Who Was the Real James Young Deer?

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2019-10-24 17:28Z by Steven

Who Was the Real James Young Deer?

Bright Lights Film Journal
Issue May 2013 (2013-04-30)
10 pages

Angela Aleiss, Full Time Lecturer, Information Systems
California State University, Long Beach

James Young Deer, 1909, at Bison

The Mysterious Identity of the Pathè Producer Finally Comes to Light

“With his acting experience and technical know-how, Young Deer soon advanced to one of Pathé’s leading filmmakers. His Indian identity served him well: no one in the cast or crew at that time would have taken orders from a black man.”

Few in Hollywood knew that James Young Deer, general manager of Pathé Frères West Coast Studio from 1911 to 1914, was really an imposter. After all, Young Deer had earned a reputation as the first Native American producer and had worked alongside D. W. Griffith, Fred J. Balshofer, and Mack Sennett. As one of Hollywood’s pioneer filmmakers, Young Deer oversaw the production of more than 100 one-reel silent Westerns for Pathé, the world’s largest production company with an American studio in Edendale in Los Angeles.

Young Deer was married to Lillian St. Cyr, a Winnebago Indian from Nebraska known as “Princess Red Wing” and star of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1914 classic The Squaw Man. He boasted of a full-blooded Winnebago heritage similar to his wife: his birthplace became Dakota City, Nebraska, and his father was “Green Rainbow” from the Winnebago reservation. He claimed he attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, the first off-reservation Indian boarding school.

In a 2010 BBC Radio 3 segment, “James Young Deer: The Winnebago Film-Maker,” no one — including this author — could unscramble Young Deer’s murky past. Young Deer was elusive, and a search in his background leads to a maze of contradictions and discrepancies. But after ten months of poking through dusty archives and faded vital records and tracking down Lillian’s relatives, the identity of this mysterious filmmaker finally came to light. His real name: James Young Johnson, born about April 1, 1878, in Washington, D.C., to mulatto parents George Durham Johnson and Emma Margaret Young.

“If Young Deer claimed to be Winnebago, he was lying to himself and others to promote himself,” says David Smith, Winnebago historian, author, and former director of Indian Studies at Little Priest Tribal College in Nebraska. Smith has heard endless stories about Young Deer’s supposed Winnebago heritage, and he’s had enough. His reaction is understandable: Native American identity is an especially sensitive issue, and no Indian tribe wants their name appropriated by some wannabe.

Little did anyone know that Young Deer’s true heritage lies hidden within the small mid-Atlantic community of whites, African Americans, and Native Americans once known as the “Moors of Delaware.” So secluded were these people that the late historian Clinton A. Weslager referred to them as “Delaware’s Forgotten Folk.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Princess of the Hither Isles: A Black Suffragist’s Story from the Jim Crow South

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States, Women on 2019-09-26 00:14Z by Steven

Princess of the Hither Isles: A Black Suffragist’s Story from the Jim Crow South

Yale University Press
2019-09-24
352 pages
6⅛ x 9¼
9 b/w illus.
Hardcover ISBN: 9780300242607

Adele Logan Alexander, Emeritus Professor of History
George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Born in the late nineteenth century into an affluent family of mixed race—black, white, and CherokeeAdella Hunt Logan (1863–1915) was a key figure in the fight to obtain voting rights for women of color. A professor at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and a close friend of Booker T. Washington, Adella was in contact with luminaries such as Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Despite her self-identification as an African American, she looked white and would often pass for white at segregated suffrage conferences, gaining access to information and political tactics used in the “white world” that might benefit her African American community.

Written by Adella’s granddaughter Adele Logan Alexander, this long-overdue consideration of Adella’s pioneering work as a black suffragist is woven into a riveting multigenerational family saga and shines new light on the unresolved relationships between race, class, gender, and power in American society.

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Delaware’s Forgotten Folk: The Story of the Moors and Nanticokes

Posted in Anthropology, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2019-06-03 13:29Z by Steven

Delaware’s Forgotten Folk: The Story of the Moors and Nanticokes

University of Pennsylvania Press
2006 (originally published in 1943)
232 pages
13 illustrations
5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Paper ISBN: 9780812219838

C. A. Weslager (1909-1994)

Photographs by L. T. Alexander
Drawings by John Swientochowski

Delaware's Forgotten Folk

“It is offered not as a textbook nor as a scientific discussion, but merely as reading entertainment founded on the life history, social struggle, and customs of a little-known people.”—From the Preface

C. A. Weslager’s Delaware’s Forgotten Folk chronicles the history of the Nanticoke Indians and the Cheswold Moors, from John Smith’s first encounter with the Nanticokes along the Kuskakarawaok River in 1608, to the struggles faced by these uniquely multiracial communities amid the racial and social tensions of mid-twentieth-century America. It explores the legend surrounding the origin of the two distinct but intricately intertwined groups, focusing on how their uncommon racial heritage—white, black, and Native American—shaped their identity within society and how their traditional culture retained its significance into their present.

Weslager’s demonstrated command of available information and his familiarity with the people themselves bespeak his deep respect for the Moor and Nanticoke communities. What began as a curious inquiry into the overlooked peoples of the Delaware River Valley developed into an attentive and thoughtful study of a distinct group of people struggling to remain a cultural community in the face of modern opposition. Originally published in 1943, Delaware’s Forgotten Folk endures as one of the fundamental volumes on understanding the life and history of the Nanticoke and Moor peoples.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • 1. Red, White, and Black
  • 2. The Mysterious Moor
  • 3. Plot in the Swamp
  • 4. The Persistent Red Thread
  • 5. An Unexpected Champion
  • 6. The Good Fight
  • 7. A World Unknown
  • 8. Links with the Past
  • Bibliography
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A mixed-race woman’s long quest to prove her Native American ancestry

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2019-01-05 20:47Z by Steven

A mixed-race woman’s long quest to prove her Native American ancestry

The Washington Post
2019-01-04

Neely Tucker, Contributing reporter


Darnella Davis, center, with her siblings and their parents, John and Mary, in 1955. Mary was Muscogee Creek, and John said he had Cherokee blood; a grandfather received a land allotment for Native Americans. But Darnella’s Indian heritage was later disputed. (University of New Mexico Press; courtesy of Lafayette West)

When Darnella Davis was a shy, “sandy-colored and sandy-haired” teenager growing up in Detroit in the 1960s, she knew she was “part Indian.” It wasn’t entirely clear what that meant. In that era of Motown, the civil rights movement and the devastating 1967 riot/rebellion that wrecked that city, she knew that her Oklahoma-based family was not culturally kin to the black neighbors who’d fled sharecropping and the Deep South. As a standout arts student at the city’s premier (and racially mixed) high school, Cass Tech, she knew she wasn’t white, either.

Her dad talked of growing up as a Cherokee kid; people sometimes called her Muscogee Creek mom “Pocahontas,” and the family drove 19 hours to their ancestral spot in northeast Oklahoma every summer and school holiday. Her grandfather, Crugee Adams, had once grown rich there, drawing on the mineral rights of his land allotment for Native Americans dating back to the late 19th century.

So imagine her surprise when she applied for a post-graduate scholarship in Boston reserved for Native Americans and was told, both by the state of Massachusetts and the Cherokee Nation, that she wasn’t Indian, either. The resulting, decades-long experience of white and Native American bureaucrats telling her what percentage of Indian blood she must possess to qualify as a certified member of the tribe proved to be the background for “Untangling a Red, White, and Black Heritage: A Personal History of the Allotment Era.”…

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Untangling a Red, White, and Black Heritage: A Personal History of the Allotment Era

Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2019-01-05 20:32Z by Steven

Untangling a Red, White, and Black Heritage: A Personal History of the Allotment Era

University of New Mexico Press
November 2018
312 pages
21 figs
6×9 in.
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8263-5979-7
E-book ISBN: 978-0-8263-5980-3

Darnella Davis
Washington, D.C.

Examining the legacy of racial mixing in Indian Territory through the land and lives of two families, one of Cherokee Freedman descent and one of Muscogee Creek heritage, Darnella Davis’s memoir writes a new chapter in the history of racial mixing on the frontier. It is the only book-length account of the intersections between the three races in Indian Territory and Oklahoma written from the perspective of a tribal person and a freedman.

The histories of these families, along with the starkly different federal policies that molded their destinies, offer a powerful corrective to the historical narrative. From the Allotment Period to the present, their claims of racial identity and land in Oklahoma reveal inequalities that still fester more than one hundred years later. Davis offers a provocative opportunity to unpack our current racial discourse and ask ourselves, “Who are ‘we’ really?”

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Declared Defective: Native Americans, Eugenics, and the Myth of Nam Hollow

Posted in Anthropology, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2018-05-27 23:50Z by Steven

Declared Defective: Native Americans, Eugenics, and the Myth of Nam Hollow

University of Nebraska Press
May 2018
246 pages
9 photographs, 1 illustration, 3 maps, 2 tables, 8 charts, index
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4962-0200-0

Robert Jarvenpa, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
State University of New York, Albany

Declared Defective is the anthropological history of an outcast community and a critical reevaluation of The Nam Family, written in 1912 by Arthur Estabrook and Charles Davenport, leaders of the early twentieth-century eugenics movement. Based on their investigations of an obscure rural enclave in upstate New York, the biologists were repulsed by the poverty and behavior of the people in Nam Hollow. They claimed that their alleged indolence, feeble-mindedness, licentiousness, alcoholism, and criminality were biologically inherited.

Declared Defective reveals that Nam Hollow was actually a community of marginalized, mixed-race Native Americans, the Van Guilders, adapting to scarce resources during an era of tumultuous political and economic change. Their Mohican ancestors had lost lands and been displaced from the frontiers of colonial expansion in western Massachusetts in the late eighteenth century. Estabrook and Davenport’s portrait of innate degeneracy was a grotesque mischaracterization based on class prejudice and ignorance of the history and hybridic subculture of the people of Guilder Hollow. By bringing historical experience, agency, and cultural process to the forefront of analysis, Declared Defective illuminates the real lives and struggles of the Mohican Van Guilders. It also exposes the pseudoscientific zealotry and fearmongering of Progressive Era eugenics while exploring the contradictions of race and class in America.

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • List of Tables
  • Series Editors’ Introduction
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The Menace in the Hollow
  • 1. Native Americans and Eugenics
  • 2. Border Wars and the Origins of the Van Guilders
  • 3. A “New” Homeland and the Cradle of Guilder Hollow
  • 4. From Pioneers to Outcastes
  • 5. The Eugenicists Arrive
  • 6. Deconstructing the Nam and the Hidden Native Americans
  • 7. Demonizing the Marginalized Poor
  • Conclusion: The Myth Unravels
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Living a white lie

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Passing, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2017-08-10 02:30Z by Steven

Living a white lie

Silver Chips Online: Montgomery Blair High School’s Online Student Newspaper
Silver Spring, Maryland
2009-02-23

Lily Alexander, Managing Features Editor, Print-Online Coordinator


Jim Queen, 70, now lives in San Francisco with his wife of 40 years. From 1954 to 1957, he attended Montgomery Blair High School, where he was forced to pass as a white student by hiding his far more complex and multiracial heritage.

In 1954, Jim Queen arrived at Montgomery Blair High School. The school was all white. He was not.

The janitors would come to watch him run. They knew – or at least sensed – he wasn’t who he said he was. As he raced around the quarter-mile track at old Blair High School, they would silently agree about what was never said aloud. And at a time when race relations in the United States were defined by divisions, from water fountains to hospitals, Jim Queen was an anomaly. The janitors suspected it. His parents knew it. And so did he.

The school system did not.

Three years before MCPS [(Montgomery County Public Schools)] officially opened its doors to integration, Jim Queen was a student with a mixed heritage – part white, part black, part Native American – studying at a school comprised entirely of white students. For over two years, Queen maintained this façade, keeping his racial background a secret from friends, teachers and classmates.

Now 70, Queen is far-removed from his time at Blair, but the experiences of his upbringing and childhood clouded by questions of racial identity and self-discovery have played a large role in small farm in shaping the man he has become…

…More recently, Queen launched the “One Race Movement.” This movement promotes the idea that we all belong to one race – the human race – and that the concept of multiple races is “a false social construct used historically to divide and exploit people,” rather than a scientifically-based idea. He developed this idea after rediscovering his own Wesort roots and learning about the Genome Project conducted by Craig Venter, which aimed to prove that all humans originally come from Africa. To convey his movement’s core message, Queen designed a symbol that now adorns clothing and posters, depicting the silhouettes of many different colored faces and the word “ONE” beneath it…

Read the entire article here.

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The mystery of the Melungeons

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States, Virginia on 2016-08-25 01:17Z by Steven

The mystery of the Melungeons

The Economist
2016-08-24

VARDY, TENNESSEE AND BIG STONE GAP, VIRGINIA

The story of an Appalachian people offers a timely parable of the nuanced history of race in America

HEAD into Sneedville from the Clinch River, turn left at the courthouse and crawl up Newman’s Ridge. Do not be distracted by the driveways meandering into the woods, the views across the Appalachians or the shadows of the birds of prey; heed the warnings locals may have issued about the steepness and the switchbacks. If the pass seems challenging, consider how inaccessible it must have been in the moonshining days before motor cars.

Halfway down, as Snake Hollow appears on your left, you reach a narrow gorge, between the ridge and Powell Mountain and hard on Tennessee’s north-eastern border. In parts sheer and wooded, it opens into an unexpected valley, where secluded pastures and fields of wild flowers hug Blackwater Creek—in which the water is not black but clear, running, like the valley, down into Virginia. This is the ancestral home of an obscure American people, the Melungeons. Some lived over the state line on Stone Mountain, in other craggy parts of western Virginia and North Carolina and in eastern Kentucky. But the ridge and this valley were their heartland.

The story of the Melungeons is at once a footnote to the history of race in America and a timely parable of it. They bear witness to the horrors and legacy of segregation, but also to the overlooked complexity of the early colonial era. They suggest a once-and-future alternative to the country’s brutally rigid model of race relations, one that, for all the improvements, persists in the often siloed lives of black and white Americans today. Half-real and half-mythical, for generations the Melungeons were avatars for their neighbours’ neuroses; latterly they have morphed into receptacles for their ideals, becoming, in effect, ambassadors for integration where once they were targets of prejudice…

The two big questions about them encapsulate their ambiguous status—on the boundaries of races and territories, and between suffering and hope, imagination and fact. Where did the Melungeons come from? And do they still exist?…

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String of Pearls: Exploring the Melungeon mystery

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2016-04-13 00:27Z by Steven

String of Pearls: Exploring the Melungeon mystery

SWVa Today
Wytheville, Virginia
2016-03-29

Margaret Linford, President
Smyth County Genealogical Society, Marion, Virginia

Judge Isaac Freeman spoke to the Smyth County Genealogical Society on Tuesday, March 22, regarding the Melungeon people. He has been intrigued by this topic for many years. His father was best friends with local historian Goodridge Wilson, who often spoke of the Melungeons. Judge Freeman said he can remember him talking about which local families were part of this unique group.

“Where have all the purebred Melungeons gone?” This question was posed in an article many years ago. Judge Freeman laughed as he shared this question with our group. “Of course,” he said, “the answer to this question is that there is no such thing as a ‘purebred’ Melungeon.”

Who are the Melungeons? There is no simple answer to this question. In N. Brent Kennedy’s book, “The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People: An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing in America,” he proposes that Turkish slaves were brought to America by Portuguese sailors. Once they arrived in America, they joined with female Cherokee Indians and other local tribes. This was the beginning of the “Melungeons.”

Most definitions of the Melungeons simply state that they are a “mixed race people.”…

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Lumbee Indians seek end to a century of questions about identity

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2016-04-13 00:02Z by Steven

Lumbee Indians seek end to a century of questions about identity

The Baltimore Sun
Baltimore, Maryland
1993-10-12

Richard O’Mara, Staff Writer

Proud people from North Carolina find a home in Baltimore

Shirley Jeffrey, an East Baltimore resident, remembers the painful moment five years ago when two Sioux Indians told her that “Lumbees aren’t really Indians.”

Jimmy Hunt recalls a similar experience as an Army recruit when a sergeant asked the American Indians in the group to stand up. “There were two others besides myself,” he says. “Later they said I wasn’t an Indian because I was a Lumbee.”

Not really Indians? How could this be said of the largest American Indian group east of the Mississippi? The ninth-largest in the United States, with nearly 50,000 members, according to the Bureau of the Census. About 4,300 of them are in Maryland.

The question of identity has troubled the Lumbees for more than a century, but it may be resolved this year if Congress approves a bill introduced by Rep. Charles Rose III, D-N.C., to extend full recognition to the tribe.

It’s not that Mrs. Jeffrey is uncertain about who she is. Nor is Mr. Hunt…

Read the entire article here.

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