The Two-Tier System  

mulattoes
Though it took as its model the system long employed in the West Indies, colonial America radically altered the institution of slavery. They adopted the system but they modified it according to the emerging Aryan ideology. The legislators of the American colonies were determined to stem the development of an intermediate socio-racial class under their system. They had a “brave new world” in mind, one in which there would be sharp division between black and white and none at all between black and mulatto. They had in mind a radical restructuring of what had by that time become the traditional relationship between the two races.
Throughout the Spanish, Portuguese and French colonies a three-tier system of racial categorization was used. Despite the efforts of British colonists/early American authorities to  eliminate the rights of the intermediate socio-racial class, the three-tier system became particularly well established in the former French colony, Louisiana, and in North Carolina.

Nevertheless, the colonial legislators pressed relentlessly towards a two-tier system of black/white relations. In a two-tier system the mixed individual is considered black. This being the case and because the features and skin color of mixed individuals vary so greatly, the precise dividing line between the two races became a critical issue. For mixed individuals it meant the difference between freedom and enslavement. For whites it was crucial to maintaining the purity of the white race. By the end of the 17th century, colonial America’s system of indentured servitude had been completely replaced by chattel slavery, focusing exclusively upon blacks and mulattoes. Whites were no longer kept as servants. Furthermore, there was no longer any perceivable distinction between slave and servant. Black and mulatto slaves/servants alike were required to serve in perpetuity.

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