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Susan Guillory Phipps Essay

Susan Guillory Phipps is an award-winning author and professor of American literature. One of her most notable works, “The Colonel’s Daughter: An Autobiography,” was published in 1993. In this work, she discusses her father’s role as a colonel in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and how it impacted not only his life but hers as well. She also talks about growing up with strong Southern roots and what that meant for her own identity.

Essay 1


The blood, sweat, and tears of African slaves kept the New World alive. In the Age of Reason, Americans thought they had the right to own slaves, human beings who were just like them but had different colored skin. This idea allowed them to buy and sell people as if they were animals or other products with no moral implications. The British crown, they insist, has no connection to the way they treated Negro slaves under their rule. They could not comprehend that what they were doing was unethical and shameful.

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In fact, it was a document that established the equality of men in the eyes of God and declared man’s freedom. Even after creating a constitution, American citizens and their leaders drafted a document known as The Constitution, which claims man’s equality before God but continues to ignore his sins. Negro slaves were never considered full members of society in America, thus they did not qualify for civil rights.

The American Revolution’s heroes – the successful War for Independence against British dominance – went into battle fighting for liberty and equality, but after the conflict they would return to their plantations and never feel a slave laborer dragging himself from the burden of his work.

Arable land is abundant in the South, making it an ideal location to cultivate crops. These plantations became an essential component of the new economy after America was freed from the British Empire’s grip. The Northern states were the first to recognize the disconnect between enjoying American freedom and maintaining a slave colony in their own backyard. Meanwhile, the Southern states are unwilling to bear even a hint of responsibility.

It’s important to realize that while the Northern states may continue to generate revenue through their factories and other sectors, the Southern states had to rely solely on their plantations. It would be difficult to maintain an agriculture-based economy based on a few hired men alone without the muscle power and skills of Negro slaves – both men and women, as well as children. After the American Revolution, white males’ children may now meet black individuals’ youngsters. They would, however, never play and socialize as equals. As a result, the impressionable minds of young white boys and girls were indoctrinated to believe that this is how life truly was.

They are the rulers, and as they grow up, they will raise black men and women who will serve them as if they were born royalty. It took very little to establish a society governed by unwritten laws and an illusory barrier that defined the white from the black. There were simply two classes: the whites and the blacks.

Slavery was a side narrative to the Civil War, but it quickly evolved into a major problem when the South was devastated by a Union army coming in from the North. Union soldiers invaded the South and caused havoc, turning what had been a peaceful and picture-perfect environment into one of violence and devastation.

The Southern states paid a high price for their resistance to the Union. They suffered the loss of blood of their children and property damaged by cannons, rifles, and boots of furious soldiers. The proud Southerners were ashamed and perplexed as to how to recover from the devastation caused by war.

Unlike other major civil rights marches, the Atlanta demonstrators were not looking to be recognized by their neighbors. They had no ambitions of receiving money or accolades. Their goal was much greater than simply obtaining freedom; they wanted to reclaim what had been taken from them during slavery: the ability to own and trade slaves. For many of them, it was difficult to adjust at first. But they were not alone in feeling bewildered about their new circumstances; freed Negroes likewise felt perplexed about where to go from there after years spent in bondage.

A million black slaves were set free, yet what can a person who was born and reared as a slave do when he or she is given liberty, not only the freedom to move like a jailbreake but also the freedom to perform everything – love, buy property, relocate, etc. They must learn to co-habit with their former masters and share in the same land where they previously worked while no longer being compelled to work for the white man in order to make money or clean his house.

However, they only had one thing in terms of material goods, and that was all they had. Nobody in the northern states or the capital of the United States government – Washington – predicted the outcome of the Civil War, not to mention Negro slaves who were never schooled and knew nothing but to work in the fields.

They were given their freedom, but they had no idea how to adjust to a changed world or the reborn United States of America’s ignorant inhabitants. The whites and blacks had to learn to cohabit as equals, but many were unable accept the consequences of these changes. As a result, the whites and blacks dwell in the same area, yet they will never mix in the same way that oil will never combine with water.

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The Wall of Prejudice

Segregation was one of the responses to the emancipation of Black slaves. All blacks were declared free by the federal government, and they would henceforth answer to no one. From the viewpoint of many Southerners, however, the South belongs to them, and if the federal government insists on granting African-Americans liberties, it must do so their way.

They established new rules and laws to restrict white-black interactions. They heavily regulated the places where Negroes may go and the businesses that are off limits to them. Because these were designed solely for whites, no black man, woman, or child is permitted access to public facilities such as swimming pools, parks, and golf courses.

There were public schools for white children and public schools for black children. Some restaurants want only white customers and strictly enforce the rule that forbids Negroes from entering. There were water fountains that were off-limits to members of the Negro race, as well as restricted to whites.

The same can be said about public transportation. There were train cars and buses that were off-limits to Blacks. It was understood that Negroes should occupy the seats in the rear of buses where whites and blacks could ride. For many whites, it may appear odd to have these rules implemented in the South, but for many people, it was an attempt to impose order out of chaos because meeting and greeting former slaves, as free individuals, was disorienting.

The rigorous hatred to biracial marriages is the second aspect of the wall of prejudice, and as a consequence, there were laws and other unspoken rules restricting white-black marriages. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to stamp out such unions. Furthermore, even before slavery was abolished, white plantation owners found nothing wrong with having a black mistress and producing illegitimate descendants in the process.

Aside from that, it’s not unusual for some of them to rape black female slaves. As a result, there were numerous “half-breed” children in the South. The wall of prejudice was built higher and higher, but it became more difficult to differentiate between blacks and whites. On the other side, why is it necessary to isolate people from one another?

A Hundred Years Later

Susie Guillory Phipps, the wife of an affluent seafood importer, decided to apply for a passport in 1977 and was the first person to do so (White et al., 1997). When she obtained an official copy of her birth certificate, she discovered that it stated that she was “colored” or black. There’s one problem now, though: Susie Guillory Phipps is white and talks like a member of the white race. “Mrs. Phipps stated she was ‘surprised’ that this classification had been included because she had always believed herself to be white, has led a life as a white person, and twice married someone from the white race,” according to one commentator (Bird, 2009).

She was a woman of color until, as a young girl in 1930s Louisiana, she discovered that the state had classified her racially as Negro from birth. She appeared and behaved like a typical white person, and her family included fair-skinned people with blue eyes (Davis, 1991). It was inconceivable to think that Phipps might be black.

She batted down this pigeonholing approach to categorize her as a member of the black race for obvious reasons, culturally and aesthetically speaking, there was no indication that she was black, therefore she does not want others to regard her as one. She had no black friends and knew little about how to live in a black community, so there was nothing else to do but challenge the state of Louisiana’s system for categorizing people.

The issue of the validity of Juanita Broaddrick’s alleged 1978 birth certificate raises several questions. For example, if she is what this document says she is, why did someone fake her name and birth date? Why would anyone want to do that? Given how controversial it was at the time, there were few takers for his offer until he showed them Juanita’s actual death certificate (Trillin, 1986). H.M. Westholts engaged a genealogist to verify his case.

Believing he had a better chance at winning by appealing to the full power of the state, he found that in 1770, a French planter named Jean Gregoire Guillory took a black lover called Margarita and two centuries later, his great-great-great-granddaughter Susie (Davis, 1991). It didn’t matter that the children of plantation owners married white people; she was considered black because one drop of Negro blood ran through her veins.

But, as we all know, there’s more to life than the story. When Mrs. Phipps went up for her passport renewal in 1980, she was informed that she needed a new birth certificate because she had revealed her race on the form incorrectly (Bird, 2009). This was a gross misrepresentation, and she was denied her passport as a result. This worked out well for Phipps and so in 1982 she sued the state (White et al., 1997).

This was her argument, according to one historian: “She challenged the bureau’s practice because race-mixing was said to be so prevalent in Louisiana that the entire native-born population would be classed as black under its strict definition (Moran, 2001). It was known in legal circles as Susie Phipps v. State of Louisiana (Bird, 2009). Only Jane Doe vs. Laoyeti.

Brown vs. Wade

The NAACP lost the Plessy vs. Ferguson case in a court of law. Despite this, the organization did not give up and found various methods to illustrate the illegality of racial segregation laws. When they assisted with another important case for black people in the South, it was their fight against segregated schools. In Topeka, Kansas, against the Board of Education it was Oliver Brown et al. vs. the Board of Education (Balkin, 2002). Oliver Brown claimed that he should have been able to enroll his children in a public school close to their home. There is one just a few blocks from their home.

However, when he attempted to enroll his daughter at Monroe Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas, he was informed that he would not be allowed to enter her child because it was the law that public schools in the state were segregated. Those who identified as belonging to the “colored” race had to send their kid to a black-only school rather than a white-only one. There is just one issue: Linda Brown’s father has to walk a long distance from his house in order for her to board a bus that will transport her to school. Oliver Brown opposed the unfoundedness and overt racism. The parents of other black children voiced their concerns, agreeing that they could not comprehend why their kids had to walk lengthy distances before attending a school miles away.

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It was not a battle against a particular statute, but rather an attempt to combat a belief that emerged as a consequence of the Plessy vs. Ferguson case debacle. The Fourteenth Amendment, according to Plessy and his attorneys, stated that all people are born equal. The Supreme Court overturned this decision by declaring that whites and blacks may be treated equally under the law while being segregated in practice.

In other words, the majority of people living in Topeka, Kansas are white. The parents of these kids are usually members of high-income groups that serve as major sponsors for racial tensions at their children’s schools. These remarks were made by a state judge named Jendie Crawford who is black. The passage also sheds light on the mentality of whites’ desire to keep blacks and whites apart. The lunacy is spending an exorbitant amount of money on building two high-quality schools just so a Negro’s kid may not attend school with a Caucasian’s child.

Finally, the significance of this case is seen in the Supreme Court’s reasoning for deciding in favor of Oliver Brown and others. The Supreme Court decided that separating blacks and whites was not good for black children and might even be harmful, since they were prevented from interacting with white kids (Balkin, 2002).

They are just as susceptible to being indoctrinated by the prevailing narrative as anyone else. As seen above, if they are allowed to grow up in an environment where they were surrounded by white peers who considered them superior because of their race, it will have a similar impact on them as segregation may have had on black children growing up among whites. The Supreme Court favored the black community in Topeka, Kansas, and throughout America over racial segregation. All public schools were desegregated starting that year.

In the same manner, the Phipps situation may be applied. What is the purpose of categorization? It will only cause separation. Furthermore, in 1954, the Supreme Court ruled on Mrs. Phipps’ case against Louisiana while she sued in 1982. Many had forgotten what this case was about after 28 years. It’s not a good idea to build a prejudice wall.

The Case of Mrs. Phipps

Susie Guillory Phipps went to court to argue her case, and it didn’t take long for her to encounter difficulties. She was unsuccessful in the District Court (Trillin, 1986). She appealed her case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, but they upheld the decision of the lower court (Trillin, 1986). She had no choice but to appeal her case all the way to the Supreme Court.

The significance of the Supreme Court could not be overstated. “The United States Supreme Court has a vital position in the United States’ government system,” says one analysis. “…the Supreme Court may overrule any law passed by Congress and state legislature, as well as set aside any policy adopted by the president if it finds that the law or policy breaches a rule of the U.S. Constitution….”

The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter when it comes to interpreting the United States Constitution. According to the author, “The Supremes” (Anderson), America can be considered as a conflict zone. The Supreme Court isn’t perfect, though. In December 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reconsider its decision in Phipps v. City of New Orleans: “The appeal is dismissed for want of a federal question” (Davis).

The state’s highest court, the ultimate court of appeals in Louisiana and the United States’s top court, found no compelling reason to change the one-drop rule (Davis, 1991). However, she did achieve a partial victory: as a result of the case’s publicity and because Louisiana eliminated its one-thirty-second limit in 1983 allowing parents to choose their children’s race again, she will be classified black rather than white at her death (Fluehr-Lobban, 2006). Mrs. Phipps will be considered black rather than white when she dies.


After a long journey, the United States has arrived at a position in which it is a champion for democracy. However, racism and animosity were still evident in the 20th century, even after slavery had been abolished in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

The most clear illustration is the categorization of newborns as black or white. Even though there was still a stigma linked with being identified as black, Mrs. Phipps wanted her birth certificate to show that she was white rather than black. She sued the state and lost. The notoriety generated by the case compelled Louisiana to repeal the custom that classifies individuals as black regardless of their physical traits, however this is only a drop in the bucket when it comes to racism in America.

Essay 2

The case of Susie Guillory Phipps, as studied through racial formation, racial identity construction, and intersectionality theory, is a prominent example. “Intersectionality” demonstrates that the way she was classified by the government wasn’t due to the color of her skin as many people believe.

Instead, it’s a mix of a variety of ideological discriminatory practices that result in prejudicial applications and racial projects based on certain ideas rooted in politics or religion, which may still affect people today. In contrast, the decision rendered by the Louisiana state court had no impact on Phipps’ life. Her new title as a “black woman” would not have an impact on her career, status, or lifestyle.

It wouldn’t alter her childhood or alleviate the disharmony she would now feel with her new label. The many viewpoints of race are best comprehended using the lenses of racial formation and intersectionality, which encapsulate the two most important themes in Dimensions of Culture. So, how did racial formation and intersectionality contribute to this mistake?

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To address this, let us reflect back on how the bad reputation against particular races, particularly the African American race, came to be. Although slavery was in operation for over a century, the writing of the Constitution in 1787 may be regarded as the moment when it became an established practice rather than simply a common one owing to the three-fifths compromise.

The compromise, which stated that a slave would only be valued at three-fifths of a free man, put a price on how much an African American was worth in the eyes of the overpowering white male government. This administration’s antiquated mentality is comparable to that of the Louisiana Department of Vital Records, who officially recognizes Phipps as a “Negroe” woman with an identical viewpoint toward race.

It’s quite possible that not only does the state law barring Phipps from changing her racial identification resemble the Louisiana statute denying African Americans their freedom by law, but also that the state legislation is the direct descendant of our nation’s founding white male government. The definition of race provided by the government determines a slave’s value and whether or not you’re considered “Negro” under the law.

The government’s embrace of race demonstrates how humans contribute to the formation of racial categories, especially in an attempt to preserve them through social institutions such as legislation. These interpretations have permeated throughout time and continue to impact our culture today, reaching back to 1861. In the Civil War, thousands of African Americans fled slavery to fight for their freedom. During the presidency of Abe Lincoln, these “black fighters” made a crucial contribution to the fight for freedom. After slavery was abolished, it wasn’t enough. These structures of domination have objectively aided the cycle of corruption and strengthened race hierarchy in society.

The cultural depiction of African Americans, such as Sambo who made African Americans appear obedient and childish, was well entrenched in the minds of slave owners who had lost their source of “cheap labor,” as well as slaves whose ancestors had endured hundreds of years of abuse, keeping them in check for many years to come.

The government’s definitions of race, which ultimately justified segregation and served as a hegemonic means to marginalize and oppress African Americans after the war, aligned with these cultural representations. But how does this connect to Phipps? It’s because Phipps would never have felt this marginalization or oppression that we can draw a link between the average African American woman’s experience versus Phipps’ as someone who grew up white.

There are inherent traits of being an American woman that set her apart from other races, despite the governments’ lack of regard for this. Despite the fact that the government has labeled her as “Negroe,” Phipps has not and will not be harmed by these cultural representations, which show how society views a person’s identity rather than his or her biological roots as a means to interpret a person’s identity.

In other words, the social structure of race based on biologically-based characteristics is thus maintained by structure and representation. So we’re now in 1983, when Susie Guillory Phipps tried to change her racial identification under the law but failed. Even after most states had discontinued this unconstitutional practice, the Louisiana state court ruled that Phipps’ case was insufficiently strong to ameliorate her racial identification.

This is significant because it exposes the flaws in our government’s approach to race recognition. Their choice will not alter anything about Phipps’ life, relationships, or job. She will never have felt the effects of her actions, nor has she experienced the indignity of being characterized as “black” in American society.

This is why identifying race is such a difficult job. When someone identifies as “black,” “brown,” or “white,” they are not only describing their skin color or the amount of blood they have. They are referring to a mixture of experiences and emotions that vary over time. Phipps is not black; hence, her racial identification challenge from her race was missed by the Louisiana state court.

Individuals do not always have the power to identify ourselves, according to Omi and Winant, but rather hegemonic systems of power frequently decide this for us. There is now an incongruity between how Phipps describes her race, which she is no longer legally allowed to identify with, in comparison with how the government’s forced “unbelonging” has defined her.

By examining history through the lens of racial formation and intersectionality, we may learn from Phipps’ story. When we understand how race came to be and how various kinds of it relate to one another, not only can we gain a greater understanding of why certain aspects of society and government are the way they are, but also the consequences that these aspects have now.

We may compare and contrast the ramifications of Phipps’ verdict under the contexts of citizenship, religion, ethnicity, and sexuality after careful study of comparable cases. Furthermore, racial formation and intersectionality can teach us to be wary of governments that marginalize and prey on minorities with hegemonic techniques like domination and control.

These days, it’s critical that we remain vigilant and aware of how race affects and influences people in their relationships with others. Furthermore, by recognizing how racial formation and intersectionality can be used to separate certain people or groups, we can keep an eye on its presence in our present culture and anticipate how the understanding of race may change in the future.

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