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Melungeons and Other Mestee Groups PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Mike Nassau   
Monday, 01 January 2001

Melungeons and Other Mestee Groups

Mike Nassau

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This book may be copied in whole or part if properly cited.
updated 22 October 1999

Originally Published 1994
(Author's name changed to Nassau from McGlothlen in 1997)

Click here to download this book formatted for your Palm or HandSpring PDA




This document was prepared as a class handout for a presentation
to an anthropology course, "The African Diaspora," taught by
Dr. Deidre Crumbley at the University of Florida.
Originally prepared January 1993, revised and
enlarged July 1993, and February 1994.

Mike Nassau
White Street, Sunrise Subdivision Barangay Cruzada
Old Albay District Legazpi City, Philippines 4500
telephone 63(052)481-4345

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Cataloging suggestions:
Author: Nassau, Michael Edward, 1939-
(Name changed from McGlothlen April 9, 1997)
Other authors: Price, Edward Thomas, and Gilbert, William Harlen
Title: Melungeons and Other Mestee Groups

Subjects: 1. Melungeons 2. Lumbee Indians
3. Mestees 4. Brass Ankles 5. Mulattoes
6. Ramapo Mountain People 7. Miscegenation
8. Indians of North America - Mixed Descent

114 pages.  (190 pages with copied articles, not in this online version)       1994

LC type call number: F445 .M44 M23
Dewey type call number: 976.0048 M145



NOTES 1994

The most thorough study of the Melungeons is still in print as of 1994:
Melungeons Yesterday and Today by Jean Bible is available from the author for $10.00 plus $1.48 postage:
Mrs. Jean Patterson Bible
PO Box 886, Dandridge TN 37725
telephone: (615) 397-3479

This book has been filed with the Library of Congress. The entire document may be copied by any person or institution without permission. The papers by Edward Price are copied by permission of the publishers and may be copied separately only with their permission. The article by William Gilbert is a government document and may be copied.

Postscripts written in July 1994, after visiting all of the groups in the Southern Appalachian Range (the groups covered in the chapter on Melungeons and Allies) and in August 1994, after seeing a new book on the Melungeons (which tells about the formation of a new Melungeon Research Committee), are included at the end.

This version without the copied articles is being posted on internet and may be copied in part or whole with proper citation.



NOTES 1999

There is much new material available on the Melungeons. Be sure to see Cyndi's Melungeon List at http://www.cyndislist.com/peoples.htm#Melungeons , the Mountain Ties Webpage at http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~mtnties and Cresswell's Melungeon Links at http://cresswells.com/alhn/melung/index.html on the internet.  The Melungeon Homepage is at  http://www.melungeons.org/index.html.  The Melungeon Outpost can be found on any of these pages.   "Under One Sky" by Bill Fields (Melungeon News Letter webpage) can be accessed at http://www.geocities.com/BourbonStreet/Square/5018/Page_1x.html .  Put in both Melungeon and Melungeons as search topics on the internet.   The Interracial Resource Page http://jei.astraweb.com/ii/ and the Interracial Voice http://www.interracialvoice.com/ have a lot of material on mixed race people.   Be sure to see N. Brent Kennedy's book, The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People: An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing in America.

There have been two Melungeon conventions, First Union and Second Union, at The University of Virginia's College at Wise. Look for the college under it's old name, Clinch Valley College, on the internet. Brent Kennedy is at this College. Wise is on the Clinch River, which runs by Sneedville TN, under Newman's Ridge, and was the valley was the main route followed by Melungeons moving into Virginia. This college, Appalachian State University in Boone NC, the University of Kentucky, the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) and East Tennessee State University in Johnson City TN, all support Melungeon studies.




CONTENTS

PREFACE

NEW PEOPLES

MARGINALITY

MESTEE GROUPS IN AMERICA

MELUNGEONS AND ALLIES

MISCEGENATION AND GENETICS

LUMBEE INDIANS

RAMAPO MOUNTAIN PEOPLE

THE SOUTHERN RANGE

OTHER MESTEE GROUPS

CLASSIFICATION

AFTERWORD

BIBLIOGRAPHY

SUGGESTIONS FOR LIBRARY COMPUTER SEARCHING

ARTICLES BY EDWARD T. PRICE AND WILLIAM H. GILBERT

POSTSCRIPT, JULY, 1994

POSTSCRIPT, AUGUST, 1994

CLASS HANDOUT ON MIXED-RACE IDENTITY, FEBRUARY, 1996

UPDATE, NOVEMBER, 1996

UPDATE, OCTOBER, 1999



PREFACE

RACIALLY MIXED GROUPS IN AMERICA

This preface was prepared as a class handout for a presentation to an anthropology course, "The African Diaspora," taught by Dr. Deidre Crumbley at the University of Florida, February, 1994.

People have mixed their gene pools throughout human history, at least since the emergence of modern man some one hundred thousand years ago. There are usually groups along the borders between the major groups which are intermediate in racial characteristics. There is tremendous variation within most groups, though a few isolated, highly inbred groups such as the Andamanese of Little Andaman Island are remarkably uniform in their appearance. Visible features such as hair type or skin color may be selected for within a group according to their standards of beauty, causing eventual uniformity for these characters, while unseen characters such as blood serum proteins will reveal great diversity and complex origins.

Crossing between groups within a species is almost always advantageous, deleterious genes inherited from one parent being masked by beneficial genes from the other parent. The exceptions to hybrids benefiting from heterosis or hybrid vigor are limited to cases where one group is highly selected for an unusual environment. The almost total loss of sweat glands in some Arctic peoples is an example, a hybrid who produced enough perspiration to make his clothing wet in severe cold weather would be at a definite disadvantage. My stance in this presentation is that mixed is better, that identification with one group tends to prevent mixing, and hence recognition of mixed people without trying to force them into one race or the other is needed.

My personal identification is mixed. Pushed to name one group, I choose Melungeon, though I am only one-eighth Melungeon, because their mixed identity and ambiguous history appeals to me. As well as the Melungeon, I had three other great-grandparents who were not white but passed for white. One was a Carolina Mestee (Brass Ankle?), one a light skinned black and one part Ozark Cherokee. I certainly have more Scots and Ulster Scots ancestry, and have no objection to being identified as of Scots descent, except that that puts me firmly in the white race. When asked to choose one of the major races without mixed or Mestee as a choice, I put black (with high-yellow oreo appended if there is room). This is a political statement of my view of the race laws of Tenessee and Arkansas and American custom in general which view part African as black, no matter how little the part. So if I say white, I am denying the black, while by saying black, I am not denying the white and American Indian.

As best as I can figure from a family history where most ancestors were trying to hide any non-white origins, I am 1 to 3% Indian, 4 to 9% African and 90 to 95% white in ancestry. This compares closely to my best guess for the Melungeons as a group, about 1% Indian, 9% African and 90% European. I am putting this statement in because last year (1993) some members of the class felt I was expressing some distaste for my Melungeon and black identifications by speaking of Melungeons and other Mestees in the third person. Rather, I am embarassed in claiming to be Melungeon or black when I have so little inheritance to substantiate such an identity, especially since I am not culturally part of either group.

Indian-Black Mixture

Jack Forbes is concerned with the American Indian contribution to the black population and the African contribution to the Indian population. He documents this quite thoroughly, and gives some of the names for mixed race people in different places and at different times. Sambo or Zambo is the one term which was originally used for black-Indian crosses exclusively, it was apparently of Brazilian origin but spread throughout the New World. Like most such terms it gradually came to be used for many other people as well. He mentioned the term Mestee as a generic term for mixed race people in the Lower South. It derives from Middle French mestis (metis in modern French with a circumflex over the e to represent the lost s) and is cognate with the Spanish mestizo. It is sometimes spelt mustee, which Forbes attributes to making it agree with mulatto. In Louisiana, mestiff (from mestif, the adjective form of mestis) was used for a person less than one-eighth African who could pass for white. In the Upper South mulatto was used rather indiscriminately for mixed race people, including black-Indian and even white-Indian as well as the usual black-white mixes, and mestee was sometimes used for one who pass for white.

Large numbers of Indians were enslaved and kept with black slaves, eventually merging into the black population, especially in the Carolinas. Indian women were forced by the whites to live with black slave men in Virginia so their babies would be part black and easier to keep as slaves. Part Indian slaves were imported from the Caribbean and Brazil. Black and part black people incorporated into Indian tribes were frequently enslaved by white raiders. Free blacks and mulattos frequently married Indians. The remnants of decimated Indian groups sometimes joined black communities, especially when the Indians already had some black in them. In such ways, the contribution to the gene pool of black Americans by Indians has been large.

The study of serum protein frequencies of urban blacks in several American cities analysed the data on the assumption they were of mixed African and European origin, giving a range from 96% African in Savannah to 48% in St. Paul. Ignoring the Indian contribution was a serious mistake, especially in the Carolinas, Virginia and Louisiana.

Free blacks and mulattos and escaped slaves frequently joined Indian groups. Indian raiders took black prisoners and made them slaves or incorporated them into their communities. Some Indians, particularly the Cherokee, bought black slaves from the whites. Black-Indian marriages sometimes joined the Indians instead of the black community. Some Indian groups absorbed so many blacks that some of them became a separate entity, like the black Seminoles. All Indian groups from Oklahoma east and south of New York have much black in them. Some black is found even in some groups outside this area, particularly New England, where escaped slaves from the South sometimes joined Indian communities.

The fact that a black community and an Indian community may be formed by a very similar mix of African, Indian and European ancestry does not make them similar culturally. The original culture usually continues to predominate with the gradual absorption of members of the other group having comparatively little effect.

Mestees

Mestee groups all predate the Civil War. Since the Civil War, there has been no real distinction between black and part black, and the rule that part black is black has prevented the formation of any new groups. However, there are nearly 200 such groups in the broadest definition. Before the Civil War, free mulattos were accorded an intermediate position between black and white in many locations. In Charleston and New Orleans, a Colored community with some wealth developed, emulated white society and even held black slaves. After the Civil War, the term Colored was gradually extended to all blacks as a 'courtesy'. Other Mestee communities were formed by one or more residual Indian groups absorbing many blacks and part blacks and losing their Indian language. Since all the Indian groups of the South and Border regions are part black, once they lost their Indian language it was easy for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to say they are not real Indians, they are blacks pretending to be Indian. Of all such groups, only the Lumbee of North Carolina have acheived state recognition as Indian and even they are not accepted by the BIA. Some groups, notably the Melungeons and Brass Ankles, have absorbed so much white since their formation that now most can easily pass for white. Other groups have so much black that most people just consider them black, such as the Moors and Nanticokes of Delaware and Maryland.

Other groups such as the Freedmen of Virginia, the colored Creoles of Louisiana and Mississippi, and the Creoles and Cajans of Alabama and Florida, admit that they are part black but still keep themselves apart from other blacks and preserve a separate culture.

Classification and Identity

Classification is based on many things. Culture, language, wealth, education, known or putative ancestry, etc., enter into racial classification as well as actual appearance. An individual who was actually 1/8 African, 1/4 Indian and 5/8 European in ancestry might be considered black, Indian, white or Mestee depending on where he was raised and by whom. If he was 1/4 African, 1/4 Indian and 1/2 European, he might be any of them except white in most of the U.S. and in places he could pass for white. If he was 1/2 African, 1/4 Indian and 1/4 European, the white option would pretty definitely be closed and some Mestee groups such as the Melungeons and Brass Ankles would also exclude him, as would most western Indian groups. The ambiguity is staggering. What is an Indian, a black, a white?

What are Mestees? Brewton Berry, in Almost White, wants to make most of them white. Of course, he was a white liberal being big hearted and offering them the most advantageous classification. William Gilbert, in his treatment of Indian and part-Indian groups of the eastern U.S., wants them all considered Indian. Terry Wilson, in his chapter on Native American mixed bloods, gives some details of the contribution of these peoples to the history of the native peoples of the United States. He mentions the Mestee groups, citing Berry's Almost White; he prefers to consider them as mixed blood Indian communities rather than as marginal whites. He describes the uneasy relationship between mixed and putatively full blooded Indians, suggesting that it is time for the Indians to reject the racial classification imposed by the whites and accept all those of Indian or part Indian culture as Indians. G. Reginald Daniel, in the same book, Racially Mixed People in America, treats Mestees as part of the light skinned blacks who have passed or attempted to pass for white or Indian in order to escape the lower status accorded blacks. He is sympathetic to their lot, noting that blacks have resented Mestees denying their black ancestry, but sees it as a result of their attempt to avoid white racism rather than symptomatic of their own bigotry. Jack Forbes considers them as a black-Indian mix, a bridge between the two groups, but not to the whites.

So all these want to incorporate Mestees into the major racial group(s) in which they are interested. What is wrong with being a Mestee, mixed and not in any one race? What do the Mestees themselves want? The light skinned groups like the Melungeons and the Brass Ankles want to be accepted as white while being proud of their own community's history. Those who are strongly Indian in culture like the Lumbee and Haliwa Indians, the Alabama Creeks, the Delaware Nanticokes and the Issues want to be accepted as Indian. Those who admit to having a substantial black contribution to their inheritance, such as the Freedmen and Creoles, want a separate category for mixed, such as Colored used to be. The rest would welcome something to put on the forms, so the need for a Mestee category is real.

Why not follow the new norm in America and say Mestees are black since they are known to be part black? That is fine with me, but very few Mestees would agree with it. Blacks do not take pride in their white ancestors in most cases because their white ancestors did not acknowledge their part black progeny and let them be raised as slaves. Mestees do take pride in their white ancestors, having not suffered that rejection to same degree, at least having been raised free. In checking the history of the laws establishing the limits on how much non-white ancestry is allowed in a person still accepted as white (this varies from one-eighth African in Florida to no known African in Arkansas and Tennessee), I found that all the cases where school segregation was challenged before the Ramapo Mountain People's case in 1948 were brought by white mothers. This leads me to suspect that white mothers of mixed children may have been a substantial contribution to the formation of some Mestee groups. If so, once again women have been left out of recorded history.

Mestees tend to be more Indian culturally than racially as a result of black and white being introduced slowly to groups originally Indian. The Issues of Virginia, who are quite black racially, can be distinguished at a distance from blacks by their habit of walking silently in single file while the neighboring blacks walk in clusters talking as they go. Most Mestees do not have much interest in organized religion, which tends to play a central role in most black communities. They are not known for interest in music, and their music tends to be that of the surrounding white community, not the black. Of course, many Mestees are racist, having learned one of the best ways not to be treated as black by the whites is to join them in their anti-black attitudes. The colored Creoles of New Orleans have clubs which will not admit members darker than a brown paper bag.

Some of the division between Mestees and blacks goes back to the days of slavery. The title of a recent book on the Freedmen of Virginia, We Were Always Free, shows the pride of these groups in their free status at the timeof the Civil War. My Melungeon great-grandfather, Matthew Price, took the description of the Melungeons in the Tennessee constitution, free people of color, and changed it to free people of Tennessee when he moved to the Ozarks. President Lincoln said no shame should be attached to being a slave but rather to owning slaves, but that enlightenment has not yet reached most Mestees.

Recently Mixed People

The book Racially Mixed People in America has a number of articles on the growing numbers of mixed people and their quest for identity. I believe that there is a good case made there for recognizing mixed people as a separate category, but I would not want to put the Mestees in that category. Almost none of them would be happy with that as they are distinct communities with long histories of their own.

Purpose and Viewpoint

The paper I wrote last year, Melungeons and Other Mestee Groups, is not intended to be either comprehensive or authoritative, but just to stimulate interest and lead people into the sometimes obscure literature on Mestees and other mixed race people.

The bibliography is mostly annotated and by using it and the bibliographies of the main sources such as Almost White and Melungeons Yesterday and Today, you can easily find a wealth of materials on the Mestees. I hope that some of you will use it as an introduction to these little known but I believe fascinating groups.

The Lumbee, with their group pride and their on-going efforts to be recognized as an independent Indian tribe, are what all members of other Mestee people must look to, and say that is what we might have been if we had got our act together. Henry Berry Lowry, who led the Lumbee resistance to white encroachment and enslavement, is the one true Mestee folk hero. W. McKee Evans, a Lumbee, opened his book, To Die Game: The Story of the Lowry Band, Indian Guerrillas of Reconstruction, with this quote from Henry Berry Lowry:

    "My band is big enough. ... They are all true men. ... We mean to live as long as we can - and at last, if we must die, to die game."

Stonequist's view that it is bad to be a marginal person, one who fails to be a full member in any group, is not the only view. Christine Iijima Hall in her chapter in Racially Mixed People in America deals with Stonequist's concept of the marginal man. She makes the point that such individuals are culturally enriched by their mixed heritage and quotes R. E. Park (Stonequist's teacher and the originator of the term marginal man) in the introduction to Stonequist's book:

    "The fate which condemns him [the marginal person] to live, the same time, in two worlds is the same which compels him to assume, in relation to the world in which he lives, the role of a cosmopolitan and a stranger. Inevitably he becomes, relative to his cultural milieu, the individual with a wider horizon, the keener intelligence, the more detached and rational viewpoint. The marginal person is always relatively the more civilized human being."



NEW PEOPLES

Hybridization of people and their languages has occurred throughout human history, many people show strong evidence of their mixed background. The languages formed by people using words of a foreign language without understanding the grammar and structure of the language (pidgens) and then adopting this language as their first language with the resulting elaboration of grammar (creoles) has become a major field of study in linguistics. Examples of languages which have borrowed extensively and been modified by contact with other languages are well known. While the Germanic classification of English has never been seriously disputed, less than half the words in an unabridged dictionary are of Germanic origin. Vietnamese is still considered Austric or Austro-Asiaticeven though half its words are Chinese loans and it has adopted all five tones of Chinese into a language originally non-tonal.

The Ashkenazi Jews of northern and eastern Europe offer a fascinating example of a thoroughly mixed background. The area now the Ukraine and southeastern European Russia was Scythia (Ashkenaz in Hebrew). The Scythians (an Iranic group) were conquered by the Sarmatians (another Iranic people represented by the Ossets today). The mixture of Scythians and Sarmatians were known as Alans at the time they were conquered by the Huns (a Yeneseian people) and became a major component of Attila's army. After the Mongol and Tatar (Turkic) conquests, the region spoke a Turkic language, Khazar, although the people were racially more Iranic and many Iranic names persisted. The Khazars were pressed by Russians from the north to become Christian and by Turks from the south to become Moslem. Their response was to convert to Judaism. Jews from other countries came to this Jewish kingdom and added a small Semitic strain to the population.

When they were conquered by the Russians, many of the Khazars fled to the Austrian Empire where they adopted German language and names. Then as they spread back east, they developed their own language, Yiddish, which is mostly German with some Hebrew and Slavic loans. Arthur Koestler gives details of this process in Khazars, the Thirteenth Tribe. In trying to be acceptable to their Austrian and Prussian rulers, the Jews claimed that Ashkenaz was Hebrew for Germany and that they were of German origin. Many still believe this and have lost touch with their Iranic and Turkic heritage. Many new peoples have lost their history, sometimes replacing it with a more acceptable myth.

The Danube frontier of the Roman Empire was mostly guarded by Garamante (Tubu) legions drawn from the central Sahara, who were black Africans with negroid features. For the first few hundred years of its existence, Vienna had a predominately black population (at least the males). The heavy, wavy black hair and dark eyes common in Austria and Bavaria even today seem at variance with their German language. Beethoven could not pass for white, although he had no known black ancestry since Roman times. Hitler's heavy black hair suggests black ancestry which he would hardly have found palatable.

Many new ethnic groups have been formed by the mixture of other groups. Sometimes these groups have a distinctive appearance as with the Cape Coloured community of South Africa (Dutch-Javanese-KhoiKhoi-Indian mix with some Bantu, Scots, English or Jewish in some), the Rehobothers of Namibia (KhoiKhoi-Dutch mix), Anglo-Indians of India (Indian-Portuguese mix with some English, Scots or Irish in some), Burghers of Sri Lanka (Tamil-Dutch-Portuguese-Sinhalese-English mix), Moors of Sri Lanka (Tamil-Arab-Gujurati-Swahili-Sinhalese mix), Eurasians of Burma, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc. With African-European mixtures, sometimes the mixed population is classed with the African population, which has generally been the case in North America and the British Isles, sometimes with the European population, as in most of Sub-Saharan Africa, and sometimes with other mixed peoples, as in South Africa and most of Latin America.

In Zambia, the registration forms specify that a part European child shall be classed as Coloured if raised in the European community with English as his first language but as African if raised in an African community with a Bantu language as his first language.

Ethnic identity is a compound of culture, language and biological race. For a person of mixed ancestry, it depends on how he is raised, his speech, his social standing, his physical attractiveness and his wealth and power as much as the color of his skin or the shape of his nose and lips. Other racial characters such as lobeless ears, flat feet, keloid scarring and long heel bones (with consequent flat calf muscles) which indicate West African inheritance are generally not noticed.The family one comes from, the school one went to and the community one lives in all determine one's identity as much as one's personal appearance.

In Latin America, mixed race people are called mestizo. This most frequently refers to Indian-white mixes, but includes black-white, black-Indian and three race mixes as well. Mestizo communities are large in most Latin American countries and form the vast majority in some such as Mexico, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. In Canada, Indian-white mixed communities are numerous and large and have an important history of their own. They are called Metis.

In the United States, mixed-race people are usually classed with the community in which they are raised (usually black for black-white mixes and Indian for Indian-white and black-Indian mixes) in recent times, but, prior to the Civil War, many Mestee communities came into being.

The word Mestee (also spelled Mustee) derives from the Middle French mestis (feminine mestisse, plural mestice), metis (with a circumflex over the e to represent the lost s) in Modern French, which is used for mixed race persons [JF]. Mestif (feminine mestive), the adjective form of mestis, has been used in French for a person of black-white mixed inheritance who can pass for white. Mestee or mestiff has been used in this sense by some in the United States. I have chosen to use Mestee to describe the mixed race groups originating in the eastern United States. Brewton Berry has called them Mestizo, but this tends to confuse them with the much larger communities of Latin America. Mestee groups manage to maintain their identity in opposition to the usual rule in America that part black is black only by being isolated from both blacks and whites and by staying in the locale where the group is well known [FD]. If they leave this area, they must either be light enough to pass for white or accept classification as black [FD].



MARGINALITY

Starting with Everett Stonequist, many studies have been directed at people who are intermediate between groups or races. He introduced the concept of "marginality," and studied the problems caused by alienation and the lack of identity. This concept has been applied to the children of mixed marriages and to immigrants as well as to mixed or intermediate groups. The article by Arthur M. Rose on "Marginal Groups" in the 1970 Encyclopaedia Britannica gives an interesting application of this concept to American Mestee groups, stressing their self-hatred:

    "One of their most important characteristics is their group self-hatred, which manifests itself in a vigorous denial that they are Negro. In one important way they are right, since they are not predominantly Negro in a scientific, biological sense. But they are partly Negro, and are socially defined as Negro by the majority of the population, and of these things they are very much aware. Thus they are marginal - accepted neither by whites nor by Negroes, while they themselves refuse the racial identification which both of the other groups give them as Negroes."

There is much which is objectionable or wrong in this article. Those Mestees who deny that they are part black (this is most of them) usually genuinely believe they have no black ancestry or that it is so minimal and remote as to be insignificant.

They are frequently racist, despising blacks, without hating themselves or their group. Such self-hatred as exists is a product of white rejection and their resultant marginality. This article concerns primarily the Cajuns and 'white' Creoles of Louisiana, who are generally accepted as white today with some recognition of a considerable Micmac Indian infusion into the Cajuns while they were still in Canada, and the Lumbees (Croatans) who identify themselves as Indian. The Freedmen of Virginia, the 'colored' Creoles of Louisiana, the Cajans and Creoles of Alabama, the Nanticokes of Delaware and many of the Ramapo Mountain People acknowledge their obvious black ancestry but still will not mix socially with blacks. Blacks ridicule Mestees for thinking they are white or wanting to be white, but when Mestees seek black acceptance as blacks, it is readily given.

One thing which separates all Mestees from blacks is that they are proud of their white ancestry. Since the white parents of mulatto children generally did not recognize them, they were incorporated into the black community without having any attachment to their white relatives. The mulattos who helped found Mestee communities were generally raised free and were acknowledged by their white parent. They felt they were better than slave blacks both because they were part white and because they were free.

Later, as a result of rejection and discrimination by whites, many Mestees came not to care for white people, even though proud of being mostly white (even if they were not). While many Mestees have 'passed' for white in order to escape discrimination and get better jobs, this doesn't mean they admire the whites. All Mestee groups were formed before the Civil War, they were "free people of color" then. They take inordinate pride in this fact, regarding slavery as ignominious. The title of a recent book about the Freedmen of Virginia, We Were Always Free, illustrates this view. Abraham Lincoln's dictum that there is no shame in being a slave but rather in owning slaves does not seem to have penetrated these groups yet. Since the Civil War, the rule that part black is black has prevented the formation of new Mestee groups.

That it is bad to be a marginal person, one who fails to be a full member in any group, is not the only view. Christine Iijima Hall makes the point that such individuals are culturally enriched by their mixed heritage and quotes R. E. Park (Stonequist's teacher and the originator of the term marginal man) in the introduction to Stonequist's book: "The fate which condemns him [the marginal person] to live, the same time, in two worlds is the same which compels him to assume, in relation to the world in which he lives, the role of a cosmopolitan and a stranger. Inevitably he becomes, relative to his cultural milieu, the individual with a wider horizon, the keener intelligence, the more detached and rational viewpoint. The marginal person is always relatively the more civilized human being."

Terry Wilson, in his chapter on Native American mixed bloods, gives some details of the contribution of these peoples to the history of the native peoples of the United States. He mentions the Mestee groups, citing Berry's Almost White; he prefers to consider them as mixed blood Indian communities rather than as marginal whites. He describes the uneasy relationship between mixed and putatively full blooded Indians, suggesting that it is time for the Indians to reject the racial classification imposed by the whites and accept all those of Indian or part Indian culture as Indians.

G. Reginald Daniel, in the same book, Racially Mixed People in America, treats Mestees as part of the light skinned blacks who have passed or attempted to pass for white or Indian in order to escape the lower status accorded blacks. He is sympathetic to their lot, noting that blacks have resented Mestees denying their black ancestry, but sees it as a result of their attempt to avoid white racism rather than symptomatic of their own bigotry.



MESTEE GROUPS IN AMERICA

The various Mestee groups (there are between 100 and 200 distinct groups, depending on the definition one uses) tend to be connected, at least regionally. Members of one group frequently join another group when they move. Individuals resulting from interracial matings of more recent times have also sometimes joined these communities. Some groups have been formed by migration of members of older groups. Since the Mestee are mixed, the children of a mixed marriage with one Mestee parent are still Mestee. Exceptions are when the Mestee is able to pass for white and marries white, and sometimes (depending on the group) when the spouse is a dark black. Since Mestee communities usually have high reproductive rates and incorporate the children of mixed marriages, they have grown rapidly in numbers. However, migration to cities where they may lose their identity is causing some groups to decline.

Any Indian group in the eastern United States can be viewed as Mestee, especially if they have lost their Indian language. The Catawba of South Carolina are sometimes listed as Mestee rather than Indian not so much because of small amounts of white and black in the group as because they have been joined by so many remnants of smaller Indian groups. The Seminole, formed by refugees from the deportation of eastern Indians to Oklahoma, mostly from the Creek Confederation, were joined by many blacks and are truly Mestee in the racial sense. However, since both of these groups still speak an Indian language and have preserved a continuous Indian identity, they are more correctly regarded as Indian. Groups like the Black Seminoles, who have kept separate from the main body of their tribe on a racial basis, are a special problem in classification, being racially black but culturally partly Indian.

The higher numbers for Mestee groups include numerous small Indian groups who are not recognized as Indian by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Where their identity is with one or a small number of historical tribes and they retain the name of such a tribe, I would regard them as Indian even if they have lost the Indian language, no longer have any communal land and appear to be largely non-Indian racially. However, if one will not accept them as Indian, then they certainly are Mestee. Examples include the Mashpee, Pequot, Wampanoag, Narragansetts, Mohegan, Shinnecock, Poosepatuck, Chickahominy, Mattapony, Nansemond, Pamunkey, Potomac, Rappahanock, Machepunga, Eastern Creeks, Eastern Choctaw, and Chitimacha [WG].

The special status of the Lumbees should be noted in this connection. They want to be recognized as Indians, they are so recognized by the State of North Carolina, and they are the most Indian of the larger Mestee groups. The U.S. Bureau of the Census deemed for the last two censuses that, while they would not recognize a Mestee category as existing, census takers were to allow members of "old mixed-race groups" to choose black, white or Indian as they wished. Therefore I would contend that Lumbees are Indians, not Mestees, but will continue to treat them in this paper because of their interaction and common history with some of the other groups.

There are several groups which derive from French or Spanish mixes. The "white" Creoles of Louisiana are French and Spanish with a little Indian and black and the Cajuns are French and Indian with a little black, but neither group will admit the black and they have been accepted as white. The "colored" Creoles of Louisiana and the Creoles of Alabama and Mississippi are a mix of French and Spanish with a lot of black and a little Indian. Also there are many Mestizo groups in the Southwest or from Latin America. These groups, with their Spanish or French names, are quite distinct from the Mestees originating in the eastern United States.

The remaining groups can be divided into five ranges, with extensive exchange occurring between the groups within each range. The northern range (New York - upper New Jersey - Pennsylvania) includes the large Ramapo Mountain People and smaller groups such as the Slaughters and Bushwhackers. The Potomac - West Virginia range includes the Wesorts, Guineas, Issues, Moors and Nanticokes. The Southern Appalachian range includes the Melungeons and Ramps, Person County Indians, Haliwa Indians, Magoffin County People and Carmel Indians. The Dead Lake People of the Florida panhandle (Wewahitchka-Blountstown) have been called Melungeons and identified with them, and the Redbones of Louisiana do partly derivefrom this range. The Lumbees of southern North Carolina and the border of South Carolina are the largest Mestee (technically Indian) group and constitute their own range. The Southern range includes the Brass Ankles, Red Bones, Turks, Smilings and many other small groups of South Carolina, the Cajans of Alabama and Mississippi, the Dead Lake People of Florida and the Redbones (including the Sabines and Houmas) of Louisiana [BB,WG,EP].

The different ranges have different type names, but the spread of certain names through a given range is one proof of the extensive mixing between the groups within each range. The Goins name is intriguing, it is a type name for almost all of the Mestee ranges except the Ramapo Mountain People [BB]. It has been traced back to a black family named Gowan in Virginia, [HP]. It is spelt Goins, Goin, Goines, Goen, Goens, Going, Goings, Gowen, Gowan and Gowans.

The mixing between groups and the adhesion of outside individuals to the Mestee groups has one important consequence. Some groups may have started as just Indian or just free blacks and mulattos or just renegade whites, but over time all the groups have become triracial. Some communities originate from one or a very few mixed marriages, and problems from inbreeding would probably be much worse if these marginal communities were not so open to new members.

Pollitzer gives population estimates for 34 groups, citing Witkop (1966) as his source [WP]. These numbers do not agree with those of Gilbert [WG], which may be the most thorough study but which considers the groups in each state, gives no number in many cases, and does not give totals. For 1950, Witkop give 27,381 Lumbee, 15,510 Melungeons, 2,300 Brass Ankles (Gilbert gives 10,000 for the Brass Ankles and related groups of South Carolina), 5,170 Redbones of Louisiana, 2,790 Cajans, 3,689 Haliwa Indians, 3,100 Guineas, 2,930 Rockingham Surry Group, 1,280 Jackson Whites (Ramapo Mountain People), 3,050 Wesorts, 2,291 Sabines or Houmas, 450 Carmel Indians, 530 Nanticokes and Moors, 300 Issues of Amherst County, 710 Brown People of Virginia (can be included in Issues), and 280 Turks.

Melungeons are cited from Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. The inclusion of Alabama and exclusion of North Carolina is surprizing and raises doubts as to his sources. How one counts a group who deny their identity and most of whom can pass for the white they claim to be is enigmatic as well. However, using his figures as the best available, the total for the northern range (Ramapo Mountain People, etc.) is 3,360, 8,980 for the Potomac - West Virginia range (Guineas, Wesorts, Issues, Nanticokes, etc.), 23,405 for the Southern Appalachian range (Melungeons, Haliwa Indians, etc.), 27,381 for the Lumbee, and 12,911 for the southern range (Brass Ankles, Redbones, Cajans, etc.). If Gilbert's estimate for the South Carolina groups other than the Lumbee (10,000) is used instead of Witkop's 2,600 for the Brass Ankles and Turks, the southern range would total 20,311.

Gist and Dworkin, in the introduction to Blending of Races, note that Black Americans constitute a mixed group with many of the characteristics of other mixed groups. Black Americans range from all African to almost all European and at least up to half Indian or Asian. The sheer size of the group, however, gives it fundamentally different political and social characteristics from the Mestee groups.

On the one hand, the Mestee groups are too small to exert much power even locally, and on the other, they have tended to be more accomodated at times by the white power structure because they are not viewed as such a threat. Also, there are common features of Mestee cultures which are different from Black American Culture. One generalization in Mongrel Virginians which is upheld by later studies is that while Mestees appear to have more African than Indian ancestry, they seem culturally closer to the Indians. They are not very musical as a group, they are quiet in public, and they tend to walk in single file rather than in bunches. Brewton Berry not only confirms these observations but also notes their usual lack of interest in organized religion.



MELUNGEONS AND ALLIES

Melungeons (from melange) are an ethnic group indigenous to the mountains of northeastern Tennessee, racially a mixture of black, white and American Indian. Founded by free mulattos and mestees (Indian-black mix with or without white) from North Carolina, they were in Hancock County before whites arrived there. From the time and location of their origin, the Indian element is probably Saponi and Tutelo, but is usually incorrectly thought to be Cherokee by the Melungeons. Designated 'free people of color' in the Tennessee constitution, they have been described as a 'tri-racial isolate' by anthropologists and as an 'old mixed race group' by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. They were recognized as American Indian by the Tennessee department of education during the days of school segregation and had separate schools from both white and black. Rejected as Indians by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, they are legally black under Tennessee law as they are known to have some black African ancestry. Culturally, they are Appalachian. I wrote the preceding statement some years ago to attach to affirmative action forms, etc., to explain why I check Black (with Melungeon added in parentheses) when I am not culturally Black American and show little evidence of black ancestry.

Calvin Beale opens his chapter on "mixed-racial isolates" with the following statement: "In about 1890, a young Tennessee woman asked a state legislator, 'Please tell me what is a Malungeon?' 'A Malungeon,' said he, isn't a nigger, and he isn't an Indian, and he isn't a white man. God only knows what he is.' ... The young woman, Will Allen Dromgoole, soon sought out the 'Melungeons' in remote Hancock County and lived with them for a while to determine for herself what they were. Afterward, in the space of a ten-page article, she described them as 'shiftless,' 'idle,' 'illiterate,' 'thieving,' 'defiant,' 'distillers of brandy,' 'lawless,' 'close,' 'rogues,' 'suspicious,' 'inhospitable,' 'untruthful,' 'cowardly,' 'sneaky,' 'exceedingly immoral,' and 'unforgiving.' She ... ended her work by concluding, 'The most that can be said of one of them is, 'He is a Malungeon, a synonym for all that is doubtful and mysterious - and unclean.' Miss Dromgoole was essentially a sympathetic observer." Needless to say, Miss Dromgoole is not highly regarded by Melungeons. She didn't even bother to spell the word correctly. That Beale regards her as sympathetic is a good measure of the esteem with which Mestees in general have been regarded by whites.

In the 1966 edition, The Randon House Dictionary of the English Language defined Melungeon as "a member of a people of mixed Caucasian, Negroid and American Indian ancestry living in the region of the southern Appalachians." In the 1987 edition, to conform to the current nicetiesof the language, the definition was changed to "a member of a people of mixed white, black and American Indian ancestry living in the region of the southern Appalachians." At an estimated nearly twenty thousand people, the Melungeons are the second largest Mestee group. The word Melungeon probably derives from melange and was the name given to these people by French traders coming up the rivers from Louisiana before English speaking whites came over the Smoky Mountains [EP,BB,JB,HP].

The origin and racial composition of the Melungeons has been the subject of many legends and disputes. Since some were settled in what is now Hancock County before any white people reached it and since they were obviously not Indian either racially or culturally, speculation has run wild. In the "Celebrated Melungeon Case" in Chattanooga in 1872, a woman's inheritance was challenged by cousins on the grounds that her mother was Melungeon and Melungeons are part blackand since black-white marriage was illegal, she was illegitimate. Lewis Shepherd, her lawyer, convinced the court that Melungeons are the descendants of Carthaginians, not Black Africans, and her cousins lost.

Melungeons were allowed to vote in Hancock County but when they moved away things were different. In one court case over five Melungeon men trying to register to vote, the court called in a physician as an expert witness to determine whether they had any black ancestry. Four were approved for voting as being racially consistent with an Indian-White mix but one was denied because he had flat feet. Tennessee may be unique in viewing arches as a necessary qualification for voting.

Melungeons would not send their children to black schools and they were not allowed in the white schools, so the Tennessee Department of Education had "Indian" schools for them. This led to almost total illiteracy among Melungeons. They would not have black teachers and white teachers would not teach in their schools, so they had to depend on the few Melungeons who had learned to read at the Presbyterian Mission School in Vardy. None of their teachers had been to high school. In Tennessee until the 1950's and 60's, Melungeons were usually classified as black for marriage, white for voting and Indian for education.

There is a Welsh legend of a Prince Madoc who came to America and founded a Welsh colony in late Pre-Columbian times. The site of his landing has been set as Mobile Bay (a very long ways from Wales for small boats) and three Pre-Columbian stone wall sites in the Southeast (Old Stone Fort in Tennessee, Fort Mountain in Georgia and the Welsh Caves at Desoto Falls in Alabama, all within 100 miles of Chattanooga) were all traditionally attributed to these Welsh.

This was 'proven' because Indians were thought incapable of piling up loose rock to make a wall. The Welsh were supposed to have survived as any Indians who showed light color in hair or skin or eyes (blue eyes were instant proof of descent from the Welsh, who almost all have black hair and eyes), with the Mandan tribe of Siouan Indians and the Melungeons usually being the named groups. The Melungeon's own explanation of their origin is that they descended from Portuguese sailors shipwrecked on the Carolina coast who made their way inland and married Cherokee women. Newman's Ridge, on the Tennessee-Virginia border, is a long way from any coast and a very peculiar location for any sea-going people, be they Portuguese, Welsh or Carthaginian. The Appalachian whites around them also have a legend to explain their origin, that the devil was expelled from Hell for a time by his wife and came to the Smoky Mountains where he took a Cherokee girlfriend and fathered the Melungeons [BB,NC].

Edward Price wrote his dissertation on the Melungeons. He did it for the Geography Department of the University of California at Berkeley, which gave him the freedom to say what he found even if it did not agree with the folklore of the Welsh or the desired ancestry of the Melungeons. The census records are fairly complete for the early Melungeons, both in Tennessee and North Carolina.

The earliest of them moved to Tennessee between 1780 and 1790, led by their founding hero, Vardy Collins, but the migration continued for some decades. In the early censuses they were all listed as "free mulattos" or "free colored"[EP]. No Welsh, no Carthaginians, no Portuguese, no Cherokee. The type names of the early Melungeons, Collins, Mullins, Gipson (Gibson) and Sexton, suggest the usual Irish and English indentured servants as the white component of Southern mulattos. They have been joined by other Mestees, including many Goins families, and acquired many other names such as Price by marriage to whites [HP]. Goins is an indicator name for Melungeons in Tennessee, a Goins church is a Melungeon church, Goinstown is a Melungeon community (the Goinstown district of Nashville is now considered black, the Melungeons who founded it have intermarried with and been absorbed by the blacks [BB]).

The Indian component of the Melungeons is explained by Jack Forbes who notes that in the Carolinas the term mulatto was used for Indian-Black and Indian-White crosses as well as for Black-White [JF]. The Indians are identified by him as the Saponi, a Siouan tribe from Eastern Virginia. The Tutelo, Saponi and other Virginia Siouans were driven out of Virginia by whites from the East and by Iroquoians from the North, and settled around Mount Airy, N.C.

When they were driven from this place by whites, the group split, with the more Indian Tutelo going North to join their former enemies, the Iroquois, the more Indian Saponi going South to join the Catawbas, and the less Indian members of the community going West to become the Melungeons (including Ramps, Magoffin County people and Carmel Indians) and part of the Redbones, a related group living in the swamps of southern Louisiana. They were probably always more black than Indian, but the white component has increased with time, as noted in the descriptions of them in successive census reports [EP]. Both the Melungeons and the Redbones have spoken only English since they were first noted, even though the Redbones are surrounded by French speakers. The long list of people with the name Goins in the Mount Airy phone book indicates not all of this community left North Carolina.

There was a later wave of mixed people from central Virginia, who were mostly free mulattos but with some Powhattan and other Algonquian Indian in them. These made a minor contribution to the Melungeons and Ramps but a major one to the Magoffin County People and other Mestees of Kentucky and the Carmel Indians of Ohio.

The same wave created the Guineas and the other Mestee groups of West Virginia and Ohio. The Melungeons of southwest Virginia were joined by one "Indian" (group not identified) family named Coal (or Cole) which became the most common name in the local community. Today this group is noticably darker and more negroid appearing than the main group in Tennessee, but whether this results from the Coals joining the group is not clear.

The Melungeons changed from valley farmers to hunting, subsistence farming and moonshine production when the whites arrived and drove them from the valleys [BB,JB]. This story is affirmed by the play "Walk Toward the Sunset" and Bonnie Ball asserts it was a direct result of the disenfranchising the Melungeons in 1834, which not only forbade "free people of color" from voting but also from testifying against a white person in court. Henry R. Price calls this into question, showing from the land settlement records that the Melungeons arrived from North Carolina along with the whites, not long before them, and that the land they claimed originally they tended to keep [HP]. Some of their leaders, like Vardy Collins, got good land and quite a lot of it. The later Melungeon arrivals were shunted to the ridge tops and onto poor or isolated land, but the processes are not at all clear.

They early (before the Civil War) won the right to vote and participate in court procedings in court cases in several counties of northeastern Tennessee. The courts took a view of their classification consistent with the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty. If the county government could not prove they were part black African in ancestry, they were not included in the intent of the law, even if they were very dark to be the whites with less than half Indian that they claimed to be.

They are very outdoors oriented, living in very small houses, usually about 20 feet by 20 feet wooden shacks, mostly covered with tarpaper, with some 18 foot house trailers. Ellen Rector of Sneedville opened a chapter of Hillbilly Women titled What aint called Melungeons is called hillbillies with a poem:

    There aint no tarpaper shacks in heaven,
    The Lord will be my landlord there,
    The creeks are bright and clear in heaven,
    There aint no coal dust in the air.

Many of their homes have two pickup trucks and a jeep parked outside (one can speculate that the pickups are to deliver moonshine to towns and the jeep for hunting and to escape raids by revenuers). The folk heroine of the Melungeons is 'Aunt' Mahala Mullins, supposedly Tennessee's all-time champion moonshiner. When the revenuers finally found her home on top of Newman's ridge, they could not take her to jail because she was too large to get her out of her house [JB,BB,NC].

The Melungeons usually have been peaceful, and while they are prone to shooting towards flatlanders snooping in the hills (suspected of being revenuers), these expert hunters who live on rabbits and squirrels rarely actually hit the person. They never served in the military (Jean Bible notes about 40 Melungeons served in the Union army in the Civil War, but out of a group of several thousand even then, that is very few) until the First World War, when they were finally allowed to serve in white units (only after presenting the army with affidavits from the county clerks in their home counties saying they were not considered black). In the Second World War, they learned to drive jeeps in the army, and when they returned to the hills, they could then deliver their moonshine to the towns and eliminate the white middlemen. This is their main danger to outsiders, since they frequently will be found driving the mountain roads of northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia at night at high speeds with their lights out.

In the Civil War, Melungeon sympathy certainly lay with the Union side, since the Southerners treated them with contempt as non-white and were the people who had stolen their valley land. However, they probably did more damage to the North than to the South, since the Union supply lines for Sherman's March to the Sea ran through their territory at Cumberland gap and supplied many a Melungeon with guns and food and even horses.

The vast majority of Melungeons will adamantly deny that they are Melungeon. They assert that they are simply white mountain people with a little Cherokee in them. However, their white neighbors know who they are. While their speech retained archaic forms longer than that of neighboring whites, today they are culturally indistinguishable from their white neighbors, except that they live on the poorest, least productive land with the poverty this implies. Melungeon graves sometimes have small wooden houses built over them (which has reminded some observers of a similar trait among Eskimo members of the Russian Orthodox church), but this is no longer done and no explanation has been given for the practice. Some Melungeons are easy to pick out, others are simply white in appearance.. The group on High Knob in Virginia have had less white introduced in this century and show much more African ancestry than those in Tennessee. The Melungeon appearance is typically olive to white complexion (many men simply look dirty), gray or green eyes with a cloudy appearance to the iris, and brown or black wavy hair. They tend to be average height to tall, with small hands and feet, and perhaps heavier than other Appalachian Mountain people.

The small hands and feet are a point of special pride, connecting them to putative Indian ancestors and distancing them from blacks. Judging by the doors in older Melungeon houses and cabins, they frequently used to be shorter [JB]. The traditional warning by white parents to their children that they had better behave or the Melungeons will get them [NC] is probably carried over from Gypsies, whom they resemble only in appearance.

Many Melungeons have started admitting they are Melungeon in recent times, as a result of the efforts by some white Tennesseans to make it respectable to be Melungeon. An outdoor drama depicting their history and culture, "Walk Toward the Sunset," was put on each year in Sneedville for several years. Jean Patterson Bible, a retired school teacher in Dandridge, who taught many Melungeon children and had a Melungeon woman, Martha Collins, who was president of Citizens Bank of Sneedville, as a close friend, wrote the book, Melungeons Yesterday and Today, which is a very comprehensive study of the Melungeons. She may be faulted for trying to minimize the black element in the Melungeon background, taking the Welsh and Cherokee legends too seriously, and for making the story too pretty and romantic, but as a friend of the Melungeons trying to help them be accepted by bigoted white neighbors, this is more than forgivable.

Henry R. Price, a lawyer in Rogersville who wrote the background booklet for the drama, also deserves recognition, I found both of these people very friendly and willing to share their knowledge.

North Callahan wrote that Melungeons are not accepted by whites not because of their color but because they are lazy, dirty and illiterate [NC]. From my observations, they do not differ from Appalachian whites who share the deprivations inherent to life on the ridges. Mostly, they prefer hunting to reading and do not like being indoors for long periods of time, which frequently causes them to be poor students and hired workers. If, as a marginalized group deprived of their land and livelihood, they have sometimes resorted to theft and illegal production of whiskey, I see no shame but take pride in the fact they did these things well. To close this section on the Melungeons, I will quote Dr. Kermit Hunter, author of "Walk Toward the Sunset" as well as "Unto These Hills" presented by the Cherokee of North Carolina, in a letter to Jean Bible: "The story of the Melungeons is typical of some of the darker impulses in the American dream: those moments when the American dream gets crowded by white supremacy, the arrogance of wealth and position and power. The Melungeons happened to have dark skin, and for this reason they were buffeted and shunted by the white society moving across the mountains toward the west" [JB].

It is harder to find material about the other Mestee groups of this central range, though Brewton Berry describes several of them in his book, Almost White. The Ramps of southwest Virginia and northwest North Carolina are simply Melungeons who have hired out as farm workers for whites. The Magoffin County People and other, unnamed groups of eastern Kentucky are called Carmel Indians where they overlap into southern Ohio. They are treated with the Melungeons by Jean Bible but Edward Price has shown there are few common names although the two groups are contiguous. They tend to be darker and more Indian appearing than the Melungeons. The Haliwa Indians and other Mestee groups of northern North Carolina represent the remnants of the groups which crossed the mountains to form the Melungeons. They are strongly asserting their Indian origin and are trying to emulate the Lumbees in achieving at least state recognition as Indian [CB]. According to Brewton Berry, the Melungeons of west Florida around Dead Lake have no connection with the Melungeons of Tennessee whereas the Redbones of Louisiana do.



MISCEGENATION AND GENETICS

There has been prejudice against mixing races, breeds or types of animals and people in many places and times. Perhaps the ultimate expression of this prejudice was the practice of sibling marriage by certain dynasties of Egyptian pharoahs. Since they were divine kings, nobody but their own sisters were worthy or them. James Thurber commented that to him it was less amazing that they were able to rule despite the biological consequences of inbreeding than that they survived having the same set of family anecdotes to share. The fascination with pure breeding becomes nearly a religion among those from aristocratic backgrounds who have fallen on bad times. The economic depression of the thirties gave rise to racist fanaticism in Europe, America and South Africa. The recognition of the detrimental effects of inbreeding and the beneficial effects of heterosis found in crossbred animals and plants has caused people to change their ideas on this subject. The new term hybrid, taken from agriculture, does not carry the stigma of the old term mongrel. Of course, people hold to their old prejudices longer concerning people than with pigs or corn.

Frequently the mixing has occurred through prostitution or enslavement, and while the members of the oppressed group who are forced into prostitution to support themselves or subjected to slave foremen may not be the dregs of their group, the members of the dominant group who use them are more likely to be the least acceptable members of that group. The advantages that heterosis brings to a mixed group at the time it is formed are quickly lost if the group then breeds within itself. The study of the Issues of Virginia (called the Win Tribe in the book) produced by the Department of Genetics of the Carnegie Institute in 1926, titled Mongrel Virginians, is an example of all that is wrong with such studies. The Issues are the descendants of free blacks and remnants of Indian groups. The term is applied both to just the isolated community of Amherst County, the object of this book, and other similar groups scattered over a wide area of central Virginia. The name derives from a term used for a slave who became free. The extreme bias of the authors is shown in the assertion that the separation of the Issues from the slave blacks resulted from the Issues being perceived as inferior because they had no white master rather than superior because they were free. This community is very small and very highly inbred.

This study was made to justify and uphold the Virginia Racial Integrity Law of 1924, to show that racial mixing is disastrous. It does show that extreme inbreeding is detrimental, as have similar studies on the Wesorts of Maryland. It is a shame the authors did not read the excellent (even though written by a white who believed in white superiority) book by Edward Reuter in 1918, The Mulatto in the United States, which documents the contribution mixed race people had made to the black community in America.

As far as the genetics of racial characteristics goes, many of the traits don't really matter since usually no one pays any attention to them. Naturally flat feet (not fallen arches) are found in about one third of the population of West Africa and are not found in Northern Europe or among pure Native Americans. It is a dominant characteristic, so if a child inherits it from either parent, he will show the trait. This makes it one of the most valuable indicators of the presence of African ancestry in a population but of little value for individuals, since two thirds of pure West Africans do not show the trait and few mixed individuals will manifest it. But in practice it is not used because people don't care if someone has flat feet. Lobeless ears are one of the most obvious indicators of African ancestry, but again no one cares.

Skin color is the paramount concern for most people, and yet it is one of the poorest indicators of racial composition of a person or a population. It is polygenic, making its inheritance very difficult to analyze beyond the first generation. There may be dominant-recessive loci, additive loci, partially dominant loci, loci for suppression, etc., among the different genes controling the trait. In common usage, the word gene is used both for loci, such as the ABO blood type locus, and for the different forms of the gene (alleles), such as the allele for A type blood. In general, in evolutionary development, a trait which is developed new (having something) tends to be dominant while a trait which is lost (suppressed) tends to be recessive. Since modern man is thought to have developed in equatorial Africa, one presumes that the original version was dark. Therefore, one would expect light skin color to be dominant or partially dominant if the evolution of light skin color resulted from new genes to suppress pigmentation. What is found in African-European crosses isthat color is mostly additive, that is the hybrid is intermediate, not like one parent or the other, but that this hybrid is somewhat closer to the European in color, indicating that light color is somewhat dominant as expected [FL]. Frank Livingstone has postulated a four loci model which would explain color inheritance [FL]. If all the loci had exactly equal effect and only two alleles, and if the trait were completely additive with no dominance at all, there should be nine color levels found according to the number of alleles for dark skin in the individual, from zero to eight. This would also mean that all pure Africans would be equally dark and all pure Europeans would be equally light. The four loci model is reasonable, given multiple alleles at certain loci, partial dominance, and influence from other loci such as the albinism - color dilute locus. For considering mixed populations, the important thing to remember is that color is only predictable for the first generation hybrids and that for later generation progeny of mixed parents any shade from darkest to lightest can be expected to occur, though the average color of the population will tend to reflect the average composition of the population. Given selection, and most Mestee populations have been selected by a breeding preference for light skin, even this generalization will fail to hold.

As a population geneticist interested in such things, I would guess the Melungeons from their appearance to be on the average about 1 to 3% Indian, 3 to 9% African and 90 to 95% European in their ancestry. I wish someone would do a modern, extensive blood serum protein or a DNA study on them to actually provide an accurate estimate. There have been studies of the blood antigen frequencies of several Mestee communities [WP].

The one on Melungeons was more thorough than most [P&B], but the results are very inconclusive. This is to be expected with a small, isolated community. Founder effects, in which the genetic composition of a small population is influenced by the peculiarities of the individuals forming the original members of the group, can cause great discrepancies. So can the bottleneck effect of small population size in the past and the resultant inbreeding, both of which accelerate genetic drift. If the studies could be repeated using many more genetic loci rather than just the easily identified blood antigens, something more definitive might be learned.

Pollitzer estimates Melungeons to be 86% white and 14% black, with no American Indian.. This is an average of the values found for different loci, with a lot of weight given to the Fya locus. For the Fya allele, blacks were found to have a frequency of .016, English whites of .414 and Cherokee Indians of .547. The low frequency found in Melungeons, .287, would indicate a high level of black ancestry unless the individuals who founded the Melungeons had a lower frequency than was typical of their ancestral populations or unless the frequency was depressed by genetic drift after the group was formed. Computing from these frequencies, using only white and black, the Fya frequency would indicate that Melungeons were 32% black and 68% white.

However, making the same calculations for the O allele of the ABO locus gives -363% black and 463% white, since the Melungeon frequency of .585 lies outside the range from .683 for English Whites and .710 for blacks. This would indicate that the Melungeons were more white than the English, if one could extrapolate from blood antigens to color. Since the O allele frequency for the Cherokee is .973, this low value for the Melungeons does help confirm that there is little Indian in them. The frequencies for the Ro allele of the Rh locus, .414 for English whites, .016 for blacks and .287 for Melungeons, would give a more believable 11% black and 89% white.

The historical evidence for some Indian ancestry, the somewhat Indian appearance of some Melungeons, traits like their small hands and feet, plus the culture being more Indian than black (though admittedly overwhelmingly white), makes me disinclined to accept the total elimination of Indian ancestry. For a "best guess", including the evidence of these blood antigen studies, I would give 90% white, 9% black and 1% Indian for an average racial composition of the Melungeons. This, of course, says little about the composition of individual members of the group and almost nothing about their appearance or the frequency of certain identifiable racial characteristics.

Genetic swamping, where one population receives so much input from another that its original characteristics are replaced by those of the new members, can happen without being accompanied by much cultural change. The dark hair and eyes of most Afrikaners belies their assertion of pure Dutch ancestry. The swamping of so many American Indian groups may be partly a result of the Indians' lack of natural immunity to many of the diseases brought by the whites and blacks. Mixed children would have a much better chance of surviving to adulthood than pure Indian children.



LUMBEE INDIANS

The Lumbee of Robeson County in North Carolina are the largest and most cohesive of the Mestee groups. They are descended from the Hatteras tribe of Algonquin Indians from the coast, who absorbed the "Lost Colony" of English at Roanoke Island. This is disputed by many, who say this colony perished, but the survival of the family names from this colony plus their own tradition plus the difficulty in explaining a group of English speaking Indians living in wooden houses in North Carolina before the arrival of other English colonists, with most of their men having beards, makes evidence which I find convincing [AD]. There were a couple of other English colonies from the sixteenth century which were lost, and the most common names of the group, Oxendine, Locklear and Chavis, are local names, Oxendine and Locklear being of Lumbee origin and Chavis from South Carolina Mestees, probably the Brass Ankles. They presumably absorbed the remnants of the Cheraw tribe and other Siouan Indians indigenous to the area plus free mulattos, runaway slaves, and renegade whites [AD]. Some of them claim to have some southern Iroquoian (Cherokee and Tuscarora) ancestry, but this is not confirmed by history or names, unless the ubiquitous Goins is accepted. They founded Pembroke State College, which was for many years an all-Lumbee institution. The Museum of the American Indian there contains much on their history and culture.

They take the name Lumbee from the Lumbee or Lumber river (Lumberton, where many of them live, also takes its name from this river). They were called Croatan for many years after the location of the Hatteras group under chief Manteo which the Roanoke colony is thought to have joined. When this name was abandoned because of the contempt with which it was used by whites, they first called themselves Cherokees of Robeson County and then switched to Lumbee, perhaps as a result of Cherokee anger over the usurpation of their name by an unrelated group.

They are the most Indian of all the Mestee groups and the only one to be accepted as Indian by recognized Indian groups. Some of them are recognized as Indian by the Bureau of Indian Affairs but not as descended from any historical Indian tribe and are therefore denied all benefits. They also have the only truly heroic leader in their history, Henry Berry Lowrie (Lowry in some sources). In a conflict during the Civil War growing out of the use of Lumbee men as slave labor in Confederate camps and the harboring of escaped Union prisoners of war, the Confederate Home Guard attacked the Lowrie family and a leader killed three of Henry Lowrie's brothers. Henry Lowrie, then a teenager, killed this man and organized the Lowrie Band which hid in the swamps of Robeson county and raided Confederate camps and stole many supplies [AD]. With his full black beard and cloudy grey eyes, Henry Lowrie was clearly a Mestee and not pure Indian. After the war, his band protected the Lumbees from the Ku Klux Klan, who left the Lumbees alone until 1958, when some 700 armed Klansmen held a rally outside Pembroke because a Lumbee boy had been dating a white girl. 3000 Lumbees attacked the rally, seizing the Klan banner and many rifles and white robes, and the Klansmen fled in terror and have not bothered the Lumbee since [BB].



RAMAPO MOUNTAIN PEOPLE

The Ramapo Mountain People, formerly known as Jackson Whites, have little or no Indian in them. From their mostly Dutch names, their location above the Dutch farms of the Hudson Valley, and their obvious high level of African ancestry, it is easy to surmize that they descend from escaped slaves and free mulattos from those farms. They sued the New York Department of Education for admission to white schools. Their case was supported by the NAACP and presented by Thurgood Marshall two years before the famous Topeka vs. Brown case, it was a forerunner preparing the way for school integration in the US.

The whites have developed a nasty but intriguing legend to explain their origin, derived from the name Jackson Whites. A man named Jackson is said to have been contracted by the British army occupying New York City during the American Revolution to provide 5000 campfollowers for the soldiers, who were shunned by the local prostitutes. After recruiting 3000 from the slums of London, he finished with 2000 from Jamaica. After the war, the British didn't take these women with them and the local people drove them out of town. The women fled to the Ramapo mountains and joined the remnants of various Indian tribes hiding there. Invented by a newspaper reporter, not one word of this legend is supported by any evidence. In claiming to be part Indian rather than part black, these people have searched for possible Indian ancestors but have come up with very little. The only serious claim is that some Tuscarora stopped off on their way north from North Carolina to upstate New York, which has been accepted (strangely, I think) by modern Tuscarora, despite the historical evidence that their ancestors followed the Susquehanna river well west of the Ramapos.



THE SOUTHERN RANGE

The Brass Ankles of South Carolina are a large and well-known group. Nothing is known of their origin, except they are in an area where the Indians were all enslaved and kept with African slaves and Irish indentured servants. They are considered by local legend to be the descendants of white slaves (supposedly forced to wear leg chains, hence the name) with only small amounts of Indian and African ancestry, but their status is very low, perhaps even lower than the local black population. Their type names, such as Chavis and Goins, tie them to the Lumbees and many other Mestee groups of the Carolinas. Note that the new president of the NAACP is named Chavis, which is a name thought to have originated among the South Carolina Mestees as a modification of Shavers, with Shavis and Chavers as other forms. The Cajans of Alabama were founded by a Jamaican man married to an American mulatto woman, but have been joined by many Mestees from South Carolina, and can be considered part of this group. Although the Cajans and Creoles of Alabama have rarely claimed not to have black ancestry, during segregation southwestern Alabama had separate school systems for whites, blacks, Indians and Mestees (Creoles and Cajans). There has been some mixing between these two groups and between the Redbones and 'colored' Creoles of Louisiana, so French names are now found in the Cajans and the Redbones. The Dead Lake People of Florida came from South Carolina, as did most of the founders of the Louisiana Redbones. The Smilings of South Carolina recently moved to Robeson County, North Carolina and tried to join the Lumbees. They have not been welcomed, as the Lumbees fear adding a less Indian group would erode their efforts to be accepted as Indian.

The Turks of Sumter County, South Carolina, have been accepted as entitled to the rights of white people longer than any other Mestee group. This does not stem from their physical appearance, as they are less white than Brass Ankles or Melungeons, but from the connivance of one influential white man. General Sumter hired some of the Turks who had served under him in the Revolutionary War to work on his plantation and apparently found them more productive than slaves. Fearful of losing them as they were unhappy with their treatment by neighboring whites, he took action to have their status as whites recognized. He presented an affidavit to the authorities that they were indeed Turks which he had personally imported from the Ottoman Empire as contract labor. Never mind that Turks were the ruling people of that Empire and not likely to contract out as hired hands, or that the Turks of South Carolina knew no Turkish and were not Muslim.

One of the founders of the Turks was a Lumbee named Oxendine. This and Benenhaley, a specifically Turk name, are the two most common names.

The Florida Melungeons or Dead Lake People are attested by several authors, but apparently no longer exist as an identifiable group. Checking the telephone book for Bay and Calhoun Counties (Telephone Directory: St. Joseph Telephone and Telegragh Company) seems to confirm Brewton Berry's assertion that they were connected to the South Carolina groups such as the Brass Ankles and not to the Melungeons of Tennessee. The original form of the main type name for the Brass Ankles, Shavers, is found in Wewahitchka on the west side of Dead Lake. No Shavers are found in the other towns around the area, though the more common modern form Chavis is found in Panama City and Tallahassee. Checking Wewahitchka and Blountstown, the other town in the Dead Lake area, against the neighboring cities shows little evidence of any Melungeon, Lumbee or Alabama Creole and Cajan presence, so the Brass Ankle connection would appear to be the only one demonstrated (Melungeon names have nearly twice the expected frequency in Wewahitchka, but in a sample this small, that is far from significant). The Mr Shavers I spoke with in Wewahitchka confirmed having relatives in the Carolinas, though he thought the name came to Florida from Alabama.

Name Frequency in Four Towns in Northwest Florida

         


 

Wewahitchka

Blountstown

Panama City

Tallahassee
     
Melungeon names:    

Goins

0

0

4

6

Mullins

2

3

7

22

Collins

3

1

37

158

Sexton

2

3

16

12

Gipson

0

0

4

1

Gibson

1

1

18

61

Total

8

8

86

260

     
Brass Ankle names:    

Shavers

2

0

0

0

Shavis

0

0

0

0

Chavers

0

0

6

2

Chavis   

0

0

1

7

     
Lumbee names:    

Locklear

0

0

2

1

Oxendine 

0

0

0

8

     
Alabama Creoleand Cajan name:    

Chastang

0

0

0

0

     
Common names (control):    

Smith

13

34

338

1172

Williams

18

29

262

1112

 



OTHER MESTEE GROUPS

There is a book on the Issues of Virginia, Mongrel Virginians, it is very racist and contributes little information. Its topic is hereditary criminality, mental retardation and other defects, blaming these on racial crossing. As a population geneticist whose research topic has been crossbreeding cattle to increase productivity and adaptability, I find this sort of racist drivel from the 1920's offensive in more than one way. The Nanticokes of Delaware use the name of a historical Indian tribe, but this usage is bitterly resented by the surviving Nanticokes who now live in Canada. The Nanticokes of Delaware are the blackest of all the Mestee groups; some members of the group appear to be pure African. The Wesorts of Maryland have the distinction of being nearly accepted as whites by their neighbors, they are thought to be inferior more because of hereditary defects brought on by inbreeding than because of a very small amount of non-white contamination. Some distinction. Some Mestee families have achieved fame, such as the Jukes, who with the Kallikaks, a white family, were the subject of several studies on hereditary criminality and feeble-mindedness in upstate New York in the 1930's, and the Hatfields for their long and bloody feud with their white neighbors, the McCoys.



CLASSIFICATION

As long as the United States government persists in not recognizing mixed race people, but insists on putting everyone into one race or the other, the Mestees and many other people such as children of mixed marriages are forced into an unpleasant choice. "Other" is not a category for mixed people, it means other races such as Australoid or Khoisan. My personal choice is black, since the laws of Arkansas and Tennessee say that any person known to have any black African ancestry is black. I have lost jobs for admitting that I was not pure white, but I have never been made unwelcome in a black church or an NAACP meeting. In consideration for those Mestees who would not be comfortable being called black and in view of the growing number of other mixed race people in America, I believe there is a need to accept mixed or Mestee as a racial classification. Therefore I suggest the following new entries on Social Security registration forms, census forms, affirmative action forms, drivers license applications, voter's registration forms, etc.:

    MESTEE. Check this classification if you are member of any of the long established mixed race communities such as Melungeons, Ramapo Mountain People, Brass Ankles, Freedmen, Colored Creoles, Redbones, Guineas, etc.

    MIXED. Check this classification if you are of mixed ancestry and identify with more than one ethnic or racial group.

I would not name the Lumbees, as they would prefer to be Indian, and I would not name the Cajans for fear of confusion with the Cajuns. The Cajans will readily identify with the Colored Creoles with whom they share so much history anyway. The fact that Guinea has been used in the past as an insult word for Italians makes it questionable for inclusion, but they are a large and distinct group with no other name.



AFTERWORD

This paper is dedicated to those who have taken an interest in Melungeons and other Mestees, especially Jean Patterson Bible and Edward Price. It is intended to provoke interest and cause those interested to consult the more complete studies. Jean Patterson Bible's Melungeons Yesterday and Today is the main source for Melungeons, along with Edward Price's dissertation and Henry Price's booklet. Brewton Berry's Almost White is the main source on Mestee communities in general but William Gilbert's papers give more detail on the groups individually. Adolph Dial has just written a new book entitled The Lumbees as one in a series of studies on the American Indians for young people. Henry Berry Lowry: Rebel with a Cause, by Richard Cooper, is also written for young people.

There has been some fiction written about some of the Mestee groups. Redbone Woman and Po Buckra were recommended by Brewton Berry and The Hawk Done Gone was recommended by Jean Patterson Bible. Many newspaper and magazine articles have been written about the Melungeons, see the bibliography in Melungeons Yesterday and Today.



BIBLIOGRAPHY

Initials before an entry, such as [JB], show that this item has been cited in the text by these initials. Initials after an item show that the item was cited by Brewton Berry {BB} in Almost White or by Jean Patterson Bible {JB} in Melungeons Yesterday and Today.

Ball, Bonnie Sage. 1969. Melungeons: Their Origin and Kin. Bonnie Ball. {BB},{JB} (Contains interesting anecdotes of her personal contact with Melungeons, gives more information on the communities in Virginia.)

Ball, Donald B. 1976. A Bibliography of Tennessee Anthropology including Cherokee, Chickasaw and Melungeon Studies. Tennessee Anthropological Association. (Almost nothing on Melungeons not cited by [JB].)

Barr, Phyllis. 1965. The Melungeons of Newman's Ridge. East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN. {BB},{JB} (Gives condensed versions of 'folklore' from a Melungeon family named Sexton. All excitement and interest lost.)

[CB] Beale, Calvin Lunsford. 1990.. A Taste of the Country: A Collection of Calvin Beale's Writings. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, PA. (Reprints articles on Melungeons, Haliwa Indians, Eastern Creeks and other Mestee groups. With [JB], [BB], [EP], [WG] and [HP], one of the main sources on Mestee groups.)

Beale, Calvin. 1957. "American Triracial Isolates, Their Status and Pertinence to Genetic Research." Eugenics Quarterly 4(4):187-196. {BB},{JB}

Beale, Calvin. 1972. "An Overview of the Phenomenon of Mixed Race Isolates in the United States." American Anthropologist 74:704-710.

[BB] Berry, Brewton. 1963. Almost White. Macmillan, New York. (The classic, comprehensive book on the Mestee groups. Does not identify which group is being described in many instances, tends to generalize from one or a few groups to all Mestees. Extensive bibliography is prime guide to the literature to this date.) {JB}

Berry, Brewton. 1960. "The Mestizos of South Carolina." American Journal of Sociology 51(1):34-41. {BB}

Berry, Brewton. 1972. "America's Mestizos." In Blending of Races: Marginality and Identity in World Perspective edited by Noel Gist and Anthony Dworkin. Wiley, New York. (Mainly repeats material in Almost White.)

[JB] Bible, Jean Patterson. 1975. Melungeons Yesterday and Today. East Tennessee Printing Company, Rogersville, Tennessee. (The most comprehensive study of the Melungeons, this book is still in print. See note at end of the bibliography.)

[KB] Blu, Karen. 1980. The Lumbee Problem: The Making of an Indian People. Cambridge University Press, New York. (Interesting study of the Lumbee and the development of their group identity.)

Burt, Jesse, and Robert Ferguson. 1973. Indians of the Southeast: Then and Now. Abingdon Press, Nashville. (Contains much material and several pictures on the Lumbee.)

[NC] Callahan, North. 1952. "The Melungeons" in Smoky Mountain Country by North Callahan (edited by Erskine Caldwell). Little, Brown & Co. Boston. (Biased, racist and unpleasant but informative.)

[DC] Cohen, David S. 1974. The Ramapo Mountain People. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey. (Very comprehensive treatment of this group).

Daniel, G. Reginald. 1992. "Passers and pluralists: subverting the racial divide." In Racially Mixed People in America, edited by Maria Root. Sage Publications, Newbury Park, California. (Interesting current view of the identity question facing Mestees, from a mainly black perspective.)

[FD] Davis, Floyd J. 1991. Who Is Black? Pennsylvania University Press, Newbury Park, Pennsylvania. (Outstanding book on the problem of racial identification in America, only treats Mestees in passing.)

Davis, Louise. 1976. "The mystery of the Melungeons." In Frontier Tales of Tennessee. Pelican, Gretna, LA. (Contains some interesting anecdotes of personal contact with Melungeons.)

[AD] Dial, Adolph, and David Eliades. 1975. The Only Land I Know: A History of the Lumbee Indians. Indian Historical Press, San Francisco. (The basic book describing the Lumbees and their history.)

Dial, Adolph L. 1993. The Lumbee. Chelsea House, New York. (Update of previous book, intended for young people.)

Dominguez, Virginia. 1986. White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ. (A lot of information on both the 'white' and the 'colored' Creoles of Louisiana.)

Evans, W. McKee. 1971. To Die Game: The Story of the Lowry Band, Indian Guerrillas of Reconstruction. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. (History of Henry Berry Lowry and the Lowry [Lowrie] family, the Lumbee people and their insurrection. Also includes an account of the Lumbee rout of the Klan in 1958.)

Feest, Christian F. 1989. The Powhattan Tribes. Chelsea House, New York. (Notes the absorption of black and white by these groups and the mixed nature of their descendants at present. Also the treatment and legal problems of these groups resulting from their mixed nature.)

Fetterman, John. 1970. "The Mystery of Newman's Ridge." Life Magazine, June 26. [Not in all editions.]

[JF] Forbes, Jack. 1988. Black Africans and Native Americans. Backwell, New York. (Outstanding book detailing the relationship between blacks and Indians, particularly during the time when both groups were enslaved in Virginia and the Carolinas. A must for understanding the origin of the Mestees. Little actually said about the Mestees, but the Saponi and Powhattan are identified as the Indians in the ancestry of the Melungeons in two places.)

Foster, John. 1985. "Some questions and perspectives on the problem of metis roots." In The New Peoples: Being and Becoming Metis in North America. University of Manitoba Press. (Gives much information on the origin of the Metis of Canada and neighboring areas of the United States where French Canadian and Metis traders and trappers penetrated before the Anglo-American arrival.)

Gilbert, William Harlen, Jr. 1946. "Memorandum concerning the characteristics of the larger mixed-blood racial islands of the eastern United States." Social Forces 21(4):438-447. (Contains much of the information found in his next publication, cited below.)

[WG]Gilbert, William Harlen. 1947. Synoptic Survey of Data on the Survival of Indian and Part-Indian Blood in the Eastern United States. Library of Congress. Also printed as "Surviving Indian Groups of the Eastern United States," pages 407-438 in Annual Report of the Board of Regents of The Smithsonian Institution, 1948. (Gives numbers, locations and common family names for the principal Mestee groups. This major source is copied as an appendix to this document.)

Hall, Christine C. Iijima. 1992. "Please choose one: ethnic identity choices for biracial individuals." In Racially Mixed People in America, edited by Maria Root. Sage Publications, Newbury Park, California. (Not about Mestees, but very pertinent in stating the identity problems of mixed people.)

Kahn, Kathy. 1973. Hillbilly Women. Doubleday, Garden City, New York.

[FL] Livingstone, Frank. Polygenic models for the evolution of human skin color differences. Human Biology 41:480-493.

Mangum, Charles. 1940. The Legal Status of the Negro. University of North Carolina Press. (Overview of discriminatory laws. Gives information on the laws defining who could be white in different states.)

Matthews, Denise, and Vinny Jones. 1991. The Black Warriors of the Seminole. Video program shown on PBS TV stations. WUFT, Gainesville, FL.

Merrell, James. 1989. The Catawbas. Chelsea House, New York. (Includes information on the absorption of remnants of other tribes by the Catawba.)

[P&B] Pollitzer, William S., and William H. Brown. 1969. Survey of demography, anthropology, and genetics in Melungeons of Tennessee: an isolate of hybrid origin in process of dissolution. Human Biology 41:388-400.

[WP] Pollitzer, William S. 1972. The physical anthropology and genetics of marginal people of the southeastern United States. American Anthropolgist 74:719-734.

[EP] Price, Edward Thomas, Jr. 1950. Mixed Blood Racial Islands of Eastern United States as to Origin, Localizations and Persistence. University of California, Berkeley. (The definitive study of the Melungeons and some other Mestee groups. The following three articles are based on this dissertation.)

Price, Edward. 1950. "The Mixed-Blood Racial Strain of Carmel, Ohio, and Magoffin County, Kentucky." Ohio Journal of Science 50(6):281-290. (Photocopy included as an appendix to this document.)

Price, Edward. 1951. "The Melungeons: A Mixed-Blood Strain of the Southern Appalachians." Geographical Review 41(2):256-271. (Photocopy included as an appendix to this document.)

Price, Edward. 1953 "A geographical analysis of White-Negro-Indian racial mixtures in eastern United States." Annals of the Association of American Geographers 43(2):138-155.

[HP] Price, Henry R. 1966. Melungeons: The Vanishing Colony of Newman's Ridge. Hancock County Drama Association, Sneedville, TN. (Much detail on the early history of the Melungeons. Includes the records of land ownership by early Melungeons. Was used as the information brochure for the outdoor drama Walk Toward the Sunset.)

Reuter, Edward. 1918. The Mulatto in the United States. Gorham Press, Boston. (Gives a wealth of information on part-white blacks up to this time, and the great contribution which they made to the black community.)

Wilkins. 1992. Triracial Isolates. Unpublished paper cited by Terry Wilson and Reginald Daniel. Not seen by author.

Williamson, Joel. 1980. New People: Miscegenation and Mulattoes in the United States. Free Press, New York.

Wilson, Terry P. 1992. "Blood quantum: Native American mixed bloods." In Racially Mixed People in America, edited by Maria Root. Sage Publications, Newbury Park, California. (Interesting current view of the identity question facing Mestees, from a mainly Indian perspective.)

Worden, W.L. 1947. "Sons of the Legend." Saturday Evening Post, October 18.

The most thorough treatment of the Melungeons is still in print:
Melungeons Yesterday and Today
byJean Bible is available from the author
for $10.00 plus $1.48 postage:
Mrs. Jean Patterson Bible
PO Box 886, Dandridge TN 37725
telephone: (615) 397-3479



SUGGESTIONS FOR LIBRARY COMPUTER SEARCHING

AUTHOR: Bible, Jean                       Price, Edward

Price, Henry                                       Gilbert, William

Berry, Brewton                                   Beale, Calvin

Dial, Adolph                                       Forbes, Jack

SUBJECT: Indians--Mixed Descent

Indians of North America--Mixed Descent

Distilling, Illicit

KEYWORD: Melungeon or Melungeons

Miscegenation

Mixed and Ancestry

Mixed and Blood or Bloods

Mixed and Descent or Race

Mixed and Racial or Racially

Ramapo and People

Jackson Whites

Lumbee or Lumbees

Brass Ankle or Brass Ankles

Redbone or Redbones

Red Bone or Red Bones

Cajan or Cajans

Cajun or Cajuns

Mestee or Mestees

Mustee or Mustees

Mestizo or Mestizos

Metis or Mestis

Creole or Creoles

Minority or Minorities

Mulatto

Mulattos or Mulattoes

Marginality

Moonshine or Whiskey

Triracial or Multiracial

Carmelites

Carmel and Ohio or Indians

Sneedville or Vardy

Hancock County

Newman's Ridge

Guineas and West Virginia

Hillbilly or Hillbillies

Appalachia or Appalachian



ARTICLES BY EDWARD T. PRICE

The foremost scholar in the study of the Melungeons is Edward Thomas Price, Jr., who did original geographical and historical research on them and similar groups in the 1940s and 50s. He was born in Nashville in 1915, but did his doctoral research for the Geography Department of the University of California at Berkely. He now lives in Eugene, Oregon, where he retired from the Geography Department of the University of Oregon.

His dissertation, Mixed Blood Racial Islands of Eastern United States as to Origin, Localizations and Persistence, is mostly on the Melungeons and similar groups of eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio. The following three articles are reprinted by permission of the journals which originally published them. Dr. Prices doctoral research is used in the literature review for these articles, so they present much of the information in his dissertation.

    "The Mixed-Blood Racial Strain of Carmel, Ohio, and Magoffin County, Kentucky." 1950. Ohio Journal of Science 50(6):281-290.
    "The Melungeons: A Mixed-Blood Strain of the Southern Appalachians." 1951. Geographical Review 41(2):256-271.
    "A geographical analysis of White-Negro-Indian racial mixtures in eastern United States." 1953. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 43(2):138-155.



ARTICLE BY WILLIAM H. GILBERT

William Harlen Gilbert studied many of the Mestee and Indian groups of the eastern United States. His work was published twice as government documents.

    "Surviving Indian Groups of the Eastern United States," pages 407-438 in Annual Report of the Board of Regents of The Smithsonian Institution, 1948. Also printed as Synoptic Survey of Data on the Survival of Indian and Part-Indian Blood in the Eastern United States. Library of Congress. 1947 Now online at: http://www.geocities.com/mikenassau/gilbert.htm

Copied articles not in on-line version.



POSTSCRIPT, JULY 1994

I have wanted to get a book for schools written and assembled on the middle range, which I have labeled the Southern Appalachian Range. I would like to get members of each of the five individual groups to write a chapter on their own group. This May, I went to the locations given for all five groups to see if they were still there and identifiable. I not only found that they are all still extant, but that some of them are organizing and seeking recognition as Indians. Since they are based on the Saponi Siouans of central Virginia and are all much more Indian than black culturally, this makes a lot of sense. The two groups who are organized are as Indian as the Lumbee biologically and they do look rather Indian as well being cultural descendants of the Saponi. So I think that a book on these groups could be put in one of the series on the different Indian tribes . I have written to one publisher the following letter.

I want to write a book on the Saponi derived groups which I hope you might publish in your Indians of North America series. I have just finished a small book on these and similar groups, Melungeons and Other Mestee Groups, which I have self-published and distributed to some university libraries and some individuals who are working on such groups. I will gladly send you a copy if you are interested. I have spoken to Jean Patterson Bible, the author of Melungeons Yesterday and Today, and she is willing to help put together such a book, using her wealth of materials and photographs.

The groups which I would include would be the Haliwa-Saponi Indians of Halifax and Warren counties, North Carolina, the Person County Indians of North Carolina, the Goinstown Indians of Rockingham, Stokes and Surry counties, North Carolina, and Patrick County, Virginia, the Melungeons (including Ramps) of northeastern Tennessee and adjoining areas of Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina, the Magoffin County Indians of Kentucky and the Carmel Indians of Ohio. I am trying to find out if the Mayles (Guineas) of West Virginia are also of Saponi derivation. I have recently travelled to all of these areas to see if the groups are still intact, and they all are there where they were described in the forties and fifties by William Gilbert and Edward Price. The Haliwa and Person County Indians are organized and are trying to achieve recognition as American Indians.

In case you are not familiar with the history of these groups, here is a brief outline. The Eastern Siouan Indians consisted of the Tutelo-Saponi of central Virginia, the Cheraw of central North Carolina and the Catawba of central South Carolina. The Tutelo-Saponi were bounded on the east by the Powhattan Algonquians, on the north by northern Iroquoians and on the west by the Tuscarora (southern Iroquoians). The Cheraw were bounded on the east by Hatteras Algonquians and on the West by the Cherokee (southern Iroquoians). As the Tutelo and Saponi were reduced in number by the diseases brought by European immigrants, they were forced south by the Iroquois. They settled in North Carolina along the Virginia border.

There they were joined by other people, probably mostly free mulattos who did not fit in either the white society or the slave black society. These people, half white and half black, were very close to the Indians in color. They brought to the Indian groups a high degree of disease resistance and helped to prevent the groups from dying out from disease. The Tutelo left and went north to join the Iroquois. The Cheraw disintegrated, with some joining the Hatteras-English mix which became the Lumbee Indians, some joining the Catawba in South Carolina and probably some joining these Saponi groups. Later, some of the Saponi, probably most of those who still spoke a Siouan language, went south and joined the Catawba in South Carolina. The remaining people, speaking English and having much (maybe mostly) non-Indian ancestry, stayed along the northern border of North Carolina or went west to what is now Tennessee and Kentucky.

From Tennessee, some moved north into far western Virginia, and, from Kentucky, some moved to southern Ohio. The Goinstown Indians and the groups in Tennessee and Kentucky were joined by a second wave coming out of central Virginia, which were a very similar mixture of Indian, black and white, but probably with more black in them (perhaps they had been joined by more runaway slaves). The Indian in these probably included Powhattan as well as Saponi.

The largest group, the Melungeons, are probably the least Indian of the groups. They are now mostly white, as a result of mixing with the surrounding whites since they settled in Tennessee between 1780 and 1830. Since they were found already settled on the land when the whites arrived, living in houses with a way of life more European than Indian, many wild tales were told to explain their origin. They contributed to the confusion by trying to hide their mixed race origin and seeking South European ancestors to explain their dark color, settling on Portuguese for no apparent reason. The legends of an origin from Welsh or even Carthaginian settlement before Columbus have been popular but also have no supporting evidence.

All these groups are English speaking and have comparatively little Indian ancestry, though the eastern groups (the Haliwa and Person County Indians) have as much as the Lumbee and more than the Nanticoke. They are very similar to the Lumbee, except they have been more scattered and have not had the group identity and organization. In general, they have less black and more white than the Lumbee, and the western groups have tried more to be accepted as white than Indian. They all had separate schools from both black and white during the days of segregation and these were usually designated Indian schools. The end of segregation has meant a loss of group identity in some cases. Since the Goins Indian School (in Rockingham County just east of Ayersville) closed, the community of Goinstown has disintegrated, though the areas along Goinstown Road and Goins School Road are still mostly inhabited by Goinstown Indians.

The Haliwa and Person County Indians are being helped by some Lumbees and others in their quest for recognition as Indians and they are probably becoming culturally more Indian recently. The others may do so, as pride in Indian ancestry is increasing. They have all always been more Indian than black culturally, as the original core groups were Indian and the mulattos who joined them had more genetic than cultural impact.

If you would be interested in having a book on these people, please let me know. I would like to put one together. I would hope to get the cooperation of Scott Collins, who is county clerk of Hancock County, the Melungeon center, and is with the Hancock County Historical Society, which has published a history of Hancock County, and who is a Melungeon, for information on contemporary Melungeons. While I am part Melungeon and identify myself as a Melungeon, I am three generations removed from northeastern Tennessee. I am in process of contacting members of the Haliwa and Person County Indians to try to get their help as well. [end of letter]

The names of some of these groups have changed, such as the Haliwa now using the name Haliwa-Saponi. I hope the Person County Indians will adopt this style as well, using Person-Saponi. The group I refer to as the Goinstown Indians have been called the Rockingham-Surry group and the Magoffin County Indians have been called the Magoffin County group. This group and their offshoot, the Carmel Indians, claim to have Cherokee in them and may well do so. The Mr. Nichols I spoke with in Carmel certainly looked more like the Cherokee than like the Haliwa or Melungeons. The Person County Indians and the Goinstown Indians (the few I saw) look like Melungeons.

On my trip, I met with Jean Patterson Bible and she is interested in such a book. I obtained a copy of the first volume of the History of Hancock County from Scott Collins. This gives the history of the Collins family. The famous Mahala Mullins was a member of this family, the daughter of Solomon Collins, the brother of Vardy Collins, and Virginia Goins. So the saying that if a Collins marries a Goins, their children will be Mullins could have begun with her.

In June, I called Henry R. Price in Rogersville to check on a couple of questions which had been bothering me. Both problems stemmed from statements made by Bonnie Ball in her book. She said that when the Melungeons were forced to the ridgetops after being dispossessed from their bottom land, they wreaked vengence on the whites in bloody raids, but that they had since given up their bloodthirsty ways.

I could not imagine a non-white group in the early nineteenth century conducting organized raids on whites and surviving. Mr. Price confirmed that, like the systematic dispossession of the Melungeons, these raids never occurred. The other point is part of the Mahala Mullins legend. It is said that her sons were all killed by law enforcement officials (revenuers?) before they finally found her. This doesn't ring true to the usual behavior of Melungeons. Mr. Price confirmed that not only were they not killed, but they left many grandchildren. So this is a warning not to take what is written or told of the Melungeons as true. This applies to what I have written more than most, since I have just used what others have written before me with no way to check on its correctness.

The question of how members of mixed race communities should be classified continues to vex them. After meeting some Haliwa and Person County Indians, I am much more sympathetic with clasifying them as Indian. Of course, I was aware when I wrote this book that they were the cultural heirs of their Indian ancestors. Also that they had been traditionally described as Indian as matter of convenience, with their schools being called Indian schools to distinguish them from both black and white. This habit of thinking that if they are neither black or white, then they must be Indian, actually has shaped their identity. If the word Indian has a different meaning for a Haliwa than it does for a Hopi, that does not invalidate its use. I now accept that it may be easier to be Indian and fit into one of the already established categories than it is to get a new category like Mestee recognized. Never mind that the Lumbees came into being in the sixteenth century and the Melungeons, the Haliwa, Indians, the Person County Indians, the Goinstown Indians,the Magoffin County Indians and the Carmel Indians became separate entities during the eighteenth. The concept is still new in that it has never been recognized by the majority group or the federal government. The states have used Indian or Special to describe the schools for these groups, but this has not meant formal recognition of the groups as either Indian or Mestee.

The Mohawks I have met appear to be mostly white in ancestry, but their Indian identity is rarely questioned. These groups descended from the Saponi are more Indian in their appearance, but they are not accepted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Since their wish is to accepted as Indian, I hope they do achieve full recognition. I also hope that what I have written about their mixed heritage does not disappoint them and especially that it not be used against their claim to be Indian.



POSTSCRIPT, AUGUST 1994

Since copies of my book have been received several places, I have been finding a level of interest in the Melungeons which I never suspected existed. There is an electronic bulletin board on some computer network about Melungeons. This led a couple of people here in the Gainesville area to a new book on the Melungeons. This book, THE MELUNGEONS: The Resurection of a Proud People: An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing in America, by N. Brent Kennedy with Robyn Vaughan Kennedy, was just published in June, 1994, by Macon University Press. It contains a wealth of information and many photographs of Melungeons, it is a welcome addition to the literature on the Melungeons. One point of great importance to those of us of Melungeon ancestry is that there is an hereditary disease which is present in some Melungeons. This disease, erythema nodosum sarcoidosis, is very serious. It can mimic lupus. This strikes close to home as some members of my family were diagnosed as having lupus and I have shown some of the symptoms.

I have not had a chance to study this book in detail at this time, but I want to help get the message out about its existence. I am excited by the mention of "Melungeon Marauders" during the Civil War. Maybe there are some real Melungeon heroes and maybe some one of Dr. Kennedy's Nash ancestors is a Melungeon equivalent of Henry Berry Lowrie whose story is waiting to be told. While I could not believe any non-white group raided and killed whites systematically in the nineteenth century and survived, in the special context of the Civil War, as Union irregulars, it is conceivable, and they would have been protected by the general armistice at the end of the war if they desisted. The parallel to the Lumbees in the Lowrie Band is remarkable.

A community of Portuguese and Spanish ancestry already in the Appalachians before 1700 must refer to only a very small part of Melungeon ancestry at best, since the work of Edward Price and Henry Price places the arrival of most of the Melungeons in Tennessee from North Carolina between 1780 and 1830, not earlier. Certainly most Melungeon ancestry comes from the mixed race communities of the northern border of North Carolina, such as the Goinstown group of Rockingham, Stokes and Surry counties. These represent the Saponi remnants later joined by some Powhattan remnants. They resemble the Melungeons in appearance very closely and they have many of the same names. The Haliwa-Saponi (called Cubans in this book) and the Person County Indians are very similar as well.

The suggestion that some Moors and Iberians were incorporated into Indians of Virginia and the Carolinas who were among the ancestors of the Melungeons is very likely, even certain. That this was a complex addition, with both Berber and Arab Moors, Moriscos, Marranos, etc., as well as Spanish and Portuguese, is well explained. The occasional Melungeon with dark skin but blue eyes could well be a 'throwback' to the Vandals in the Maghreb or the West Goths in Iberia. Kathryn Dunn, of Hawthorne, Florida, says her Melungeon gradfather said they were Portuguese Gypsies. If, in their long trek from the Indus, the Gypsies had indeed reached Iberia at the time of the inquisition, they would certainly have been expelled for their Hindu practices, along with the Moriscos for their secret Muslim worship and the Marranos for their hidden Judaism.

However, the idea that this is a larger component of our ancestry than the free mulattos and escaped slaves who joined the Indians seems strange to me. I still insist that we should be proud of our triracial heritage, that there is nothing wrong with either being part black or being mixed.

Those who want to pursue earlier origins should be aware of the work of Ivan Van Sertima (They Came Before Columbus) on the well attested African presence in the Caribbean area, which could be connected with the suggested Melungeons of Brazil.

But I would urge all to avoid the excesses represented by Barry Fell in his efforts to show widespread Carthaginian and other Mediteranean presence in America B.C. He has been characterized as being able to read any plow scratch on a rock anywhere.

The Carthaginians were certainly good enough seamen to have crossed the Atlantic and their ships were probably superior to those of Columbus. When Hanibal was defeated in the Second Punic War (202-201 B.C.), and Carthage lost Iberia to Rome, some Carthaginians fled from the Romans and it has been suggested that they ended up in America. The fact that the common rat did not reach America until the time of Columbus has been cited by Fell's detractors as proof that there was no settlement from the ancient Mediterranean, since any decked ships must have carried rats.

The formation of a Melungeon Research Team, with several members of the faculty of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville participating, is welcome news indeed. I wish I had known of this when I began putting this book together. Dr. Kennedy mentions in particular Vice-Chancelor Jack Williams, Dr. Jeffery Chapman, professor of history and director of the Frank McClung Museum, and Dr. Benita Howell, professor of anthropology.



Mixed-Race Identity
Mike Nassau
Class handout, February, 1996

One thing which makes the mixed-race groups of special interest is the ways in which they are identified or classified by themselves and by others. Many of these people are considered black by others because they are known to be part black, but most do not think of themselves as black. This is partly for cultural reasons, as none of them are culturally part of the African-American community. It is also because of the lower status traditionally given to black people. So even those who well know or physically show their black ancestry will describe themselves as Indian, white or mixed.

My personal identification is mixed Pushed to name one group, I choose Melungeon, though I am only one-eighth Melungeon, because their mixed identity and ambiguous history appeals to me. As well as the Melungeon, I had three other great-grandparents who were not white but passed for white. One was a Carolina Mestee (Brass Ankle?), one a light skinned black and one part Ozark Cherokee. I certainly have more Scots and Ulster Scots ancestry, and have no objection to being identified as of Scots descent, except that that puts me firmly in the white race. When asked to choose one of the major races without mixed or Mestee as a choice, I put black (with high-yellow oreo appended if there is room).

This is a political statement of my view of the race laws of Tenessee and Arkansas and American custom in general which view part African as black, no matter how little the part. So if I say white, I am denying the black, while by saying black, I am not denying the white and American Indian.

As best as I can figure from a family history where most ancestors were trying to hide any non-white origins, I am 3 to 6% African, 1 to3% Indian and 90 to 96% white in ancestry. This compares closely to my best guess for the Melungeons as a group, about 9% African, 1% Indian and 90% European. I am putting this statement in because last year some members of the class felt I was expressing some distaste for my Melungeon and black identifications by speaking of Melungeons and other Mestees in the third person. Rather, I am embarassed in claiming to be Melungeon or black when I have so little inheritance to substantiate such an identity, especially since I am not culturally part of either group.

Indian-Black Mixture

Jack Forbes is concerned with the American Indian contribution to the black population and the African contribution to the Indian population. He documents this quite thoroughly, and gives some of the names for mixed race people in different places and at different times. Sambo or Zambo is the one term which was originally used for black-Indian crosses exclusively, it was apparently of Brazilian origin but spread throughout the New World. Like most such terms it gradually came to be used for many other people as well.

He mentioned the term Mestee as a generic term for mixed race people in the Lower South. It derives from Middle French mestis (metis in modern French with a circumflex over the e to represent the lost s) and is cognate with the Spanish mestizo. It is sometimes spelt mustee, which Forbes attributes to making it agree with mulatto. In Louisiana, mestiff (from mestif, the adjective form of mestis) was used for a person less than one-eighth African who could pass for white. In the Upper South mulatto was used rather indiscriminately for mixed race people, including black-Indian and even white-Indian as well as the usual black-white mixes, and mestee was sometimes used for one who could pass for white.

Large numbers of Indians were enslaved and kept with black slaves, eventually merging into the black population, especially in the Carolinas. Indian women were forced by the whites to live with black slave men in Virginia so their babies would be part black and easier to keep as slaves. Part Indian slaves were imported from the Caribbean and Brazil. Black and part black people incorporated into Indian tribes were frequently enslaved by white raiders. Free blacks and mulattos frequently married Indians. The remnants of decimated Indian groups sometimes joined black communities, especially when the Indians already had some black in them.

In such ways, the contribution to the gene pool of black Americans by Indians has been large. The study of serum protein frequencies of urban blacks in several American cities analysed the data on the assumption they were of mixed African and European origin, giving a range from 96% African in Savannah to 48% in St. Paul. Ignoring the Indian contribution was a serious mistake, especially in the Carolinas, Virginia and Louisiana.

Free blacks and mulattos and escaped slaves frequently joined Indian groups. Indian raiders took black prisoners and made them slaves or incorporated them into their communities. Some Indians, particularly the Cherokee, bought black slaves from the whites. Black-Indian marriages sometimes joined the Indians instead of the black community. Some Indian groups absorbed so many blacks that some of them became a separate entity, like the black Seminoles. All Indian groups from Oklahoma east and south of New York have much black in them. Some black is found even in some groups outside this area, particularly New England, where escaped slaves from the South sometimes joined Indian communities.

The fact that a black community and an Indian community may be formed by a very similar mix of African, Indian and European ancestry does not make them similar culturally. The original culture usually continues to predominate with the gradual absorption of members of the other group having comparatively little effect.

Mestees

Mestee groups all predate the Civil War. Since the Civil War, there has been no real distinction between black and part black, and the rule that part black is black has prevented the formation of any new groups. However, there are nearly 200 such groups in the broadest definition.

Before the Civil War, free mulattos were accorded an intermediate position between black and white in many locations. In Charleston and New Orleans, a Colored community with some wealth developed, emulated white society and even held black slaves. After the Civil War, the term Colored was gradually extended to all blacks as a 'courtesy'. Other Mestee communities were formed by one or more residual Indian groups absorbing many blacks and part blacks and losing their Indian language. Since all the Indian groups of the South and Border regions are part black, once they lost their Indian language it was easy for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to say they are not real Indians, they are blacks pretending to be Indian. Of all such groups, only the Lumbee of North Carolina have acheived state recognition as Indian and even they are not accepted by the BIA.

Some groups, notably the Melungeons and Brass Ankles, have absorbed so much white since their formation that now most can easily pass for white. Other groups have so much black that most people just consider them black, such as the Moors and Nanticokes of Delaware and Maryland. Other groups such as the Ramapo Mountain People of New York and New Jersey, the Freedmen of Virginia, the colored Creoles of Louisiana and Mississippi, and the Creoles and Cajans of Alabama and Florida, admit that they are part black but still keep themselves apart from other blacks and preserve a separate culture.

Classification and Identity

Classification is based on many things. Culture, language, wealth, education, known or putative ancestry, etc., enter into racial classification as well as actual appearance. An individual who was actually 1/8 African, 1/4 Indian and 5/8 European in ancestry might be considered black, Indian, white or Mestee depending on where he was raised and by whom. If he was 1/4 African, 1/4 Indian and 1/2 European, he might be any of them except white in most of the U.S. and in places he could pass for white. If he was 1/2 African, 1/4 Indian and 1/4 European, the white option would pretty definitely be closed and some Mestee groups such as the Melungeons and Brass Ankles would also exclude him, as would most western Indian groups. The ambiguity is staggering. What is an Indian, a black, a white?

What are Mestees? Brewton Berry, in Almost White, wants to make most of them white. Of course, he was a white liberal being big hearted and offering them the most advantageous classification. William Gilbert, in his treatment of Indian and part-Indian groups of the eastern U.S., wants them all considered Indian. Terry Wilson, in his chapter on Native American mixed bloods, gives some details of the contribution of these peoples to the history of the native peoples of the United States. He mentions the Mestee groups, citing Berry's Almost White; he prefers to consider them as mixed blood Indian communities rather than as marginal whites. He describes the uneasy relationship between mixed and putatively full blooded Indians, suggesting that it is time for the Indians to reject the racial classification imposed by the whites and accept all those of Indian or part Indian culture as Indians.

G. Reginald Daniel, in the same book, Racially Mixed People in America, treats Mestees as part of the light skinned blacks who have passed or attempted to pass for white or Indian in order to escape the lower status accorded blacks. He is sympathetic to their lot, noting that blacks have resented Mestees denying their black ancestry, but sees it as a result of their attempt to avoid white racism rather than symptomatic of their own bigotry. Jack Forbes considers them as a black-Indian mix, a bridge between the t wo groups, but not to the whites.

So all these want to incorporate Mestees into the major racial group(s) in which they are interested. What is wrong with being a Mestee, mixed and not in any one race? What do the Mestees themselves want? The light skinned groups like the Melungeons and the Brass Ankles want to be accepted as white while being proud of their own community's history. Those who are strongly Indian in culture like the Lumbee and Haliwa Indians, the Alabama Creeks, the Delaware Nanticokes and the Issues want to be accepted as Indian. Those who admit to having a substantial black contribution to their inheritance, such as the Freedmen and Creoles, want a separate category for mixed, such as Colored used to be. The rest would welcome something to put on the forms, so the need for a Mestee category is real.

Why not follow the new norm in America and say Mestees are black since they are known to be part black? That is fine with me, but very few Mestees would agree with it. Blacks do not take pride in their white ancestors in most cases because their white ancestors did not acknowledge their part black progeny and let them be raised as slaves.

Mestees do take pride in their white ancestors, having not suffered rejection to same degree, at least having been raised free. In checking the history of the laws establishing the limits on how much non-white ancestry can be accepted in a person still accepted as white (this varies from one-eighth African in Florida to no known African in Arkansas and Tennessee), I found that all the cases where school segregation was challenged before the Ramapo Mountain People's case in 1948 were brought by white mothers. This leads me to suspect that white mothers of mixed children may have been a substantial contribution to the formation of some Mestee groups, which would help explain why they are so white culturally when in many cases there has been little contact with the white community. If so, once again women have been left out of recorded history.

Mestees tend to be more Indian culturally than racially as a result of black and white being introduced slowly to groups originally Indian. The Issues of Virginia, who are quite black racially, can be distinguished at a distance from blacks by their habit of walking silently in single file while the neighboring blacks walk in clusters talking as they go. Most Mestees do not have much interest in organized religion, which tends to play a central role in most black communities. They are not known for interest in music, and their music tends to be that of the surrounding white community, not the black. Of course, many Mestees are racist, having learned one of the best ways not to be treated as black by the whites is to join them in their anti-black attitudes. The colored Creoles of New Orleans have clubs which will not admit members darker than a brown paper bag.

Some of the division between Mestees and blacks goes back to the days of slavery. The title of a recent book on the Freedmen of Virginia, We Were Always Free, shows the pride of these groups in their free status at the time of the Civil War. My Melungeon great-grandfather, Matthew Price, took the description of the Melungeons in the Tennessee constitution, free people of color, and changed it to free people of Tennessee when he moved to the Ozarks. President Lincoln said no shame should be attached to being a slave but rather to owning slaves, but that enlightenment has not yet reached most Mestees.

Mestee Groups

Mestee groups can be divided geographically, culturally, racially, and by self identification. I am setting up a table for some of the groups, based on the descriptions by Gilbert and Berry.
As an example, take the Melungeons: R:WWWBi; C:WWWi; S:WWWi; D:WWBI.
This means they are Racially mostly white, some black and a very little Indian, Culturally mostly white and a little Indian, their Self identification is white with a trace of Indian, but the surrounding Dominant white community identifies them as a white-black-Indian mixture. The groups will be considered by geographic range from North to South.

A. The Northern range consists of the Ramapo Mountain People on the border of New York and New Jersey, the Indian tribes of New England, and a few scattered groups in upstate New York and on Long Island.

    1. Ramapo Mountain People. R:WWBB; C:WWWb; S:WWBBII; D:BW.
    2. Indians of New England. R:IIIWWB; C:IIIW; S:IIIwb; D:IIB.
    3. Slaughters, Bushwhackers, etc. R:WWWBi; C:WWWi; S:WWWi; D:WWBi.

B. Potomac-Ohio range consists of Moors and Nanticokes in Delaware, Maryland and southern New Jersey, Wefolk in northern Virginia, the Guineas in West Virginia, and the Brown People in western Ohio.

    1. Nanticokes of Delaware. R:BBBiw; C:IIWWB; S:IIBB; D:BBBI.
    2. Moors. R:BBBW; C:BBWW; S:BBWW; D:BBBW.
    3. Wefolk. R:WWWBB; C:WWWb; S:WWWI; D:BBW.
    4. Guineas. R:WWBi; C:WWI; S:WWWI; D:WWBi.
    5. Brown People. R:BBWW; C:WWWb; S:WWBB; D:BBWW.

C. Appalachian range consists of the Powhattan tribes of eastern Virginia, the Issues and related groups of central Virginia, the Freedmen of Virginia, the Melungeons (northeastern Tennessee) including the Ramps (southwestern Virginia and northwestern North Carolina). The Surry, Rockingham and Person County Indians and the Haliwa-Saponi Indians (northern N.C.), the Carmel Indians (southern Ohio) and the related groups of eastern Kentucky.

    1. Powhattan tribes. R:BBIIWW; C:IIWWb; S:IIIWb; D:IBw.
    2. Issues, etc. R:BBBWI; C:IIIBw; S:IIBw; D:BBIw.
    3. Freedmen. R:WWBB; C:WWWB; S:BBWW; D:BBBWW
    4. Haliwa Indians. R:IIBBWW; C:IIIWW; S:IIIWb; D:IIBBw.
    5. Person County Indians. R:IIWWBB; C:WWWII; S:IIIW; D:IIBw
    5. Surry and Rockingham county Indians. R:BBWWI; C:IIWWb; S:IIIW; D:IBw.
    6. Melungeons and Ramps. R:WWWBi; C:WWWi; S:WWWi; D:WWBI.
    7. Carmel Indians, etc. R:WWBBI; C:IIIBW; S:IIIwb; D:IIBw.

D. Lumber River Range consists of the Lumbee Indians of southern North Carolina and neighboring South Carolina.

    1. Lumbee Indians. R:BBBWWI; C:WWWIIb; S:IIIWWb; D:IIIBBW.

E. Southern Range consists of Brass Ankles, Red Bones and related groups of South Carolina, Turks of eastern South Carolina, Alabama Creeks, Cajans of Alabama, Creoles of Alabama and west Florida, Cajuns, 'white' Creoles and colored Creoles of Louisiana and Mississippi, Houma Indians of southern Louisiana and the Redbones of western Louisiana and neighboring Texas, and the Black Seminoles of Texas and Oklahoma.

    1. Brass Ankles, Red Bones, etc. R:WWWBI; C:WWWIb; S:WWWI; D:BBWi.
    2. Turks. R:WWBBI; C:WWWIb; S:WWWI; D:BBWi.
    3. Alabama Creeks. R:IIBBW; C:IIIWb; S:IIIW; D:IIBBw.
    4. Cajans. R:WWBB; C:WWWB; S:WWWBi; D:BBBW.
    5. Alabama Creoles. R:BBBWW; C:WWBB; S:WWBBi; D:BBWW.
    6. Cajuns. R:WWWIb; C:WWWbi; S:WWWI; D:WWib.
    7. White Creoles. :WWWb; C:WWW; S:WWW; D:WWW.
    8. Colored Creoles. R:WWWBBi; C:WWWB; S:WWWBi; D:BBW.
    9. Houma Indians. R:IIBBW; C:IIIBW; S:IIIwb; D:IIBBw.
    10. Redbones. R:WWWBi; C:WWWI; S:WWWI; D:BBWI.
    11. Black Seminoles. R:BBBIw; C:IIIBw; S:BBII; D:BBBI.

Racism

Most Mestees are racist in that they consider themselves superior to African Americans even if they admit being part black. After writing his recent book on the Melungeons, N. Brent Kennedy says he has received many phone calls from other Melungeons attacking him for admitting that we are part black. Several were actual death threats. So to people who have been persecuted for not being pure white, it is still very unacceptable to be told that they are part black. I feel this is very understandable and I do not feel any shame about this racism amongst my people. I do feel anger at the racism of the dominant white society which has caused Mestees to feel this need to distance themselves from their African heritage.

One thing I feel im pelled to state is that racism is not peculiar to whites and Mestees. An Okinawan friend contends that the Japanese are the most racist people in the world, rejecting their close kin and compatriots, the Ryukyuans (such as the Okinawans), as well as Koreans whose families have lived in Japan for over a century. My experience with the local jail population makes me feel that the lower stratum of black society is at least as racist as the corresponding element of white society. The rejection of all things perceived as culturally white, including productivity and self-improvement, I view as the main impediment to economic advancement by the African-American community, far worse than white racism. As long as those black individuals who try to educate themselves and achieve success in the white dominated economy are castigated by other blacks as race traitors, attaining equality of opportunity is impossible. I take pride in my self-description as a high-yellow oreo, I see nothing wrong in being an oreo, and I take pride in the company of historical figures like W.E.B. DuBois.



Update, July 1996.

Several things have occurred since I wrote the text of my book and even since the last postscript. Perhaps the most important is the work of N. Brent Kennedy on a possible Moorish-Turkish component of the ancestry of the Melungeons. He has even traveled to Turkey to check on some aspects. He has found a plausible Turkish origin for the word Melungeon, a word with the same sound means 'lost soul' in Turkish. Given that some 500 Turkish and Moorish captives the English had rescued from Spanish ships were abandoned by Sir Francis Drake on the coast of Virginia, that their descendants would be incorporated in the mixed race communities scattered along the North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee borders is extremely likely. In a recent letter, he has offered a few corrections to my book, with which I concur.

For the description of the Melungeons and allies on page 32, the white component should be enlarged to include a Mediterranean component, with possible input both from the Moorish-Turkish source mentioned above and from the remnants of the Spanish settlements on the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas which were destroyed by the English.

After settling in America and intermarrying with Indians, for the descendants of a sea-faring people like the Portuguese to end up in the Appalachian Mountains is not inconceivable (page 36).

The census descriptions of mixed race people (page 37) can not be taken as either objective or accurate. See Kennedy's book for an excellent account of the campaign to keep all people not of "pure" North European ancestry out of the white category. Any darker person would end up as FC for free colored or the terms such as mulatto that replaced this description after the Civil War. Claims of Portuguese, Turkish, Moorish, etc., origins were ignored.

That the Turks of South Carolina do not speak Turkish or practice Islam is not surprizing if they arrived in America in Elizabethan times (page 60). However, General Sumpter, according to Brewton Berry's article on the Turks, got them recognized as white by insisting that he had personally imported them from Turkey. Given their appearance and their Lumbee connections shown by their names, this is obviously false.

Dr. Kennedy also points out that he does not deny the presence of black ancestry in these groups and is not trying to reject the tri-racial theory, but simply to extend the white component to include a significant Mediterranean component (page 168). I find this very agreeable, since, in my background as a geneticist working in the breeding of cattle, I have long been aware of the fact that the more groups that are crossed to form a hybrid population, the longer the heterosis lasts. I have published a paper in the Indian Dairyman advocating the formation of a new dairy breed for the hot, dry tropics based on the Butana of Sudan, the Sahiwal of India and Pakistan, the Illawarra of Australia (of British origin) and the Red Danish breed of continental Europe. For Melungeons to be a four-way hybrid of North European, Mediterranean, African and American Indian ancestry appeals to me very much, so I wish him luck in his work to prove a Turkish-Moorish element in our ancestry.



Update, November 1996

Another input I have received recently is from Ms. Virginia Easley DeMarce, who works for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She has written an article on the Melungeons, titled "Tennessee Melungeons and Related Groups". This contains a wealth of information. She gives a summary of some of Jack Goins' work on his ancestry. This should be read by anyone seriously interested in Melungeon history and origins. In her letter, she notes that more groups are applying for recognition as Indian tribes, including some with no known Indian ancestry such as the Ramapo Mountain People. If I had known this when I prepared my class notes this year, obviously I would have increased the Indian component in the self identity estimates for these groups.

I met Jack Goins in Rogersville, TN. He is a very interesting person and has done extensive, serious research. I was particularly pleased to find that a Melungeon who could obviously pass for pure white was not afraid to admit probable black ancestry. I enjoyed his theory for the origin of the word Melungeon as a corruption of "Me Injun". His findings have partially been published in the Gowen Research Foundation Newsletter.

This group is interested in the geneology of the Gowen families in America and follows all the forms the name has taken including Goins, which is the most common name in several of the Mestee groups including the Melungeons and the closely related Goinstown Indians of North Carolina. It is an on-going source for Melungeon geneology.

In my correspondence with Brent Kennedy, he mentioned having found a Turkish word with the same sound as Melungeon. He believed this might well be the origin of the name. I told him that my personal favorite for an origin of the word Melungeon is melongene, a French word for eggplant which is sometimes used in British English. It was melanjin in Middle French, which is very close to Melungeon. After telling Brent Kennedy this, he addressed his next letter to me as Michael Eggplant McGlothlen. I wish everyone could keep such a friendly spirit and good humor in regard to our origins and ancestry.



Update, October 1999

There are many things I would change if I were to rewrite this whole book now. I would not put so much reliance on the old magazine articles which describe the Melungeons as moonshining mountaineers.

I have just begun to use the internet and find the wealth of new material out there. I am very impressed.

Links to other sources on the Melungeons:
Cyndi's List :  http://www.cyndislist.com/peoples.htm#Melungeons

Melungeons and Other Mestee Groups:
  http://www.darkfiber.com/blackirish/melungeons.html

Mountain Ties: http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~mtnties


Under One Sky (Melungeon News Letter webpage)
http://www.geocities.com/BourbonStreet/Square/5018/Page_1x.html

Melungeon Links:  http://cresswells.com/alhn/melung/index.html

Melungeon Homepage: http://www.melungeons.org/index.html

Melungeon Outpost:  http://bright.net/~kat/melung.htm

Hancock County Historical Society: http://www.korrnet.org/overhome/page3.html
 



 

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Copyright © 2001 Mike Nassau and The Multiracial Activist. All rights reserved. {jos_sb_discuss:4}

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 16 August 2006 )
 
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