I was black until 1967

If I am to define race based upon skin color, then at my very genetic core … I must be a light-skinned black man. Legally, until 1967, I was black growing up in the Commonwealth of Virginia as a result of the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 (the instructions of implementation for the act are pictured below). Legally, I would only be able to drink from the non-white water fountains, I would not have access to the same quality education as white children, and I would have to sit at the back of the bus.

Racial Integrity Act of 1924
Wolfe (2015) Racial Integrity Act implementation [image].

“It is estimated that within the state from 10,000 to 20,000 possible more, near white people, who are known to possess an intermixture of colored blood, in some case to a slight extent it is true, but still enough to prevent them from being white”

from the Virginia Health Bulletin pictured

The act written to prevent interracial marriages in the Commonwealth of Virgina would not be ruled unconstitutional until the United States Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia, 338, U.S. 1 (1967) (Newbeck & Wolfe, 2015). But by definition, I could legally be classified as black in the Commonwealth of Virginia where I lived from ages 4-6, until 1967. I wasn’t, but I could have been, and so could you.

Need Proof?

Last November I had a health issue and all the doctors assumed I had lung cancer. They were also concerned about deep vein thrombosis which could lead to a pulmonary embolism. So when I read that the FDA had approved genetic testing with regards to thrombophilia, a blood clot disorder, (Boddy, 2017), I spit in a tube, and mailed it to 23 and me (https://www.23andme.com/). About a month later I got a report on my genetic characteristics. Fortunately, I was not genetically predisposed to thrombophilia. So how did I become black?

23 and me results also include ancestry and linage according to genetic markers. My genetic markers indicate I am 1.7% sub Saharan African and 1.3% of that is Angolan and Congolese. My historical genetic lineage traces back even further (see my 23 and me results below).

Dr. Cook-Snell’s African Maternal lineage according to 23andme.com.
Dr. Cook-Snell’s African Paternal linage according to 23andme.com.

So when did I become white? In 1967. But I had white privilege due to appearances long before that in my family of heritage, and that was in the 15th century, a topic I will explore in an upcoming blog.


Boddy, J. (2017, April 7). FDA approves marketing of consumer genetic tests for some conditions. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/04/07/522897473/fda-approves-marketing-of-consumer-genetic-tests-for-some-conditions

Newbeck, P., & Wolfe, B. (2015, October 26). Loving v. Virginia (1967). In Encyclopedia Virginia. http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Loving_v_Virginia_1967

Wolfe, B. (2015, November 4). Racial integrity laws (1924–1930). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Rhttp://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Racial_Integrity_Laws_of_the_1920s

Author: Dr. Cook-Snell

PhD in Education, Instructional Design and Technology, and Lecturer at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA

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