Meaning of A Negro and The One Drop Rule : The Laws of Louisiana

Meaning of A Negro and The One Drop Rule : The Laws of Louisiana

Litigation on the subject of the definition ofthe free person of color reached its climax in the year of our Lord,1909, when Judge Frank D. Chretien defined the word Negro as differentiated from person of color as used in Louisiana. The case, as it was argued in court, was briefly this. It was charged that one Treadway, a white man, was living in illegal relations with an octoroon, Josephine Lightell.

The District Attorney claimed that any one having a trace of African blood in his veins, however slight, should be classed as a Negro. Counsel for the defence had taken the position that Josephine Lightell had so little Negro blood in her veins that she could not be classed as one.

Judge Chretien held in his ruling that local opinion, custom and sentiment had previously agreed in holding that the black, and not the white blood settled the ethnological status of each person and that an octoroon, no less than a quadroon and a mulatto, had been considered a Negro. But he held that if the Caucasian wished to be considered the superior race, and that if his blood be considered the superior element in the infusion, then the Caucasian and not the Negro blood must determine the status of a person.

The case went to the Supreme Court of Louisiana on an appeal from the decision of Judge Chretien who held that a mulatto is not a Negro in legal parlance. The Supreme Court in a decision handed down April 25, 1910, sustained the view of Judge Chretien. This decision was an interpretation of an act of 1908 which set forth a definition of the word Negro.–See State vs.Treadway, 126 Louisiana, 300.

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