DISCUSSION: RESEARCHING MULATTO ANCESTORS
and
DEFINING THE TERM MULATTO


Thu, 10 Oct 1996 From: Veronica Quillian Davis
Does anyone have any suggestions on researching mulatto ancestors in the deep south? I find that once I find an ancestor listed as "MU" I have no way of figuring paternity. I know that other than oral history (rumour at best) that I can only depend on circumstantial evidence. I have read cases of plantation owners freeing mulatto slaves and sending them north or to Europe to educate so one could conclude that he had a personal interest in these children. But outside of that kind of evidence, what else could I look for?

Thu, 10 Oct 1996 From: Valencia King Nelson
Ambiguous Lives: Free Women of Color in Rural Georgia 1789-1879 by Adele Logan Alexander
"Few free persons of color lived in Middle Georgia during the fourth and fifth decades of the nineteenth century. Most white people seem to have either despised, scorned, or ignored them. In spite of the somewhat moderating editorial opinion expressed in the pages of their local newspaper, The Missionary, and by supporters of the American Colonization Society, those were the predominant attitudes that both the white HUNTS and the SAYRES encountered in rural Hancock County. Nonetheless, Susan Hunt, a free woman of color, would have a lasting impact on those families' collective lives.
"Although the exact date of the Sayres' arrival in Hancock County cannot be determined, Nathan Sayre purchased his first land in Hancock in 1822, and in 1824 his name appeared on the ledger of a local store. In the spring of 1825 he served as secretary to the committee of leading local citizens that planned a gala ball celebrating the visit of the Marquis de Lafayette, and in June 1826 he addressed a meeting convened by a number of citizens "for the purpose of expressing their opinion and sentiments in relation to the [recent] treaty with the Indians." Mount Zion's Presbyterian church recorded Nathan's sister-in-law's membership in 1830, yet no Sayres appeared in the census that year in Hancock. Since there is little question that they did reside in the county by that time, their absence from the census must be explained by oversight, inaccuracy, or even temporary absence.(38)
"Nathan Sayre probably moved into his new home, Pomegranate Hall, in Sparta, the county seat, during the early 1830s, although work on the house continued for several more years. Relatives visited him there later in that decade, yet in 1840 Nathan still officially lived near the Hunts at Mount Zion. Sparta and Mount Zion were only six or seven miles apart and probably Sayre, a busy lawyer who would have wanted easy access to the county courthouse, moved into town shortly after 1830 but retained his country house and property for some time thereafter.(39)
"Nathan Sayre's public life as a state's attorney, legislator, and judge is well reported. His private life, however, is harder to reconstruct. Nonetheless, the censuses of 1840 and 1850, his will, and other documents provide a somewhat more complete picture of his personal life and behavior. Among his other slaves he owned two young mulattoes-one male and one female-born between 1825 and 1828 when Sayre was a vigorous young man. A slave named Chloe was the mother of Marcellus, one of those young mulattoes. Chloe's elderly mother was a slave named Susannab WATTS, born in 1775. But for some reason, the 1830 census listed Susannab Watts as a free white woman who headed her own household in Sparta-one that included several younger free people of color. This one-time designation of Susannah Watts as both free and white, and her later confirmation as a slave exemplifies the shifting, questionable, and amorphous lines of both race and freedom. In addition to Susannab, Chloe, and Marcellus, Sayre's will mentioned a second group of mulatto slaves named Nelly, Augustus, and Mary Louise. Nelly and Augustus were brother and sister, and Mary Louise was Nelly's daughter.
" With little question, Marcellus and Mary Louise were fathered by Nathan Sayre. Since they were both mulattoes, their male parent most probably was a white man. Although an outsider could have fathered one such child in his household, more would be far less likely. Nathan Sayre had no overseer or other white employee in residence who would have been in continual intimate contact with his slaves. But the fact that seems to establish most clearly that they were Nathan's "family" was that his will provided for the emancipation of these six slaves.(40)
"Nathan Sayre was a thirty-year-old bachelor when the first mulatto child was born in his household. Certainly his education, professional standing and wealth would have made him an extremely desirable potential husband for any white woman in Hancock, but at least among the upper classes and aspirants to that status, the "pure" Southern white lady was sexually unavailable. Any sort of sexual impropriety was considered inexcusable for an upper-class white woman, and even a suggestion of a dalliance of that nature would tarnish her reputation, since her chastity was supposed to yield only to marriage. A bachelor of Nathan Sayre's status in his community could hardly have "trifled with" a white woman whom he did not plan to marry. Slavery, however, provided both the domestic intimacy and the authoritarian environment that permitted and, at least for the man, often encouraged interracial sexual relations. The institution clearly allowed exploitation of black women by their masters. Nonetheless, in the minds of most white Southerners, their men remained blameless in any instances of "sexual debauchery." White ladies were expected to hold themselves above suspicion and deny any libidinous feelings, but the supposedly "debased" moral character of women of African descent was widely considered the major causative factor that encouraged promiscuity on the part of white men.(41)
"Some questions arise as to the degree of coercion that was employed in such encounters, and the extent to which sexual license among white men was so widely tolerated and internalized that physical domination became essentially redundant. Hancock County's Lucius H. Holsey seems to have ruefully accepted that sort of behavior. His mother Louisa was a woman, "of pure African descent . . . fascinating appearance and comely parts." She was a slave who belonged to James Holsey, Lucius's white father. "Like many others of his day and time," he continued, James "never married, but mingled to some extent, with those females of the African race that were his slaves-his personal property." Similarly, long before his own brief marriage, David Dickson reportedly approached a thirteen-year-old slave named Julia Lewis in 1849, out on his Hancock County plantation one day, and "just rode up and swung her up on his horse and that was the end of that." Julia was described as strong-minded, small, and "copper colored," with beautiful teeth which she constantly polished with a sharp twig. Julia and David subsequently established a tenuous but long-standing relationship. They had only one child, resulting, it seems, from that first sexual encounter.(42)
"The widespread toleration of white male sexual domination, however, does not adequately explain, nor by any means excuse, the behavior of masters with their female slaves. Some slave women from Middle Georgia recalled atrocious incidents of physical force and violence. Hancock County's Mollie Kinsey reported that when her sister was a young girl "they'd make her go out and lay on a table and two or three white men would have in'ercourse with her befo' they'd let her git up." Kinsey believed that those brutal attacks brought about her sister's premature death.(43)
"Financial gain also motivated some sexual incidents between masters and slaves. Carrie Mason, who spent her childhood as a slave in Baldwin County, remembered that one master told his sons "ter go down ter dem nigger quarters an' git me mo slaves." Rebecca Latimer Felton, who clearly held racist views, nonetheless recognized the plight of any women, regardless of color, who were subjected to unbridled male lust. The callousness of white masters who had sexual encounters with their slaves and subsequently ignored their mulatto offspring, appalled her. She also reported that for black women held in bondage "child bearing sometimes began at 12 years and frequent births made a heavy percent of 'profit."
The above is scanned from pages 62-65 of Ambigious Lives by Logan-Alexander

Thu, 10 Oct 1996 From: LBall3466@aol.com
Veronica Davis: My only suggestion would be to try and read the plantation day books or wills of these plantation owners, to find paternity. I too have read about sending North and Europe, but I don't believe that was totally common.....however, I am sure some white slave owners did care about their children, and probably the women too-in some cases. Send me your MI info person: I live in Wayne County MI may be able to help you with at least that one... Good Luck

Thu, 10 Oct 1996 From: Enrique E. Gildemeister
This question ties in with the thread of Melungeons, Lumbees, and other groups. Very often census takers recorded them white or mulatto depending on their own judgment. Genealogical research must take into account that a mulatto and a white with the same name are actually the same person. One clue is whether the head of the household (male) had colored women in the house, for which a head tax was imposed. Again, this was done randomly according to the whims of the census takers or government officials assigning racial status. A further wrinkle is that in many communities, whites accepted people of known mulatto background as white. They simply were sponsors or spokespersons for the family in question if anyone questioned. Whites and free colored people continued to intermarry right up to the time of the Civil War. These people were never slaves, or their servitude was so remote in the past, and their mixture was from wedlock. They are different from the manumitted mulattos, as I call them, and their descendants (Julian Bond, Thurgood Marshall, and Andy Young, for example); these were descended from masters and overseers. However, the law lumped into one term, free Negroes, three distinct groups: 1) the free blacks 2) the triracial groups 3) manumitted mulattoes. My take on this is that the triracials developed a collective identity in the colonial period, before the blacks did. Read the DeMarce articles and the other sources I'm listing below. If that's too much time/effort, at least read the DeMarce articles. Her work really brings the question of who was and who was not a mulatto and how people can be traced in situations where census takers and other public officials waffled back and forth. You see, the early South was very fluid and loose, unlike after the Civil War, and people considered you white if they liked you. No kidding! Yes, there were "known mulattos" marrying whites openly, invited to dine at white people's tables, serving on juries. These people did not have to take a "white guardian" and they were generally made free from the laws that attempted to supervise closely the Free Negroes. So, if a person is listed as MU, you need to do a lot of interpreting. Do the records show that they lived in close proximity to other people listed as MU or W. Hope people aren't bored by this. I, personally, like this subject, and anyone else interested in tracing MU's should read at least the two DeMarce articles. We're getting from her proof that the ante-bellum racial world was radically different from what we thought we knew.
DeMarce, Virginia Easley. "Looking at legends--Lumbee and Melungeons: applied genealogy and the origins of tri-racial isolate settlements" in: National Genealogical Society Quarterly. v.81, no.1 (Mar. 1992), p.24-45.
"'Verry slitly mixt': tri-racial isolate families of the Upper South--a genealogical study." In: National Genealogical Society Quarterly. v.80, no.1 (Mar. 1992), p.5-35. The DeMarce articles (above) include exhaustive bibliographical and archival notes. Incredibly detailed, often using previously unknown sources.
Price, Edward T. Mixed-blood populations of eastern United States as to origins, localizations, and persistence. Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of California, Berkeley, 1950. Unfortunately not available through UMI.
"A geographical analysis of white-Indian-Negro racial mixtures in the Eastern United States." In: Annals of the Association of American Geographers. v.43, p.138-155.

Thu, 10 Oct 1996 From: Fred Wilson Perry
Hi Marvina: I started typing this a letter a while back, and I can't remember what caused my response. Anyway I'll just send it: I read your letter and my immediate thought was, different situations for different folks and different circumstances. There is no one set of circumstances that fits everybody. My mom was second and my father was first generation Northern blacks. I was born in 1938 in Chicago, IL. My maternal great grandfather was born 1859 a slave in North Carolina, and my great grandmother was a white Norwegian 1880's immigrant. There was definitley racial tension in Chicago, and on occassions I was indeed caught up in it. However, when I was a young boy, say less than 12, I never heard conversations about race especially on my mom's side of the family. For that matter I never heard any racial talk on my mom's side of the family at all. Which could be attributed to the fact that she was of mixed blood. My father and his mother on the other hand was born in Alabama, but my father always denied his southern roots. He would always say when I'd ask about my southern roots---"your roots begin with me". I didn't know anyone on my fathers side except my grandmother, who died when I was only 12 years old. Because my grandmother lived with us, I was very close to her. She would often share a few things about her southern experience with me, but nothing that could be perceived as negative. However, my mom's side was a horse of different color. The WILSON'S (my mom's folks) dominated the family structure, and they were the ones who where of mixed race. They were labelled as the "pillars" of the community. My father and his mother was sort of in the shadows of the WILSON'S, which I beleive could be, in part, the reason dad denied his Southern roots. My maternal relatives namely my Aunt and Uncle did not, and still does not, accept their African roots. I suppose this is why they never talked about racial issues. I guess all I'm trying to say is, whether people discuss racial issues pertains to many different factors. When they were born, where they were born, who the parents were, and their individual set of circumstances.

Thu, 10 Oct 1996 From: Barnetta White
You have given a thorough and definitive answer to a complex question. There are nuances to be added in specific cases, but what you have presented is a good overview. I hope that those on the List wil read your references (I have) and print out your comments to read later.

Thu, 10 Oct 1996 From: Kim Nickens
What are "plantation day books"? What alternative sources would you suggest in counties where the wills have been destroyed by courthouse fires during the pertinent period of time?

Thu, 10 Oct 1996 From: Veronica Davis
Along these lines, I've been (trying to finish) reading a book called "The New People" by Joel Williamson. His study also shows that the pre-war South was very different from the post-war South and that the upper south (NC, VA) was different again from other southern states, LA and SC in particular. He makes it appear as if whites and mulattoes intermingled and intermarried freely. It appears that a lot of the overt racial hatred towards blacks & mulattoes occurred post-slavery and took hold in the 20th century. I have however uncovered a mystery of sorts in the 1920s. I found a marriage certificate between my great aunt and what by all accounts has to be a white man in south Georgia. Unless I missed something, I thought intermarriage between whites and blacks was absolutely verboten until the 1940s or 1960s or something. Enrique E. Gildemeister wrote: >A further wrinkle is that in many communities, whites accepted people of known mulatto background as white. They simply were sponsors or spokespersons for the family in question if anyone questioned. Whites and free colored people continued to intermarry right up to the time of the Civil War. These people were never slaves, or their servitude was so remote in the past, and their mixture was from wedlock. They are different from the manumitted mulattos, as I call them, and their descendants (Julian Bond, Thurgood Marshall, and Andy Young, for example); these were descended from masters and overseers.

Thu, 10 Oct 1996 From: Gwen Hester
Hi Veronica, I am sure that 99 and 44/100 percent of above situation was by deliberate design. My maternal grandmother's father was white. My grandmother told her own children that her father provided for her and her siblings, and that he never denied his paternity. But nowhere, and I do mean no-where have I been able to find any written documentation attesting to his paternity. The only thing I have to rely upon is family stories. In fact another interesting aspect of this situation is that on the 1880 and the 1900 federal census for Alabama, my grandmother's race was listed as black. However, she and my grandfather moved to Louisiana in 1903 and suddenly on the 1910 and 1920 censuses her race was listed as mulatto. In fact she and all of her children were listed as mulatto and only my grandfather was listed as black in Louisiana. I doubt that her skin tone changed; it just that the Louisiana census taker didn't know her father or his family. So, you really can't rely upon the census records because it just depended on who was taking down the information.

Thu, 10 Oct 1996 From: Melvin J. Collier
Ms. Davis, I would like to give you a word of caution. One of my maternal ancestors was listed as MU in the 1900 Census. When I asked an elderly relative about that, she said that my ancestor was a brown-skinned man, and his mother and father were both Black. I don't know why the census enumerator put MU by his name, but he was not a mulatto. His brownish skin could have suggested that maybe a grandparent was Mulatto. On the other hand, I had two other ancestors that was listed as Mu in the census records. After talking with relatives, one ancestor turned out to be half Indian and half Black, and the other ancestor turned out to have a mulatto mother and a white father.

Fri, 11 Oct 1996 From: MR EDWARD B ADAMS
The slaveholders often put passages in their wills to set free some of their slaves. For example: the copy of the will of Samuel Gustine that I received from Louisiana African-Americans had a part in it where Samuel Gustine wanted one of his slaves, Little Sam, set free. I wonder why his name was Little Sam. Could be that Samuel Gustine was Big Sam. There was also a part in the will where Samuel Gustine provided a certain sum of money for a woman. To add a little background, Samuel Gustine was the owner of the Rifle Point Plantation in Concordia Parish, LA and willed it to his Jane and her husband, Lemuel P. Conner. I was only aware of Conner until LA Afri- Amer sent me the information. I found a lot of M's next to the names of a lot of my family on the census. The slaveholders off-spring by slave women often received the best clothing, blankets, food, and lodgings. They were often kept out of the hard work jobs. I recently read a very sad part of a book which explained that some of the plantations only had one crop and that was breeding slaves for sale. I am having a hard time trying to research my father's side. My ggrandfather on my father's side was listed as M. My gggrandfather on my mother's side is also listed as M. All the information died out at this point. So I switched to researching the slaveholders. You might try doing some research on the slaveholders and overseers. Male and female. Edward Adams

Fri, 11 Oct 1996 From: Carmen
It's strange that this subject has come up yet AGAIN. Mulatto simply means not full African and not White. Anything lighter than black and darker than white. Yet as Williamson points out in his book, the perception of what is mulatto and what is black has changed throughout time with the lightening of the race. Example, I have found dark brown people called "mulatto" in 1850. By 1900, most become perceived as black, and if they have any children by whites it is they who are called mulatto. Also there seems to be a trend among many to jump to the conclusion that "Mu" means half white/half Indian (esp. among "whites" who find this designation in their trees), when this is probably NOT the case. In my opinion ,"Mu" means you have to scrounge up other sources to hammer it down. However, "Mu" for freed slaves means that there is probably white blood in the line somewhere.

Fri, 11 Oct 1996 From: Sydney New Orleans, LA
Louisiana, like other areas of the country, had an elaborate system of 'racial' labels based on the 'race' of the parents - white, black, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, griffe, etc. Local records show that some officials had to add skin tone to make it perfectly clear. ie., light, dark, yellow, pale, brown, red. Complicated?? I guess the K.I.S.S. principle kicked in with the census... it would take a separate publication to decipher the code. But, with just four 'labels' (black, white, mulatto, indian) I can imagine some enumerators found it difficult to 'label' some individuals and, in some situations, decided it was not a good idea to ask. As an example, in 1910, it's obvious that the census taker was confused when he visited my godmother's family. He listed the father as white, mother mulatto, and the children as white. Although her father (German) and her mother were legally married in Orleans parish (1899), in 1910 they were felons in the eyes of the law.
---------------------------------------------------------------
1778 - Art.6 of the Code Noir prohibited white subjects to contract marriage with blacks or mulattoes "upon pain of being dishonorably expelled from the colony.
1825 - Civil Code of the State of Louisiana forbade black-white marriages and declared such unions null and void.
1855 - State Supreme court declared black-white marriages contracted outside of the state null and void in Louisiana.
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 and a Louisiana statue of 1870 permitted interracial marriages.
In 1880 there were 227 legal mixed unions in Orleans parish.
1894 - State statue outlawed black-white marriages.
1908 - Black-white cohabitation made a felony.
1920 - State law forbade black and native american cohabitation, declared b-na marriages null and void.

Fri, 11 Oct 1996 From: ALETHA Y. AKERS
I've got an even better one. I'm following the children of my paternal ggrandfather's first marriage through the census records and having a grand old time. Sometimes certain members of the family are listed as mulatto and sometimes black. One child who I have followed until he married and had his first child is listed as "Mu" as is his wife - however their son is conveniently listed as "W"!!!! I got a kick out of that.

Fri, 11 Oct 1996 From: LBall3466@aol.com
Dear Kim Nickens: A plantation day book is merely a record the slave owner kept, as a way of keeping track of "his property". Sometimes would list things like (and this is just an example) Sally Lou had baby boy Joe today. George is ill with yellow fever. Sold Emma Jean to Mr Issac Floyd of Lafayette Georgia for $250.00 Stuff like that. Would be vague. But may be detailed depending on the slaveholder.

Fri, 11 Oct 1996 From: Enrique E. Gildemeister
By the way, Nickens/Niccans is a Melungeon surname. A Nickens is listed in a U.S. government publication about black servicemen in the Revolutionary War. The name must be very old, and probably this soldier came from a mulatto family that had been free a long time and that had been accepted into the triracial subculture (which is also very old). That's just a hunch, but this is useful to know considering what I and others on the list have said about how the census takers used MU and W at different times for the same person. Tracing the Nickenses would mean carefully culling through records that list white Nickenses, who may in fact be related. There are various ways the censuses described the free colored persons: "All other free persons"; "free persons not white"; "free Negroes".

Fri, 11 Oct 1996 From: "John R. Gourdin"
I am intrigued by the discussions on Mulattoes and Mulatto ancestry. My family origin is South Carolina and we are descended from a White French (Huguenot) and his Mulatto mistress (they had seven children). What is interesting is that in the 1870 census records the census taker listed everyone in the household as White, then in an obvious attempt to revise the record, the 'W' was over-written with an 'M' for each member of the household except the head-of-household (the White Frenchman- my GGfather). During 1995, I published the history and genealogy of my family in 320-page hard-bounded book (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD) titled "GOURDIN: A French-African-American Family From South Carolina." Following the publication I was prepared and poised for a barrage of negative responses - especially from the White community, but to my suprise, I have received a number of very favorable and commendatory comments from both Blacks and Whites. Perhaps the time is right for those who share a common genetic bond with the White community to begin to claim their White heritage as vigorously as they claim their right to passage back to Africa.

Fri, 11 Oct 1996 From: Betteye Bolden
Ms Davis I would also like to add that mulatto, doesn't necessarily mean white, it means mixture, and you are smart for researching the mulatto of your family. I have researched my family and learned that my great-grandfather was mulatto, and his children and wife were listed as NB, I think meaning not black, and I have been told by family and friends who are alive that I should never consider my great-grandmother as anything other than black. Seams that my particular line of mulatto liked women of color when I say color they liked darker pigmented women. The census taker therefore grouped the family based upon the color of skin of my great-grandfather, and possibly the texture of the children's hair. I would also like to attach to you why I feel that their is a value in tracing your mulatto ancestor, here is how I found my ancestor, and was able to trace the family back 4-5 additional generations. These records/depositions are in our own ancestors words and available to all. I am enclosing 2 depositions due to the fact that my job is to determine which set of Leflores belong to which, on paper it looks like cousin married cousin, but you will see this didn't happen. Hope this will help you!

Fri, 11 Oct 1996 From: Betteye Bolden
I would go to the LDS and determine exactly what they have on the county which you are researching. I am told that the family histories of the LDS aren't the most reliable, however a film is a film, and remember everything is not distroyed, your work may be harder, but first see what has been filmed. Next I would check with surrounding historical societies, they might just have your records, and yes day books. I would try to learn all I could about the particular county/town of my research. Old news paper articles, are a great source. Remember to every one record created there is another. good luck

Fri, 11 Oct 1996 From: Strat43z@aol.com
My research for the last eight years has done nothing but deal with the term 'mulatto'. There is no development of mulatto appearing from black ancestors, completely all, (dating to the late 1700's), were listed as mulatto, and continued to be classified that way through nearly four generations, and several states. This research does not just follow one surname, but also several connected families. I have collected many registrations of 'free birth' from these ancestors, or applications from court documents for their free papers, but have discovered no records showing 'previous owners' or manumission papers. There is even a court document for Virginia that details a trial for my GGGrandfather for the felony of stabbing a man, and the court is haggling over his status as either a 'free negro' or 'free person of color'. I have not discovered the results of this trial, but he appears free two years later in a census, obviously serving no time for the crime. From what I have read, the term 'mulatto' is nothing but inconsistencies. Even reading everyone's accounts from their own personal history does nothing but verify that each family should try to use oral history to research their own personal roots of this classification. Trying to use a theory, or overly generalized explanation for the term, only produces variables, and examples to the contrary. I also notice that African, White and Indian seem to be the only ingredients in the debate, yet from census's taken, there is no appearance for Asians, Latinos, or other races that wouldn't be considered not exactly 'white', although these people did exist. One of the purpose of the term 'mulatto' was to prove one's 'whiteness', therefore it is to be assumed that families classified as 'mulatto', may have been something other than African, Indian or White...or at least be open for consideration. The only true safe way to approach this touchy subject matter is to steer clear of terms like; "all", "most", and "usually". One should use their family history, documents, and common sense to research the origins of the term, and always keep in mind the answer may never be clearly found.

Fri, 11 Oct 1996 From: Barnetta White
AMEN! AMEN! consideration.

Fri, 11 Oct 1996 From: THROWERVA@aol.com
While we are on this vein I give another example. Yesterday I was at the Hampton Library doing research when I encountered a lady doing research. This woman is considered white by society( and that's all she knows), and was seeking her Native American ancestry. The Indian surname she was seeking was NICKENS from Hereford Co. NC. I told her what I knew and offered to put her in touch with Kim Nickens or Karen Sutton (the Nickens are central in her thesis). The conversation quickly developed into a heated argument over their origins. I told her that they began as freed slaves on Va's Northern Neck about 1660. This lady had encountered the infamous "MU" on the census and INSISTED it meant white/Indian mixture, PERIOD> I pulled down Heinegg's book, gave it to her and walked away. People want "MU" to fit an agenda. When whites find it in their trees it MUST mean Indian/white PERIOD (translation: NO BLACK), and if they were a freed slave, then they were a freed INDIAN slave. Needless to say, after she read Heinegg's treatment of the family, she packed her belongs, said she was no longer interested in searching that line and left. "Mu" must be kept in context, I have miles and miles of "Mu" lines, and the simple fact of the matter,is that excluding the two Indian lines, I just don't know who and what these people were. But in looking at the laws that prevailed at the time, and placing them in historical time frame and location, I know that they had SOME degree of African ancestry. Beware of jumping to conclusions.

Fri, 11 Oct 1996 From: Veronica Quillian Davis
This is such a heated topic but let's not lose sight of the fact that a lot of us are researching family history for it's own sake. I only got interested in genealogy because of a mysterious disappearance in my family of my great uncles (definitely "MU" - black+white "MU"). Rumour has it that they were kidnapped and killed to cover up their parentage but it turns out it's probably not that mysterious at all. I have evidence that they simply ran away and passed as white. So I have to fictionalize the rest of the screenplay. :) The big search for MU in most of our cases is simply to be able to trace the family history back a little farther. It sounds like some of us have just as big a problem with "that side" of our families as some of them have with us. It's not all negative out there. I've run into a couple of people who would be thrilled to find they have AA cousins.

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 From: Margaret
I find very educational all your posts regarding these subjects. Also find very amusing the reaction of some people after the posibility of having relatives of other races. The first thing any one should know before starting a genealogical research is that what you will find is History. You may not like the decisions your relatives made, but you can not change them. Accept your family past, it is what you are now. And it doesn't matter how much it upset you, that's what you are and nothing could be done. Best regards to all.

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 From: WJone10505@aol.com
In a message dated 96-10-11 00:41:10 EDT, you write: >When I asked an elderly relative about that, she said that my ancestor was a brown-skinned man, and his mother and father were both Black. I don't know why the census enumerator put MU by his name, but he was not a mulatto. You should all keep in mind an important fact about Census records, and how data was gathered. Until fairly recently, there was NO requirement for Census takers to interview the Head of the family, or the household members. They could, and did, interview children, visiting relatives, and neighbors. (Everwonder why birth dates jump around in Census records?) Because of this, many people switched between black and mulatto randomly. A brownskinned man (like my gGrandfather) could be listed as mulatto because some neighbor thought he was. Also, the idea of race has never been a clearly defined as his(missed)tory books would have you believe. Families frequently changed from black to white as their needs suited them. In his "Sex and Race" trilogy, J.A. Rogers deals with this extensively (although sometimes unscientifically.) I have a few white sheep lines in my family, in fact. Just as was done in Eastern Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America, there has been an informal "coloured race" in this country, that was apart from black. Whites (or Europeans, or Arab) parents convinced their illegitimate offspring that they were better than their black brethren. There were real social and economic advantages for being considered mixed with conquering races. The simple truth is, if you were any part mixed, it behooved you to say so. By the second half of the 19th Century, being a mulatto could mean your father was white, or your gggGrandfather was. (Many light-skinned blacks married other light-skinned blacks.) As anecdotal evidence, I found that of my family members who changed race to white in the 1930's or so, neither was more than 1/8th white. And one of these had blond hair and blue eyes. (In fact, I still haven't found anything other than more "mulattoes" in their lines. )

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 Eric Thomas
Veronica, Well stated. I agree with you. Yet, I think that this discussion was necessary to bring some folks 'up to speed'. Old documents, history, and some records can be confusing. We here, in the U.S.A., always seem to get caught up in a 'color thing.' But, that's because there are those who try to keep it that way. Regardless of what this country was 'founded on', this is now a land of many diverse peoples. And, "people", we all are. So, I believe that it really shouldn't matter where our ancestors originated, because they're still our ancestors whether we like it or not. If a family historian finds something that they don't like in their ancestry, and decides to try to 'alter' the information, I believe that that's their problem. Many of us know that that's been a significant part of the 'history' that we've been taught. I've let that kind of nonsense go a while back. I try to get as close to the truth as possible. As it turns out, 'written history' is just as 'suspect' as 'oral history'. (But then, we knew that didn't we?) Most of the topics here on Afrigeneas have been very stimulating to me. I hope that the discussions continue. (I learn so much) Regards.

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 From: Sandra Lassen
Yesterday, someone wrote: While we are on this vein I give another example. >Yesterday I was at the Hampton Library doing research when I encountered a lady doing research. This woman is considered white by society( and that's all she knows), and was seeking her Native American ancestry. The Indian surname she was seeking was NICKENS from Hereford Co. NC. I told her what I knew and offered to put her in touch with Kim Nickens or Karen Sutton (the Nickens are central in her thesis). The conversation quickly developed into a heated argument over their origins. I told her that they began as freed slaves on Va's Northern Neck about 1660. This lady had encountered the infamous "MU" on the census and INSISTED it meant white/Indian mixture, PERIOD> I pulled down Heinegg's book, gave it to her and walked away. Needless to say, after she read >Heinegg's treatment of the family, she packed her belongs, said she was no longer interested in searching that line and left. Perhaps the disgruntled woman should choose another hobby (stamp collecting??). She is practicing "selective genealogy!" Reminds me of a woman who came into the Ashe Co. Public Library recently and was very upset that the cemetery records printout does not specify race for each and every tombstone. At first, I thought she was kidding. I suggested to her that the only way to tell would be to disinter the dead - thousands of them - and ask!! She was not amused. Turns out her "white" line and a "slave" line bear the same surnames here in Ashe and she did not want to claim any kinship to the "slave" line at all. Fortunately, she was just a visitor and not a client of mine; in fact, if I ever had a client like that, I would refund her money and invite her to find another genealogist.

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 From: Robert Moore
All this discussion re:mulatto research has been very helpful. All of our research has been in European sources until we took a closer look at some old family photos, and had a professor of physical anthropology confirm that my g-grandmother and her sister portrayed some West African characteristics, even though their brothers and parents did not. The sister went to live in Windsor which would have provided a lare community for her. She married three times to a Slater, a Husted, and a Culver. Reports on the refugee slave communities in Canada in the mid-1800's, such as Gridley's or Drew's, confirm that the census takers misses the MU at least half the time. For example, the 1861 census for Ontario listed half as many MU or B as the African community leaders reported to the authors. As to mixed white- Indian lines, in Canada they are known as "METIS" (may-tee) French for bastard but without the perjorative connotations that the word holds in English, and would never be confused with Mulatto. I am searching MATTICE and KNIFFEN in the mulatto communities that would have come to Canada from NY or PA in the late 1700's.

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 From: Kim Nickens
Thanks for the info. I'll pursue this source of information. My efforts to date have not been successful. I'm collecting lots of information on people with the same surname in the same county in Alabama hoping that one day I'll find a connection. Thanks again. Kim >Dear Kim Nickens: >A plantation day book is merely a record the slave owner kept, as a way of keeping track of "his property". >Sometimes would list things like (and this is just an example) Sally Lou had baby boy Joe today. George is ill with yellow fever. Sold Emma Jean to Mr Issac Floyd of Lafayette Georgia for $250.00 Stuff like that. Would be vague. But may be detailed depending on the slaveholder.

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 From: Kim Nickens
Thanks for the information. I've forwarded your message along to a "white" Nickens researcher and distant cousin who places more credence in the census takers racial designations than do I. In question is a branch of the Nickens family in Duplin County, NC who has been fairly consistently listed as white. I know that this doesn't necessarily mean anything because I have many ancestors in the census records who are referred to as white, black and mulatto (the same people) at various points in time. We think that the Nickens family can be traced at least back to the late 1600's. By the way, what is the name of the U.S. government publication to which you refer? Thanks again.

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 From: jonesc@sprynet.com
Here's my two cents - I too have ancestors listed in census records some years as black and some as mulatto. There is a reason to uncover as much of the truth concerning your correct racial identity as possible that goes beyond politics. My father's brother lost his eyesight. When the condition first presented itself he had many medical professionals from a major teaching hospital attempting to make a diagnosis for years. His eyesight continued to fail until he lost it totally. The diagnosis was missed because the condition - retinitis pigmentosa(sp?) is rare among African Americans. It wasn't until they found that his grandfather had been white that the correct diagnosis was made. One of his cousins had the same condition. She lived in a rural setting and also had the diagnosis missed until his was made. Earlier detection may have saved his eyesight. This information is now a part of my medical file and when I get an annual eye exam, I'm checked for the presence of this particular malady. There are other medical conditions that follow cultures/races that can be missed or ignored if we aren't aware of as much of our heritage as possible.

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 From: Judy
In a message dated 96-10-12 05:20:44 EDT, you write: >significant Here, here. This discussion on MU has been very informative and highly interesting. I am so glad that I decided to stick with this group, I am learning so much and enjoying every minute of it. Veronica-are you from Cleveland, Ohio?

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 From: Enrique E. Gildemeister
I mentioned in a recent posting, directed to Kim Nickens, that one finds Nickens/Niccans as a Melungeon/free colored name (I said a Nickens listed as Negro appears in a government document about Blacks in the Revolutionary War).Did people notice how early this man was freed? This is precisely what V. E. DeMarce said. Did anyone see my posting about that. Early freedom was a sine qua non for the genesis of the triratial isolate settlements.

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 From: Enrique E. Gildemeister
I agree wholeheartedly with Veronica Davis. The fact that so many whites are interested in tracing their lineage to the Goins family is not surprising at all to me. I am white, and I find, often, that white people in general do not at all look down on blacks and are very much in sympathy with black affairs. Also, many whites do not lump all blacks together. I know this is a sensitive issue, but a lot of whites object to rap and the "homeboy" phenomenon, which many feel keeps alive in white minds a fear or outrage of what they consider "low life" behavior. Some blacks have courageously come out with the idea that we must work *together* that whites must learn to tobe tolerant and examine their racism, *BUT* lower-class blacks must also learn basic manners and life skills which will *HELP* them succeed in a white- dominated society. Why alienate potential allies?

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 From: DerFUCHS@aol.com
Your correct, it was illegal for a black and a white to intermarry until the Supreme court case of Loving v. Va., 1968.

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 From: Aqiylah A Collins
I have encountered some whites who were delighted to find their relatives .......AA, Native Indian, Mulatto, Melungeon, whatever!! I befriended a white woman at my last job who has been involved in genealogy for nearly 15 years. Earlier this year (after much searching) she made contact with one of her distant cousins. I can't tell you how excited she was to finally find a long lost relative. She had waited a long time for that moment and it wasn't diminished by the fact that her cousin was black. Sure there are some people, black and white, who are devastated to discover that they have ancestors of a different race. But, certainly, none of us are shocked that this form of ignorance still exists! I'd like to see the discussion of these descriptive words and their historical interpretations continue. So, please, let's get back to that and not stray into discussing racism. There's so much that I've learned from all of you here at Afrigeneas. I marvel at how much more there still is to know. Let's keep the focus here on genealogy and finding our "roots", whatever they may be.

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 From: Marta
Thanks Aqiylah, for making the statement that many people will be proud to find their ancestor information, as a member of a very small family I will be proud to find that there are any member of my GGM's family living...no matter where they are tall, short, fat, thin or have either blue or brown eyes. Thank you to everyone who has helped any other person help find their family information and facts.

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 From: FPeartree@aol.com
Thank you for that comment. That is exactly why we need to know all of ancestors, it is important. It doesn't matter if they are African, Native American, white, or any other race. If we can be sucessful at finding that out then we ought to take the time to do it. SOme feel if you lean to much to the MU's then you're for something you shouldn't, if you start leaning to much to the white ancestor's, then you're not sticking to your real identity. I'm sorry some time I just get upset. I don't know if i'm being rational anymore. bye!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sat, 12 Oct 1996 From: Babytrek59@aol.com
You said: You should all keep in mind an important fact about Census records, and how data was gathered. Until fairly recently, there was NO requirement for Census takers to interview the Head of the family, or the household members. They could, and did, interview children, visiting relatives, and neighbors. (Ever wonder why birth dates jump around in Census records?) Because of this, many people switched between black and mulatto randomly. A brownskinned man (like my gGrandfather) could be listed as mulatto because some neighbor thought he was. I have learned this info first hand this past week. While browsing thru the 1880 census of Columbia Co FL for my BRYANT ancestors, I located what I THOUGHT was my ggggrandfather and his family. I removed the film from the reader and took it to the printer to print out a copy. I didnt make note of the page number because I figured I could find my place again fairly quickly since I wasnt going to move the film too much! (I NOW know the importance of checking 10 pages forward and back from your found ancestor!) It turns out that the family I was looking for was listed TWICE --six pages apart from each other (themselves?). To make matters worse, I had been trying to find the parents of my gggrandmother (whose maiden name was HADDOCK) and was very happy when I saw that there were HADDOCKs living next door to the family when I looked on the reader. There were ALSO HADDOCKs living next door to the "other" family but a different family of HADDOCKs! UGH! The only thing I can figure is that someone else gave info about my ggggrandfather and his family. But I am at a loss as to why. Especially since they are listed next to totally different neighbors. The info was recorded by the same enumerator. This has really thrown me for a loop! In one instance the family is listed with 9 children and the other 10. Seven of the same names of the children appear on both lists, and the ages are approximately the same:

BRYAN Samuel D  B M 40      BRYANT Samuel   B M 45
Frances         B F 38      Frances         B F 36
Satire          B F 18      Rosette         B F 20
Kate            B F 15      Lizzer          B F 19
Benj            B M 14      Benj            B M 13
Melvina         B F 12      Kate            B F 12
Ada             B F 10      Melvina         B F  9
John            B M  8      Ada             B F  8
Missouri        B F  6      John H          B M  6
Frances         B F  4      Missouri        B F  5
Sidney          B M  2      Sarah           B F  3
                            Sidney          B M  1
I think maybe the second list is the correct one (given by the household) and the first list was given by relatives living next door. And some of the "different" names may actually be the same children but listed by middle names or nicknames on one list or the other. If any of you have any other ideas or suggestions, I would be glad to hear them. This has to be one of my "weirdest" finds so far! Thanks, Lisa

Sun, 13 Oct 1996 From: Alice in VA
Sandra, it is a shame that there are people out there like that. But the next time you encouter another remind her that if her ancesters did not buy the slaves and use them perhaps they would not have taken their last name. I have had to do this because of the ones I have come accross. And guess what I felt pretty good after I have made the statement.

Sun, 13 Oct 1996 From: Debbie
Carmen, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! What is REALLY critical to understand about mulatto is that it is NOT white. Now, the DEGREE OF AND TYPE mixture is what is not known (how much NA, African or European), but FOR SURE A MULATTO IS NOT WHITE. In my case, most of my mulattos are 75% white: the product of one all white parent and one half-white parent. However, my [potential] African and NA mixture is just "B" in the census. By inference, they should be "MU," but they aren't. Selma and Carmen have been trying to make the point--the historically correct and valid point--that MULATTO=MIXTURE. In fact, there is evidence to the effect that this word has the same intent as 'mule' (a mule is a cross between a horse and a donkey and is incapable of reproducing), or, in other words, is something unnatural that should not exist. Humor me a moment while I get trite and extremely basic. The point of genealogy is to research YOUR family. Period. Your mulattos may be African and NA, NA and European, or NA, African and European. But for sure, THEY ARE NOT WHITE. Just having my say.

Sun, 13 Oct 1996 From: Henry Burke
Our Web Page www.seorf.ohiou.edu/~xx057 may help in this discussion on MU. Henry R. Burke URL: http://www.marietta.edu/~burkeh

Sun, 13 Oct 1996 From: Betteye Bolden
Good Point Debbie: However I wish to bring to your attention: Few years ago all of America was saying buy an American Car. Persons working for the Auto Makers who didn't buy an American Car, were punished by others who would key their auto. When all the polls were tallied, it was then learned the the Auto Giants themselves had sold out long ago, and there was no such thing as "American Made Auto". Words are changed based upon time, and I would suggest that we as a people work toward changing the dictionary meaning of black and white. My purpose in genealogy is to show my son that he has a reason to be proud, that his ancestors contributed as much if not more in the production of our country, and to be proud. I don't wish to listen to analogies of mules, as I am not a mule. I was told that two species are equal when they can reproduce, and I can't nor would I dare to attempt to reproduce with a mule, rat, cat, or dog. A lot of very nice people have spoken on the subject of mulatto, but non have spoken on the subject of self esteem and our right-full place in history. I know that if we have one ounce of black blood we are black. That my child is the whole problem. Who said God died and left them in charge. That has caused us to miss out on many things, we must dispel that old antange, and move into the 21 century. Did you see Oprah, when she had the two sisters from Detroit, they were white, at least so the audience said, and those Whites spent the entire hour telling them they were white. They on the other hand tried to explain no, our parents are both black, therefore we are black. I truly feel that my work in genealogy will help some young child not want to be a drug pusher, and be all they he or she can be, cause it is their right. We must understand our past, but I'm not gonna be like Jessie Ownes having to race against animals. I'm a part of the human race, and proud.

Mon, 14 Oct 1996 From: TerrybleT@aol.com
Greetings Folks, This thread has been amusing me to no end. As "African Descendant" people we have been categorized to such an extent, that here we are in 1996, we are still trying to define our "racial" origin. It is my understanding that these various labels were constructed to further separate us as people. For those of us that have been doing Genealogical research, you will find that there are no hard and fast lines for what constitutes race. Miscegenation has been going on since boy met girl, what's the problem. Someone wrote that when the classification of mulatto was used that it meant that the individual "was not white". Well, history shows us that these labels were only useful to exploit and deprive some of their true ancestry, not establish their race. Historically the custom was, what ever the mother's "race" was, determine the race of the child. Unless there were some rather overt physical features to confuse the issue, you know what I mean! Case in point, during the O.J. Simpson trial there was a debate on the race of his children. If these children were born in the 1800's they, by custom should have been considered "white". Yet, the moderator of the discussion had no problem calling the children African American. We can only conclude that these labels are useful for denying the humanity of all. In my opinion, aside from the historical aspects of the discussion, it is an argument that can never prove what truly constitutes race. Think about it, earlier this year there was a protest about the government not having a category of "multi-racial" for those individuals of mixed parentage. It would appear, we have yet to learn from this and appear to be stuck on color, not race!

Mon, 14 Oct 1996 06:19:31 From: Kim Nickens
Thanks to Betteye Bolden for her suggestions on alternative record sources to get around "burned" counties. It's easy to get frustrated and she has reminded me of the other sources that I should check. Take care.

Mon, 14 Oct 1996 From: ALETHA Y. AKERS
Very good - and accurate - point about the importance of medical genetics. Having just finished a section on genetics and cancer as part of my second year course work for medical school, your point about knowing what diseases or conditions run in your family tree is indeed very important. I make it a habit to ask relatives what medical conditions my ancestors had or died from. Although there are some conditions which are rare in certain communities, it behooves you to know. For example, African Americans and Africans are not the only ones with a high incidence of sickle-cell anemia. Those hailing from the Mediterranean are also at higher risk of having the disease. Needless to say, I am compiling a list of conditions which run in the family which I make a point to share with the entire family.

Mon, 14 Oct 1996 From: Selma
Historically in Virginia at no time did the race of the mother determine the race of the child. The status of the mother as a free woman whether white or black determined the status of the child as either slave or free (Va. Law - Act XII 1662).

Mon, 14 Oct 1996 From: Shara
I dont think one should get too hung up in terminology. The term "Mulatto" especially as it was used in the early history of this country was used differently than it is used today. It could be used to refer to someone with some degree of racial mixture, not just one white parent and one black one. It was often used to refer to Native Americans, Portuguese, Arabs and Blacks of mixed descent. Evidently it was used to differentiate between those of unmixed white descent and those of "pure" African descent. I think its use often reflected the perception of the recorder, so different members of a family might be listed differently or the same person might be listed as white in some records and mulatto in others, etc.

Mon, 14 Oct 1996 From: Henry Burke
Your were 99% correct, but under Virginia Law, about 1660 through 1865, only African and Native American born persons were consigned to slavery. I think it is safe to say that you were identified as colored, if you had a trace of African blood in your genealogy. Perhaps this may help: September18, 1996 MARIETTA TIMES "Window to the Past" by Henry Robert Burke Code Noir Over the two and one-half centuries of slavery in North America, many terms were used to describe people of African origins. The much discussed "one drop of black blood" rule deems that any person who has one drop of black blood will be classified as "colored", the blanket term for anyone not of "100%" European blood. The rule of "one drop of black blood" has its formal origins in provisions of the Code Noir (the "Negro Code") of 1685. The Code Noir is more than a plantation owner/slavemasters attempt to preserve the "purity" of the white race by ferreting out all who had "tainted" blood. It was a pseudo-scientific attempt to "control" and "manage" the growing concern of miscegenation. The degree of genetic mixture from the various unions of non-white people with white people, or people who classified themselves as white, were not calculated merely by simple visual observations. The methods in English controlled North America attempted to become mathematically exact. Under Code Noir, individuals were thought to be composed of 128 separate units, which is to say that the racial admixture was traced to the eighth generation, thus providing a system of classification whichpermitted no ambiguity, and made possible equations such as the following: WHITE Non-White

64 parts  +    64 parts  =    mulattre
72 parts  +    56 parts  =    sacatra
88 parts  +    40 parts  =    marabou
96 parts  +    32 parts  =    quarteron
127 parts +    1 parts   =    sang melee
One could, however, play with combinations. For example, a quarteron (quadroon) need not result solely from a mulattre (mulatto) union with a "128 parts" white. The same result could also be obtained as follows: 72 parts white + 56 black mating with 120 parts white + 8 parts black = quarteron. Or again: 88 parts white + 40 black mating with 104 parts white + 24 parts black = quarteron Census recorders who were not proficient in the pseudo- scientific formula of Code Noir developed their own individual criteria for identifying racial compositions of individual African-Americans. Many simply used the term "mulatto" to describe any person with obvious mixed physical characteristics and the term "full black" was used to indicate persons thought to be of 100% African blood. Today the Code Noir seems like a petty issue compared to the central issue of social acceptance in the United States, but for millions of African-Americans it has a big impact on their progression up the ladder of full acceptance especially in the North, where many of the lighter skinned "free" mulattos lived. In most cases, white society is simply more comfortable with people who more closely resemble themselves. The measure of intelligence is still somewhat connected with Code Noir. People with darker skins are subjected to more discrimination. People with darker skins have to overcome more obstacles to achieve excellence. Even in the African-American community itself, darker skinned people have typically had a more difficult time developing their full potential than their lighter skinned neighbors. Until we can completely rid American society of these antiquated notions about skin color, the nation will continue to suffer losses of intellectial resources.

Mon, 14 Oct 1996 2 From: Betteye Bolden
Group, I think we are getting out of control. And here I go, could some one tell me how to produce a perfect specimen. I am told that certain ancestors were chosen to be breeders/studs. I would think that these people had to have certain traits. The breeder that is would have to have certain traits. Could someone please refresh me on the traits which the breeder would possess. The reason for my question, is that I have a cousin who revealed to me that his descendant was a ......... and this cousin refuses to enlighten me on the subject, can anyone help me. Fact: This ancestor was so disturbed by what he was made to do that he spent the remainder of his days in a mental institution. We think that he was buried in the pauper cemetery. The institution was called I think Whitfield, which was located in Mississippi. Any help would be appreciated, on breeders/studs, and Whitfield of Mississippi and how to get these records.

Tue, 15 Oct 1996 From: Betty Reid Soskin Group I think we are getting out of control. And here I go, could some one tell me how to produce a perfect specimen. I would hesitate to put too much stock in any criteria used for judging racial mixing. If those making such designations resemble those who were charged with that responsibility when my children were born; one might assume that much is pure speculation and probably should be treated as such. When my firstborn was brought to my hospital room -- and the social worker brought in his birth certificate -- she had all filled out with my baby listed as "white". I was asked to check for errors and made the correction to "negro". It seemed to be purely optional. When I asked another nurse I knew whether it was done this casually, she said, "...it is often hard to tell by the appearance of the child, so the hospital's practice is (when there is the slightest doubt), to do just as that nurse had done; fill in "white" and allow the mother to make the correction. Pretty arbitrary, wouldn't you say? One had only to seal the lips and passively accept a label which might quite easily separate out one child from the rest of the family's identity... . When I project my family down through a few decades and some future family historian is researching, these same questions will be around. In the final analysis, the questions of racial composition may be no more than political or established by default in many instances. At some point those racial subgroups may simply no longer matter except as descriptive terms. But we quite obviously haven't gotten to that point yet... .

Tue, 15 Oct 1996 From: obert E. Broome,Sr. List liason
I have watched and read with interest this thread on the"mullato". I have discerned all perspectives. It should be illumined to all that the census enumerators "did what they wanted to do". They were people who,often,*needed* work. They werent' all people of substance doing patriotic volunteer work. The enumerators were just people subject to the rules but also to their own politcal and social viewpoints. Webster's defines mullatto as part white and part black. This proves my point that "the greatest plans of mice and men will often go awry". How could an unknowing enumerator do more than assume that a light skinned person with Negroid features was no more than a member of the Royal Hausa tribe of Africa. The Somalians have lightskinned people amongst them also. Who is to say that the only way an African face can become light skinned is through the white slave period of ones ancestry. Indeed I remember my teacher of biology instructing us that the occassion of albinoism hits amongst all races of people. With that injection comes a descendancy that does not, necessarily, include the white race but leaves "Euro" features. I have a personal friend who has no Euro(white) in his family history but has Euro features. To look at my own grandmother one would think that there had to be a mixture yet I find none at all of record or oral history. We must be cautious to not through caution to the wind but remember that these enumerators were just people who "dumped" any one that they thought was not *pure* white into a new category for their distinction and our segregation.

Tue, 15 Oct 1996 From: Anita Willis
It is not my intent to prolong this discussion or to offend. I had a private conversation on this subject, a request was made that I post this to all. >These are the words that we all need to hear. Please send this to the entire >list!!!! This is too >important!! >>I find it quite interesting that we can't get past the fact that we are "all" the colors of the rainbow. If anyone looks at the vast majority of us they won't find pure anything and yet we must belabour the point, does it make it more acceptable to be half white and half black (or some percentage thereof) or more acceptable to be half NA and half AA? I guess the answer to this lies with the person you ask, reality is...it is what it is and it isn't going change just because you want it to.

Tue, 15 Oct 1996 From: "Clinton Megginson"
Does everyone agree the term mulatto...Defined as one Black parent and one White parent? If so, what is a person with one Black parent and one Native-American parent called? Was the term mulatto created to say, not White?

Tue, 15 Oct 1996 Henry Burke
Dear Clint, I think the term mulatto originally meant 1/2 African and 1/2 European during the 1600s, but as time progressed the term mulatto came to mean "not White" or was used to define Negroes with any amount of racial mixture. The Spanish had a term for the mixture of African and Native Americans, but I can't recall what it was. I think they called the European and Native American mixture mestizo or something simular. At any rate, I think the white Americans borrowed quite a bit of terminology about mixed racial heritage from the Spanish and some from the French, such as Creole. Later.

Tue, 15 Oct 1996 From: Enrique E. Gildemeister
In the Spanish racial scheme, the offspring of a Negro and an Indian was called a "Zambo"; hence the word "Sambo" with a totally different meaning. In the movie "Mosquito Coast" the indigenous English-speaking creoles were referred to as "Samboos" (rhymes with booze!) Rick Gildemeister

Tue, 15 Oct 1996 Margaret
Regarding this matter the Spanish used the following terms: Mulato = Original Spaniard + Original African Mestizo= Original Spaniard + Indian (native American) Criollo (Creole)= White person born in America but both parents original Spaniards. They use some more terms for people of mix races. Will check that info and get back. One thing worthed to point out is that for them MULATO was the mix of Parents that came from Spain and Africa not just white and black. regards,

Tue, 15 Oct 1996 From: Henry Burke
Thanks Rick, Henry

Tue, 15 Oct 1996 From: Carmen
The terms for black/Indian mixture were mustee and griffe. These terms fell to disuse at a very early time period in the Upper South and New England.

Tue, 15 Oct 1996 From: Elizabeth
This is my observation and experience with the term Mulatto. I am not an expert, so this is only what I have deduced from old documents.. It appears that any person of African descent, who visibly had a non African parent was called a mulatto. Sometimes the same person was alternately called black, negro, or mulatto. I think that since sometimes the same person was called by different people, on different occasions either black or mulatto, that it must have been used when it APPEARED that the person was not completely African. I know that in San Domingue (Haiti) the French had a very elaborate system of Mulattoes, quadroons, octoroons because those persons who had some white blood (of varying degree) were treated better and had more rights than a full African, or a slave. In the US I think the terms must have come over with French refugees ca. 1791 when the revolt started in Haiti. Since there was no legal basis for treating a mulatto better than a full African, the terms were used much more loosely and less precisely. So anyway, In Virginia, mulatto was apparently used to denote a person of mixed race, ie. African and some other race. It probably wouldn't be terribly evident if a Mulatto had European mix, or Native American. I'm sure many Mulattoes were mixed with Native Americans. In any event, it wasn't consistantly applied to the person, nor was it specific in denoting what the mix was. Loosely: it meant "not 100% African". And - considering Africans were in America before the Mayflower, that may well have included a lot more people that is suspected. Another note: many were described as "yellow", which I suspect meant mixed race. Again, I speak from observation only. On the side of being very careful in my research, I assume that anyone termed Mulattoe appeared to have European or Native American ancestors. Regards from Richmond.


BACK


25 Aug 2003 | 26 Sep 2003
Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved.
AfriGeneas ~ African Ancestored Genealogy