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Navigating African Maritime History$
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Carina E Ray and Jeremy Rich

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780986497315

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780986497315.001.0001

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“The White Wife Problem:” Sex, Race and the Contested Politics of Repatriation to Interwar British West Africa

“The White Wife Problem:” Sex, Race and the Contested Politics of Repatriation to Interwar British West Africa

Chapter:
(p.163) “The White Wife Problem:” Sex, Race and the Contested Politics of Repatriation to Interwar British West Africa1
Source:
Navigating African Maritime History
Author(s):

Carina E. Ray

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9780986497315.003.0008

This essay explores the difficulties faced by interracial couples - primarily West African men and British or German women - in gaining acceptance in society in the interwar years in Britain and West Africa. It considers the impact of the 1919 race riots in Britain during the postwar economic downturn that left maritime, immigrant, and working class communities particularly impoverished and led to a surge in racism and backlash against non-British labourers. West African men were accused of ‘stealing’ both jobs and women, and white women accused of betraying their nation through interracial marriage. This hostility led to efforts at repatriation to West Africa, which colonial governments would often prevent through legislation. The second half of this essay is a case study of West African husbands and German wives, who caused tremendous legal difficulties to governments looking to cease repatriation. The case studies demonstrate that notions of sex, gender, class, nationality, and religion informed colonial policies that heavily impacted the migration efforts of interracial couples.

Keywords:   British Race Riots, 1919 Race Riots, Working Class Migration, Colonial Migration Policies, West African Migration, Colonial Race Relations, Interracial Marriage History

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