The Octoroon. Via a close analysis, this project considers the relationship between two of the play's central characters: Zoe, a woman who is 1/8th black, and George, a white man. Examining these two characters for this project highlights the harsh laws of miscegenation and brings to the forefront the ideology of the ‘one drop rule’ which states “that any person who has even a drop of black blood would be considered black according to American law”. By looking closer at the institution of marriage, this project points out how the laws of miscegenation were commissioned to keep white supremacy in place; by stripping the humanity and legal rights from all bodies not considered white.

Project Type

Oral Presentation (15-min time slots)

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The 1/8th Rule: An Exploration of Race, Sex, and Dion Boucicault’s The Octoroon

In 2009, 42 years after anti-miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional, a Justice of the Peace in Louisiana, Keith Bardwell, refused to grant a marriage license to an interracial couple. Bardwell argued, “I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way”. As evidenced in Bardwell’s quote, laws around race and sex are still being challenged today in support of a fundamental idea that whiteness should remain pure. Many white americans, such as those who participated in the Charlottesville rallies in 2017, continue to fight for the exclusion of diversity in the name of white supremacy and the idea of white purity. This movement, in the name of white lives matter, erodes the progress we have made with regards to equality. Former President Barack Obama suggests that as a nation, “[W]e have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again”. The 1/8th Rule: An Exploration of Race, Sex, and Dion Boucicault’s The Octoroon looks directly into the eye of history by considering Boucicault's 1859 play The Octoroon. Via a close analysis, this project considers the relationship between two of the play's central characters: Zoe, a woman who is 1/8th black, and George, a white man. Examining these two characters for this project highlights the harsh laws of miscegenation and brings to the forefront the ideology of the ‘one drop rule’ which states “that any person who has even a drop of black blood would be considered black according to American law”. By looking closer at the institution of marriage, this project points out how the laws of miscegenation were commissioned to keep white supremacy in place; by stripping the humanity and legal rights from all bodies not considered white.