How Green Was My Surname; Via Ireland, a Chapter in the Story of Black America

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2015-12-29 03:58Z by Steven

How Green Was My Surname; Via Ireland, a Chapter in the Story of Black America

The New York Times

S. Lee Jamison

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Shaquille O’Neal!

So many African-Americans have Irish-sounding last names—Eddie Murphy, Isaac Hayes, Mariah Carey, Dizzy Gillespie, Toni Morrison, H. Carl McCall—that you would think that the long story of blacks and Irish coming together would be well documented. You would be wrong.

Randall Kennedy, a professor at Harvard Law School and the author of ”Interracial Intimacies; Sex, Marriage, Identity and Adoption,” said that when it comes to written historical exploration of black-Irish sexual encounters, ”there are little mentions, but not much.”

And most African-Americans do not know a lot about their family names.

“Quite frankly, I always thought my name was Scotch, not Irish.” said Mr. McCall, the former New York State comptroller.

But the Irish names almost certainly do not come from Southern slaveholders with names like Scarlett O’Hara. Most Irish were too poor to own land. And some blacks, even before the Civil War, were not slaves.

…Elizabeth Shown Mills, who recently retired as the editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, said that unlike native-born whites, “Irish were more willing to accept and acknowledge interracial allegiances.”

Before the Civil War, she said, “the free mulatto population had the same number of black moms as white moms.”

Ms. Mills said that mixed-race children would have been given Irish surnames when their Irish fathers married their black mothers, or when their unmarried Irish mothers named children after themselves.

The Irish ended up in the Caribbean, too. Britain sent hundreds of Irish people to penal colonies in the West Indies in the mid-1600’s, and more went over as indentured servants.

Mr. [Charles L.] Blockson noted that “Lord Oliver Cromwell’s boatloads of men and women” sent to Barbados and Jamaica intermingled with the African slaves already there.

Montserrat ended up with the largest Irish community in the West Indies…

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The Forgotten People: Cane River’s Creoles of Color (revised edition)

Posted in Books, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2013-09-05 21:53Z by Steven

The Forgotten People: Cane River’s Creoles of Color (revised edition)

Louisiana State University Press
November 2013 (First published in 1977)
480 pages
6.00 x 9.00 inches
25 halftones, 3 maps, 3 charts
Paperback ISBN: 9780807137130

Gary B. Mills (1944–2002), Professor of History
University of Alabama

Revised by:

Elizabeth Shown Mills

Foreword by:

H. Sophie Burton

Out of colonial Natchitoches, in northwestern Louisiana, emerged a sophisticated and affluent community founded by a family of freed slaves. Their plantations eventually encompassed 18,000 fertile acres, which they tilled alongside hundreds of their own bondsmen. Furnishings of quality and taste graced their homes, and private tutors educated their children. Cultured, deeply religious, and highly capable, Cane River’s Creoles of color enjoyed economic privileges but led politically constricted lives. Like their white neighbors, they publicly supported the Confederacy and suffered the same depredations of war and political and social uncertainties of Reconstruction. Unlike white Creoles, however, they did not recover amid cycles of Redeemer and Jim Crow politics.

First published in 1977, The Forgotten People offers a socioeconomic history of this widely publicized but also highly romanticized community—a minority group that fit no stereotypes, refused all outside labels, and still struggles to explain its identity in a world mystified by Creolism.

Now revised and significantly expanded, this time-honored work revisits Cane River’s “forgotten people” and incorporates new findings and insight gleaned across thirty-five years of further research. This new edition provides a nuanced portrayal of the lives of Creole slaves and the roles allowed to freed people of color, tackling issues of race, gender, and slave holding by former slaves. The Forgotten People corrects misassumptions about the origin of key properties in the Cane River National Heritage Area and demonstrates how historians reconstruct the lives of the enslaved, the impoverished, and the disenfranchised.

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Slaves and Masters: The Louisiana Metoyers

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2011-12-23 02:59Z by Steven

Slaves and Masters: The Louisiana Metoyers

National Genealogical Society Quarterly (current source: Historic Pathways)
Volume 70, Number 3 (September 1982)
pages 163-189

Elizabeth Shown Mills

Gary B. Mills (1944-2002)

The pursuit of genealogical research by Afro-Americans is a fairly-recent innovation in the American social experience. From an academic standpoint, today’s generation of black family historians are pioneers on the threshhold of a challenge, an adventure through which traditional white genealogists have already passed. They are heirs to a rich legacy of family tradition, almost invariably undocumented. They face a world of resources whose limits appear to be boundless, but are frustratingly underdeveloped. The guides which exist for them are often crude and elementary, even contradictory. There also exists, to some extent, a self-defeating presumption that documentation of miscegenous, illegitimate births is not possible—as reflected in the recent assertion of awell-known black writer:

In those days, slaves were sold and shifted much like livestock, so records were sporadic. Nor did records reflect things like children born from unions between white masters and black women. So to expect these records to provide an accurate account is pure naivete. When it comes to black genealogy, well-kept oral history is without question the best source.

Even more unfortunately, contemporary black genealogists, like the older generations of more naive white genealogists, often begin their pursuit with a handicap; a stereotyped, often onc-dimensional concept of American historiography that may limit their potential success. Americans, black and white, are prone to|draw too-sharp lines between certain races and classes of men. A white with Southern heritage traditionally expects his forebears to be slaveowners, while the American black expects his ancestors to be enslaved.

Both are likely to be surprised at the degree of variance which may emerge between reality and their stereotyped expectations. The Louisiana family of Metoyer provides an intriguing example of the degree to which class, race, and economic lines were blurred in early America. The Metoyers were both slaves and masters, but they were not unique. Pioneer black historian Carter G. Woodson in 1924 identified 3,765 black Southerners who were, in the single year 1830, owners of other blacks. On the eve of the Civil War (1860) the enumerators of the federal census tabulated almost half a million blacks who were already free—roughly one out of every eight blacks in America. Surprisingly, almost half this number were found in the Southern Slates. The white American looks for his heritage among the records of free men, while the black is conditioned to believe his search must begin in slave records…

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The Louisiana Metoyers

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2009-11-02 00:42Z by Steven

The Louisiana Metoyers

American Visions
June, 2000

Elizabeth Shown Mills

Gary B. Mills (1944-2002)

The Metoyer family of Louisiana provides an intriguing ample of the degree to which class, race and economic lines were blurred in early America. The Metoyers were both slaves and masters; in that regard, they were not unique. They were singular in the degree of their success. In the pre-Civil War South, they were, as a family unit, the wealthiest of all free families of color in the nation. After the war, they endured generations of poverty but preserved a rich store of oral history, much of which has been documented at Melrose Plantation in Melrose, La. The Metoyer family has been nationally conspicuous since 1975–the year that Melrose, the last of at least a dozen pillared, two-story “mansion houses” that they built on their plantations, was declared a National Historic Landmark.

On January 8, 1736, Francoise (a slave belonging to Chevalier Louis Juchereau de St. Denis) and Marie Francoise were married in Natchitoches, La. The only clues indicating the origins of this African couple are the names of four of their children: Dgimby, Choera, Yandon and Coincoin. These names can be attributed to the Ewe linguistic group of the Gold Coast-Dahomey region of Africa. Although Catholic custom required all baptized Christians to bear a saint’s name, popular custom among the French permitted a variety of nicknames, or dits, as the French called them. The custom extended to the slave population as well, and a number of slaves are identified in official records by the African name that French masters permitted them to retain.

The pronunciation of Coincoin is close to that of Ko-kwe, a name given to all second-born daughters by those who speak the Glidzi dialect of the Ewe language. Marie Therese dite Coincoin, the second daughter born to Francois and Marie Francoise, was baptized at the Natchitoches Post on August 24, 1742. Colonial Louisiana’s Code Noir (Black Laws), which did not permit the separation by sale of a husband and wife or of a child under 14 from its mother, kept the family of Francois and Marie Francoise together as a stable unit until April 18, 1758, when the couple died together in an epidemic that also killed their mistress…

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