The Racially-Mixed People of the Ramapos: Undoing the Jackson White Legends

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2011-09-19 02:47Z by Steven

The Racially-Mixed People of the Ramapos: Undoing the Jackson White Legends

American Anthropologist
Volume 74, Number 5 (October 1972)
pages 1276-1285
DOI: 10.1525/aa.1972.74.5.02a00190

Daniel Collins
North Carolina State University

A review of the literature fails to validate the Jackson White legends which traditionally have accounted for the presence of a racially mixed collectivity in the Ramapo Mountain area. Extant oral traditions supporting the least documented and most pejorative aspects of the legends serve to maintain isolation and threaten the continuation of the Ramapo Mountain community of racially mixed people.

AMONG LOCAL PEOPLE of the Ramapo Valley, which crosses the New YorkNew Jersey border at Suffern, New York, the term “Jackson White” denotes a group of mixed breed persons who are held to have descended from the amalgamated issue of renegades, outlaws, and whores of various colors who at various times throughout the eighteenth century sought the sanctuary of the Ramapo Mountains. The name “Jackson White” connotes a racial anomaly spawned by inbreeding and intermarriage, born into ignorance and degeneracy, and condemned to poverty, feeblemindedness, and suspicion.

The difficulty of distinguishing between legend and history has hampered the establishment of a settled account of the racially mixed people of the Ramapo Mountains. They have been defined by one state agency as “a race of people of mixed Negro, Indian, and White blood inhabiting the Ramapo Mountains in the Northern part of New Jersey and extending over the border into the adjoining section of New York State” (Vineland Training School 1911:1). That a people known as “Jackson Whites” inhabit the rugged Appalachian foothills called the Ramapo Mountains is true; whether or not they constitute a “race of people” and what the historical components of that people are until most recently have been open questions.

There have been three clusters of people referred to as “Jackson Whites” in the valley. In the northern portion “Jackson Whites” have been located around Sloatsburg, Ladentown, and Haverstraw, New York. The other two clusters are centered in the southern portion at Ringwood and Stag Hill (Mahwah) New Jersey.

The physical characteristics of the racially-mixed people are varied as would be expected. Hair textures are both kinky and straight. Skin pigmentations range from brown through red-brown, tan (called “coffee” locally), white, and albino. Some have facial characteristics which appear to be distinctly Indian, and others seem more Caucasian or Negro in their conformation…

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The Jackson Whites

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2011-07-17 06:13Z by Steven

The Jackson Whites

The New Yorker
page 29

George Weller

REPORTER AT LARGE about the Jackson Whites; history and origin of a primitive race living in the Ramapo Mountains. They are a mixture of three races, the white, the Negro, & the American Indians. Next to being an Indian, the greatest point of distinction for the Jackson White is to be an albino. The Ramapos have several entire families of albinos. The queen of the albinos was Nellie Mann, who in the late 1890’s travelled with the Barnum & Bailey sideshow, billed as a wild girl captured in the Australian bush. Mentions the van Dunks an albino family; the de Frees family which has branches all over the Ramapos, and Uncle Willie de Frees, a patriarch of the Jackson Whites and the only surving doctor

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Ramapough Mountain People: “The Jackson Whites”: A Pathfinder and Annotated Bibliography

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2011-07-17 06:07Z by Steven

Ramapough Mountain People: “The Jackson Whites”: A Pathfinder and Annotated Bibliography


Randy D. Ralph


My parents moved the family way, way out in the country, after my baby brother was born, to a little tract house in the middle of the Preakness Valley in Passaic County, New Jersey. The valley was open and green and filled with Dutch dairy farms and Italian truck gardens. It lay snuggled between the Ramapo and Watchung ridges. Our family was one of the first to move into the new neighborhood between Old Man van der Veen’s dairy cows and Mrs. Capodimaggi’s vegetable garden. One day in mid-summer, not long after we’d moved in, a new kid showed up at the baseball diamond the us kids had carved out of one of the still-vacant lots. His name was Willie G. Mann, Jr., or, just “Junior.” He became one of my best friends for reasons I didn’t understand until many years later.

I was a fat kid. I was usually the last to be picked when the kids chose up sides for baseball. I could hit OK, but I couldn’t catch worth a damn and I couldn’t run fast either. More often than not, I’d wind up in the middle of a fight over whose team I’d made lose the last time—until Junior showed up.

The kids on the block thought Junior was “weird-looking” and said so. His complexion was almost bronze. He had sparkling Blue Plate Special blue eyes and jet black, curly hair. He looked for all the world like an Indian to me. To the kids on the block it was clear he wasn’t “one of us.” He was lanky and athletic, though. It almost seemed he could hit a home run with one hand tied behind his back, catch a pop fly blind-folded or round the bases in a blur and slide into home without a drop of sweat on his brow. He was a natural, and that was all that mattered to them…

“The Jackson Whites”:

The Ramapough Mountain People, also known locally, and in the pejorative as “The Jackson Whites,” are an extended clan of closely interrelated families living in the Ramapo Mountains and their more remote valleys principally in Bergen County, New Jersey, but also in immediately adjacent Passaic County, New Jersey, and Rockland County, New York. Their largely Dutch surnames, de Groot, de Fries, van der Donck, and Mann, in all their variant spellings, are among the oldest in the countryside and predate the Revolutionary War. They live only thirty miles or so from downtown Manhattan which lies just across the Hudson River (see map). They are shy, gentle, proud, and reclusive people who, until relatively recently, seldom ventured far from their mountain homes.

They are clearly racially mixed. There are elements from native Indian, Negro, Dutch, and possibly German (Hessian) and Italian blood lines…

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