‘Where the color line shifted under his feet’

“The African American novelist Charles Chesnutt, who grew up in North Carolina in the 1860s and 1870s, noted the absurdity of ‘walking around in a place where the color line shifted under his feet.’

“Black and white were ‘fluid categories’ in New Bern….  Mixed couples and their children lived in peace in the town into the 1880s…Segregation was not rigid in the South for at least another 10 years; for example, separate railroad passenger cars were not required by North Carolina until 1899….

“When the decennial count used the term ‘mulatto’ in the decades after the war, some families were able to move to that status from the category ‘black.’ ‘

– From “Lynching: American Mob Murder in Global Perspective” by Robert W. Thurston (2011)