“Memorandum Concerning the Characteristics of the Larger Mixed Blood Racial Islands of the Eastern United States” by William Harlen Gilbert, Jr., Part 1 (1946 article)

1946 Gilbert Article

Memorandum Concerning the Characteristics of the Larger Mixed-Blood Racial Islands of the Eastern United States

Note from Webmaster: The following article contains several inconsistencies in style and citation which were found in the original publication, and have been reproduced here as accurately as web formatting will permit.

William Harlen Gilbert, Jr.
Library of Congress

published in Social Forces 21/4 (May 1946): 438-477.

Prefatory Statement

In many of the eastern States of this country there are small pockets of people who are scattered here and there in different counties and who are complex mixtures in varying degrees of white, Indian, and Negro blood. These small local groups seem to develop especially where environmental circumstances such as forbidding swamps or inaccessible and barren mountain country favor their growth. Many are located along the tidewater of the Atlantic coast where swamps or islands and peninsulas have protected them and kept alive a portion of the aboriginal blood which greeted the first white settlers on these shores. Others are farther inland in the Piedmont area and are found with their backs up against the wall of the Blue Ridge or the Alleghenies. A few of these groups are to be found on the very top of the Blue Ridge and on the several ridges of the Appalachian Great Valley just beyond.

No satisfactory names has ever been invented to designate as a whole these mixed outcasts from both the white and Negro castes of America. However, their existence can be traced back practically to the beginning of settlement by whites in the various areas in which they occur. The early white settlers called these racial intermediates “free colored” or “free negroes” and considered them frequently as mere squatters rather than as legitimate settlers on the land. The laws were interpreted to the disadvantage of these folk and they were forbidden to testify in court. Acts were passed to prohibit their immigration from other States and they were considered as undesirables since they bridged the racial gap between free whites and slave Negroes.

After the Civil War these mixed folk were still classified as “colored” or as “mulattoes” but they were frequently encouraged to develop their own institutions and schools separate from the Negroes. In recent years there are some indications that the numbers of these intermediate mixed populations are growing rather rapidly and that they may total well over 50,000 persons at the present time.

There is little evidence for the supposition that they are being absorbed to any great extent into either the white or the Negro groups. Their native breeding grounds furnish a seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of population which periodically swarms into cities and industrial areas. The characteristics of illiteracy, poverty, and large families mark them as members of the more backward section of the American nation. Draft boards and the armed forces have found it difficult to classify them racially for military service. As a sizable native minority they certainly deserve more attention than the meager investigations which sociologists and anthropologists have hitherto made of their problems. A recognition of their existence by social scientists can hardly prejudice their social prospects since the vast majority cannot possibly hope to pass as “white” under the present social system. In the hope of enlisting the interest of scientific bodies and foundations in research on these mixed groups, then, the following brief memorandum outline of ten of these mixed “racial islands” is presented.

I. Brass Ankles and Allied Groups of South Carolina

Location: These peoples are located mainly on the coastal plain area of the State. They are called by a variety of names, depending on the county, but show a general resemblance to each other. They are termed Brass Ankles (possibly from the Spanish abrasado, toasted brown) in Dorchester, Colleton, Berkeley, Orangeburg, and Charleston counties; Croatans or Cros in Morlboro, Dillon, Marion, and Horry counties; Red Bones in Richland; Red Legs in Orangeburg; Turks in Sumter; Buckheads in Bamberg; Marlboro Blues in Chesterfield, and so on. Still other nicknames are “Greeks,” “Portuguese,” Clay-eaters, Yellow-hammers, Summerville Indians, or simply “those Yellow People.”

Numbers: Estimated to run from 5,000 to 10,000 in the State.

Organization: Family groups only. In some areas have own schools which are nominally white. Family names are Boone, Braveboy, Bunch, Chavis, Crock, Driggers, Goins, Harmon, Russell, Scott, Shavis, Swett, and Williams.

Environment and Economy: Originally lived in isolation in such areas as “Hell-hole Swamp” north of Charleston and in other swampy coast lands. Some were also isolated in the sand hills between the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain where pine barrens predominate. Hunters, fishers, and cultivators.

Physique: Indian, white, and Negro types. Physical structure adapted to vigorous out-of-doors life.

In-Marriage: Tendency to pass over into white group noticeable. In-marriage marked.

Religion: Protestant. Attend white churches and also colored.

Schools: Certain schools, nominally white, are set aside for them. Teachers are difficult to get. Some go to white schools but this does not automatically give equal status.

Military draft: Apparently classified as white.

Voting and Civil Rights: Have voted for many years. All good Democrats.

Relief: WPA period helped to break down isolation of these groups.

Cultural Peculiarities: No data.

Social Status: Recognized as “near white.”

History: Many theories regarding their origin. Numerous Indian tribes were here such as Cusabo, Yasmassee, etc. Have only attracted attention of writers recently, although known locally at the Civil War period.


Berry, Brewton, “The Mestizos of South Carolina,” American Journal of Sociology, 51 (July 1945), pp. 34-41. (Dr. Berry is preparing a book on these folk after extensive research in the field)

Heyward, DuBose, Brass Ankle (a play), (New York, 1931).

Milling, C. J., Red Carolinians, (Chapel Hill, 1940). Pp. 3-4, 64.

“Note on the Brass Ankles,” American Speech (April 1943).

Shelby, G. and Stoney, S., Po’ Buckra (New York, 1930). (Fiction).

United States Writers Project. South Carolina, a Guide to the Palmetto State (New York, 1941), pp. 22, 286, 312.

Wallace, D. D., The History of South Carolina, (New York, 1934), 4 vols., v. II p. 508, v.III, p. 475

II. Cajans and Creoles of Alabama and Mississippi

Location: Cajans in the hilly areas of Washington, Mobile, and Clarke counties as well as adjoining parts of Mississippi. Creoles in Mobile and Baldwin counties around Mobile Bay in Alabama. Name “Cajan” derived from fanciful resmblence to the Louisiana Cajuns or Acadians. Creole name derived from “Creole colored” or “Creole mixed.”

Numbers: Cajans said to be “several thousands.” Creoles may be of similar number.

Organization: Cajans have family groups only. Chief family names are Byrd, Carter, Chestang, Johnson, Jones, Rivers, Smith, Sullivan, Terry, and Weaver. Creoles in Mobile had their own fire company and other organizations. Their chief family names (formerly indicated by special designation in the city directory) are Allen, Andry, Balasco, Ballariel, Battiste, Bernoudy, Cassino, Cato, Chastang or Chestang, Collins, Gomez, Hiner, Juzang, Lafargue, Laland, Laurendine, Laurent, Mazangue, Mifflin, Nicholas, Perez, Ponquinette, Pope, Reid, Taylor, and Trenier. The relationships between family names shared by Creoles and Cajans is not clear,

Environment and Economy: Cajans are a poor hill people of the wooded country who subsist by lumbering, turpentine extraction, and various odd jobs. Creoles are urban folk in the main and do oyster opening, cigar making, cotton sampling, and various other kinds of artisan work.

Physique: Creoles are a mixture of Latins, Negroes, etc. The Cajans are a mixture of white, Indian, and Negro types.

In-Marriage: No data.

Religion: Creoles are primarily Roman Catholic, while the Cajans are mostly Protestants (Baptist and Methodist).

Schools: Cajans have their own schools though the first 7 grades in the three counties where they live. Creole schools situation not known excepting that educational opportunities have been much better than among Cajans.

Military Draft Status: No data.

Voting and Civil Rights: No data.

Relief: The Cajans have been in need of relief.

Cultural Peculiarities: Cajans have individual patois and magical art. No data concerning Creoles.

Social Status: – Position of both groups is apparently between that of whites and negroes.

History: Legendary origin of Creoles is explained as due to union of Caribbean pirates with Indians and Negroes. Cajans have a similar tale. Family names shared by both occur in Mobile census lists of 1830 for free colored.


Bond, Horace M. “Two Racial Islands of Alabama,” American Journal of Sociology, XXXVI (Jan. 1931), 552-567.

Brannon, Peter A. “Cajans,” Dictionary of American History. 6 vols. (New York, 1940), vol. 1, p. 267.

Carmer, Carl. Stars Fell on Alabama (New York, 1931), pp. 255-269.

Frazier, E. Franklin. The Negro Family in the United States (Chicago, 1940), pp. 237-240.

Writers Program (U.S.) Alabama, a Guide to the Deep South. American Guide series (New York, 1941), pp. 367-368.

III. Croatans of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia

Location: Center in Robeson County, North Carolina around Lumberton. Are also found in neighboring counties of Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Macon, Hoke, and Sampson. In Person County, North Carolina are the allied group sometimes called “Cubans” or “Croatians” and these extend over into Halifax County, Virginia. In South Carolina, Croatans are found in Marlboro, Dillon, Marion, and Horry counties. Origin of the name “Croatan” attributed to “Croatoan” which was connected with Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony. Also these people have been termed “Cherokee Indians of Robeson County” and “Sioux Indians of Lumber River.”

Numbers: Were said to total 3,640 in 1890 and in Census of 1930 were numbered as over 13,000. Census of 1940 did not enumerate them separately. Apparently they are still increasing at a rapid rate.

Organization: Family groups and other institutions. Possess own churches, schools, etc. Family names are Allen, Bennett, Berry, Bridger, Brooks, Brown, Butler, Chapman, Chavis or Chaves, Coleman, Cooper, Dare, Gramme, Harrias, Harvie,Howe, Johnson, Jones, Lasie, Little, Locklear, Lowry, Lucas, Martyn, Oxendine, Paine, Patterson, Powell, Sampson, Scott, Smith, Stevens, Taylor, Viccars, White,Willes, Wilkinson, Wood, ands Wright.

Environment and Economy: Originally dwellers in the swamplands of the Lumber River, they became cultivators of cotton, tobacco, and corn over a wide area in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Physique: Measurements by Dr. Carl Seltzer for the Office of Indian Affairs in 1936-1937 of a hundred or more individuals showed a definite minority of marked Indian type. The remainder are white and negroid. They are said to be malaria resistant.

In-Marriage: Law of the State of North Carolina does not permit intermarriage with Negroes nor, in effect, with whites.

Religion: Protestants.

Schools: Separate and special schools were organized for them in 1885. They now have their own school boards, teachers of their own race, and a special normal school.

Military Draft Status: No data.

Voting and Civil Rights: Disfranchised in 1835, they were again allowed to vote after the Civil War. Said to be Democrats.

Relief: No data.

Cultural Peculiarities: Folklore and dialectic traits.

Social Status: Between white and Negro.

History: First came to the attention of the public during the Civil War due to the exploits of the famous Henry berry Lowry. They have been derived by various authors from Raleigh’s Lost Colony, from Latin sailors shipwrecked in North Carolina, and from Croatia.


Baxter, James P. “Raleigh’s Lost Colony,” The New England Magazine (Jan. 1895), pp. 565-587.

Bellamy, John D. Remarks in the (U. S.) House of Representatives, Thursday, Feb. 1, 1900 (Wash. D.C., 1900)

Cobb, Collier. Early English Settlements on Hatteras Island, North Carolina Booklet (Oct. 1914), XIV,91-99.

Croatan, or Croatoan. Encyclopedia Americana (New York, 1944) Vol. 8, pp. 214-15.

Estabrook, A. H. and McDougle, I. E. Mongrel Virginians, the Win Tribe (Baltimore, 1926).

Fitch, Wm. E. “The First Founders of America with Facts to Prove that Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony Was Not Lost.” Paper read at meeting of New York Society of the Founders and Patriots of America held at Hotel Manhattan, Oct. 29, 1913 (New York, The Society, 1913).

Foster, Laurence. Negro-Indian Relationships in the Southeast (Phila., 1935), p. 16.

Frazier, E. Franklin. The Negro Family in the United States (Chicago, 1940), pp. 235-237.

Harper, Roland M. “The Most Prolific People in the United States,” Eugenical News, XXIII, No. 2 (March-April 1938), 29-31.

Harper, Roland M. “A Statistical Study of the Croatans,” Rural Sociology, 2, No 4 (Dec. 1937) pp. 444-456.

Hearn, W. E. et. al. Soil Survey of Robeson County, N. C. in U. S. Bureau of Soils. Field Operations with Report, 1908, pp. 294-295. (Also issued as Document No. 1569, 60th Cong., 2nd Sess.)

Johnson, Guy B. “Personality in White-Indian-Negro Community,” American Sociological Review, IV (1939), 516-523. (Dr. Johnson has a large amount of manuscript notes on the Croatans based on field work with this group and which he hopes to prepare for publication at a future date.)

Jurney, R. C. et.al. Soil Survey of Person County, N. C. 1933. Pub. No. 14. Bureau of Chemistry and Soils, Series 1928, U. S. Dep’t Agri. p. 2.

Lawrence, Robert C. The Sons of Robeson (Lumberton, N. C., 1939), pp. 111-120.

Lucas, John P. Jr. and Groome, B. T. The King of Scuffleton, a Croatan Romance (Richmond, 1940).

McMillan, Hamilton. Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony (Wilson, N. C., 1888).

McNickle, D’Arcy. Indians of Robeson County, N.C. MSS.

Melton, Frances J. “Croatans: The Lost Colony of America,” Mid-Continent Magazine, VI (July 1885), pp. 195-202.

Mooney, James. Croatan. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 30, Vol, 1 (Handbook of American Indians).

Morgan, Ernest W. A Racial Comparison of Education in Robeson County N. C. M. A. Thesis MSS, University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, N. C., 1940).

Norment, Mrs. Mary C. The Lowrie Hostory (Wilmington, N. C., 1873).

Parsons, E. C. “Folklore of the Cherokees of Robeson County, N. C.” Journal of American Folklore, 32 (1919) pp. 384-393.

Perry, Wm. S. “The First Christian Born in Virginia,” Iowa Churchman (Jan. and Feb., 1893).

Reuter, E. B. The Mulatto in the United States (Boston, 1918), p. 85.

Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives for the 2nd Session of the 42nd Congress, 1871-1872. Report No. 22, part 2. testimony taken to the Joint select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of Affairs in the Late insurrectionary States. North carolina (Washington, D.C., 1894) pp. 283-304.

Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not taxed in the United States at the 11th Census: 1890 (Wash. D. C., 1894). Croatan, pp. 499-500.

Swanton, John R. “Probable Identity of the Croatan Indians” Mimeographed Report to the Office of Indian Affairs (Wash. D. C., 1933).

Townsend, George A. The Swampy Outlaws: or the North Carolina Bandits (New York, 1872).

U. S. Congress. House Committee on Indian Affairs. School for Indians of Robeson County, N. C. Hearings, Feb.14, 1913.

U. S. Congress. House Comittee on Indian Affairs. School for Indians of Robeson County, N. C. Hearings, April 5, 1912.

U. S. Department of the Interior. Indians of North Carolina. Letter from the Secretary of the Interior transmiting…a Report…by O. M. McPherson (Wash. 1915), Sen. Doc. 677, 63rd Cong., 3rd Sess. (An inclusive series of documents on Croatans).

Webb, Mack. An Echo from Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony. Read, Vol. 16, No. 4 (April 1944) pp. 116-117.

Weeks, S. B. “The Lost Colony of Roanoke: Its Fate and Survival,” Papers of the American Historical Association (1891). V, pp. 239-480.

Wilson, E. V. “Lost Colony of Roanoke.” Canadian Magazine (April, 1895). IV, pp. 500-504.

Writers Project (U .S.), North Carolina, a Guide to the Old North State (Chapel Hill, 1939), pp. 27-28, 537.

IV. Guineas of West Virginia and Maryland

Location: Primarily centered in Barbour and Taylor counties, West Virginia. Also, small scatterd families in Grant, Preston, Randolph, Tucker, Marion, Monongahela, and Braxton counties, West Virginia. Said to have originated in Hampshire County, West Virginia. A few occur in Garrett County, Maryland. Have recently migrated to canton, Chillicothe, Zanesville, Akron, and Sandusky in Ohio and to Detroit, Michigan. Word “guinea” said to be an epithet applied to anything of foreign or unknown origin. Other names applied locally are “West Hill” Indians, Maileys, “Cecil” Indians, “G. and B.” Indians, and “Guinea niggers.”

Numbers: Estimated to be from 8,000 to 9,000.

Organization: Have own schools and churches in Barbour and Taylor counties. Have an annual fair at Phillippi, West Virginia. Family names are Adams, Collins, Croston, Dalton, Dorton, Kennedy, Male (Mayle, Mahle, Mail), Minard (Miner), Newman, Norris, and Pritchard.

Environment and Economy: Many are coal miners, hill cultivators on sub-marginal lands, truck farmers and dairy farmers, domestic servants, and in cities industrial workers. Original habitat was inaccessible hilly area on a horseshoe bend of the Tygart River, the so-called “Narrows.” Live in compact settlements in this area.

Physique: Sharp and angular features characteristic. Originally a mixture of white and Indian types to which Negro has been added. Deformities of the limbs and other congenital defects.

In-Marriage: Has been pronounced in the past. Now said to intermarry with Italians who are also called “Guineas” in this area.

Religion: Mainly “Free Methodists” in Barbour and Taylor counties.

Schools: Have special schools classed locally as “colored.” Considerable tension over attendance at white schools in Taylor County. In Barbour County two schools have been burned down due to troubles.

Military Draft Status: In Taylor County (Grafton and vicinity) have almost uniformly gone into the white status.

Voting and Civil Rights: Have voted since organization of the State. Now hold balance of power in Barbour County.

Relief: Received during the Depression.

Cultural Peculiarities: Folklore, annual fair.

Social Status: Courts have pronounced them “colored.” Regarded as mulattoes. Do not associate as a rule with Negroes or whites.

History: Claim English descent from Revolutionary ancestors. Building of Tygert River Dam in 1937 scattered them in Taylor County due to flooding of original settlements.


Maxwell, Hu. The History of Barbour County (Morgantown, West Virginia, 1899) pp. 510-511.

Gilbert, Wm. H. Jr. “Mixed Bloods of theUpper Monongahela Valley, West Virginia,” Journal of the Washington Academyof the Sciences, 36, no. 1 (Jan. 15, 1946), pp. 1-13.

V. Issues of Virginia

Locations: Amherst and Rockbridge Counties. Name is derived from the term applied to free Negroes prior to the Civil War.

Numbers: Said to be about 500 in 1926.

Organization: Family groups only. Chief family names are Adcox, Branham, Johns, Redcross, and Willis.

Environment and Economy: A highlands fold of the Blue Ridge foothills they are mostly renters who cultivate tobacco in shares. Chief stronghold on Tobacco Row Mountain.

Physique: A mixture of white, Indian, and Negro types.

In-Marriage: Has been characteristic of the group.

Religion: Protestants. Episcopal mission has been maintained at Bear Mountain for many years. Has a school center for these people.

Schools: No organization aside from Mission.

Military Draft Status: No data as to color classification.

Voting and Civil Rights: No data.

Relief: No data.

Cultural Peculiarities: Traditions of Indian descent. Folklore not studied.

Social Status: Said to be below that of whites.

History: Ancestors of these people were in this area as far back as 1790. Local genealogical records very complete. Issues seem to have attracted little save local notice.


Estabrook, A. H. and McGouble, I. E. Mongrel Virginians, the Win Tribe (Baltimore, 1926) pp. 13-181.

Frazier, E. Franklin. The Negro Family in the United States (Chicago, 1940), pp. 240-242.

Gray, Rev. A. P. “A Virginia Tribe of Indians,” Southern Churchman LXXII, No. 53 (Jan. 4, 1908), p. 6.

Sams, Conway W. The Conquest of Virginia, The Forest Primaeval (New York, 1916), pp. 395-396.