By Sue Peoples
Co-Chair “The Gathering” Education Committee
The state of Virginia established the Bureau of Vital Statistics in 1912 ensuring all babies born in Virginia received a birth certificate that included a racial designation. Dr Walter Ashby Plecker (1861 - 1947) was instated as the head of this organization because of his work with midwife education and helping to bring better health practices to the poor.
When the Racial Integrity Act was passed in 1924, Plecker’s focus shifted from health and hygiene to racial classification. The doctrine of “Eugenics”; the belief that a pure race contributed to a more stable society, was advocated by Dr. Plecker, which lead to a White Supremacy agenda within Virginia’s statistical record keeping.
In the Bureau’s perspective, there were only two races, white; which applied to such persons who had no trace of any other then Caucasian blood, and colored; the “catch all” term for anything in-between.
Due to the limits of the law and it’s “one drop” rule, Native Americans in Virginia, were considered “colored” and not able to claim their Native American identity even though the Racial Integrity Act had one exception because many white Virginians considered themselves descendants of Pocahontas and John Rolfe.
Not only did Plecker advocate the current records to indicate either white or colored, he also “amended” racial classification to records prior to 1924 indicating “Indian” were changed to “colored” asserting that “there are no descendants of Virginia Indians claiming or reputed to be Indians who are unmixed with Negro blood” and wiping out an entire race with the wave of a pen.
Embrace the Spirit