Martha Hodes's study of relationships between white women and black men suggests that an initial tentative tolerance for such relationships gradually gave way to disapproval, intolerance, and ultimately to nearly total repression in the immediate postbellum era.
Under slavery, while such transgressions violated the established systems of racial subordination and patriarchy, they did not ultimately threaten the systems themselves.
The protection of white women, however, was not the only justification for pursuing white male miscegenators.
Cheryl Harris's work on whiteness as property suggests that whites had a common interest in preserving the purity of whiteness as a racial identity for a myriad of concrete legal and economic privileges, as well as for the psychological benefits.
The legislature established sanctions against both parties to miscegenous relationships and for any person attempting to officiate at a miscegenous marriage.In the days of slavery, anti- miscegenation laws could serve simply to channel interracial relationships rather than to eliminate them completely, since black women's children were slaves regardless of their fathers' ancestry.This double standard changed in the postwar period.The first statute became part of the Alabama code in 1852 and its basic form remained constant through the Civil War.The 1852 version of the code allowed the solemnization of marriages between free blacks, but barred weddings between members of different races.In the years immediately after the Civil War, the South faced a racial crisis.The rigid lines between the races that slavery had maintained by marking blacks as undeniably subordinate and inferior were called into question, first through emancipation and then through Reconstruction.The North's victory in the war and the emancipation of the slaves disrupted the repressive modus vivendi by eliminating slavery as a legal status that maintained most blacks' structural subordination.The white South had to develop new means of linking whiteness to superior status, rights, and authority in both the legal and social realms.The law regarding sexual relations between members of different races was framed neutrally with respect to gender and provided for a lengthy prison term upon conviction: If any white person and any Negro, or the descendant of any Negro, to the third generation inclusive, though one ancestor of each generation was a white person, intermarry or live in adultery or fornication with each other, each of them must on conviction be imprisoned in the penitentiary, or sentenced to hard labor for the county for not less than two nor more than seven years.The nature of whiteness was left undefined, but the statute provided that a person with seven white great-grandparents would be defined as black as long as the eighth great-grandparent was a "Negro." Section sixty-two provided that anyone attempting to officiate at such a marriage could be fined between one hundred and one thousand dollars and could be imprisoned or sentenced to hard labor for up to six months.