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University of Delaware professor discusses Virginia race relations at Bull's Head

Twelve years of research on race relations in Virginia have culminated for Arica Coleman, who will be sharing her finished product with attendees at Bull's Head Bookshop today.

Coleman, professor of Black American Studies at the University of Delaware, will be leading a talk and reading from her book, “That the Blood Stay Pure: African Americans, Native Americans, and the Predicament of Race and Identity in Virginia,” at the Bull's Head.

The book examines race relations between African-Americans and other racial groups in Virginia. The long-term research that led to the book began after Coleman discovered Native American traces in her own ancestry. 

“The interesting thing is that today the issue of race and racial identity — racial formation — is largely within a black-white paradigm,” said Coleman. 

“Race has never been that simple in this country, and it never will be. My objective is to go beyond that black and white binary.”

Coleman’s book delves into the late 19th century eugenics movement toward racial purity and the associated identity issues Native Americans and African-Americans faced.

“When people think Jim Crow, they don’t think about living in a racial binary,” Coleman said.

“But if you’re an Indian, what school do you go to? What water fountain do you drink from? Which public facilities do you go to? It’s far more complicated."

Segregation was furthered among Native Americans and African-Americans when certain laws restricted tribal identities because of their marital relations or living situation with African-Americans. 

“Some tribes spent the majority of the 20th century segregating and dis-enrolling people from the tribe because if you looked like you had African-American ancestry, you had to go,” Coleman said.

The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History will be sponsoring Coleman's visit and the event.

“The book addresses questions on the state of the American-Indian population and some of the ways the racial laws were used to take away their identities and their rights," said Joseph Jordan,  director of the Stone Center. 

Jordan said Coleman's research will impact both local and collegiate curricula and serve as a strong reference in court cases with racial recognition.

“This issue with Indians has not been closed," he said. 

"There are still disputes about recognized identity and secession. This book will turn up in a lot of conversations seeking to redress old laws.”

Kyle McKay, marketing manager for Bull’s Head, said he is pleased to have the event at Bull's Head Bookshop and through the store's continued partnership with the Stone Center.

“They do a great job picking authors and materials that will appeal to a large audience,” he said.

“We aren’t necessarily making money from these events, but they’re usually things we see as a positive for our store and the UNC community because of the interest and value they bring to the school.” 

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