White slavery narratives - stories about white women forced into prostitution - played an important role in the construction of racial distinctions in the early twentieth century. New York City politicians launched a well-publicized anti-vice crusade in 1910 that led to the imprisonment of a mixed-race woman named Belle Moore. In this article, I analyse this event to show the importance of sexuality and gender for creating racial boundaries. Testimony in People vs. Belle Moore designated certain intimacies as violating the color line, thereby clarifying what it meant to be 'white' or 'colored'. I argue that theories of racial formation must include a more careful consideration of gender and sexuality because the ongoing maintenance of racial categories depends upon cultural narratives about sexual deviance and purity.
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