Not of Pure Blood

The Free People of Color and Racial Prejudice in Nineteenth-Century Puerto Rico

Not of Pure Blood

Book Pages: 192 Illustrations: 34 tables, 2 maps Published: October 1996

Author: Jay Kinsbruner

Caribbean Studies, History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies

Countering the popular misconception that racial discrimination has largely not existed in Puerto Rico, Jay Kinsbruner’s Not of Pure Blood shows that racial prejudice has long had an insidious effect on Puerto Rican society. Kinsbruner’s study focuses on the free people of color—those of African descent who were considered nonwhite but were legally free during slavery—in order to explore the nature of racial prejudice in nineteenth-century Puerto Rico. In considering the consequences of these nineteenth-century attitudes on twentieth-century Puerto Rico, Kinsbruner suggests that racial discrimination continues to limit opportunities for people of color.
Following a discussion of Puerto Rican racial prejudice in historical perspective, Kinsbruner describes residential patterns, marriages, births, deaths, occupations, and family and household matters to demonstrate that free people of color were a disadvantaged community whose political, social, and economic status was diminished by racism. He analyzes the complexities and contradictions of Puerto Rican racial prejudice and discrimination, explains the subtleties of “shade discrimination,” and examines the profoundly negative impact on race relations of the U.S. occupation of the island following the Spanish American War.
Looking behind the myth of Puerto Rican racial equity, Not of Pure Blood will be of interest to specialists in Caribbean studies, Puerto Rican history, and Latin America studies, and to scholars in a variety of fields investigating questions of racism and discrimination.


“[A] most welcome addition to the still relatively limited literature on the free persons of color in the slave societies of America and should be required reading for all those interested in these themes. . . . [A]dmirably written, analyzed and argued. . . .” — Herbert S. Klein , Hispanic American Historical Review

“[M]akes a needed addition to the scanty bibliography on Afro-Puerto Ricans. Kinsbruner is particularly illuminating in describing the contradictions and the double talk that has characterized Puerto Rican racial attitudes. . . . Not of Pure Blood is significant because it opens a new line of inquiry into a forgotten part of the Puerto Rican population. This work reminds social historians that when it comes to race relations, there is no such thing as Puerto Rican exceptionalism.” — José O. Díaz , Latin American Research Review

“Jay Kinsbruner has written a statistically sophisticated study on a topic neglected, until recently, by many Puerto Rican scholars: the relationship between racism and opportunity. . . . Kinsbruner’s book is methodologically sound, well-researched, and innovative. It is also one of the few in-depth studies of the lives of free people of color in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean.” — Felix V. Matos Rodriguez , The Historian

“Kinsbruner’s book is a welcome addition to the history of race relations. It is an engaging examination of racial prejudice in a society that has claimed to be colorblind.” — Aline Helg, American Historical Review

Not of Pure Blood is an ambitiously extended study of the free people of color in the slave society of Puerto Rico. Adding much to the emerging body of illuminating literature about life and culture both during the slave period and after, it makes possible many useful comparisons between the free people of color on that island and their counterparts in other corners of the Caribbean.” — David Barry Gaspar, Duke University

“Kinsbruner’s work is important on two counts. First, it takes up the challenge of defining racial prejudice in a Spanish Caribbean context—a daunting exercise. Second, it applies sophisticated statistical instruments to measure the extent of that prejudice.” — Teresita Martínez Vergne, Macalester College


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Jay Kinsbruner is Professor of History at Queens College and Graduate Center, City University of New York.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1842-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1836-1
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