The Anti-Amalgamation law was one of many laws passed in the colonial period that sought to maintain racial segregation and prevent interracial relationships. These laws were often motivated by a fear of miscegenation, or the idea that interracial relationships would lead to the dilution of racial purity.
The Anti-Amalgamation law of 1664 was a law passed in the colony of Maryland that prohibited interracial marriages between European colonists and enslaved Africans. It was the first time in American history that a law was invented that restricted access to marriage partners solely on the basis of “race”. The law was put in place to prevent African slaves and white colonists from forming relationships and potentially producing mixed-race children.
The first laws criminalizing marriage and sex between whites and blacks in the US were enacted in the colonial era in the colonies of Virginia and Maryland, which depended economically on slavery.
The law was passed in 1664, two decades after the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to the colony of Maryland. At this time, Maryland was a colony of England and the economy was heavily dependent on the labor of enslaved Africans. The law was passed to ensure that the white colonists would not form relationships with the enslaved Africans, as it would create a mixed-race population that would be more difficult to control and exploit for labor.
Later these laws also spread to colonies with fewer enslaved and free black people, such as Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Moreover, after the independence of the United States had been established, similar laws were enacted in territories and states which outlawed slavery.
Under the law, any European colonist who married or cohabitated with an enslaved African would be punished with a fine. Enslaved Africans who married or cohabitated with European colonists were also punished, but their punishment was typically much more severe.
In Maryland, the law outlined the legal status of a free woman who voluntarily married an enslaved man: she would serve the master of her husband until his death, and any offspring of their union would be born into slavery.
Despite the passage of the Anti-Amalgamation law, interracial relationships and marriages still occurred in Maryland and other colonial states. Many of these relationships were formed in secret and often faced significant social and legal challenges.
This law remained in place for almost two hundred years, until it was finally challenged in the landmark case of Loving v. Virginia in 1967.
The case of Loving v. Virginia was brought by Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who were arrested in 1958 for violating the state’s ban on interracial marriage. The Lovings were sentenced to a year in prison, with the sentence suspended on the condition that they leave the state and not return for 25 years.
The Lovings appealed their case all the way to the Supreme Court, where they argued that the ban on interracial marriage violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court agreed, stating that “the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”
The ruling in Loving v. Virginia effectively struck down the Anti-Amalgamation Act of 1664 and all other laws banning interracial marriage in the United States. The decision was a major victory for civil rights and a step towards greater equality and acceptance of all races and ethnicities in America.
Next, read this fascinating article about how Europeans lured African chiefs into slave trade. Then, find out more about La Mulâtresse Solitude: the Pregnant Heroine Who Fought Against the Reintroduction of Slavery in Guadeloupe in 1802.
Pace v. Alabama, 106 U.S. 583 (1883) – https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/106/583/
Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967) – https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/388/1/
Irish Nell Butler Indentured Servant, St. Mary’s County, Maryland (https://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc5400/sc5496/000500/000534/html/00534bio.html)