Almost White

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Social Science, United States on 2012-07-31 04:28Z by Steven

Almost White

212 pages
Original Classication ID: E184.A1 B53
Source: University of Michigan via The Hathi Trust Digital Library

Brewton Berry


  • Preface
  • 1. The Myth of the Vanishing Indian
  • 2. Where Are They?
  • 3. Who Are They?
  • 4. What the Whites Believe
  • 5. What the Negro Thinks
  • 6. Etiquette
  • 7. How They Live
  • 8. Their Schools
  • 9. Almost Red
  • 10. Almost Black
  • 11. Almost White
  • Bibliography
  • Index


Miscegenation seems to be an inevitable consequence of the meeting of races and nationalities. Despite the fears and warnings of the Jeremiahs, hybrids are everywhere. Fortunately, most people of mixed blood are able to identify themselves with, and are accepted by, one or the other of the racial groups from which they have sprung. Thus, the American mulatto thinks of himself as a Negro and is accepted by other Negroes as one of themselves.

But here and there we find pathetic folk of mixed ancestry who never know quite where they belong. There are Eurasians in the Far East, Anglo-Indians in India, Cape Coloured and Afro-Asians in South Africa, Jamaica Whites in Jamaica, and Indo-Europeans in Indonesia. Elsewhere we find Bovianders, Lobos, Caboslos, Cafusos, Moplahs, Moriscos, Cholos and countless others. These are raceless people, neither fish nor fowl, neither white, nor black, nor red, nor brown. They bear a heavy cross.

We have such folk in the United States. I first became aware of them as a youth in Orangeburg, South Carolina where there are outcasts known as Brass Ankles, Red Legs, and Buckheads. But, like others of my class, I remained aloof from them and never gave them a passing thought. Not, at any rate, until 1937 when I read Everett Stonequist’s The Marginal Man. That set me to thinking, and for the past twenty-five years I have been searching out and visiting these hybrid communities. A fellowship from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation enabled me to spend one full year in the field, and another was made possible by a grant from the Graduate School of The Ohio State University.

My informants have been legion. Over the years I have corresponded with hundreds of persons who shared my interest. I have talked with thousands of whites and Negroes who live in proximity to these mixed-bloods. My indebtedness to all these is very great. Especially do I appreciate the help given me by Dr. William Harlen Gilbert, Jr., of the Library of Congress, Mr. Calvin L. Beale of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Dr. Edward T. Price of Los Angeles State College, and Mr. C. A. Weslager of Wilmington, Delaware. I am grateful to Dr. Chapman J. Milling, of Columbia, South Carolina, for permission to use his poem “Croatan” which appears in Chapter II. The editors of Phylon allowed me to reprint “The Myth of the Vanishing Indian,” and the University of North Carolina Press granted permission to quote from James Aswell’s God Bless the Devil!

Most of all I am indebted to the thousands of mixed-bloods, whom I call mestizos, who received me with kindness and courtesy, and who shared their secrets with me. I hope that this book will help to remove some of the prejudice and misunderstanding to which they have been subjected.

Brewton Berry

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The Mestizos of South Carolina

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Social Science, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2011-03-20 22:26Z by Steven

The Mestizos of South Carolina

The American Journal of Sociology
Volume 51, Number 1 (July 1945)
pages 34-41

Brewton Berry

There are several communities of white-Indian-Negro hybrids in South Carolina, the members of which do not fit into the biracial caste system upon which the state’s whole social structure is built. Similar groups are found in other states. Some of these are amalgamating with the Negroes, while others have won an intermediate status as “Inidans.” Those in South Carolina have resisted both of these accommodations and have persistently fought for white status. Their present position in etiquette and is local institutions, such as churches and schools, is a particular one, being the status of neither Negroes nor whites.

There are in South Carolina today fully five thousand people—perhaps even ten thousand—who do not fit into the biracial caste system upon which the state’s whole social structure is built. These out-castes insist that they are white, and they claim the privileges and courtesies of white people. Some of them, if pressed, will not deny a strain of Indian, though they take no pride in the fact; and most of them are offended even at that suggestion. The dominant whites, on the other hand, are convinced that there is a trace of Negro blood in them and, on the theory that “one drop of Negro blood makes one a Negro,” are reluctant to accept them and regard their claim to white status with various and mixed emotions, ranging from amusement to horror.

This failure of a sizable group of people to fit into the social system creates many problems. It is, in fact, a threat to the whole structure, undermining the popular faith that the system functions adequately and will continue to function forever. “We simply cannot admit them to the white schools,” confessed one trustee, “because, if we did, pretty soon the Negroes would want to come in, and then where would we be?” The same question arises with respect to churches, hospitals, political parties, parks, playgrounds, moving pictures, hotels, restaurants, clubs, and cemeteries. These institutions, in all of which rigid racial segregation is the rule, are operated upon the assumption that every person is either white or black and that there are absolute criteria to determine in which group one belongs. It is so with regard to the etiquette of race relations. “I wish you would tell me what these Brass Ankles are,” said a bank teller, “so I would know whether to ‘mister’ them or not.” Most disturbing of all is the threat to the assumed purity of the white race; for if these doubtful ones are being absorbed without dire consequences, as seems to be the case, what is to prevent an inundation of Negro blood?

These outcastes, whom I call “mestizos,” are designated by a wide variety of names, none of them flattering. In Richland County they are known as “Red Bones.” In one section of Orangeburg County they are “Red Legs”; in another, “Brass Ankles.” The degrading name “Brass Ankle” is also commonly used in Dorchester, Colleton, Berkeley, and Charleston counties. In Sumter they arc called “Turks”; in Bamberg, “Buckheads”; while in Marlboro, Dillon, Marion, and Horry they are “Croatans,” a name that is sometimes shortened to the even more unflattering “Cro.” In Chesterfield they are known as “Marlboro Blues,”a slur on the adjoining county, whence they came. In some localities…

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Mixing in the Mountains

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Social Science, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2011-01-01 04:20Z by Steven

Mixing in the Mountains

Southern Cultures
Volume 3, Issue 4 (Winter 1997)
pages 25-35

John Shelton Reed, William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Research in Social Science
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

One January day in 1996, I picked up the Wall Street Journal to find a story headlined “Rural County Balks at Joining Global Village.” It told about Hancock County, Tennessee, which straddles the Clinch River in the ridges hard up against the Cumberland Gap, where Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee meet.

This is a county that has lost a third of its 1950 population, which was only ten thousand to begin with. A third of those left are on welfare, and half of those with jobs have to leave the county to work. The only town is Sneedville, population 1300, which has no movie theater, no hospital, no dry cleaner, no supermarket, and no department store.

I read this story with a good deal of interest because the nearest city of any consequence is my hometown of Kingsport, thirty-five miles from Sneedville as the crow flies, but an hour and a half on mountain roads. (If you don’t accept my premise that Kingsport is a city of consequence, Knoxville’s a little further from Sneedville, in the opposite direction.)

The burden of the article was that many of Hancock County’s citizens are indifferent to the state of Tennessee’s desire to hook them up to the information superhighway—a job that will take some doing, especially for the one household in six that doesn’t have a telephone. The Journal quoted several Hancock Countians to the effect that they didn’t see the point. The reporter observed that the county offers “safe, friendly ways, pristine rivers, unspoiled forests and mountain views,” and that many residents simply “like things the way they are.”

So far a typical hillbilly-stereotype story. But the sentence that really got my attention was this: “Many families here belong to a hundred or so Melungeon clans of Portuguese and American Indian descent, who tend to be suspicious of change and have a history of self-reliance.”…

…Anyway, the Melungeons’ problems, historically, haven’t been due to their American Indian heritage. Like the South’s other triracial groups, they have been ostracized and discriminated against because their neighbors suspected that they were, as one told Miss Dromgoole, “Portuguese niggers.” (Do not imagine that the absence of racial diversity in the mountains means the absence of racial prejudice.) Until recently most Melungeons have vociferously denied any African American connection and have simply refused to accept the attendant legal restrictions. As one mother told Brewton Berry, “I’d sooner my chilluns grow up ig’nant like monkeys than send ’em to that nigger school.” But those neighbors were probably right: DeMarce has now established clear lines from several Melungeon families back to eighteenth-century free black families in Virginia and the Carolinas…

…In her pioneering article on the Melungeons, Miss Dromgoole reveals an interesting misconception: “a race of Mulattoes cannot exist as these Melungeons have existed,” she wrote. “The Negro race goes from Mulattoes to quadroons, from quadroons to octoroons and there it stops. The octoroon women bear no children. Think about that: “Octoroon women bear no children.” Like mules. Who knows how many genteel southern white women held that comforting belief-comforting, that is, to one who accepted the “one drop” rule of racial identification that was enshrined in the laws of many states. But in one sense Miss Dromgoole was right. Not only is there no word for people with one black great-great-grandparent, it’s almost true, sociologically speaking, that there are no such people…

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