Moira Turner

Major and Classification

Law, History, and Culture

Faculty Mentor

Diana Williams, Ph.D., Department of History


Dornsife: Anthropology

Research Gateway Project

“What it means to be a father: White Benevolence and the Battle for Inheritance in the 19th Century”

Project Abstract

The experiences (or presence) of interracial couples are typically hailed as a signifier for social change and progress. Many have purported their existence to be a movement towards a truly post racial society. However, when framing these relationships as one unit, the experience of the less dominant parties can be subverted and at times effectively erased, particularly those involved in White male and Black female race-gender couplings. My research attempts to explore this erasure to see how differences in power dynamics affect the partners and children in some interracial relationships. A case study approach was utilized and I investigated a Louisiana Supreme Court case involving the battle for inheritance, when a white father in his will withheld his property from two of his biracial children. I explore questions of fatherhood and the fictitious benevolent white patriarch in the framework of this case. Throughout my research I employed textual analysis, focusing my lens on words or phrases pertaining to either race or gender. Overarching themes of paternalism and white patriarchy surfaced, showing multiple examples of the father attempting to exert control over his children, further refuting the notion of the white benevolent patriarch.