Racial Union

Law, Intimacy, and the White State in Alabama, 1865-1954
Julie Novkov

A stunning exploration of America's attitudes on interracial marriage


In November 2001, the state of Alabama opened a referendum on its long-standing constitutional prohibition against interracial marriage. A bill on the state ballot offered the opportunity to relegate the state's antimiscegenation law to the dustbin of history. The measure passed, but the margin was alarmingly slim: more than half a million voters, 40 percent of those who went to the polls, voted to retain a racist and constitutionally untenable law.

Julie Novkov's Racial Union explains how and why, nearly forty years after the height of the civil rights movement, Alabama struggled to repeal its prohibition against interracial marriage—the last state in the Union to do so. Novkov's compelling history of Alabama's battle over miscegenation shows how the fight shaped the meanings of race and state over ninety years. Novkov's work tells us much about the sometimes parallel, sometimes convergent evolution of our concepts of race and state in the nation as a whole.

Julie Novkov is Associate Professor of Political Science and Women's Studies at the University of Albany, SUNY. She is the author of Constituting Workers, Protecting Women: Gender, Law, and Labor in the Progressive Era and New Deal Years.

Praise / Awards

  • "Hannah Arendt shocked Americans in the 1950s by suggesting that interracial intimacy was the true measure of a society's racial order.  Julie Novkov's careful, illuminating, powerful book confirms Arendt's judgment. By ruling on who may be sexually linked with whom, Alabama's courts and legislators created a racial order and even a broad political order; Novkov shows us just how it worked in all of its painful, humiliating power."
    —Jennifer L. Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government, Professor of African and African American Studies, and Harvard College Professor

  • "A remarkably nuanced account of interlocked struggles over race, gender, class and state power.  Novkov's site is Alabama, but her insights are for all America."
    —Rogers M. Smith, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

  • "Racial Union is a valuable text for scholars of race in America and builds upon and modifies the studies of American law often focusing on the national context. As Novkov argues, the dynamism of race relations requires examinations at a variety of scales in order to see the complexity of struggles within and against white supremacy."
    Law and Politics Book Review

  • Co-winner of the American Political Science Association's 2009 Ralph J. Bunche Award for the best scholarly work in political science

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Copyright © 2007, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

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Review Law and Politics Book Review | 8/24/2008

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 368pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2008
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06885-2

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  • $31.95 U.S.

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