In this study, I argue that the appearance of anti-miscegenation writings in Ohio spiked during periods that saw massive threats to the notion of white male supremacy, such as the months just prior to the onset of the Civil War, several especially tense points during the Civil War and the Reconstruction period, and the early to middle years of the 1880s. During these times, Ohioans used at least one of three major rhetorical strategies—each of which coincided with a major trend in national events and politics—to justify and explain their anti-miscegenation attitudes.

When the Ohio State Legislature first debated the 1861 anti-miscegenation bill, they placed their focus on the issue’s political nature and how passing such a measure would effect Ohio’s appearances in an extremely tense national context. During the Civil War and Reconstruction, white Ohioans called upon scientific notions of race and natural racial states to warn against the degradation that their state’s society would face if blacks were granted political and social equality. Finally, during the 1880s, white male Ohioans publicly castigated white women who engaged in interracial relationships with black men for the purpose of illustrating how their behavior challenged the era’s ideals of white femininity and masculinity.


Holt, Katherine




United States History

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



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