On the Bookshelf
Romance and Rights: The Politics of Interracial Intimacy, 1945-1954
University Press of Mississippi, 2005
By Alex Lubin
UNM Assistant Professor of American Studies Alex Lubin examines the cultural significance of interracial romance in the 10 years after World War II in his new book “Romance and Rights: The Politics of Interracial Intimacy, 1945-1954.”
Using postwar popular culture, African American literature, NAACP manuscripts, miscegenation laws and segregationist protest letters, among other resources, Lubin details the complexity and contradictions of the decade.
While previous studies focused on the period beginning in 1967 when the Supreme Court overturned the last state antimiscegenation law (Loving v. Virginia), Lubin’s study suggests that we cannot fully understand contemporary debates about “hybridity,” or mixed-race identity, without first comprehending how WWII changed the terrain.
Lubin demonstrates that interracial romance, particularly between blacks and whites, was testing ground for both the general public and the American government. The latter wanted these relationships treated as private affairs to keep attention off the contradictions between the country’s outward mood of cultural freedom and the realities of Jim Crow politics and oppressive laws. Activists, however, wanted interracial intimacy treated as a public act, one that could be used symbolically to promote equal rights and expanded opportunities.
The American Studies perspective is rich in popular culture; Lubin’s is no exception. A chapter on “Cultural Logic of Interracial Intimacy” focuses on two predominant postwar cultural forms: the comic book and film. Intermingled with the seriousness of law, the author provides a unique look at government oversteps.
“Even as some comic books and films contained the range of possibilities for interracial intimacy, these forms came under intense scrutiny from congressional subcommittees determined to manage the spaces of interracial sexuality,” he writes.
It is useful to recall the fight against antimiscegenation laws, Lubin notes, as it sounds a note of caution for today’s activist.