Black Indians Formed the First American Rainbow Coalition

Black Indians Formed the First American Rainbow Coalition

The New York Times

To the Editor:

Census Finds Many Claiming New Identity: Indian” (front-page, March 5) discusses whites who now assert their Indian blood, but fails to mention African-Americans who can claim longer and more legitimate ties to America’s Indian heritage. Many in the New York area are pursuing their biracial heritage through such organizations as the National Alliance of Native Americans and radio stations such as WLIB.

The African-native American connection came to light in 1503, when Gov. Nicolas de Ovando of Hispaniola complained to King Ferdinand that African slaves “fled among the Indians . . . and never could be captured.” His words announced our first rainbow coalition. Today almost every African-American family — from Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes and Alex Haley to Alice Walker, Jesse Jackson and L. L. Cool J — has an Indian branch in its family tree. The statistics are much lower for white Americans…

William L. Katz
New York
March 6, 1991

The writer, a scholar in residence at N.Y.U., is the author of “Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage” (1986).

Read the entire letter here.

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