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Naomi Drake's Control of Racial 'Classification' in Louisiana

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  • multiracialbookclub
    Naomi Drake and her control of the Racial Classifications in Louisiana In the very valuable but little publicized book,
    Message 1 of 3 , Oct 20, 2006
    • 0 Attachment

      Naomi Drake and her control of the
      Racial Classifications in Louisiana


      In the very valuable but little publicized book,
      'White' by
      "Definition": Social-Classification in Creole Louisiana
         
      by Virginia R. Dominguez (Rutgers University Press,
      1986), it explains how secret files were held in the
      state government of Louisiana and kept on `White'
      families of Mixed-Race lineage or who were at
      least "suspected" having some part-"black" ancestry.

      In 1938, in
      Sunseri v, Cassagne

      (191 La.209, 185 So.1 - affirmed on
      rehearing in 1940, 195 La.19, 196 So.7) -
      the Louisiana
      Supreme Court proclaimed
      "traceability of African ancestry" to be
      "the only requirement" for definition
      of 
      'Colored' (i.e. 'Mixed-Race').

      In 1949, Naomi Drake assumed the post of
      Supervisor and Deputy Registrar of Vital
      Statistics at the Louisiana Bureau of Vital
      Statistics, and she figures prominently in the
      cases filed against the Bureau through the mid-1960s.

      Armed with the traceability criterion established
      by the court in 1938, she followed the practice
      of race-flagging, pulling out a birth certificate
      that lists a baby as 'White'-- but bears
      a name common to "Coloreds".

      Such birth certificates are checked against a
      "Race List" maintained by the Vital Records Office.

      If the name appeared on the "Race List," then a further study of
      genealogical records maintained by the Vital Records Office
      was conducted (a description given to the New Orleans States
      Item, June 5-16, 1978, by a Dr. Doris Thompson who had been
      Assistant Secretary of the State Department of Health and
      Human Resources, of which the Bureau is a part). pp. 37-38

      If the Bureau determined through study of its genealogical records
      that the person in question had "any" African ancestors, the
      applicant was then informed that a certificate would be issued
      only if it declared the person to be "Colored" [i.e. Mixed-Race]

      If the applicant refused to accept such a certificate,
      the Bureau in turn refused to issue a certificate.

      There is evidence that between 1960 and 1965 a minimum of
      4,700 applications for certificated copies of birth certificates
      and a minimum of 1,100 applications for death certificates
      were held in abeyance by the Bureau under the
      supervision of Naomi Drake (188 So. 2nd 94) ...

      Individuals petitioned the courts to force the Bureau to
      change the racial labels that appeared on the birth
      or death certificates of members of their families.

      They presented evidence that purported to prove that these
       people were `White' -- despite the imputations of the
      Bureau self-described / appointed "genealogists".

      In each case, the Bureau questioned the authenticity
      of much of the evidence adduced, or the nature of
      the evidence introduced during the proceedings.

      Plaintiff's job was to dispute the authenticity of
      the document(s), prove that (s)he was the child of
      a different marriage or of a sexual union resulting
      from a parent's remarriage or concubinage, or
      dispute the meaning of the specific social label that
      "in the eyes of the Bureau" implied 'Negro' ancestry.p. 44

      ************************************************

      NAOMI DRAKE'S POWERFUL RACIAL WHIM:

      Naomi Drake and Race Changes in the Vital Stats
      Office of the Orleans Parish in the state of Louisiana


      ************************************************   

      In a society in which few `White' people could imagine anything
      worse than being called "black", Naomi Drake wielded the weapon
      of racism with the ardor of an armed knight defending her king.

      During 16 years as the head of the Bureau of Vital Statistics
      for New Orleans, Drake made it clear that there was
      nothing worse in the world than to allow a person
      to live as `White' who did not "deserve" to do so.

      She lorded over the birth and death records of
      generations of New Orleanians, and unilaterally
      changed the race of thousands of them from `White'
      to "black "---- almost never the other way around.

      When she was finally fired in 1965, Drake was feared
      and reviled - by parents who could not get birth
      certificates to put their children in public schools,
      by lawyers who could not do research or complete
      wills, by adoption agencies and funeral homes.

      But the source of her power and reputation
      says more about racism in New Orleans

      than it did about her peculiar habits of mind.

      She was able to wield such power because of racism's sway.

      No matter what they looked like, who they were or
      how they had lived, `White' people knew that to be
      touched by any hint of "blackness" was to be "tainted"
      (`stigmatized' by the sting of their own racial prejudices).

      That is what made people fear Naomi Drake.

      The Civil Service Commission agreed to delete the names of
      any witnesses from its final decision upholding Drake's firing.
      That was to save the witnesses the embarrassment of having
      been suspected as being "black", however inaccurately.

      If Drake thought there was the slightest hint that someone who
      lived as a `White' person might have "any" African ancestry,
      ----- she would not issue a birth or death certificate.

      At the time of her firing for her refusal to issue certificates,
      the backlog of birth certificates had mounted to 4,700.
      Almost 1,200 death certificates had been held up.

      And if she could prove African ancestry --- however distant
      -- she would change a person's Race in the official records
      of the City of New Orleans
      , usually without notifying the
      person affected or any of the person's family members.

      According to testimony at her hearing, she once reportedly
      said, "All the people in White Castle
      are half-breeds".

      She would ferret out signs of African ancestry in children of
      unmarried mothers, call them in to her office and inform them
      that their children were "adulterous bastards," testimony showed.

      Drake, who died in 1987, ordered her employees to
      pull every certificate in the office designated by race
      with the letter "C" - which usually meant `Mixed race',
      [a.k.a. 'Colored'] but also sometimes meant Chinese
      or something else  ----- and change the race on such
      documents to 'N' or `Negro' [i.e. `Mono'-racially Black]

      She kept a list of "flagged names," that she believed were
      suspect, and should be checked for signs of African ancestry.

      Any request for a certificate of a person with a
      flagged name had to be held up for further research.

      The list included such names as
      Adams, Charles, Landry and Olsen.

      She explained how she could tell when someone's
      birth certificate was wrong at her dismissal hearing
      before the Civil Service Commission:
      "Very often we are acquainted with the name,"
      Drake testified.
      "We know them to be the names of 'Negro' families."

      She had her workers scour the obituaries of people who had
      died, looking for any clues that a dead person identified as
      `White' had "black" relatives or survivors, such as services at a
      traditionally "black" funeral home, relatives with traditionally
      "black" names or burial at traditionally "black" cemeteries.

      Her research was instrumental in a decision by the Orleans Parish
      district attorney's office in 1956 to obtain an indictment against a
      Plaquemines Parish woman on charges of filing a false document.

      The woman's crime:
      She considered herself [to be] `White' and had
      recorded that on the birth certificate for her child.

      The woman was eventually acquitted, but only after being
      asked a series of questions designed to attach to her any
      "blackness" at all, including whether her doctor treated
      her as a "black" person or a `White' person, and
      where her husband's sister's children attended school.

      When Drake was fired, few people were happier
      to see her go than Peter Huhner, father of five.
      Huhner had tried to get birth certificates for his children.
      But Drake suspected Huhner's wife had African
      ancestry, and so refused to release the certificates.
      After months of battling Drake unsuccessfully,
      Huhner finally put his children in parochial school.
      But what Huhner was most concerned about, according to
      his letter to city officials after Drake's dismissal, was not
      the burden of private school tuition or the denial of a
      public education, but that his family had been besmirched.
      "We find it difficult to understand how my wife's parents were
      registered as being `White' as were their parents," Huhner wrote.
      "And after being brought up that way, after all these years,
      someone that does not even know the family at all has reason to
      believe differently and would cause this much embarrassment."

      Naomi Drake … was fired [from the
      Bureau of Vital Statistics] in 1965.


      She refused to issue 4,700 birth certificates
      ----- most of them because she suspected `
      White' babies of having African ancestry.

      When Bureau of Vital Statistics Director Naomi Drake
      decided someone had African ancestry, she would simply
      cross out 'W' ('White'), in this case on a death certificate,
      and write in 'N' ('Negro' [i.e. `Mono'-racially Black] )
      often without telling the families of her decision.

      NOTE:

      The fact is, however, that the practice of race-flagging
      and withholding certificates actually continued long
      after Naomi Drake's departure from her post.

      We have no way of estimating the number of applications
      for birth or death certificates withheld since the mid-sixties
      (this information is now considered confidential and is carefully
      guarded by clerks and Bureaucrats), but other indices are telling.

      Twelve mandamus proceedings against the Bureau
      have been initiated since Drake's official departure.

      Also on May 26, 1977, Wayne Parker, at the time
      Registrar of Vital Statistics, admitted in an interview
      that in 1977 the Bureau employed two full-time clerk
      investigators to handle only cases concerned with
      racial designation, and that the Bureau spent some
      six thousand man-hours in 1976 exclusively on race cases.

      Parker estimated that between sixty and a hundred surnames
      were regularly flagged by the Bureau and checked in a
       special file room against fairly extensive genealogies
      kept by the Bureau on the many branches of these families.

      Thompson (cf. New Orleans States Item, June 5-16, 1978)
      estimated that 250 names of `White' families with
      "partial black ancestry" were kept at the Bureau. p.49

      It should be pointed out that one does not actually have to have
      any African ancestry in order to be a victim of "race flagging."
       

      SOURCE:

      NewsBank InfoWeb NewsBank Full-Text Newspapers 
      Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA) August 16, 1993
      Author: JAMES O'BYRNE Staff writer
      Section: NATIONAL Page: A7
      Estimated printed pages: 4 Article Text:

      Copyright, 1993, The Times-Picayune Publishing
      Corporation./ All Rights Reserved./ Used by News
      Bank with Permission. / Record Number: 9308190280 /
      http://searches.rootsweb.com/usgenweb/archives/la/orleans/newspapers/00000022.txt
      Record Number: 9308190280
      http://www.frenchcreoles.com/creolepeopletoday/Feedback/page4.htm
      Copyright. / All rights reserved.
      http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/copyright
      htm  http:/www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/la/lafiles.htm
      http://multiracial.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=38&Itemid=27

    • multiracialbookclub
      Naomi Drake and her control of the Racial Classifications in Louisiana In the very valuable but little publicized book, White by Definition : Social
      Message 2 of 3 , Dec 3, 2011
      • 0 Attachment


        Naomi Drake and her control of the 
        Racial Classifications in Louisiana


        In the very valuable but little publicized 
        book, 
        'White' by "Definition": Social 
        Classification in Creole Louisiana
         
        (written) by Virginia R. Dominguez 
        (Rutgers University Press, 1986), 

        White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana


        ----- it explains how secret files were held in the 
        state government of Louisiana and kept on `White' 
        families of Mixed-Race lineage or who were at 
        least "suspected" having some part-"black" ancestry.

        In 1938, in Sunseri v, Cassagne
         

        (191 La.209, 185 So.1 - affirmed on 
        rehearing in 1940, 195 La.19, 196 So.7) - 
        the  Louisiana
         Supreme Court proclaimed 
        "traceability of African ancestry" to be 
        "the only requirement" for definition 
        of  
        'Colored' (i.e. 'Mixed-Race').

        In 1949, Naomi Drake assumed the post of 
        Supervisor and Deputy Registrar of Vital 
        Statistics at the Louisiana Bureau of Vital 
        Statistics, and she figures prominently in the 
        cases filed against the Bureau through the mid-1960s.

        Armed with the traceability criterion established 
        by the court in 1938, she followed the practice 
        of race-flagging, pulling out a birth certificate 
        that lists a baby as 'White'-- but bears 
        a name common to "Coloreds".

        Such birth certificates are checked against a 
        "Race List" maintained by the Vital Records Office.

        If the name appeared on the "Race List," then a further study of 
        genealogical records maintained by the Vital Records Office 
        was conducted (a description given to the New Orleans States 
        Item, June 5-16, 1978, by a Dr. Doris Thompson who had been 
        Assistant Secretary of the State Department of Health and 
        Human Resources, of which the Bureau is a part). pp. 37-38

        If the Bureau determined through study of its genealogical records 
        that the person in question had "any" African ancestors, the 
        applicant was then informed that a certificate would be issued 
        only if it declared the person to be "Colored" [i.e. Mixed-Race]

        If the applicant refused to accept such a certificate, 
        the Bureau in turn refused to issue a certificate.

        There is evidence that between 1960 and 1965 a minimum of 
        4,700 applications for certificated copies of birth certificates 
        and a minimum of 1,100 applications for death certificates 
        were held in abeyance by the Bureau under the 
        supervision of Naomi Drake (188 So. 2nd 94) ...

        Individuals petitioned the courts to force the Bureau to 
        change the racial labels that appeared on the birth 
        or death certificates of members of their families.

        They presented evidence that purported to prove that these
         people were `White' -- despite the imputations of the 
        Bureau self-described / appointed "genealogists".

        In each case, the Bureau questioned the authenticity 
        of much of the evidence adduced, or the nature of 
        the evidence introduced during the proceedings.

        Plaintiff's job was to dispute the authenticity of 
        the document(s), prove that (s)he was the child of 
        a different marriage or of a sexual union resulting 
        from a parent's remarriage or concubinage, or 
        dispute the meaning of the specific social label that 
        "in the eyes of the Bureau" implied 'Negro' ancestry.p. 44

        ************************************************ 

        NAOMI DRAKE'S POWERFUL RACIAL WHIM:
         
        Naomi Drake and Race Changes in the Vital Stats 
        Office of the  Orleans  Parish in the state of  Louisiana
         


        ************************************************    

        In a society in which few `White' people could imagine anything 
        worse than being called "black", Naomi Drake wielded the weapon 
        of racism with the ardor of an armed knight defending her king.

        During 16 years as the head of the Bureau of Vital Statistics 
        for New Orleans, Drake made it clear that there was 
        nothing worse in the world than to allow a person
        to live as `White' who did not "deserve" to do so.

        She lorded over the birth and death records of 
        generations of New Orleanians, and unilaterally 
        changed the race of thousands of them from `White' 
        to "black "---- almost never the other way around.

        When she was finally fired in 1965, Drake was feared 
        and reviled - by parents who could not get birth 
        certificates to put their children in public schools, 
        by lawyers who could not do research or complete 
        wills, by adoption agencies and funeral homes.

        But the source of her power and reputation 
        says more about racism in  New Orleans
         
        than it did about her peculiar habits of mind.

        She was able to wield such power because of racism's sway.

        No matter what they looked like, who they were or 
        how they had lived, `White' people knew that to be 
        touched by any hint of "blackness" was to be "tainted" 
        (`stigmatized' by the sting of their own racial prejudices).

        That is what made people fear Naomi Drake.

        The Civil Service Commission agreed to delete the names of 
        any witnesses from its final decision upholding Drake's firing.
        That was to save the witnesses the embarrassment of having 
        been suspected as being "black", however inaccurately.

        If Drake thought there was the slightest hint that someone who 
        lived as a `White' person might have "any" African ancestry,
        ----- she would not issue a birth or death certificate.

        At the time of her firing for her refusal to issue certificates, 
        the backlog of birth certificates had mounted to 4,700.
        Almost 1,200 death certificates had been held up.

        And if she could prove African ancestry --- however distant 
        -- she would change a person's Race in the official records 
        of the City of  New Orleans
        , usually without notifying the
        person affected or any of the person's family members.

        According to testimony at her hearing, she once reportedly 
        said, "All the people in  White   Castle
         are half-breeds". 

        She would ferret out signs of African ancestry in children of 
        unmarried mothers, call them in to her office and inform them 
        that their children were "adulterous bastards," testimony showed.

        Drake, who died in 1987, ordered her employees to 
        pull every certificate in the office designated by race 
        with the letter "C" - which usually meant `Mixed race', 
        [a.k.a. 'Colored'] but also sometimes meant Chinese 
        or something else  ----- and change the race on such 
        documents to 'N' or `Negro' [i.e. `Mono'-racially Black]

        She kept a list of "flagged names," that she believed were 
        suspect, and should be checked for signs of African ancestry.

        Any request for a certificate of a person with a 
        flagged name had to be held up for further research.

        The list included such names as 
        Adams, Charles, Landry and Olsen.

        She explained how she could tell when someone's 
        birth certificate was wrong at her dismissal hearing 
        before the Civil Service Commission: 
        "Very often we are acquainted with the name," 
        Drake testified.
        "We know them to be the names of 'Negro' families." 

        She had her workers scour the obituaries of people who had 
        died, looking for any clues that a dead person identified as 
        `White' had "black" relatives or survivors, such as services at a 
        traditionally "black" funeral home, relatives with traditionally 
        "black" names or burial at traditionally "black" cemeteries.

        Her research was instrumental in a decision by the Orleans Parish 
        district attorney's office in 1956 to obtain an indictment against a 
        Plaquemines Parish woman on charges of filing a false document.

        The woman's crime: 
        She considered herself [to be] `White' and had 
        recorded that on the birth certificate for her child.

        The woman was eventually acquitted, but only after being 
        asked a series of questions designed to attach to her any 
        "blackness" at all, including whether her doctor treated 
        her as a "black" person or a `White' person, and 
        where her husband's sister's children attended school.

        When Drake was fired, few people were happier 
        to see her go than Peter Huhner, father of five.
        Huhner had tried to get birth certificates for his children.
        But Drake suspected Huhner's wife had African 
        ancestry, and so refused to release the certificates.
        After months of battling Drake unsuccessfully, 
        Huhner finally put his children in parochial school.
        But what Huhner was most concerned about, according to 
        his letter to city officials after Drake's dismissal, was not 
        the burden of private school tuition or the denial of a 
        public education, but that his family had been besmirched.
        "We find it difficult to understand how my wife's parents were 
        registered as being `White' as were their parents," Huhner wrote.
        "And after being brought up that way, after all these years, 
        someone that does not even know the family at all has reason to 
        believe differently and would cause this much embarrassment." 

        Naomi Drake … was fired [from the 
        Bureau of Vital Statistics] in 1965.


        She refused to issue 4,700 birth certificates 
        ----- most of them because she suspected `
        White' babies of having African ancestry.

        When Bureau of Vital Statistics Director Naomi Drake 
        decided someone had African ancestry, she would simply 
        cross out 'W' ('White'), in this case on a death certificate, 
        and write in 'N' ('Negro' [i.e. `Mono'-racially Black] ) 
        often without telling the families of her decision.

        NOTE:

        The fact is, however, that the practice of race-flagging 
        and withholding certificates actually continued long 
        after Naomi Drake's departure from her post.

        We have no way of estimating the number of applications 
        for birth or death certificates withheld since the mid-sixties 
        (this information is now considered confidential and is carefully 
        guarded by clerks and Bureaucrats), but other indices are telling.

        Twelve mandamus proceedings against the Bureau 
        have been initiated since Drake's official departure.

        Also on May 26, 1977, Wayne Parker, at the time 
        Registrar of Vital Statistics, admitted in an interview 
        that in 1977 the Bureau employed two full-time clerk 
        investigators to handle only cases concerned with 
        racial designation, and that the Bureau spent some 
        six thousand man-hours in 1976 exclusively on race cases.

        Parker estimated that between sixty and a hundred surnames 
        were regularly flagged by the Bureau and checked in a
         special file room against fairly extensive genealogies 
        kept by the Bureau on the many branches of these families.

        Thompson (cf. New Orleans States Item, June 5-16, 1978) 
        estimated that 250 names of `White' families with 
        "partial black ancestry" were kept at the Bureau. p.49

        It should be pointed out that one does not actually have to have 
        any African ancestry in order to be a victim of "race flagging."
          

        SOURCE:

        NewsBank InfoWeb NewsBank Full-Text Newspapers  
        Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA) August 16, 1993
        Author: JAMES O'BYRNE Staff writer 
        Section: NATIONAL Page: A7 
        Estimated printed pages: 4 Article Text:
         
        Copyright, 1993, The Times-Picayune Publishing 
        Corporation./ All Rights Reserved./ Used by News
        Bank with Permission. / Record Number: 9308190280
        Record Number: 9308190280
        Copyright. / All rights reserved.

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