In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, colonial legislatures throughout British North America passed a series of laws designed to do just that. They outlawed interracial marriage. They amended criminal codes to deal more harshly with blacks than whites. They defined black servants as slaves outright, the absolute property of slaveholders. They mandated limited lands for whites on completing their term of indenture and restricted the practice of most skilled trades to whites only. None of this was enough to qualify lower-class whites for voting or office holding. That would not come for another century or more. But it did instill in whites of all classes a sense that they were somehow 'better' than those with even a drop of African blood—though many had a few such drops in their own bloodlines, whether they knew it or not.
The strategy worked, and worked even better than elites had hoped. The new racism, they found, was a self-perpetuating thing passed on from generation to generation, keeping the poor divided and more easily controlled. Lower-class whites still resented their oppressors. There were any number of insurrections by poor whites in the eighteenth century—the Regulator Movement, Shays’ Rebellion, and the Whiskey Rebellion among them. Slaves, too, occasionally rose in rebellion. But never again did poor whites unite with blacks against their common oppressor to the extent that they had in 1676 Virginia." - David Williams