The mulatto-success combination, based on studies of successful blacks, has been described in much detail by Reuter -- so completely, in fact, that it is unlikely that another such study will be made within a century. Reuter shows that the ratio of mulattos to full-blooded blacks in the National Negro Business League "stands twelve to one." 60 Du Bois' list of the ten living leading civilized blacks is reprinted, showing eight to be of mixed percentage and two as pure blacks. 61 In Jamaica the educated and professional classes of the race are said to be mulattos, and in South Africa the mulattos are quoted as being "the intellectual aristocracy of the dark-skinned population." 62Next Page
That eminent blacks are predominantly mulattos does not exhaust the subject. It does not, for instance, describe the social position of all mulattos, especially the many who have grown up with the plain stigma of illegitimacy written in their complexions. Nor does it tell whether or not the success of these persons was due to special advantages of superior social backgrounds.
If the eminence of a person is to be explained, more needs to be known than the fact that he is a mixture of two races. One wishes to know the class into which he was born, his family background, the special or atypical considerations which he received from persons of high status. This might reveal a naturalistic casual relationship based on social factors, a more satisfactory formula in social science than that which seeks to attribute a person's class standing to the racial stock from which his ancestors came.
Appendix II of this thesis is a study of the social backgrounds, in so far as they are given, of all the prominent blacks whose biographical sketches appear in Carter G. Woodson's Negro Makers of History. This study revealed that there was a social explanation and interpretation of practically all the cases. Few examples of persons without prior high or middle class status were found. Furthermore, the exact degree of racial admixture drops into the background as a factor in the making of eminence.
The social class explanation for the preponderance of mulattos over blacks among outstanding blacks (which should not be interpreted as proving that all or nearly all mulattos are persons of even as high as middle class standing) is found in the historic development of black classes. Reuter recognizes this, makes a full statement of it, but does not allow this explanation to interfere with his much-labored biological interpretation. He writes: 63
In the ranks of the favored classes, there was a preponderance of mulattos. From their first appearance, and increasingly as the system developed and the control of economic forces allowed a body of trained house servants to grow, the mulattos formed the house and body servants. When not all could be employed in housework, they were most frequently the ones to learn the trades. They were the ones employed in skilled work. In any case, they came into more close, constant, and intimate association with the white people.
One might add the words, "of the higher classes." This may account for the fact that many of the middle class blacks of today are mulattos. It is not that all mulattos have high status, rather, it is a case of special advantage in the beginning going to those persons who happened to be nearer the master race, and these, in turn, were, for various reasons, mulattos. If the higher-class whites had given comparable attention to persons of very black complexion, is it not probable that most of the blacks of status today would be black? This, however, would not have resulted in raising the status of all blacks.
In some cases, too, the early mulattos were related by blood to their masters, as such received special treatment and advantages. Freedom was granted to such persons often, and they could therefore obtain the advantages that it confers. 64 Some of these were set up in business by their former masters, as is shown in Appendix II.
Dollard states that "it may be that historically the black middle (and upper) classes are derived for the most part from the house servants and the free blacks who formed one-ninth of the total black population in 1860." 65 Calhoun follows the same line of thought: 66
The black race today owes much to the fact that where they were adopted into the household they soon learned the ways of the master's family. It was common to see blacks belonging to different masters refrain from relations with each other by reason of difference of rank of the two families that they considered their own.
We also read: 67
The house-blacks feel themselves several degrees above the poor whites, as they, from their opportunities for observation amongst the higher classes, are possessed of greater information and less rusticity than this less favoured class.
The class hierarchy among blacks was not complete in 1855. There was room at the top, especially in the fields of education, religion, news, and entertainment. These places have largely been filled by light-complexioned blacks whose lines reach back to the early advantages of contact with the more favored whites. These are the mulattoes who stand above all other mulattoes and almost all of the blacks. This is the social class explanation of their good fortune.
60. Edward Byron Reuter, The Mulatto in the United States (Boston, 1918) p. 305.
61. Ibid., pp. 194-195.
62. Ibid., p. 187.
63. Reuter, op. cit., p. 174.
64. Carter G. Woodson, Negro Makers of History (Washington, 1928) p. 125.