"Marrying light": skin colour, gender and marriage in Jamaica, c. 1918–1980

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While historians have increasingly examined inter-racial marriage, they have so far paid scant attention to intraracial marriage. This article tries to fill this gap in the scholarship by examining the practice of ‘marrying light’ in Jamaica from c. 1918 to 1980. Based on a wide range of sources, including memoirs and autobiographical fiction, it is particularly concerned with the motives for cross-colour marriage and the ways in which African-Jamaican children learned that ‘marrying light’ was an ideal to aspire to. It shows that colour, gender and class intersected in complex ways in ‘marrying light’ and that in most instances cross-colour marriages in Jamaica, like elsewhere, were a trade-off between one high-ranking variable and another. Due to the limitations of the source material, the article does not fully explore the extent of ‘marrying light’ and the quality of cross-colour marriages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)608-628
Number of pages21
JournalThe History of the Family
Issue number3
Early online date5 Mar 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • marriage
  • race
  • Jamaica
  • intraracial
  • colourism
  • gender
  • discrimination
  • Caribbean
  • class

Cite this