MALUNGU: The African Origin
of American Melungeons
by Tim Hashaw
MALUNGU part 1
One misconception over Melungeon origins comes from confusion over the status of these African-Americans who, along with whites and Indians, gave birth to this mixed community. Modern scholars mistakenly assume that the African heritage of Melungeons derives from the offspring of white plantation owners and black female chattel slaves in the years 1780 to 1820.
Wrong on two counts. In fact:
1. The very first black ancestors of Melungeons appeared in tidewater Virginia, not in the 18th century, but in 1619.
2. Not one single Melungeon family can be traced to a white plantation owner and his black female slave. The vast majority of the African ancestors of Melungia were freeborn for more than three hundred years.
This bears repeating.
Melungeons are not the offspring of white southern plantation owners and helpless black slaves. Most of the African ancestors of Melungeons were never chattel slaves. They were frequently black men freed from indentured servitude just like many white servants of the 17th century. Less often, African ancestors of the Melungeons either purchased their freedom from slavery or were freed upon the deaths of their masters.
The black patriarchs of the Melungeons were commonly free African-American men who married white women in Virginia and other southern colonies, often before 1700. Paul Heinegg in his revealing book, “Free African Americans in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware” provides strong evidence that less than one percent of all free Africans were born of white slave-owners.
Understanding the status of the African-American ancestors of Melungeons and the era, in which they came to America, is critical to understanding their history and the origin of the name “Melungeon”.
CARRIED AWAY IN THE NIGHT
“On Saturday night, April the 4th, broke into the house of the subscriber at the head of Green’s Creek, where I had some small property under the care of Ann Driggers, a free Negro woman, two men in disguise, with marks on their faces and clubs in their hands, beat and wounded her terribly and carried away four of her children, three girls and a boy, the biggest of said girls got off in the dark and made her escape, one of the girls name is Becca, and other is Charita, the boy is named Shadrack…”
This early newspaper notice describes a common nightmare inflicted on free blacks and mixed Melungeons in the 18th and 19th centuries. The lucrative American slave market prompted man-stealers to prey on African and mixed African communities. Anyone with the slightest amount of African blood might be kidnapped in the middle of the night regardless of their free status.
In 1834, freeborn mulatto Drury Tann of the Melungeon Tann family of North Carolina, applied for his Revolutionary War pension. In his application is an account of his childhood.
“He, (Tann) was stolen from his parents when a small boy by persons unknown to him, who were carrying him to sell him into Slavery, and had gotten with him and other stolen property as far as the mountains on their way…his parents made a complaint to a Mr. Tanner Alford who was then a magistrate in the county of Wake State of North Carolina, to get me back from those who had stolen me and he did pursue the rogues and overtook them at the mountains and took me from them.”
On March 12, 1754 John Scott, a “free Negro” of Berkely County, South Carolina filed an affidavit notifying authorities in Orange County, North Carolina that:
- “Joseph Deevit, Wm. Deevit, and Zachariah Martin entered by force the house of his daughter, Amy Hawley, and carried her off by force with her six children, and he thinks they are taking them north to sell as slaves.”
These three cases among many illustrate how that by 1750, free blacks, mulattos and mixed Melungeons lived in constant danger of illegal abduction and loss of liberty during the long night of American slavery. A single drop of African blood could land a free Melungeon in court, fighting false charges that he or she was a runaway slave. Travel abroad was even riskier than remaining in their vulnerable communities. Melungeons quickly learned to move in large groups from county to county to escape opportunistic man-stealers.
The issue of African blood in Melungeons was troublesome as early as the first recorded appearance of the name “Melungeon”. The word was used in the September 26th, 1813 minutes of the Stoney Creek church of Virginia. Sister Susanna Kitchen brought a complaint to the church against Sister Susanna “Sookie” Stallard for “harboring them Melungins.” Stoney Creek had a membership, which included whites, free Negroes, slaves and Melungeons. Each group was segregated within the church and the color bar was strictly enforced.
White church members in Virginia knew Melungeons were part African. Even by 1813, the issue of an African heritage in Melungeons was viewed differently in different regions. The younger southern states had a tradition in the early 1800s that Melungeons were not African but Mediterranean or South Seas people. For example: William Goyens was born in North Carolina in 1794 to a “free Negro” father and a white mother. In 1821, he came to Texas and became a prosperous millionaire businessman in Nacogdoches. In 1832, he proposed marriage to a white woman named Polly Sibley. Her brothers came from Georgia to block the marriage, but consented when they heard that William Goyens was not African, but “Melungeon”.
However, the original tidewater colonies like Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the Carolinas knew otherwise. Virginia grandfathers from the colonial era could remember the Negro ancestors of the Melungeons even though the issue of black and white marriage had never scandalized them as it did their grandchildren. For the Stoney Creek church, the possibility of sexual attraction between the children of white members and the children of Melungeon members represented a danger. When Stoney Creek’s Melungeons members began to move away into Kyle’s Ford, Tennessee, the white church members of Virginia breathed a sigh of relief.
From time to time, these Melungeons would return to visit Stoney Creek, a 40-mile trip that required a one-night stopover. Sister “Sookie” came under suspicion from other white church members for allegedly “harboring them Melungeons” overnight.
In the Stoney Creek case in the early 1800s, the presence of just a little African blood in Melungeons raised tensions because Melungeons were otherwise white. Blacks, free and slave were welcome to worship with whites at the Stoney Creek church. Melungeons were not.
However, this was not always the case in the history of Virginia. Once upon an earlier time in America, mixed Melungeons and indeed many full-blooded Africans, were strangers to prejudice.
THREE MAJOR ETHNIC ANCESTORS OF MELUNGEONS
Among the northern Europeans, the Melungeon ancestors include English, Scot, Irish, Welsh, Dutch, and German parents. North American Indian ancestors include people from the tribes of Powhatan, Mattaponi, Monie, Nansemond, Rappahanock, Pamunkey, Chickahominie, Cherokee (Buffalo Ridge) and Choctaw.
From the 1620s, in southern British colonies like Virginia, white northern Europeans intermarried with Indians. They also intermarried with Africans who began entering the American colonies as early as 1619. Melungeons originate from these red, white and black peoples in this period of American history. They began forming identifiable separate mixed communities when the first anti-African laws started restricting some of their freedoms by 1660.
Until recently, not much has been known about the Melungeons’ African ancestors. New evidence now indicates that the black ancestors of Melungeons were peoples of Kimbundu and Kikongo-speaking Angola and historic Kongo along Africa’s lower west coast. The nation of Mbundu in Angola yielded more black ancestors for Melungeons than any other African people.
European conquest of interior Angola began when Portugal attacked the Mbundu kingdom of Ndongo in the modern Malange district of Angola in a military campaign lasting from 1618-1620. At the time, England and its American colonies had no direct trade in African slaves. Nevertheless, during Portugal’s war on Ndongo, Africans began appearing in British Virginia aboard Dutch and English privateers, which specialized in robbing Portuguese merchant-slavers leaving the Angolan port of Luanda.
THE KIMBUNDU-ANGOLAN ORIGIN OF THE NAME “MELUNGEON”
The name “Melungeon” was not applied to these first Africans by white outsiders or slave owners. It was a name they called themselves. Stoney Creek church records show the name “Melungeon” began in Virginia and not in Tennessee. As we shall see, mixed Melungeons existed in Virginia by 1680 when their Angolan fathers were still speaking Kimbundu as well as English. The origin of the name “Melungeon”in Virginia and not Tennesseee, and the presence of Kimbundu-speaking Angolans in Virginia by 1680 strongly support a Kimbundu African etymology for the name “Melungeon”.
The name “Melungeon” comes directly from the Kimbundu-Angolan word malungu, which originally meant “watercraft”. Kimbundu was the language of the Mbundu nation, which included the Ndongo kingdom. The first Africans coming to Virginia in 1619 and for many years afterward were Mbundu. This Kimbundu word came to mean “shipmates from a common country” among Mbundu people in America. John Thornton of Millersville University of Pennsylvania, and Linda Heywood of Howard University have found evidence of the name elsewhere.
“In Brazil, which had a heavily Kimbundu-speaking African population, the term malungu was used to mean anyone who had traveled on the same ship together, and gradually extended (by definition) to other close companions or friends. Since the word derives from Kimbundu (the same word is also used in Kikongo) and not Portuguese, there is no reason that it can’t also be used in areas outside Brazil where the Angolans went.”
The Mbundu in Virginia, as in Brazil, used “malungu” to describe their fellow Countrymen shipped west to the New World across the Atlantic. Professor Robert Slene wrote an article entitled, “Malunga, ngoma vem! Africa encoberta e descoberta no Brasil” [Malungu, ngoma comes! Africa uncovered and discovered in Brazil]. Slene notes that in Brazil the word was borrowed into Portuguese as “melungo” (shipmate) from the Kimbundu and Kikongo languages. He cites the philologist Macedo Soares as giving a definition of “malungo”in 1880 (in Portuguese):
- “companheiro, patricio, da mesma regiao, que veio no mesmo comboio” parceiro da mesma laia, camarada, parente.” (translated: companion, fellow countryman, from the same region, who travels on the same conveyance, from the same background, comrade, relative). Soares cites a 1779 Portuguese dictionary with the example, “Malungo, meu malungo…chama o preto a outro cativo que veio com ele na mesma embaracao”…
…which is translated (“Malungo, my malungo”…the black calls another captive who came with him on the same ship)”
Slene finds the etymology of the later Portuguese word melungo in the earlier Angolan malungu from the languages of Kimbundu, Kikongo, and Umbundu (spoken in central Angola). In the modern languages, the definition of malungu can mean “companion”. Thornton and Heywood write:
- “…the idea that the term means “shipmate” and could be extended to “countryman” or “close friend” and “relative” makes great sense to us and gives the term “Melungeon” great significance.”
The American name “Melungeon” is an English elongation of the Kimbundu malungu, used by newly arrived Angolans in colonial Virginia to describe themselves; companions, shipmates, fellow passengers from a common homeland who had endured the great Atlantic crossing together. 17th century Kimbundu-speaking Mbundu people in America took anglicized surnames, which are still found among Melungeons today.
Scenarios for a French, or Portuguese origin for the name “Melungeon” are highly speculative. Angolans, who were without question among the ancestors of American Melungeons, called themselves “malungu” at the same time Melungeons originated in 17th century Virginia. At this time in history, French adventurers and traders were regarded as spies and barred from Virginia. The French “malange” meaning “mixed” is an unlikely source of the name “Melungeon”. Only the vaguest of scenarios have been proposed to explain the French “malange” theory, and even those have been outside of historical context.
There is only a remote possibility that these Angolans called themselves after the Portuguese “melungo” since we have no evidence of the Kimbundu word being adapted into Portuguese as early as the 17th century. The word “Melungeon” did not derive from the Portuguese “melungo”. Rather, both the English “Melungeon” and the Portuguese “melungo” came directly from the Kimbundu “malungu”.
FIVE EVIDENCES FOR AN ANGOLAN ORIGIN OF THE NAME “MELUNGEON”
2. The Melungeon community began in the era during which Virginia started passing laws, which restricted and isolated free African-Americans who had been born in Angola. Their legal isolation beginning about 1670, further strengthened their earlier formation as a distinct community.
3. The wary xenophobic vigil of the British-American colony of Virginia in the 17th century seriously undermines a possible French or Portuguese influence on the origin of the name “Melungeon”. European trespassers who were not British were strung up or run out of Virginia. Any white found in Virginia in the 17th century who was not British or a British ally, was typically arrested as a suspected spy. This would exclude any theorized French fur trappers alleged to have discovered the Melungeons, and all “lost” Portuguese or Spanish colonies such as Santa Elena in the Carolinas. Any alleged “blue-eyed Indian” was viewed suspiciously by the British in Virginia who habitually destroyed all French, Spanish, and Portuguese settlements they found after first executing or deporting their inhabitants. France, Spain, Portugal and England were all embroiled in a fierce fight to the death over the territory between New Amsterdam (modern New York) and Florida.
4. Melungeons are descendants of northern Europeans, Native Americans, and Kimbundu-speaking Angolan-Africans. It is reasonable to assume that their name came from one of the languages of these three people. No English, Gaelic, German, Dutch or Indian etymology for “Melungeon” is seriously considered at present. However, Angolans referred to their community as “Malungu”. It is likely that this Kimbundu name became the source of the anglicized word “Melungeon” in America.
5. The Melungeons were not the descendants of helpless African-American slaves. They were descendants of African-American freemen who had the liberty to move from place to place and the liberty to name themselves. The name fit them. They were people who had all come from a common homeland (Angola) by ship to a new country-They were malungu.
THE MALUNGU STORY IN A NUTSHELL
Then, in the 1670s the Virginia legislature started enacting a series of laws restricting certain rights of free Angolans. Previously the African ancestors of the Melungeons had enjoyed full civil liberties as freemen once they had served their few years in indenture. Free blacks could purchase white servants to work their growing farms. In1670 the Virginia legislature forbade free African-Americans from owning white servants. In 1691, Virginia outlawed the manumission of slaves and black and white intermarriages. In 1705, Virginia denied slaves the ability to pay for their freedom when it seized their farm stock, which certain slave owners had allowed them to raise.
These laws require that virtually all African-Americans who were not slaves in Virginia after 1720 were born of free black ancestors: ancestors who were almost exclusively the original Angolans of the earlier 1600s who had already earned their freedom from indentured servitude. These legislative restrictions on the freedom of the black ancestors of Melungeon began to isolate their mixed descendants as early as 1670.
The name “Melungeon” began as the ethnic identification “malungu” which Angolans of the 1600s used to describe themselves. As these Angolans became isolated by hostile laws at the end of the 17th century and as they accepted intermarriage with whites and Indians, the name malungu changed into the word used by white settlers to describe the mixed descendants of Angolan, white and Indian ancestors: the Angolan name “Malungu” became the anglicized “Melungeon”.
THE EARLIEST MALUNGU IN COLONIAL BRITISH-AMERICA
Today the beautiful mountain district of modern Malange, Angola provides most of the maimed poster children in the ongoing international peace effort to ban landmines. The Malange plateau had become a civil war battleground immediately after Portuguese colonialism ended in the 1970s. However, 400 years ago, the highlands were home to the flourishing pre-colonial villages of the realm of Ndongo. The Ndongo kingdom lay along a thin stretch of land, 30 miles wide and 50 miles deep between the Lukala and Lutete rivers, described as a cool plateau over 4,000-feet high. The king in the royal capital of Kabasa in 1618 was Mbandi Ngola Kiluanji. Angola’s name comes from Ngola, meaning “ruler”.
Portuguese general Luis Mendes de Vasconcelos led the 1618 military campaign against Ndongo to capture slaves. During just three short years, the Portuguese took captive some 50,000 men, women and children from Ndongo and surrounding kingdoms. Professor Thornton, in an article for the William & Mary Quarterly, found that this large number of captured Africans was “far more than were exported before or would be again for some decades.”
Forty years earlier, Ndongo had thrown off servitude to the king of Kongo in a battle on the Lukala River. Vasconcelos was not about to under-estimate Ndongo and its allies in the highlands. He planned his campaign to include the mercenary African tribe called the “Imbangala”. These hired warriors were dreaded cannibals who, according to one European eyewitness in the 17th century, practiced witchcraft; a “quasi-religious cult devoted to bloodlust, selfishness and greed”. They were terrible fighters, burying alive any infant born in their camps so that they might always be ready to move. The Imbangala maintained their numbers exclusively by training the children of their victims to be warriors. Thornton says of their battle tactics:
- “The Imbangala generally made a large encampment in the country they intended to pillage, after arriving near harvest time. They forced the local authorities either to fight them outright, or to withdraw into fortified locations, leaving the fields for the Imbangala to harvest. Once their enemies were weakened by fighting or lack of food, they could make the final assault on their lands and capture them. The presence of Portuguese slave-traders who also provided firearms, made the raiding of people as profitable or even more profitable as raiding food and livestock had been before”
Vasconcelos hired three Imbangal companies for the assault on Ndongo in 1618. At this time, the African kingdom was ripe for outside attack. Brothers-in-law of the king Kiluanji, exploiting royal ties to commit crimes, had enraged local chiefs. A rebel soba [district chieftain], Kavalo Ka Kabassa, had lured his king into a trap in 1617 and deposed him.
Kiluanji’s son, Ngola Mbandi, was still wooing rebel sobas when Portugal attacked in 1618. The Portuguese, with Imbangala companies in front, struck and defeated the armies of Prince Mbandi’s soba, Kaita Ka Balanga, across the Kwanza River. With the loss of Balanga’s forces, the royal palace in Kabasa fell to the Portuguese and thousands of prisoners were captured.
After the winter season, the military campaign resumed in the spring of 1619 with Portuguese forces defeating the armies of 95 assembled Ndongo sobas. Prince Mbandi fled Kabasa, abandoning his family and many wives who were captured with a great multitude of Ndongo commoners.
Later, under the dynamic leadership of the famous Jaga Queen Njinga, [1624-1663] Ndongo fought fiercely against colonialization for decades, while bleeding thousands of captives to Portuguese plantations and mines through out the 17th century. Some of these Ndongo prisoners stolen from the Portuguese at sea by Dutch and English privateers. They would become ancestors of the Melungeons.
EVENTS, CUSTOMS AND CIRCUMSTANCES IN EARLY COLONIAL VIRGINIA
1. Manpower Shortages in Early 17th Century Virginia
At the fall of the kingdom of Ndongo, the Virginia colony in North America was but 12 years old. Settlers, recently discovering economic salvation in a new tobacco hybrid, needed a large work force to exploit the lucrative product. Smoking was the rage in Europe, and Virginians, backed by their long-suffering London financiers were eager to finally declare a profit. However, the ranks of white laborers did not meet demands for colonial manpower. Virginia was a ready market for black labor in 1619.
2. Equality Among Blacks and Whites in the Early Virginia Class System
An important custom in the development of the Melungeon community was the institution of indentured servitude. Newcomers to slave trading in the early-to-mid 17th century, Virginians were still relatively unfamiliar with the permanent slave chattel system used by Spain and Portugal. The English system of indentured servitude freed servants of all ethnicities after 7 or 10 years regardless of ethnicity.
The Virginia Company required former masters to provide freed servants with food supplies, clothing and livestock so that they could make their own start in the colony. Former black servants became large plantation owners. Successful African-Americans bought white and black, male and female servants. Lerone Bennett Jr. writes about 17th century America for Africans.
“In Virginia, then, as in other colonies, the first black settlers fell into a well-established socio-economic groove which carried with it no implications of racial inferiority. That came later. But in the interim, a period of forty years or more, the first black settlers accumulated land, voted, testified in court and mingled with whites on a basis of equality. They owned other black servants and certain blacks imported and paid for white servants whom they apparently held in servitude.
Not only did pioneer blacks vote, but they also held public office. There was a black surety in York County, Virginia in the first decades of the 17th century, and a black beadle [court bailiff] in Lancaster County, Virginia.”
Maryland elected the first African to its colonial legislature in the early 17th century as well.
Marriage between blacks, whites and Indians was legal in Virginia for most of the 17th century. Genealogist Paul Heinegg found that 99% of all mixed children in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the Carolinas before 1810 came from intermarriages of free blacks with whites. Cases of white masters having children by black slaves were virtually non-existence, making up only one percent of the mixed mulatto population.
IDENTIFYING THE FIRST VIRGINIA AFRICANS AS ANGOLANS
Early Africans came to Virginia by freelance opportunists like Captain John Powell of the pirate ship ‘Hopewell’, and John Colyn Jope of Cornwall who privateered under a Dutch marque. Another buccaneer bartering with Virginians was Captain Arthur Guy of the ship ‘Fortune’ who traded “many Negroes” he had taken from a Portuguese ship in Luanda, Angola. Captain Daniel Elfrith of the man-o-war “Treasurer” also preyed on Iberian slavers, as did Samuel Axe in the 1630s in the employ of the Providence Island Company, owned by Warwick and Pym.
In addition, Dutch privateers shipped Angolans to New Amsterdam (New York), which then traded slaves to the southern British-American colonies. These sea-raiders concentrated their attacks exclusively on Portuguese and Spanish slavers loaded with Angolan prisoners from 1619-1680, according to Thornton and Heywood.
“Our contention is that until the English developed their own slave purchasing posts along the coast of West Africa…all their slaves came from privateering on Portuguese ships, and these in turn almost all…came from Angola. In De Laet’s History of the West India Company (pub.1644, a report on all the privateering activities of the WIC from its foundation to 1638), all but one of the ships they took was from Angola.”
Privateers were seizing Angolans from Portuguese slavers in the relatively short period when British colonial law gave blacks equal rights with whites in America. In the young 17th century settlement of Virginia, these freed Angolans began forming kinships, which eventually became communities. Thornton:
- “It is probable that, in the decades that followed, those who survived the first year in Virginia eventually encountered more Angolans from their homeland or from the nearby Kongo, brought especially to New York by Dutch traders and resold to Virginia colonists. These new captives perhaps gave a certain Angolan touch to the early Chesapeake.”
The common experience of the original Kimbundu and Kikongo-speaking Mbundu bound them together as “malungu”; shipmates and companions of the arduous middle passage. This bond was not broken in America. It defined their children, the Melungeons, who endured a different, though no less hazardous, passage, through nearly three centuries of hostility in America.
MALUNGU: Part 2
CAPTIVES OF WAR
- “The demographic impact of this war was starkly obvious when the [Portuguese] campaign was resumed the next year ; the army met no resistance in any part of the back country [Sertao], these provinces having become destitute of inhabitants.”
Deaf to the pleas of priests and the protests of Portuguese settlers whose lands were being ravaged, Vasconcelos let the uncontrolled killing and enslavement continue for many months. The conduct of rampaging Imbangala mercenaries was chronicled by Vogado Sotomaior, the ouvidor geral de Angola, who complained of the destruction of the royal Ndongo city of Kabasa, that it was “sacked in such a way that many thousands of souls were captured, killed and eaten”.
The historian Soares concludes that with the presence of the Imbangala, “the wars were without any danger, but with discredit to the Portuguese.” Vasconcelos, who permitted his rampaging mercenaries to pass beyond the Ndongo realm into the villages of his own African allies in Kongo, also stood by as Christian baggage handlers in his own military train were seized in the frantic rush for slaves.
THE SLAVE PORT OF LUANDA
The Portuguese had not planned well for the unexpected success of their slave-hunting campaign. Only 36 merchant-slave ships arrived in Angola in the fiscal year of 1618-1619. Each slaver was capable of holding an average of from 350-400 captives. The logistics of sheltering, feeding and guarding 50,000 prisoners were woefully underestimated. This was one of the largest slave expeditions ever mounted in the history of Africa. The Angolans waited, bound in the heat and rain for months, as the trickle of arriving slavers loaded them for the dangerous Atlantic crossing to the Americas.
The common regionality of the thousands of Angolan captives assembled at Luanda between 1618 and 1620, differed greatly from the routine trade of Africans crossing by single shiploads, arriving in a new country to be lost among the blacks already present, their tribal identity quickly removed on chattel plantations. To the contrary, 50,000 Angolans were a nation who came to America before any other African-American culture and before there was a plantation system to swallow them up. Thorton writes:
- “In America, when Kimbundu-speaking people were able to communicate and visit each other, a sense of an “Angolan Nation” emerged. It was certainly observable in Spanish America, if not yet at the very beginnings of English-speaking Virginia’s reception of Africans.”
The Angolans in Virginia recognized fellow countrymen from their native land. By the time chattel slavery began in the colony, early Angolans and their mixed descendants had already formed a separate freeborn community. When ethnic persecution arose as in the Carolinas, Melungeons moved west together in large wagon trains like the hundred-family Mayo party rolling into Louisiana and Texas in 1857. Even on remote western frontiers, they settled together.
THE PORTUGUESE INFLUENCE IN ANGOLA BEFORE 1619
Portugal was unlike other colonial powers in that it regarded its colonies like “states” and, according to “Brittanica”, Angola was the largest state of Portugal. Catholic Portugal required African captives to be baptized into Christianity before they were shipped west to the New World. But not all baptisms were forced. Jesuit priests who came in 1575, translated catechism into the Kimbundu language for the growing number of Angolan converts. Professor Thornton writes:
- “Such a rudimentary instruction was probably oriented to the syncretic practice of the Angolan church, which followed patterns, already a century old, from the Kongo church that had originally fertilized it. Thus, early 17th century Spanish Jesuits, conducting an investigation of the state of knowledge of the Christian religion among newly arrived slaves, found that, for all the problems they noted, the Angolan slaves seem to have adequate understanding of the faith by the time they arrived.”
Many Angolans, bound for the mines of Mexico, had at the very least, a basic education in Christianity before arriving in the 1600s. In the North American colonies and later in the states, a number of Melungeons argued they were Portuguese Christians and on that basis, they insisted they should be exempted from life-long chattel slavery. In 1667 in Lower Norfolk, Virginia, an African slave named Fernando sued in court for freedom insisting that he was a Christian. He presented documents in “Portuguese or some other language” which the county court could not read and his suit was denied. Thorton and Heywood have found that in the early American colonies:
- “People with a Spanish/Portuguese last name that is also a first name like John Francisco or John Pedro (on the 1625 census) are following an Angolan naming pattern. The source of the Iberian names, in our opinion, is not the forced baptism given by the Portuguese in Luanda. In our opinion, whatever names people might have received in those circumstances would probably have been either forgotten or rejected when circumstances changed. Rather we think these names were taken voluntarily in Africa long before their owners were enslaved when the people were baptized.
In Kongo, the Christian Church goes back to 1491 and was so well established by the 17th century that virtually everyone had a “Portuguese” name, but it was not so well established in Kimbundu-speaking areas On the other hand, the bishop of Angola did complain that during the 1619-20 campaign, the rampaging armies of Mendes de Vasconcelos captured some 4,000 Christian porters and sold them into slavery. In 1621, the campaigns went deep into Kongo, and thousands were captured at the battle of Mbumbi at the very end of the year. These would all have been Christian, indeed, probably third or fourth generation Christian. Since they took the Christian names voluntarily, they would make these names known to their new masters in Virginia. The many people who are not listed with any names in the census of 1624 and 1625 and in the headlight documents, might be, in our opinion, the non-Christians from the Kimbundu-speaking areas”
Claims of Portuguese nationality by Melungeons have been presented as mere attempts to escape slavery by denying African blood. In this, Melungeons have been mis-interpreted. English custom frowned on the practice of Christians enslaving other Christians. Legally, to be a documented Portuguese citizen was to be a baptized Christian exempt from slavery. Throughout the 1600s, the basis of the Melungeon argument against enslavement was not that they were not African, but that they were Portuguese-Christian Africans of Angola. In order to keep their slaves, many Virginia, Maryland and Carolina slave-owners conspired to deny or conceal evidence of Portuguese baptisms.
By the 1720s, several laws had appeared, including requirements that all Africans arriving by sea, regardless of Christian faith, must be regarded as permanent chattel slaves. Some slavery gangs, under the guise of these new laws, kidnapped free Melungeons from their Virginia and Carolina homes. Only at this point, in the mid 1700s, did some Melungeons, facing denouncement and slavery, begin denying African ancestry. As best they could, they denied more than a century of their existence in America as the children of free Angolan African-Americans.
William Dowry, a grandson of Mary Dove, was detained as a slave in Maryland in 1791. Dowry claimed in court of being held illegally. Witnesses on his behalf testified that Dowry’s grandmother was a granddaughter of a woman brought into the country by the “Thomas” family, as a “Yellow Woman”, said to be either a Spanish woman named “Malaga Moll” or an East Indian. However, records indicate the Dove family descended from John Dove, a mulatto slave of Doctor Gustavus Brown of Charles County, Maryland.
In another case, the Perkins family of Accomack County descended from Esther Perkins who had an illegitimate child in 1730. Joshua Perkins was taxed as a “free Negro”, but in 1858 in Tennessee, his great-grandson, Jacob F. Perkins brought a lawsuit against a man for slandering him as a “Negro”. By then, the Perkins family, after three generations of intermarriage, was light-skinned and claimed to be of” Portuguese” descent. Witnesses were called to testify for both parties in the lawsuit.
John E. Cossen said of the Perkins ancestors: “Can’t say whether…full blooded. The nose African. Believe they were Africans…always claimed to be Portuguese. All married white women.”
Reuben Brooks stated of the first Perkins patriarch: “He was a very black and reverend negro…”
88-year old John Nave testified of Perkins: “…black man, hair nappy…Some called Jacob (his son) a Portuguese and some a negro…”
Larkin L. White swore on the stand concerning the Perkins: “…as black as any common mulatto. Hair short and curled and kinky…”
The Johnson County court ruled that Jacob F. Perkins was indeed an African, and denied his claim of Portuguese nationality.
Sometimes the Melungeons were awarded their claims, sometimes they were not. This people stubbornly maintained their Portuguese Christian nationality for more than two centuries, passing it down by word-of-mouth when they were forbidden as people of color, access to schools. To the early Melungeons, “Portuguese” did not mean they were not African. It meant that as voluntary Christians, they had a legal right to share civil freedoms in Christian lands. Only later, with the rise of illegal kidnappings, did Melungeons begin to deny African ancestry.
MALUNGU: Part 3
THE FIRST MIDDLE PASSAGE FROM AFRICA TO VIRGINIA
The Portuguese-Spanish slave traffic from Angola to Central and South America at this time was managed by a general contractor called an asentista. The asentista won the exclusive commission as the highest bidder and only he could ship African slaves for Spain and Portugal. The asentista agreed to pay a set amount annually to the Spanish king. A Lisbon banker, Antonio Fernandes Delvas, held the asentista contract from 1615-1622. For the sole right to export slaves, Delvas paid the Spanish crown the sum of 115,000 ducats annually. He was permitted to ship not more than 5,000 but not less than 3,500 African captives per year, and only to two ports; Vera Cruz and Cartagena.
Records from the Vera Cruz treasury in Mexico for the fiscal year June 18,1619 to June 21, 1620 show the amount of taxes paid on incoming Africans. Sluiter writes:
- “During that year, six slavers arrived at Vera Cruz. All had loaded their human cargoes at Sao Paulo de Loanda, the capital of Portuguese Angola. Out of some 2,000 blacks they had taken aboard in Africa, 1,161 were delivered alive in Vera Cruz. The losses were caused not only by the rigors of the middle passage, but also by shipwreck and, in one, by corsair attack.”
This is the account from Spanish records, as translated by Sluiter, of the single slave ship attacked by privateers that fiscal year as it sailed from Angola to Mexico.
- “Enter on the credit side the receipt of 8,657,875 pesos paid by Manuel Mendes de Acunha, master of the ship Sao Joao Bautista on 147 slave pieces brought by him into the said port on August 30, 1619 aboard the frigate Santa Ana, master Rodrigo Escobar. On the voyage inbound, Mendes de Acunha was robbed at sea off the coast of Campeche by English corsairs. Out of 350 slaves, large and small, he loaded in said Loanda [200 under a license issued to him in Sevilla and the rest to be declared later], the English corsairs left him with only 147, including 24 slave boys he was forced to sell in Jamaica, where he had to refresh, for he had many sick aboard and many had already died.”
Those Africans taken from the ‘Bautista’ by English corsairs, probably no more than 200 were among the thousands captured in the Portuguese-Ndongo war of 1618-1619 described by Professor John Thornton. Sluiter points out that the Bautista…
- “…was the only slave ship among the 36 named as arriving at Vera Cruz during the fiscal years 1618-1619 through 1621-22 to be attacked inbound from Angola, by corsairs.”
A few weeks after the attack on the Bautista, the first of the two corsairs, a Dutch man-o-war under the command of a captain Jope, appeared off Point Comfort near Jamestown, Virginia with African slaves to trade for grain. There appears to be a conflict between the accounts of the ship’s nationality as told by the Spanish and the account given by Virginians. If, according to the Spaniards, “English” corsairs attacked the Bautista, then why was one of the two privateers later described by Jamestown settlers as a “Dutch” and a “Flushing” man-o-war? Who was her mysterious captain “Jope” and what connection did he have with an English corsair, which followed four days after his arrival in Virginia?
Now, from recently collected evidence, the apparent discrepancies can be better explained in context with an illegal freebooting operation underway in Virginia when the first “20 and odd” Angolan captives arrived in 1619.
INTRIGUE IN VIRGINIA
- “About the last of August came in a Dutch man o warre that sold us twenty Negars.”
However, the famous Captain Smith, penning his memoirs near the end of his adventurous career, had not himself witnessed the arrival of the privateer. He was not in Virginia at the time. Smith was quoting a letter written to Virginia Company treasurer Sir Edwin Sandys by Virginia tobacco planter John Rolfe, widowed husband of Pocahontas. Rolfe personally saw the arrival of the ship and wrote:
- “About the latter end of August, a Dutch man of Warr of the burden of 160 tons arrived at Point Comfort, the Comandor’s name was Capt. Jope, his Pilot for the West Indies one Mr. Marmaduke an Englishman. They mett with the ‘Treasurer’ in the West Indies and determined to hold consort shipp hetherward,but in their passage lost one the other. He brought not anything but 20 and odd Negroes, which the Governor and Cape Merchant bought for victualle [whereof he was in greate need as he pretended] at the best and easyest rate they could. He hadd a lardge and ample Comyssion from his Excellency to range and to take purchase in the West Indies.”
The first part of Rolfe’s letter appears to simply describe the arrival of a ship with Africans; Angolans who, as we now know from Sluiter and Thornton, were originally captured in the Portuguese campaign against the Ndongo in 1618-1619 and seized by privateers from the Portuguese slaver ‘Bautista’ in July of 1619. After trading his captives, Capt Jope had remained some idle weeks, from August through September, at anchor in the Chesapeake Bay as would be expected of a ship refreshing from an arduous voyage; a voyage which had included armed confrontation with at least one Portugal mercant vessel. However, the second part of Rolfe’s letter related an unusual event in the arrival, a few days after Jope, of the English man-o-war, the’Treasurer’, the second consort in the attack on the Portuguese ‘Bautista’.
- “…Three or 4 days after (Jope) the Treasurer arrived. At his arrivall he sent word presently to the Governor to know his pleasure, who wrote to him, and did request myself, Leiftenante Peace and Mr. Ewens to goe downe to him, to desyre him to come up to James City. But before we gott downe he hadd sett saile and was gone out of the Bay. The occasion hereof happened by the unfriendly dealing of the inhabitants of Keqnoughton, for he was in greate want of victualle, wherewith they would not relieve him nor his Company upon any termes.” [From the “Record of the Virginia Company of London” Susan Myra Kingsbury, editor.]
The Treasurer’s quick departure raises a question. The first ship, the “Dutch” man-o-war, captained by Jope had fully provisioned in Virginia at leisure while his consort partner, the English man-o-war Treasurer, had suddenly bolted from the English colonial port. Both ships had Africans to trade, but only the Dutch ship was welcomed by the English Virginians. These same Virginians were hostile a few days later, to the Treasurer, one of their own nation’s vessels, which, in addition, was partly owned by their former governor. What circumstances had prompted the Treasurer to sail off so suddenly after it was refused supplies in the supposedly friendly colony of Virginia?
In addition to Rolfe’s manuscript, we have a letter from the Secretary of State of the Virginia colony, John Pory, who on September 30, 1619, wrote from Jamestown to Sir Dudley Carleton, English envoy to the Hague. Pory sent his letter by Jope’s English pilot, Marmaduke Rayner. The date of the letter proves the Dutch ship of Captain Jope spent about a month at Jamestown. Pory was also an eyewitness to the first Africans arriving in Virginia and also to the arrival of the Treasurer four days later.
- “Having met with so fitt a messenger as this man of warre of Flushing, I could not impart with your lordship…these poore fruites of our labours here…The occasion of this ship’s coming hither was an accidental consortship in the West Indies with the Treasurer, an English man of warre also licensed by a Commission from the Duke of Savoy to take Spaniards as lawfull prize. This ship, the Treasurer, went out of England in Aprill was twelve moneth, about a moneth, I think before any peace was concluded between the king of Spaine and that prince. Hither shee came to Captain Argall, then the governour of this Colony, being parte-owner of her. Hee more for love of gaine, the root of all evill, than for any true love he bore to this Plantation, victualled and manned her anew, and sent her with the same Commission to raunge the Indies.”
In this letter, we learn that the Treasurer had visited Jamestown twice in 1619; first, while Samuel Argall, part owner of the man-o-war, was Virginia’s governor, and secondly, after Argall had been removed from office. Argall’s captain on the Treasurer was Daniel Elfrith. After that first Virginia call, the Treasurer had sailed to the West Indies where she accidentally met the “Dutch” man-o-war and consorted in taking the Portuguese Bautista with its Angolan slaves in July 1619. But during the period of this consortship at sea, Secretary Pory, a member of new governor George Yeardley’s administration, had arrived in Virginia from England, before the “Treasurer” returned the second time that year in August, loaded with pirated Angolans and trailing Jope by four days.
Pory wrote a scathing condemnation of former governor Argall, the Treasurer’s part-owner, while in the same letter praising the “Flushing” man-o-war which had consorted with that same ‘Treasurer’ in the Bautista capture. What was behind the hostility against Argall and the Treasurer man-o-war? Did the unexpected absence of Argall from Virginia in August 1619 have anything to do with the abrupt departure from Jamestown of the ‘Treasurer’? While Argall was in Virginia, the ‘Treasurer’ was welcomed. However, with a new governor installed in Jamestown, the Treasurer, unlike the Dutch ship, was refused provision. Why?
When we study Pory’s complaint against Argall, we begin to catch glimpses of in-house Virginia Company politics and the infighting, which would eventually dissolve the company financing the Virginia colony, thereby place the young settlement under the direct rule of the English crown. The capture of the Portuguese slaver ‘Bautista’, changing the destination of her Angolan captives to Virginia, was the single most fractious event responsible for the fall of the company and for the redirection of the future of the Virginia colony. But if it had not happened, there would have been no Melungeons.. No Abraham Lincoln. No Elvis!
FREEBOOTERS IN VIRGINIA
By 1619, Rich, Governor Argall and a clique within the Company, had turned Virginia into a privateer’s haven where stolen goods and chattel from captured Spanish-Portuguese prizes could be traded for tobacco and provisions. The miserly policy of the Company had been to force poor quality supplies on the Virginia settlers at high prices. As a result, Virginians were hungry to circumvent the Company’s monopoly and purchase quality goods, legal or not. Lord Rich, as organizer of the free booting operation, was undercutting the shared profits of the Virginia Company by illegally supplying quality contraband directly to the colony…at the expense of pirated Portuguese ships supposedly protected by a peace treaty supported by the king of England!
It was an extremely risky scheme, which promised trouble on several fronts for both colony and Company. First, should the English Crown learn that Virginia was hosting the freebooting market of stolen Spanish-Portuguese goods; King James could yank her charter on the grounds that the operation treasonously violated the English-Spanish treaty. Second, should the Spanish discover Virginia providing hospitality to privateers preying on their ships, the small, poorly defensed colony might likely awaken one morning staring down the muzzles of a fleet of hostile Iberian cannon.
Lord Rich’s partnership in the man-o-war ‘Treasurer’ directly tied the Virginia Company of London to unsanctioned privateering against “friendly” countries. Company investors would lose all if the English Crown discovered the scheme. But Company stockholders could not simply shut down the operation by reporting Lord Rich to the king. His high profile would lead to a great scandal and that again would imperil the Company. A public investment company must maintain its reputation at all other costs.
Samuel Argall had been used, as governor of Virginia, by the Rich group to manage the illegal privateering operation; to stock and man the privateers, to gather the profits from the sale of contraband, and to protect the scheme from discovery. Lord Rich and his privateering partners were at odds with another group within the Company. George Sandys, the Virginia Company’s highest ranking officer, represented the faction who wanted company-connected attacks on Spanish-Portuguese shipping to end before Spain complained to the English crown.
Also fearful for company and colony, were colonists Rolfe and Pory. Sandys had already moved by May 1619 to curtail the freebooting scheme in Virginia, by engineering an overturn of Argall’s appointment in favor of his own man, George Yeardley, for governor. But Lord Rich sent a fast ship to spirit Argall away before Sandys’ new officers could arrive in Virginia to arrest him.
Then, just when it seemed the problem had been taken care of, the two privateers appeared at Point Comfort, fresh from the “Bautista” attack and loaded down with yet more contraband; the Mbundu-Angolan ancestors of the Melungeons. The purpose of Rolfe’s mention of the arrivals of the two ships in August 1619 was to alert Sandys that the privateering scheme still operated in Virginia.
Refused provisions and learning that Argall had been replaced, the “Treasurer” turned immediately and set sail for Bermuda, apparently before she could trade her share of the seized Portuguese Angolan-Africans. Elfrith made a smart decision. Since Rich’s involvement would have collapsed the Company, Sandys’ solution was to name only Argall and Elfrith as chief conspirators in the scheme. Rich’s name was blocked out of the indictment even though he was the main ringleader. Argall and Elfrith could be sacrificed without danger to the Company.
Daniel Elfrith and the crew of the Treasurer had another problem in August 1619. Apparently, his commission from Savoy had been voided by a peace treaty, according to Pory’s letter, before the ‘Treasurer’ had left Virginia on its first visit that year, prior to the consort attack on the ‘Bautista’. Technically, the “Treasurer” had operated as a pirate vessel in the attack on the Portuguese ship. Without a valid privateering marque, Elfrith could possibly have been jailed for piracy by the new and hostile administration. Piracy was punishable on the gallows. His protector, Samuel Argall, was nowhere in sight.
However, that same hostile administration for some previously unknown reason, posed no threat to Captain Jope and his Dutch ship enjoying the sunny hospitality of the Virginians. Jope even delivered the tattletale letter from Pory, which denounced Jope’s former consort partner, to an officer of the English crown. Why didn’t the Dutch ship run for cover like the ‘Treasurer’ in August 1619?
The answer is that Jope was not the same threat to the Virginia Company as was Daniel Elfrith and the man-o-war Treasurer. Elfrith and his crew were in the employ of Rich who, highly prominent in the Virginia Company, could destroy it along with the Virginia colony. Jope on the other hand, was a free-lance privateer with no ties to Rich, Argall or the Company and who, if he swung from the gallows, would swing alone without endangering Virginia.
A year later, Jope would be implicated, when Argall and Elfrith, facing tough accusations over the Bautista incident, set him up as the fallguy in the capture of the Portuguese merchant-slaver with its cargo of Angolans who destined to become the ancestors of the Melungeons.
THE DUTCH MAN-O-WAR AND ITS CAPTAIN
Jope’s ship, famously painted on canvas, but hitherto un-named, was called the “WHITE LION”. This was not the Dutch “Witte Leeuw” which burned and sank in 1613 with a load of china near St. Helena. The Jope man-o-war “White Lion” was built, ironically, in the Villa Franca shipyard near Lisbon, Portugal in 1570. She was originally located in records bearing the Spanish equivalent of “White Lion” though probably at first christened under the Portuguese translation “Leao Branca”. Her future captain, John Colyn Jope, was born circa 1580 in Merifield, Cornwall, England. His parents were John and Katherine (Trenough) Jope of Stoke Clymsland. He was a citizen of England who would one day sail out of Cornwall and out of Vlissingen (Flushing) in the Netherlands.
The White Lion, built along with the ‘Pelicano’, sailed under a Portuguese marque for a year. Both were requisitioned by Spain in 1571 for war against England and her allies. Sir Francis Drake captured the Pelicano in 1572 and renamed her the “Pelican”. In 1579, the Flemish Second Squadron captured the “White Lion”, sailing then under the Spanish name of “Leona Blanca”. They renamed her “Witte Leeuw” (White Lion). After William of Orange died, the Sea Beggars in 1584 sold her to Admiral Howard (a devout Calvinist) who resold her to his friend Francis Drake. Renaming her the “White Lion”, Drake hired James Erizo (aka Oriso and Erissey) to captain the man-o-war when, in 1585 he and Howard got a subtle message from the queen that privateers were at liberty to attack Spanish shipping.
Captain Erizo, desiring to purchase the White Lion, got a loan financed by Drake. From “Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries”.
“Sir Francis Drake and Captain James Erisey. On the 6th September, 1585, for 220 pounds, James Erysye of Erysye esquire, mortgaged his manor of Pensugnans in the parishes of Guynop and Key to Sir Francis Drake of Buckland in the Countie of Devon, Knight.”
Unfortunately Erizo (Erisey) defaulted on the loan and lost the ship. However, Drake kept him on as her captain. Major Hugh Jope writes:
- “The White Lion with Erizo in command made a good showing of itself during the years 1587-88, going full force in the war with the Armada. The “White Lion” usually travelled with one of Drake’s squadrons. The Queen’s Navy and the Privateers cooperated with each other during this common effort.”
Drake’s will, probated a year after his death, bequeathed the “White Lion” back to Erizo who continued to hunt Iberian galleons until 1609, when, according to Maj. Jope,
- “Erizo sold the “White Lion” to his Calvinist minister, the Reverend John Colyn Jope of Cornwall. Captain Jope had to overhaul the battered ship; a project which took him ten years.”
Then, sailing out of Vlissingen one fateful day in July 1619, Jope’s “White Lion” joined consort with the English privateer”Treasurer” in the West Indies to take the Portuguese merchant-slaver Sao Joao Bautista, out of Luanda, Angola.
DIE FRIST IS UM…
“Wagner has taken his obvious anti-semitism to new levels in Der Fliegende Hollander which he copied from Heine’s “Memoirs of Herr Von Schnabelwopsky”. He assigned satanic symbolism to the lead role of his opera and imposed a curse, which condemned him to sail the seas eternally until he met and married a good woman. Furthermore, it was common knowledge that the original Flying Dutchman was a “Sea Beggar” who sailed between Antwerpen and Cornwall under the Marque of William of Orange. His name was Johan Chope, (John Jope) a man of the cloth and a gentleman also. Wagner’s Flying Dutchman was indeed a finely finished work but alas, his so-called trip to the sea when he envisioned the particulars of this work differs greatly with the true events but is without a doubt, where the master got the idea and imposed creative license on it.” [Hansel Voorhees, 29 June1872]
In March 1821, the Virginia Chronicle published a story describing how Captain John Jope of the White Lion had gotten the nickname of the “Flying Dutchman”. The Cornwall minister infuriated captains of ships consorting with him by using a method he had devised whenever a prize came into view. Jope would launch a pinnace and strip the prize clean before the other consorters could participate. The Chronicle states,
- “It was this maneuver which earned him the reputation of the Flying Duthman.”
In “English Adventurers and Immigrants” by Peter Wilson Coldham, page 182 (Warwick v. Brewster) we read a testimony of this very method employed by Jope and the White Lion in consort with the “Treasurer” in the attack on the Portuguse merchant slaver, ‘Bautista’ in July 1619.
- “Chope (Jope) had permission to seize Spanish Ships and in mid-July, 1619, he took 25 of his own and Elfrith’s and sailed away in a pinnace.”
“Der fliegende” Jope also managed to outrace the “Treasurer” back to Virginia. He had already traded the famous “20, and Odd” Africans four days before Captain Elfrith arrived.
Whether he was the raw source for Wagner’s “Flying Dutchman”, Captain John Colyn Jope was not Dutch, but English with possible Dutch ancestry, carrying a Dutch marque out of Vlissingen. The reference to a “Dutch” man-o-war came from the ship’s Marque, issued from one of the titled Dutch provinces prior to 1619. (Captain Jope’s father, also John Jope, may have been involved with the Sea Beggars during the time of William of Orange and their stories may have gotten tangled). From the reign of Elizabeth into the reign of James, many English privateers routinely avoided the hassle of on-again, off-again treaties by obtaining marques from foreign governments embroiled with Spain and Portugal. The Dutch commission gave Jope’s privateering the vestage of legality needed to avoid charges of piracy.
Rolfe and Pory referred to Jope’s man-o-war as “Dutch” and “Flemish” because these indicated Jope’s homeport and the nationality of his Marque. Additionally they could have intentionally withheld his full identity. They were not opposed to Jope’s freelance privateering in Virginia. They were opposed to the Company-related privateering by Rich, Argall and Elfrith, which could have gotten them in trouble with the English Crown. The Spanish report on the “Bautista” attack in July 1619, probably reflected the nationality and language of the two attacking privateers. Therefore, Spain identified both men-o-war as “English corsairs”. But it is important to note that Jope and the “White Lion” were not employed by Lord Rich, had no ties to the Virginia Company, and therefore presented no threat to the Company or the colony in August 1619.
The Angolans, the first African-Americans in a British-American colony, and the first of the African ancestors of the Melungeons, came ashore at Point Comfort that day from the man-o-war “White Lion”, commanded by Captain John Colyn Jope of Cornwall, England, sailing out of Vlissingen, the Netherlands.
Jope, we are told, traded the “20, and Odd” Africans to Virginia governor George Yeardley and Cape merchant Abraham Piersey in exchange for corn.
AN AFRICAN WITNESS
- “Reinhold Booth, of Reigate, Surrey, gent. aged 26. He has known Daniel Elfrith for 10 years. In 1619 the deponent went on the ‘Treasurer’ [man-o-war owned by the Earl of Warwick of the Virginia Company] to Bermuda from Virginia and at the end of June 1619 she was compelled while in the West Indies, to consort with a Flemish man-o-war, the “White Lion” of Flushing, [Vlissingen, Holland] commanded by Captain Chope [Jope] who threatened to shoot at the Treasurer unless Captain Elfrith complied with his wishes. Chope had permission to seize Spanish ships and in mid- July of 1619, he took 25 men from his own and Elfrith’s ship and sailed away in a pinnace [a small, fast boat attending a larger vessel]. After 3 days, he brought back a Spanish frigate, which he had captured and out of good will toward Elfrith, gave him some tallow and grain from her. Immediately after this, the deponent departed from Bermuda, leaving the “Treasurer” and the “Seaflower”, left Bermuda for England, 23 July 1620″. [see also Warwick v. Brewster p. 12ff]
The testimony of Lord Rich’s employees appears to have been aiming at an explanation of why the “Treasurer” was involved in privateering without a valid commission. Their defense seems to rationalize that, since the White Lion carried the valid marque, it followed that the White Lion was the dominant legal partner in the raid on the ‘Bautista’ and therefore any complaints about the attack should be the responsibility of the Lion’s captain, who had, according to Elfrith’s crew, “compelled” the supposedly innocent “Treasurer” to join the consort.
The veracity of Elfrith’s version of the attack was undermined by evidence that he had accepted more than “tallow and grain” as his share in the Portuguese prize. A letter from the governor of Bermuda to Lord Rich surfaced, asserting belatedly that unreported African slaves had indeed been taken during the consort between the “Treasurer” and the “White Lion”. The governor also admitted that he had detained seven of the Africans in view of the legal proceedings in London. (The “Treasurer” had sold at least 14 of its share of the Angolans in Bermuda after fleeing Virginia in 1619) According to Wesley Frank Craven in “Dissolution of the Virginia Company”, the Bermuda governor acknowledged that he had concealed the Africans “for fear of the Company’s finding it out and taxing him for not informing them of it” as well as “for fear of prejudicing your lordship.”
This accommodation may explain why Lord Rich later shifted his freebooting operation to Bermuda. Meanwhile, Elfrith’s accusations had repercussions on Captain Jope later in 1620. When the Heralds came to research Jope for a possible coat-of-arms, Major Jope writes that his ancestor’s enemies in court…
- “…had the last laugh when the Herald denied him the Jope Achievement-of-Arms. The negro Antonio testified before the Virginia Company in behalf of Jope [against Capt. Daniel Elfrith], but the Crown would not admit the evidence at the Court of Admiralty hearing.
“Antonio”, cited in the inquiry testimony by Major Hugh Jope, was one of the Angolans taken by the “White Lion” from the Portuguese merchant slaver in July of 1619. Antonio and many of his malungu companions from the “Bautista”, would later become patriachs of the Melungeon clan. However, these “20 and odd” Africans delivered to Virginia by the “White Lion” in 1619 were but the first of the black American ancestors of the Melungeons. They were not the only Mbundu to come to Virginia in the 17th century. Thousands of Angolans followed them, and many of these later arrivals also contributed to the creation of the mixed red, white and black Melungeons.
MALUNGU: Part 4
EARLY ANGOLANS IN VIRGINIA
Records of the activities of the West India Company show that during the absence of any substantial English slave trading directly with Africa, Dutch and English privateers robbing only Portuguese slavers out of Angola, accounted for the overwhelming majority of Africans arriving in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Amsterdam, North and South Carolina for the good part of the century. Thornton and Heywood have documented colonial America’s reliance on privateers exclusively targeting Angolan slave ships from a Bermuda-based operation with: “…half a dozen privateering commissions issued by this company (including Elfrith and Axe) that include specific provisions about taking slave ships and delivering them to Bermuda, Virginia and even New England…virtually all, if not all, Africans arriving in Virginia (or any other colony of England or the Netherlands) prior to 1640, and perhaps even after that for some years, originated in Angola (either Kimbundu or Kikongo speaking regions).
Over 200 surnames of free 17th century African-Americans who intermarried with white settlers and Indians have been found by researchers like Paul Heinegg and J. Douglas Deal. The following lists of some 50 African-Americans appeared in Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas when English and Dutch privateers were concentrating exclusively on merchant-slavers from Angola. Many of the English and Portuguese surnames taken by newly arrived Angolan-Americans in the 1600s, can be found among Melungeons today. The following dates represent either the time of an individual’s appearance or date of birth.
ANGOLAN ANCESTORS OF MELUNGEONS IN EARLY 17TH CENTURY
VIRGINIA, MARYLAND, DELAWARE AND CAROLINA
- Carter, Cornish, Dale/Dial, Driggers, Gowen/Goins, Johnson, Longo, Mongom/Mongon, Payne
- Cane, Davis, George, Hartman, Sisco, Tann, Wansey
- Archer, Kersey, Mozingo, Webb
- Cuttillo, Jacobs, James
- Beckett, Bell, Charity, Cumbo, Evans, Francis, Guy, Harris, Jones, Landum/Landrum, Lovina/Leviner, Moore, Nickens, Powell, Shorter, Tate, Warrick/Warwick
In the above lists of surnames there is found other documentation that these Africans arriving from 1620-1660 were mostly Angolan. Anthony Johnson’s grandson named his Maryland plantation “Angola”. The sister of Sebastian Cane was also named “Angola”. Several Africans in the Dutch colony of New Amersterdam (New York) at this time were surnamed either “Angola” or “Portuguese” after the ruling power there.
Some families such as Banks, Bass, Berry, Chavis, Sweat, Davis, Hanser, Lang, Lawrence, Fisher, Hammond, Lucas, Matthews began with white male or female ancestors from whom certain branches initially intermarried with Indians. However all of these white and Indian families intermarried with Angolans in America, often before 1700.
The original term malungu used by early Kimbundu and Kikongo-speaking Angolans in Virginia, eventually extended to include all mixed red, white and black family members in the original southern colonies. The idea of malungu as “shipmates from a common homeland” gradually came to mean”countrymen”, “close friends” and “relatives” in the mobile freeborn Melungeon community. This name would not have included chattel slaves who were separated from the free community by plantation bondage.
LATER 17TH CENTURY FAMILIES ASSOCIATED WITH FREE AFRICAN AMERICANS
- Anderson, Atkins, Barton, Boarman, Bowser, Brown, Bunch, Buss, Butcher, Butler, Carney, Case, Church, Combess, Combs, Consellor, Day, Farrell/Ferrell, Fountain, Game, Gibson/Gipson, Gregory, Grimes, Grinnage, Hobson, Howell, Jeffries, Lee, Manuel, Morris, Mullakin, Nelson, Osborne, Pendarvis, Quander, Redman, Reed, Rhoads, Rustin, Skipper, Sparrow, Stephens, Stinger, Swann, Waters, Wilson.
- Artis, Booth, Britt, Brooks, Bryant, Burkett, Cambridge, Cassidy, Collins, Copes, Cox, Dogan, Donathan, Forten/Fortune, Gwinn, Hilliard, Hubbard, Impey, Ivey, Jackson, MacDonald, MacGee, Mahoney, Mallory, Okey, Oliver, Penny, Plowman, Press/Priss, Price, Proctor, Robins, Salmons/Sammons, Shoecraft, Walden, Walker, Wiggins, Wilkens, Williams
- Annis, Banneker, Bazmore, Beddo, Bond, Cannedy/Kennedy, Chambers, Conner, Cuffee, Dawson, Durham, Ford, Gannon, Gates, Graham, Hall, Harrison, Hawkins, Heath, Holt, Horner, Knight, Lansford, Lewis, Malavery, Nichols, Norman, Oxendine, Plummer, Pratt, Prichard, Rawlinson, Ray, Ridley, Roberts, Russell, Sample, Savoy, Shaw, Smith, Stewart, Taylor, Thompson, Toney, Turner, Weaver, Welsh, Whistler, Willis, Young
These African-American families appeared in the southern tidewater colonies when evidence indicates that most all of the blacks coming to America, were Angolan by birth.
ANGOLANS ELSEWHERE IN NORTH AMERICA
1639-1649 NEW YORK BAPTISMAL RECORDS OF ANGOLANS
(includes parents, witnesses)
1640-Samuel Angola, Isabel D’Angola, Emanuel van Angola, Lucie Van Angola
1641-Susanna Van Angola, Jacom Anthoney Van Angola, Cleyn Anthony Van Angola
1642-Susanna Simons Van Angola, Andrie Van Angola, Isabel Van Angola, Maria Van Angola, Emanuel Swager Van Angola, Andries Van Angola, Marie Van Angola
1643-Pallas-Negrinne Van Angola, Catharina Van Angola, Anthony Van Angola,
1644-Anthony Van Angola-Negers, Lucretie d’Angola-Negrinne
1645-Andries Van Angola, Mayken Van Angola
1646-Paulus Van Angola
1647-Marie Van Angola, Jan Van Angola-Neger
1649-Christyn Van Angola
New York Angolans and Virginia Angolans had arrived in America by the same conveyance in the 17th century; privateering men-o-war which specialized exclusively in robbing Portuguese merchant slavers out of Luanda Angola.
THE EARLIEST MELUNGEON CLANS IN SOUTHERN TIDEWATER COLONIES
The African who became known as John Gowen of Virginia, was born about 1615. Before 1775, his descendants had married into the black, white, Indian and mixed families of Ailstock, Bass, Chavis, Corn, Cumbo, Dungill, Findley, Hill, Jones, Locklear, Lucas, Matthews, Mason, Miner, Mills, Patterson, Pompey, Stewart,Simmons, Singleton, Tyre, Webb and Wilson; many of whom can also be traced to the 17th century.
Thomas Chivers/Chavis was born in 1630. Before 1775, his descendants had married into the mixed families of Bass, Locklear, Singleton, Stewart, Cumbo, Matthews, and Wilson as had descendants of John Gowen. In addition the Chivers/Chavis group intermarried with Bird, Blair, Blythe, Brandon, Bunch, Cannady, Carter, Cypress, Drew, Earl, Evans, Francis, Gibson, Gillet,Haithcock, Harris, Hawley, Hull, Kersey, Lowry, Manly, Manning, Mitchell, McLin, Scott, Silvey, Smith, Snelling, Silver, Sweat, Thaxton, Tyner, Thomerson, Taborn, Valentine, Watts and Walden; many of whom were 17th century Africans in the British-American colonies.
The family of Eleanor Evans, born in 1660, shares with the Gowen and Chavis families the following names: Bird, Brandon, Chavis, Dunghill, Harris, Kersey, McLinn, Mitchell, Snelling, Scott, Stewart, Sweat, Taborn and Walden. In addition, the Evans were early related to the families of Anderson, Boyd, Bee, Blundon, Doyal, Green, Hudnall, Hunt, Jeffries, Jones, Lantern, Ledbetter, Penn, Pettiford, Redcross, Richardson, Rowe, Sorrell, Spriddle, Tate, Thomas, Toney and Young.
The Gibson/Gipson family which descended from Elizabeth Chavis, born in 1672, also shares with the 17th century Gowen, Chavis, and Evans families, the surnames of Bass, Bunch, Chavis, Cumbo, and Sweat. They add Driggers, Deas, Collins and Ridley.
The family of the Angolan named Emmanuel Driggers, [Rodriggus] born in 1620, also has several families in common with the Gowen, Chavis, Evans and Gibson clans: namely Carter, Collins, Sweat, Gibson and Mitchell. In addition, the Driggers intermarried with Beckett, Beavens, Bingham, Bruinton, Copes, Fernando, Francisco, George, Gussal, Harman, Hodgeskin, Jeffrey, Johnson, King, Kelly Lindsey, Landrum, Liverpool, Moore, Payne, Reed and Sample.
From Margarett Cornish, born about 1610, comes the Cornish family with ties to Gowen and Sweat in addition to Shaw and Thorn.
With the Cumbo family dating back to 1644, we have links to Gibson, Gowen, Jeffries, Matthews, Newsom, Wilson and Young in addition to Hammond, Maskill, Potter and Skipper.
The Bass family originates in 1638 America and shares several connections from an early period with Gowen, Chavis, Evans, Cornish, Driggers, Cumbos and Gibsons which are: Anderson, Byrd, Bunch, Cannady, Chavis, Day, Mitchell, Gowen, Pettiford, Richardson, Snelling, Valentine and Walden. In addition, they are related to the mixed families of Farmer, Hall, Lovina, Nickens, Perkins, Pone, Price, Roe and Roberts.
If given the space, we could present complex scores of intermarriages of Melungeon and other mixed surnames beginning in the 1600s of colonial America. These common kinships of cousins show the Melungeon society was becoming cohesive and distinctively apart in colonial America at least 100 years before the American Revolution. The Melungeon community began before 1700.
For example: The Banks family originates in 1665 colonial America with related families of Adam, Brown, Day, Howell, Isaacs, Johnson, Lynch, Martin, Walden, Wilson and Valentine along with several Melungeon surnames.
The Archer family begins in 1647 America with related families; Archie, Bass, Bunch, Heathcock, Manly, Murray, Milton, Newsom, Roberts and Weaver.
The Bunch clan traces back to 1675 colonial America with kinship to: Bass, Chavis, Chavers, Collins, Gibson, Griffin, Hammons, Pritchard and Summerlin.
The Beckett family of 1655 ties to Bibbins, Beavens, Collins, Driggers, Drighouse, Liverpool, Mongon, Morris, Moses, Nutt, Stevens and Thompson.
The family of Carter begins in 1620 America with the related families of: Best, Blizzard, Braveboy, Bush, Cane, Copes, Dove, Driggus, Fernando, Fenner, Godett, George, Harmon, Howard, Jacobs, Jones, Kelly, Lowery, Moore, Norwood, Nicken, Perkins, Rawlinson, and Spellman.
Mixed red, white, and black Melungeons can be found in Virginia and Maryland within one and two generations of the first Mbundu-Angolan appearance in Jamestown in 1619. The general Melungeon community is more than 350 years old in North America.
All of these families descended from, or intermarried with, 17th century Angolans of Virginia. They began building the Melungeon community more than a century before it appeared in Tennessee.
ANGOLANS AND 17TH CENTURY CUSTOM IN VIRGINIA
The equality of free whites and free blacks in Virginia in the 1600s can be documented in several areas of colonial life important in the development of the Melungeon community.
1. Free African-Americans could own property.
2. Free African-Americans could own servants of any skin color.
3. There were no laws for most of the 17th century against inter-marriage based on skin color.
4. Free baptized African-Americans were allowed to give testimony in court and hold office.
The most famous Melungeon ancestor in the colonies was the Angolan who took the name Anthony Johnson. His Portuguese name, “Antonio” was shared by a number of other early Virginia African-Americans and because of this, there is confusion over which “Antonio” was actually Anthony Johnson. J. Douglas Deal makes a pretty good argument in “Race and Class in Colonial Virginia” that Anthony Johnson was the Antonio or Anthony of Warrosquoke who married a black woman named Mary. This Antonio was a passenger on the “James” from England or Bermuda to Virginia in 1622. Another Antonio who lived in Kecoughtan, married a black woman named “Isabelle” and had the first recorded African-American infant, William.
But lost in the controversy over which Antonio became Anthony Johnson, is evidence that BOTH of the two Anthonys were among the Angolans taken from the Portuguese slaver “Sao Joao Bautista” in 1619. If Anthony Johnson was simply a black Englishman, why did his grandson later name his plantation “Angola”?
The full civil liberties enjoyed by the Angolan ancestors of the Melungeons were reflected in the lives of Anthony Johnson and his family. They owned a thousand acres on the Pungoteague Creek. Anthony was the master of black and white, male and female servants and at least one black slave. When that slave, John Casor, ran away to a white planter, Johnson sued in court and the slave was returned. When a fire destroyed the Johnson plantation in 1652, he appealed to the court and received relief from paying taxes. In 1655 Anthony sold his Virginia farm and moved his family to Somerset County, Maryland. He brought with him a mare, 18 sheep and 14 head of cattle. In 1666 Johnson leased 300 acres in Wimico Hundred and the farm was called “Tonies Vinyard: (from “Anthony”) for 200 years after.
John Johnson, a son of Anthony, also owned land in Northampton County. Married to Susanna, John was jailed once in 1664 for begetting a child by Hannah Leach, a white woman. On several occasions, he testified in court cases and he served as a witness for a number of land transactions. A white man, Edward Surman appointed John as guardian of his children in his will, proved in a Maryland court in 1676. According to genealogist Paul Heinegg, John Johnson was called a “Free Nigroe”, aged 80 years “poor and past his labour” when the Sussex County court agreed to maintain him for life on public funds.
John Johnson had a son, John Jr. born about 1650 who bought about 50 acres for a farm in Maryland, which he called “Angola”. This John Jr., a “free negro”, married a white 17 year-old English girl, Elizabeth Lowe in Sussex County, Delaware on March 13, 1680.
Anthony had another son; Richard Johnson called “a negro” who married a white woman named Susan. Their son Richard was described as a “mulatto”.
A great-grandson of the old Ndongo African was Cuff Johnson, head of a Beaufort County, North Carolina household numbering two “free” blacks and one white woman in 1800.
In colonial America these examples were repeated many times in numerous Melungeon families designated as “free people of color”. They were landowners of Virginia, the Carolinas, Maryland and Delaware.
ONE ANGOLAN FAMILY’S 400 YEAR HISTORY
FROM THE BIRTH OF AMERICA TO THE PRESENT
The descendants of John Gowen of 1620-1660 Virginia were among the earliest original Angolan-American families to become recorded as “white” within just a few generations. These are the 14 generations of one branch of the Gowen family, variously spelled Goins/Goings/Goyne/Guynes/Guines etc.
1. John Gowen I (originally “Geaween” and sometimes mistranslated “Graweere”) was born about 1615. By 1640, Gowen, described as a “negro”, was the freed servant of William Evans of Virginia. John Gowen, a hog farmer, became a freeman in the first generation of British North America. He had a son by an African-American woman named Margaret Cornish about 1635. In 1641 John Gowen purchased the freedom of his son Michael (originally “Mihill”) from Lt. Robert Sheppard, master of Margaret Cornish.
2. Michael Gowen, son of John Gowen was born about 1635 in Virginia. He was indentured to Captain Christopher Stafford of Martin’s Hundred, Virginia. While a servant in the household of Stafford’s sister, Amy Barnhouse, Michael had a son by Amy’s black servant “Prossa” whom he named William. In 1657, Michael was released from indenture and took his son William with him to old James City County, Virginia. However, his wife Prossa remained indentured to Amy Barnhouse. The freeman Michael Gowen remarried a white woman by whom he had several children described officially as “mulatto”, including…
3. Thomas Gowen, born 1660 in old James City County, son of Michael Gowen, son of John Gowen. Thomas was referred to in court records as a free “mulatto”. Thomas Gowen raised racehorses in Westmoreland County. The descendants of the Thomas Gowen branch of the Gowen family were never explicitly referred to as “Negro”. Thomas had at least two sons including:
4. William Gowing or Gowen I, born about 1680, son of Thomas Gowen, son of Michael Gowen, son of John Gowen. William married Katherine, a white woman and they lived in Stafford County. William, a freeman, owned two slaves and over two hundred acres of land in Stafford County. William Gowen had a son named:
5. John Gowen II, born 1702, son of William Gowen, son of Thomas Gowen, son of Michael Gowen, son of the African-American John Gowen I. John Gowen II married Mary Keife, a white woman, and they lived in Lunenburg County, Virginia. Among the children of John and Mary Gowen was:
6. William Gowen II, born 1725 in Lunenburg County, Virginia, son of John Gowen II, son of William Gowen I, son of Thomas Gowen, son of Michael Gowen, son of John Gowen I. William II was recorded as a white taxable. He lived in the counties of Lunenburg, Virginia, Orange County, North Carolina and Moore County. He too married a white woman and among their children was:
7. James Gowen or Goyne, born 1755 in Lunenburg County, son of William Gowen II, son of John Gowen II, son of William Gowen I, son of Thomas Gowen, son of Michael Gowen, son of John Gowen I. This 7th generation son of the “negro” John Gowen, of old James City is recorded as “white”. James fought in the American Revolution and afterwards moved from South Carolina to Louisiana and Mississippi. He and his wife Mary had several children including:
8. John Goyne (aka Guynes) III, born 1776 in the Camden District of South Carolina, son of James Goyne, son of William Gowen II, son of John Gowen II, son of William Gowen I, son of Thomas Gowen, son of Michael Gowen, son of John Gowen I. John Guynes married Matilda Hall and they moved to Copiah County, Mississippi where they owned several hundred acres and about a dozen slaves. Many of his sons and grandsons achieved prestige in mainstream white America including a state lawmaker, a circuit judge, several army officers etc. Others married into mixed families. Among the children of John and Matilda Guynes was:
9. Harmon Guynes, born in Mississippi in 1820, son of John Guynes III, son of James Goyne, son of William Gowen II, son of John Gowen II, son of William Gowen I, son of Thomas Gowen, son of Michael Gowen, son of John Gowen I. Harmon Guynes married Emily Whittington of Mississippi and moved to Texas about 1850. Harmon and Emily Guynes had several children including a daughter named:
10. Nancy Guynes, born 1863 in Goliad County, Texas, daughter of Harmon Guynes, son of John Guynes III, son of James Goyne, son of William Gowen II, son of John Gowen II, son of William Gowen I, son of Thomas Gowen, son of Michael Gowen, son of John Gowen I. No hint of African blood can be found in the records at this stage, only rumors that Nancy was “Indian”. The Guynes-Hashaw family cemetary on the Walker/Trinity County line in Texas is marked by the state as an “Indian cemetery”. About 1880 Nancy Guynes married William “Dude” Hashaw in Trinity County, Texas and had several children including:
11. Thomas Hashaw, born about 1881 in Trinity County. Texas, son of Nancy Guynes Hashaw, daughter of Harmon Guynes, son of John Guynes III, son of James Goyne, son of William Gowen II, son of John Gowen II, son of William Gowen I, son of Thomas Gowen, son of Michael Gowen, son of John Gowen I. Thomas Hashaw was said to part Choctaw Indian. He married Margaret Aden about 1900 and they had three sons including,
12. Woodrow Hashaw, born about 1905 in Dodge, Texas, son of Thomas Hashaw, son of Nancy Guynes Hashaw, daughter of Harmon Guynes, son of John Guynes III, son of James Goyne, son of William Gowen II, son of John Gowen II, son of William Gowen I, son of Thomas Gowen, son of Michael Gowen, son of John Gowen I. Woodrow Hashaw married Zelma Jordan and they had two sons including
13. Carl Hashaw, born in Dodge, Texas in 1936, the son of Woodrow Hashaw, son of Thomas Hashaw, son of Nancy Guynes Hashaw, daughter of John Guynes III, son of James Goyne, son of William Gowen II, son of John Gowen II, son of William Gowen I, son of Thomas Gowen, son of Michael Gowen, son of John Gowen I. Carl Hashaw is the father of the author. By the year 2000, only vague unsubstantiated rumors of “Indian” blood persist long after the Angolan-African who became known as John Gowen first appeared in Virginia nearly 400 years earlier.
MALUNGU: Part 5
ETHNIC INTERMARRIAGE IN COLONIAL AMERICA
Many of the patriarchal surnames of these 17th century Angolan-Americans survive today because, more often than not, Angolan men married white women of English, Irish and Scottish ancestry. White men also married Angolan women but not as frequently. The un-even ratio of black men to black women caused the imbalance. Had there been more black women in America in the 17th century, there would have been less black and white intermarriage.
In Virginia and other colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries, and even into the 19th century, white women showed no repugnance to Africans of equal status. Lerone Bennett Jr. in “Before the Mayflower” quotes Edward Long, a contemporary witness who observed that, “…the lower class of women in England, are remarkably fond of the blacks, for reasons to brutal to mention.”
Genealogist Paul Heinegg found many early mixed marriages in colonial Virginia, between free African-Americans and white Europeans. Cases he gives:
- “Francis Payne was married to a white woman named Amy by September 1656 when he gave her a mare by deed of jointure. [DW 1655-68, fol.19].
“Francis Skiper was married to Ann, an African American woman, before February 1667 when they sold land in Norfolk County.” [W&D E:1666-75; Orders 1666-75,73]
“Elizabeth Kay, a “Mulatto” woman whose father had been free, successfully sued for her freedom in Northumberland County in 1690, and married her white attorney, William Greensted”. [WMQ, 3rd ser, XXX, 467-74]
Sometimes white planters promoted mixed marriages of African men and white women for economic reasons; hoping to reap the servitude of the offspring as legal chattel. Bennett cites a famous case involving an indentured servant girl named “Irish Nell” who was brought to Maryland by Lord Baltimore.
Returning to England, Baltimore sold Nell to a planter who encouraged her to marry a black man named Butler. Returning, Baltimore was appalled and moved to enact a law forbidding such practices in 1681. It began with the words: “Forasmuch as divers free-born English or white women, sometimes by the instigation, procurement or connivance of their masters, mistresses, or dames, and always to the satisfaction of their lascivious and lustful desires, and to the disgrace not only of the English, but also of many other Christian nations, do intermarry with Negroes and slaves, by which means, divers inconveniences, controversies, and suits may arise, touching the issue of children of such freeborn women aforesaid; for the prevention whereof for the future, Be it enacted: That if the marriage of any woman servant with any slave shall take place by the procurement or permission of the master, such woman and her issue shall be free.”
This new law did not outlaw mixed marriages. It attempted to discourage mixed marriages in which children of Christian citizens might be regarded as chattel property. Baltimore was more concerned about stopping an attempt to circumvent the Magna Carta. His law slowed the rate of legal marriages between white and black servants in Maryland, but it also caused an unforeseen problem according to Bennett. While legal intermarriages dropped, the births of mixed children to single females rose. The legislative act raised the birthrates of illegitimate mulatto children who eventually became a public burden. Three times in ten years Maryland, lawmakers attempted to slow the growing number of mixed unions and the children from them.
Virginia, Massachusetts, North and South Carolina and Delaware also passed laws against intermarriage by lengthening the terms of servitude for white women who married African-American men, or who bore mulatto children. Bennett shows where ministers who officiated mixed marriages were levied fines. In 1725 John Cotton was indicted for marrying a “Molatto Man to a White woman”. In North Carolina, the Reverend John Blacknall was fined fifty pounds in 1726 for joining in matrimony Matthew Thomas Spencer and a mulatto woman named Martha Paule. [Saunders,Colonial Records]
Vigilante groups tried to enforce the laws and churches were called to thunder against black and white marriages, but it did not work. Case after case can be found as intermarriage and unsanctioned couplings continued to openly flaunt the laws. Groups in many areas publicly protested the new restrictions against mixed marriages according to Bennett.
- “On May 11, 1699, George Ivie and others sent a petition to the Council of Virginia asking for the repeal of the Act of the Assembly against English peoples marrying with Negroes, Indians or mulattoes. Of equal or perhaps even more pointed political concern was the action of whites who simply defied the laws. Shortly after the enactment of Virginia’s ban on intermarriage, Ann Wall was convicted of “keeping company with a Negro under pretense of marriage.” The Elizabeth County court sold Ann Wall for five years and bound out her two mulatto children for thirty-one years. And “it is further ordered” the court said, “that if ye said Ann Wall after she is free from her said master doe at any time presume to come into this county, she shall be banished to ye Island of Barbadoes.”
In 1692, the case of Bridgett, a white servant who bore a mulatto child by a black man went all the way to the grand jury in Henrico County, Virginia. In addition, in Pennsylvania, legislators outlawed mixed marriages only to repeal the ban during the years of the American Revolution. Bennett quotes Thomas Branagan who visited Philadelphia in 1805 and observed:
- “There are many, very many blacks who…begin to feel themselves consequential…will not be satisfied unless they get white women for wives, and are likewise exceedingly impertinent to white people in low circumstances…I solemnly swear, I have seen more white women married to, and deluded through the arts of seduction by Negroes in one year in Philadelphia, than for eight years I was visiting [West Indies and the Southern states]…There are perhaps hundreds of white women thus fascinated by black men in this city and there are thousands of black children by them at present.”
During the rise of laws against mixed marriage, newspapers carried notices of black and white servants running away together. From the southern journal, “American Weekly Mercury” of August 11, 1720:
- “Runaway in April last from Richard Tilghman, of Queen Anne County in Maryland, a mulatto slave, named Richard Molson, of middle stature, about forty years old and has had the small pox, he is in company with a white woman…who is supposed now goes for his wife.”
And in the “Pennsylvania Gazette” of June 1, 1746:
- “Runaway from the subscriber the second of last month, at the town of Potomac, Frederick County, Maryland, a mulatto servant named Isaac Cromwell, runaway at the same time, an English servant woman named Ann Greene.”
Legislation banning mixed marriages was largely ignored. Heinegg observes,
- “Despite the efforts of the legislature, white servant women continued to bear children by African American fathers through the late 17th century and well into the 18th century. From these genealogies, it appears that they were the primary source of the increase in the free African American population for this period…Since so many free African-Americans were light-skinned; many observers assume that they were the offspring of white slave owners who took advantage of their female slaves. Only one of more than 280 families in this history was proven to descend from a white slave owner”.
These mixed marriages were by no means the practice of the lower servant classes only. Bennett mentions Lemuel Haynes, the son of a white woman and an African. Lemuel was the first black to pastor a white New England church, and he married Elizabeth Babbitt, a white woman. The grandmother of astronomer-mathematician Benjamin Banneker was Molly Welsh, an English woman.
The “founding fathers” were also involved in mixed relationships. Benjamin Franklin was known to frequently associate with black women. Thomas Jefferson took Sally Hemings for his mistress. Jefferson’s romance with Sally was the subject of a tavern ditty to the tune of Yankee Doodle.
- “Of all the damsels on the green,
…on mountains or in valley,
A lass so luscious ne’er was seen,
…As Monticellian Sally.”
Bennett also quotes reports that Patrick Henry fathered a black son named Melancthon. Alexander Hamilton was not only born with mixed blood in the West Indies, but he also fathered two sons by a black woman and one of his sons married into a white family, according to Maurice R. Davie of Yale University.
Kentucky’s famous Daniel Boone was the grandfather of the mulatto, William Wells Brown. The ninth vice-president of the United States was another Kentuckian, Richard Johnson, whose black mistress was Julia Chinn. Bennett says, “The couple had two daughters and Johnson married them off with style to white men.”
Far into the period of chattel slavery, whites and Africans persistently intermarried. Bennett shows a census as late as 1830 in Nansemond, Virginia reflecting the number of white women continuing to marry black men more than a hundred and fifty years after the first law restricting such intermarriages.
The free, light-skinned, mixed children of black and white inter-marriage made up the many ethnically-diverse isolated communities in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Louisiana. Among those groups were the Melungeons.
With the growing success of the American colonies, small family farms, which had relied on indentured servants usually released after 7 years, became huge plantations, which demanded life-long chattel slaves. Whites, and many of the earlier freed Angolan blacks were protected from permanent slavery. However, many other Africans arriving on slave ships by the 1670s were entering a system with no exits. In time, the lowest class of colonial society became exclusively made up of black chattel slaves where it had once been black and white indentured servants. Class distinction became race distinction in the 18th century and eventually America viewed free Angolans and their mixed children with the same disdain by which she saw black slaves. These free “non-whites” retreated into communities like the Melungeons. Heinegg writes,
- “…as more and more slaves replaced white servants, the Legislature passed a series of laws which designated slavery as the appropriate condition for African-Americans.
1. In 1670 the Virginia Assembly forbade free African-Americans and Indians from owning white servants. [Hening, Statutes at Large, II:280]
2. In 1691, the Assembly prohibited the manumission of slaves unless they were transported out of the colony. It also prohibited black and white intermarriages and ordered the illegitimate mixed-race children of white women to be bound out for 30 years. [Hening, Statutes at Large, III:86-87]
3. In 1705 the Assembly passed a law which all but eliminated the ability of slaves to earn their freedom by ordering that the farm stock of slaves “shall be seized and sold by the church-wardens of the parish wherein such horses, cattle or hogs shall be, and the profit thereof applied to the use of the poor of said parish.” [Hening, Statutes at Large, III:459-60]
Like a slowly drawn net, new legislation over time cut off every avenue to liberty for newly arrived Africans. The free people of color who lived separate from African slaves were gradually isolated as the rules of colonial society changed: they were not chattel property like the new blacks, but they were also “not white”.
THE FIRST WOMEN OF MELUNGIA
Refused the protection of sanctioned marriage by the end of the 1600s, black and white couples were hauled into court on morals-related charges. In such cases the man sometimes disappeared, leaving the woman holding the child alone. Often the woman would refuse to name the father. Faced with the prospect of a single-parent child dependant upon the welfare of the county, the colonial legislators imposed severe penalties upon mother and child hoping to send a message. Fatherless mulattos were often indentured for up to 30 years, and the mother usually had additional years added to her original term of indenture.
In other cases, the man might finally get his freedom with the opportunity to move away and purchase new frontier land. However, his wife might still be bound for several years. The man often took his freeborn children and abandoned his indentured wife. These were the realities facing the early ancestors of Melungeons.
Before the restrictions against mixed unions in America, there were many legitimate black and white marriages sanctioned by the church. Paul Heinegg cites the 1681 case of Elizabeth Shorter who married a “negro man” named Little Robin in nuptials administered by Nicholas Geulick, a priest. They had three mulatto daughters in St. Mary’s County.
However, gradually, colonial society turned on the mixed unions it had previously allowed.
After 1720 in Northampton County, Virginia, Tamar Smith had to serve half a year in prison and pay a ten-pound fine to marry Major Hitchens, a black man.
On August 16, 1705, a “mulatto” named John Bunch and a white woman named Sarah Slayden, appealed to the Council of Virginia to permit them to be married after such a request had been denied by the Blisland Parish minister. The Council countered that the “intent of the Law (was) to prevent Negroes and White Persons intermarrying”.
The matriarch of the Welch family was Mary. In 1728 in Maryland, she testified that she had born a mulatto child. Her original term of servitude to Thomas Harwood was lengthened by seven years and her two-month old son Henry was bound to Harwood for 31 years.
Mary Wise, the servant of a man named Wells admitted in 1732 to having a mulatto child in Prince George County. The court sold her nine week-old daughter Becky into 31 years servitude for 1,500 pounds of tobacco.
In Delaware, Mary Plowman was charged in 1704 of giving birth to a child by a “Negro” named Frank. The court gave her 21 lashes and an additional term of servitude to her master. Her mulatto daughter Rose was bound until the age of twenty-one.
In Kent County, Delaware, 17 year old Eleanor Price admitted to “Fornication with a Negro Man named Peter” in 1703. She received twenty-one lashes and an extended period of 18 months servitude. Her daughter was bound to the children of her master until the age of twenty-one.
In Accomack County, Virginia in 1721, Ann Shepherd, a “Christian white woman” was presented for having an illegitimate child. Pressured to name the father, she first indicted one “Indian Edmund”, but later admitted the father was a mulatto, Henry Jackson. Ann was sold for a five-year term.
In Virginia in 1716, Elizabeth Bartlett was ordered to pay 1,200 pounds of tobacco to her mistress Mary Bailey, for eloping with the mistress’ Negro servant, James.
Sarah Dawson was a white servant girl who endured twenty-one lashes in Virginia in 1784 for having three illegitimate children by her master’s servant Peter Beckett whom she later married.
In Lancaster County in 1703, Elizabeth Bell ran away from her master and was lashed twenty times at the county whipping post. A year later she was indentured to another master during which time she had a child by a black man. Five years were added to her sentence.
The case of Alice Bryan is also cited by Heinegg. Alice confessed to bearing a “bastard Molattoe Child” by a “Negro man Called Jack.” Thirty-nine lashes and an extra two years indenture was the sentence of the court. Her mulatto son Peter was bound out for 31 years and her daughter Elizabeth was enslaved for 18 years.
Color-conscious American society tried to overturn stubborn customs previously practiced by earlier settlers who had lived in a time when frontier life was brief and hard and when the skin color of a helpful neighbor was irrelevant. The new laws against people of color were not always respected by old-time colonial whites. In the words of one colonial, an old white man, Daniel Stout of Tennessee, who, when called to testify in court in 1858 as to the ethnicity of the grandfather of a free African-American, said:
- “Never heard him called a Negro. People in those days said nothing about such things.”
This is the history of the colonial era in America; an era which served as the cradle period for the mixed children of red, white and black ancestors. It is the African history of the Melungeons. The denied, forgotten and ignored Angolan fathers and mothers of the Melungeons are at last receiving recognition not only for their part in the birth of a proud free mixed people, but also for their labor in helping to conceive the very first generation of a great nation some 400 years ago.
This is the history of the colonial era in America; an era which served as the cradle period for the mixed children of red, white and black ancestors. It is the African history of the Melungeons. The denied, forgotten and ignored Angolan fathers and mothers of the Melungeons are at last receiving recognition not only for their part in the birth of a proud free mixed people, but also for their labor in helping to conceive the very first generation of a great nation some 400 years ago.
The institution of chattel slavery had obscured much of the African ancestry of Melungeons before 1864. When slavery was abolished after the Civil War, the next great shock to the Melungeon body came with Virginia’s so-called Rac-ial Integrity Law of 1924. Melungeons had escaped the constant threat of slavery only to meet Jim Crow prejudice in the South. The registrar of the Virginia Breau of Vital Statistics in 1912 was a man named Walter Plecker. Plecker was influential in the enforcement of Virginia’s notorious “one-drop” law which was aimed at separating “purewhites” from all other ethnics. Plecker’s state-wide policies were studied by Adolph Hitler and his master planners of ethnic murder in Nazi Germany. The scheme to deny Melungeons full citizenship in America became the blueprint for the greatest genocide in history.
The controversy over the African origin of the American Melungeons fed into World War II; the world’s most savage war to date and a war which claimed the lives of many thousands of white Americans.
The Melungeons are a quiet, shy people, who have endured much persecution in America for nearly four hundred years. Their survival is a miracle, much like the miraculous 400 year delivery of another persecuted people.
- “And He said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.”.
- 1. T.H. Breen, Stephen Innes, “Myne Owne Ground”
2. Lerone Bennett Jr., “Before the Mayflower”
3. Wesley Frank Craven, “Dissolution of the Virginia Company”
4. John Thornton, “The African Experience of the “20 and Odd Negroes” Arriving in Virginia in 1619, WMQ Vol LV, No.3, 1998
5. Engel Sluiter, “New Light on the “20. and Odd Negroes” Arriving in Virginia in 1619″ WMQ Vol LIV, No 2, 1997
6. Hugh Fred Jope, “The Flying Dutchman” 1993
7. Susan Myra Kingsbury, “The Records of the Virginia Company of London”
8. Paul Heinegg, “Free African-Americans of Virginia and North Carolina”
9. Virginia Chronicle: “Flying Dutchman” March 1821
10. Wagner, “Der Fliegende Hollander” Kobbe’s Opera Book
11. Linda Heywood, professor, Howard University
12. Carroll Goyne: Gowen Manuscript researcher
13. Brent N. Kennedy and Robyn Vaughn Kennedy, “The Melungeons: Resurrection of a Proud People”
14. Arlee Gowen: Gowen Manuscript researcher
15. Wesley Frank Craven, “White, Red and Black, the 17th Century Virginia”
16. William Broadus Cridlin, “A History of Colonial Virgina: The First Permanent Colony in America”
17. Johnie Blair Deen, “Trinity County Kinsearching”, Groveton News
18. Hugh Fred Jope, “Before the Mayflower” 1993
19. John Rolfe, “Ferrar Papers”
20. Original Herald’s Visitation Order of 1620: Jope of Merefield
21. Peter Wilson Coldham, “English Adventurers and Immigrants”
22. Hansel Voorhees “Flemish Archives of Classical Music” 1872
23. Heinrich Heine, “Memoirs of Herr Von Schnabelwopsky”
24. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries: “Sir Francis Drake and Captain James Erisey” pg 255 ff
25. Nederland Scheepvaartmuseum, Maritiem Museum
26. Timothy Wilson, “Flags at Sea”
27. Warwick V. Brewster
28. Garrett Mattingly, “The Defeat of the Spanish Armada”
29. Robin Milne Tyte, “Armada! The Planning of the Battle and After”
30. Robert Whiting, “The Enterprise of England”
31. Ernie Bradford, “The Wind Commands Me”
32. Bryce Walker, “The ARmada”
33. A.E.W. Mason, “The Life of Francis Drake”
34. Jack Beeching, “Richard Hakluyt, “Voyages and Discoveries”
35. J.L. Braber, “Geschiendenis JOPPE”
36. Rijksarchief in Zeeland
37. Raymond Evans, “The Graysville Melungeons”
38. Pollitzer and Brown, 1969: 388-400
39. Pollitzer, 1972: 719-734
40. Gilbert, 1946: 438-477
41. Robert Slene, “Malunga, ngoma vem!”
42. J. Douglas Deal, “Race and Class in Colonial Virginia”
43. Saunders, Colonial Records
44. American Weekly Mercury, August 11, 1720
45. Pennsylvania Gazette, June 1, 1746
46. North Carolina Gazette, Apreil 10th, 1778
47. Hening, Statutes at Large
48. Sherrie Browne, Guynes researcher
49. Capt. John Smith, “General History of Virginia”
Tim Hashaw is an investigative reporter who lives in Houston, Texas. Letters may be addressed to: 1937 Huge Oaks, Houston, TX 77055
Copyright © 2001 Tim Hashaw. All rights reserved.