You wouldn’t want your daughter marrying one: parental intervention in mixed race relationships in post-war Britain.

You wouldn’t want your daughter marrying one: parental intervention in mixed race relationships in post-war Britain.
23 Jan 2018, 17:30 to 23 Jan 2018, 19:30
IHR Peter Marshall Room, N204, Second Floor, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Anna Maguire, KCL

‘I’d be frightened to let my daughter walk along Coldharbour Lane [in Brixton] alone at night now – there are so many blacks about, the place looks like darkest Africa, and they say most of them carry knives.’ [Sheila Patterson, Dark Strangers: A Study of West Indians in London (1963)]  Mixed race relationships and ‘miscegenation’, particularly between men of colour and white women became the central issue for white perceptions of race in post-war and post-Windrush Britain. While ‘race-relations’ discourse described the ‘dark strangers in our midst’, concerns about the ‘new’ presence of black, predominantly West Indian, men manifested most sharply when it threatened to move from the streets into the familial home. Preconceptions about ‘aggressive’ black masculinity, criminality and lack of family values clashed with suggestions of white women’s sexual deviancy and disrepute in the rhetoric around these relationships, making them a challenge to the white, patriarchal family system. The protection of white girls and whiteness more generally by parents became a recurring motif in films, like Sapphire (1959) and Flame in the Streets (1961), on television and in magazines. Drawing on the work of Lucy Bland, Chris Waters, and Marcus Collins, this paper explores the role of parental intervention in both the prevention and occurrence of mixed-race relationships in this period. Were white families tasked with a new parental responsibility in the protection of this intimate, interior boundary? How did parents, both black and white, respond to mixed-race relationships? What were the consequences for family life? Drawing on popular, public representations of mixed race relationships and the oral history data collected in sociological studies of the time, this paper maps the connections between discourse and lived experience. With many of these relationships occurring in cities, I begin to think, too, about the function of parental control in managing access to the urban space and the role of public(s) and private(s) in these interracial encounters. 

Chair: Simon Sleight


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