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Mon, 08.02.1790

The Quarteron Community Of The Americas, a story

*The Quarteron community of the United States of America is addressed on this date in 1790. They are part of the racial and color caste classification in the western hemisphere. 

This date was chosen because beginning on this date the first census in the United States took place. In the slave societies of the Americas, a quadroon or quarteron was a person with one-quarter Black African and three-quarters white European ancestry (or in Australia, one-quarter aboriginal ancestry). Similar classifications were octoroon for one-eighth Black (Latin root octo-, means "eight") and hexadecaroon for one-sixteenth Black. Governments of the time sometimes incorporated the terms in law, defining rights and restrictions.

The use of such terminology is a characteristic of hypodescent, which is the practice within a society of assigning children of mixed unions to the ethnic group that the dominant group perceives as being subordinate. The racial designations refer specifically to the number of full-blooded African ancestors or equivalent, emphasizing the quantitative least, with quadroon signifying that a person has one-quarter Black ancestry. The word quadroon was borrowed from the French quarteron and the Spanish cuarterón, both of which have their root in the Latin Quartus, meaning "a quarter". Similarly, the Spanish cognate cuarterón is used to describe cuarterón de mulatto or morisco (someone whose racial origin is three-quarters white and one-quarter Black) and cuarterón de mestizo or castizo, (someone whose racial origin is three-quarters white and one-quarter Indian), especially in Caribbean South America.

In Latin America, which had a variety of terms for racial groups, some terms for quadroons were morisco or chino, see casta. The term mulatto was used to designate a biracial person, with one fully black parent and one fully white parent, or a person whose parents are both mulattoes. In some cases, it was used as a general term, for instance on US census classifications, to refer to all persons of mixed race, without regard for a proportion of ancestries. The term octoroon referred to a person with one-eighth African/Aboriginal ancestry; that is, someone with family heritage equivalent to one biracial grandparent; in other words, one African great-grandparent and seven European great-grandparents. An example was Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

As with the use of quadroon, this word was applied to a limited extent in Australia for those of one-eighth Aboriginal ancestry, as the government implemented assimilation policies on the Stolen generation.  Terceron was a term synonymous with octoroon, derived from being three generations of an African ancestor (great-grandparent). The term mustee was also used to refer to a person with one-eighth African ancestry. The term sacatra was used to refer to one who was seven-eighths Black or African and one-eighth white or European (i.e., an individual with one Black and one griffe parent, or one white great-grandparent). The term mustefino refers to a person with one-sixteenth African ancestry. Notable quarteron’s are Thomas-Alexandre Dumas and Alexandre Dumas fils.

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