White Negro Communities: Too White To Be Black And Too Black To Be White

White Negro Communities: Too White To Be Black And Too Black To Be White

Johnathon Odell: Discovering Our Stories

John Odell

Yvonne Bivins had to make a choice very few Americans have forced upon them.  She could live as a black woman or a white woman.

Yvonne’s ancestry is enmeshed with the Knights of Jones County [Mississippi]. She was born into one of the so-called “White Negro” communities that sprang up after the Civil War all over through the Piney Woods. These communities grew up around Piney Woods plantations, actually no bigger than farms. There’s Six Town and Soso and Sheeplow. Her community is called Kelly Settlement and located few miles miles outside of Laurel.

Hold on to your hats and I’ll tell you how Kelly Settlement came into existence.  John Kelly, an early petitioner in Mississippi Territory, purchased 640 acres on the Leaf River. His son, Green Kelly had a liaison with a slave named Sarah. Sarah had children by her white master, by a white neighbor and by another slave on the farm. That made three sets of children, a total of eleven.

This may surprise you. It sure did me. But according to Yvonne, it was not an uncommon practice for Piney Woods slave owners, perhaps because of the intimacy created by these modest estates that demanded close-quarters living, to provide for all their offspring, regardless of color. We just don’t hear about it. Newt Knight was vilified not because he sired darker offspring, but because he refused to deny them…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,