In 1914,The Alma Boone Little scandal gave a platform for racist scientific theory. This guide provides access to materials related to the “Alma Boone Little” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.
Chronicling America is a searchable digital collection of historic newspaper pages from 1777-1963 sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.
Included in the website is the Directory of US Newspapers in American Libraries, a searchable index to newspapers published in the United States since 1690, which helps researchers identify what titles exist for a specific place and time, and how to access them.
In December of 1914, Alma Boone Little’s husband filed for divorce, claiming that she was “tainted with colored blood.” After hiring doctors and anthropologists to conduct tests to prove her whiteness, Alma Boone Little began to publish her life story in papers across the country in an attempt to assure herself, her husband, and her high society friends that she was white. The scandal gave a national platform for racist scientific theory hiding behind the guise of anthropology – a relatively new field. Read more about it!
The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.
The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.
December 26, 1914
Alma Boone Little begins publishing her story in her own words in an attempt to prove her whiteness.
January 4, 1915
Luella Jefferson of Cincinnati says that she is not the mother of Alma Boone Little.
January 5, 1915
After a series of tests, doctors and anthropologists confirm that Alma is white.
February 7, 1915
Professor Franz Boas comments on the case, saying that Mrs. Little may have “negro blood in her veins” yet not show any of the outward characteristics.
May 30, 1915
Alma Boone Little agrees to a decree of extreme cruelty on the part of her husband because the court has decided not to involve her race in the divorce proceedings.