A mulatto is an outdated term used to describe someone with one black parent and one white parent. The tragic mulatto myth dates back to 19th century American literature. The myth almost exclusively focuses on biracial individuals light enough to pass for white
. In literature, such mulattoes were often unaware of their black heritage. Upon discovering their African ancestry, tragedy ensues because such characters find themselves barred from white society and, thus, the privileges available to whites. Distraught at their fate as people of color, tragic mulattoes in literature often turned to suicide. In other instances, these characters pass for white, cutting off their black family members to do so. In addition, such characters were frequently portrayed as sexually seductive, effeminate or otherwise troubled because of their mixed blood. Overall, the tragic mulatto myth perpetuates the idea that the mixing of races
is unnatural and harmful to offspring. Rather than blame racism for the challenges biracial people face, the tragic mulatto myth holds race-mixing responsible.
Common Misspellings: mulato, mullatto
The tragic mulatto myth historically painted biracial people as emotionally unstable and destined to fit in neither black society nor white society.