“How Much Can You Read about Interracial Love and Sex without Getting Sore?”: Readers’ Debate over Interracial Relationships in the Baltimore Afro-American

Publication year
Journalism History

Here's the abstract:

Interracial marriage and relationships were illegal in much of the United States in the early twentieth century. The black press devoted a great deal of attention to this topic, often connecting it to African Americans’ encounters with racism and their struggle for civil rights. Part of this coverage in the national black weekly newspaper the Baltimore Afro-American included short and serial fictional stories on interracial romance. These stories, however, were often a contested medium among readers. Thus, a public debate occurred over the question of interracial romance stories and their place in the Baltimore Afro-American over the course of four months in 1934. This article examines this debate. Ultimately, interracial romance stories brought readers into conversation with each other and the Baltimore Afro-American to create a discourse that tied interracial romance to the African American battle for equality in the early twentieth century.


the Afro-American and its readers created deeper meanings about interracial romantic fiction by linking it with ideological and political issues such as race pride, civil rights, and the role of the newspaper itself. Thus, readers' debates over intermarriage and interracial romance were also a deliberation over definitions of African American progress.

[...] A slight majority (55 percent) of readers indicated their support for interracial fiction, leaving close to 40 percent expressing their disapproval. A remaining 5 percent commented on the debate but offered no clear preference. (105)