“Of Portuguese Origin”: Litigating Identity and Citizenship among the “Little Races” in Nineteenth-Century America

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2009-11-01 23:48Z by Steven

“Of Portuguese Origin”: Litigating Identity and Citizenship among the “Little Races” in Nineteenth-Century America

Law and History Review
Volume 25, Number 3

Ariela J. Gross, John B. and Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law and History
University of Southern California

The history of race in the nineteenth-century United States is often told as a story of black and white in the South, and white and Indian in the West, with little attention to the intersection between black and Indian. This article explores the history of nineteenth-century America’s “little races”—racially ambiguous communities of African, Indian, and European origin up and down the eastern seaboard. These communities came under increasing pressure in the years leading up to the Civil War and in its aftermath to fall on one side or the other of a black-white color line. Drawing on trial records of cases litigating the racial identity of the Melungeons of Tennessee, the Croatans/Lumbee of North Carolina, and the Narragansett of Rhode Island, this article looks at the differing paths these three groups took in the face of Jim Crow: the Melungeons claiming whiteness; the Croatans/Lumbee asserting Indian identity and rejecting association with blacks; the Narragansett asserting Indian identity without rejecting their African origins. Members of these communities found that they could achieve full citizenship in the U.S. polity only to the extent that they abandoned their self-governance and distanced themselves from people of African descent.

Historians have only begun to tell the histories of “red and black” peoples in the United States, and much of their attention has focused on the “Black Indians” of the Five Civilized Tribes of the Southeastern United States. Yet up and down the eastern seaboard, there were clusters of people who shared African, European, and Indian ancestry, many of whom lived as distinct and separate communities into the nineteenth and even the mid-twentieth centuries, some retaining or struggling to retain Indian identities, others becoming known as “free people of color,” and still others claiming whiteness.

These “little races,” as they were sometimes known, in many ways gave the lie to the binary statutory regimes of nineteenth-century America. They came under growing pressure from local officials and neighbors as communities became increasingly preoccupied with racial line drawing. But they followed very different paths. By studying these racially ambiguous communities, it is possible to learn more about the relationship among whiteness, blackness, and citizenship in the United States…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Marriage between blacks, whites and Indians…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2009-10-08 17:19Z by Steven

…Marriage between blacks, whites and Indians was legal in Virginia for most of the 17th century. Genealogist Paul Heinegg found that 99% of all mixed children in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the Carolinas before 1810 came from intermarriages of free blacks with whites. Cases of white masters having children by black slaves were virtually non-existence, making up only one percent of the mixed mulatto population…

Tim Hashaw,  “MALUNGU: The African Origin of the American Melungeons,” Electica (July/August 2001). http://www.eclectica.org/v5n3/hashaw.html.

Tags: , , ,

Melungeon Origins

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2009-10-08 17:07Z by Steven

…From the 1620s, in southern British colonies like Virginia, white northern Europeans intermarried with Indians.  They also intermarried with Africans who began entering the American colonies as early as 1619.  Melungeons originate from these red, white and black peoples in this period of American history.  They began forming identifiable separate mixed communities when the first anti-African laws started restricting some of their freedoms by 1660…

Tim Hashaw,  “MALUNGU: The African Origin of the American Melungeons,” Electica  (July/August 2001), http://www.eclectica.org/v5n3/hashaw.html.

Tags: ,

Children of Perdition: Melungeons and the Struggle of Mixed America

Posted in Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2009-10-07 18:50Z by Steven

Children of Perdition: Melungeons and the Struggle of Mixed America

Mercer University Press
192 pages
ISBN (paperback): 9780881460742
ISBN (hardback): 9780881460131

Tim Hashaw

Some oppressed groups fought with guns, some fought in court, some exercised civil disobedience; the Melungeons, however, fought by telling folktales. Whites and blacks gave the name “children of perdition” to mixed Americans during the 300 years that marriage between whites and nonwhites was outlawed. Mixed communities ranked socially below communities of freed slaves although they had lighter skin. To escape persecution caused by the stigma of having African blood, these groups invented fantastic stories of their origins, known generally as “lost colony” legends. From the founding of America, through the American Revolution, the Civil War and World War II, the author documents the histories of several related mixed communities that began in Virginia in 1619 and still exist today, and shows how they responded to racism over four centuries. Conflicts led to imprisonment, whippings, slavery, lynching, gun battles, forced sterilization, and exile—but they survived.  America’s view of mixing became increasingly intolerant and led to a twentieth-century scheme to forcibly exile U.S. citizens, with as little as “one drop” of black blood, to Africa even though their ancestors arrived before the Mayflower. Evidence documents the collaboration between American race purists and leading Nazi Germans who perpetrated the Holocaust. The author examines theories of ethnic purity and ethnic superiority, and reveals how mixed people responded to “pure race” myths with origin myths of their own as Nazi sympa-thizers in state and federal government segregated mixed Americans, citing the myth of Aryan supremacy. Finally, Children of Perdition explains why many Americans view mixing as unnatural and shows how mixed people continue to confront the Jim Crow “one drop” standard today.

Tags: , , , , , ,