“Black Indian” Lists Prove Helpful
|January 25, 1998
W. A. Plecker’s list of “mongrel Virginians” proved quite helpful in our recent efforts to demonstrate how Melungeon mixed-race families migrated westward from eastern Virginia, and how many Appalachian surnames correspond with Plecker’s list of “mongrel” surnames of eastern Virginia.
While Dr. Virginia DeMarce and I have had our differences over the degree of expansiveness of the Melungeon population (and its original ethnic make-up), I continue to hold her general research skills in high regard. My criticisms of DeMarce have never been related to the accuracy of her work in relation to the written record, but simply that her work has invariably excluded significant data – and population groups – that were either not reflected at all, or inaccurately reflected, in the written record. To demand that official census records, or written tribal/clan histories, be produced to verify one’s existence, is to effectively “erase” the vast majority of Native American, African, and Melungeon/mixed-race heritage. Most people in these populations were not encouraged– and many were actively prohibited– to learn to read and write, thus ensuring that their histories would never be “properly” recorded. And the ruling whites of the time were generally recording records in only four classifications: white (northern European), red (Native American), black (sub-Saharan African), or mulatto (a combination of the first three). There was no option for Arab, Jew, Berber, Turk, etc., save to be pigeon-holed into one of the first three, or to be assigned to the last “catch all” category.
While I take pride in all my ancestors who indeed fit into the first three, as well as the mulatto category, I also demand the right to recognize other possible origins, irregardless of where our Government census officers placed them. They, too, were human beings whose lives were important. Just because they’re dead doesn’t render them irrelevant. I insist on remembering ALL of my ancestors as accurately as possible, to be able to celebrate their blackness, their whiteness, their redness, and, yes, even their Middle Eastern brown-ness if the evidence points in that direction. Which it most certainly does. Our early shores were far more ethnically diverse than many researchers have understood. And this has been my major disagreement with the position taken by DeMarce – not criticizing her work because it is inaccurate, but because it it hasn’t gone far enough. An entire layer of our heritage is missing.
But my position on this issue does not mean that I throw out the baby with the bathwater. I STILL respect Virginia DeMarce’s work and STILL respect her early efforts at educating Americans about their mixed-race heritage. One area of her research that I find interesting and especially valuable is her work on the so-called “Black Indians.” The Black Indians were generally considered to be a mixture of Native Americans and Africans. While I believe this to be true, I suspect that many so-called Black Indians also reflect Melungeon heritage as well and, in certain locales, came to wear the label of Melungeon. The lists of surnames among the Black Indians could prove quite helpful to those interested in researching possible Native American and/or Melungeon genealogical connections. They are especially interesting when cross-checked with the Barbados data postedelsewhere on this website.
While I have not yet had time to pursue each of the possible connections, it is quite interesting (and probably not coincidental) that the majority of my family surnames (i.e., nearly ALL of them) are to be found among either the Melungeon surnames or the lists of so-called “Black Indians.” Many of their original sites (such as the Orange County, Virginia/Saponi connection) also fit perfectly with the ancestral homes of many of my own ancestors. It’s a fascinating journey and all Melungeon descendants should review these data for possible hints at their own origins.
These lists represent the names of Freedmen adopted through the Dawes Commission, with a time frame of 1898 through 1916. For the full lists the reader may visit:http://members.aol.com/angelaw859/freename.html.
For me personally, my possible “Black Indian” surname connections follow and, as the reader will note, the number of connections does indeed appear to exceed mere coincidence:
Black Creeks (20 related surnames):
Black Choctaws (22 related surnames):
Black Chickasaws (17 related surnames):
Black Cherokees (17 related surnames):
Black Seminoles (10 related surnames):