Down Blige Road: Where There’s No Place Like Home

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, United States on 2014-10-14 13:13Z by Steven

Down Blige Road: Where There’s No Place Like Home

Richmond Hill Reflections
Richmond Hill, Georgia
Volume 10, Number 4 (September 2014)
pages 57-60

Leslie Ann Berg (Photos by Callie Beale Photography)

Richmond Hill’s history is engrained deep within the walls of its old buildings, street names, and its land. But there is another place where history runs deep in Richmond Hill. It is a living, breathing history that not only thrived centuries ago, but is still thriving today. It is a history that courses through the very veins of the Richmond Hill people: It is the history of bloodlines.

Some of us are military families that found our way to Richmond Hill because of our duty, others transferred here for a job, and still others came to Richmond Hill for its quiet, safe community and great schools. But there is a very real and permanent group of people who live in Richmond Hill because it is home in the deepest sense of the word: Richmond Hill is where their ancestors settled and where they choose to remain. This group of people is the Blige family.

Meeting a member of the Blige family is like meeting an old friend. They are warm, welcoming, and full of jovial conversation. As I sat around Albertha Blige’s dining room table with her cousin Francis, and her mother Dorothy, and Uncle Pete, both in their 80s, we discussed Blige family history, traditions, and folklore. The women were tight-lipped when it came to telling stories, but Uncle Pete opened up and let me in on who exactly the Bliges were and are.

The Bliges made their way to Richmond Hill after the Civil War in 1875, when three brothers, Andrew, Benjamin, and Rently Blige, migrated south from Charleston, South Carolina. All three bothers married and had eight, nine, and 11 children respectively and so began the large Blige family of Richmond Hill. The brothers worked for wages at the Ogeechee River plantations. As their children grew, the family purchased land from Thomas Savage Clay, a man who owned several plantations in the Richmond Hill area.

Owning land was monumental for the families of emancipated slaves like the Bliges, yet life wasn’t easy. Uncle Pete, Benjamin Blige’s grandson and one of 20 children, recalls what life was like when he was a boy: “[My father] worked about 60 miles from [Richmond Hill]. He left on Sunday evenings and didn’t come back for 2 weeks. My mother was here taking care of the farm. The kids worked… that’s why they had so many kids. Kids carried the farm and my mother did the housework and watched the kids.”…

…Uncle Pete’s accounts of his family may sound like a typical African American ancestral history in the southeastern United States, but beneath the commonalities lies a forgotten history, a history that never made its way into the history books.

The Blige’s African American ancestry is vibrant and evident, yet they are also of Cherokee Indian decent. African-Native Americans? Yes, and in fact, African-Native Americans made up a significant percentage of Native Americans living in the South in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Yet their existence is not widely accounted for in history.

The American history that most of us are familiar with is one that paints a picture of segregated ethnic groups, depicting Whites as slave owners, Africans as slaves, and Native Americans as tribe members. In most of our minds, all three groups were separate and played a very specific and hierarchical role in history. Yet, before North America was widely colonized, distinct segregation did not exist, and the interaction between Africans and Native Americans was somewhat frequent. Enslaved Africans escaped to Native American tribes (some tribes even hosted stops on the Underground Railroad), some Native Americans were enslaved by Europeans alongside Africans, and some Native Americans had African slaves. Often times, the two groups worked alongside each other, lived together, and shared recipes, myths, legends, and herbal remedies. Africans and Native Americans intermarried and had children. In fact, relations were so frequent that when a census was taken in the early 1800s, 10% of the Cherokee Nation was of African descent; 100 years later, this number increased to 50%.

As interaction between the Africans and Native Americans increased, colonists felt a need to break their alliance and issue laws that secured the land and property the Europeans had acquired. Once the American government was established and began to thrive, such laws were carried out. Only then did the rights ot slave owners gain tremendous strength, while the rights of Africans and Native Americans fell to the wayside. In order to enforce the new laws and segregate the two ethnic groups, a census was taken to categorize all individuals as African or Native American. Categorization was based solely on skin color; consequently, much of the African-Native American history, culture, and ancestral lines were erased. Fast forward 300 years and most Americans know very little, it anything, about this fascinating ethnic group.

The Blige family shares in this incredible story of the African-Native Americans. Their bloodline is unique and in many ways, we wall never truly uncover the rich culture ot the African-Native American due to the lack ot documentation. But the Blige family has main tained a connection to their African-Native American ancestors in their ability to live off the land and their lifelong practice olt faith and spirituality…

Read the entire article here.

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Black History Month celebrates both race and ethnicity

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Campus Life, Media Archive, United States on 2014-02-11 04:45Z by Steven

Black History Month celebrates both race and ethnicity

The Red & Black
University Georgia Student Newspaper
Athens, Georgia

Mariya Lewter, Sphomore
Decatur, Georgia

As a person of “mixed” race, I’ve always found it difficult to truly racially identify myself. Not because I don’t know who I am, but because others refused to accept my definition of who I am.

Growing up, I attended predominantly black schools. There were few kids who looked like me, and I can probably count on one hand how many students were not African-American.

My peers had a hard time guessing my race because I have a light skin complexion, but black facial features and curly hair. So I often got asked the question, “What are you?”…

…I know how I look, but I also know how I feel and how I was raised. I was raised with black culture in a black community with a black family. My blood is only one-fourth Caucasian, but according to everyone around me, because I’m fair-skinned, there was no way I could be black.

This mindset needs to change…

Read the entire article here.

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Growing Up Black in American Apartheid – Ford Pt1

Posted in Autobiography, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States, Videos on 2013-10-24 02:16Z by Steven

Growing Up Black in American Apartheid – Ford Pt1

Reality Asserts Itself
The Real News Network

Paul Jay, Host

Glen Ford, Executive Editor
Black Agenda Report

On Reality Asserts Itself with Paul Jay: Glen Ford, Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, tells his story as a red-diaper baby, growing up facing racism in the North living with his white activist mother, and living in the Deep South with his black deejay father.

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Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, United States on 2013-10-06 23:14Z by Steven


Weekly Banner-Watchman
Athens, Georgia
page 1, columns 3-4
The Athens Historic Newspaper database is a project of the Digital Library of Georgia as part of Georgia HomePLACE.
Transcribed by Steven F. Riley

A Reply By Rev. S. P. Richardson D. D. to a Sermon By Dr. Talmage, Preached in Brooklyn, N.Y. March 3rd, on “The United States, Immigration Ethology, and the Amalgamation of All the Races.

Text Acts XVII and part of the 20th verse, “And hath made of one blood all nations,” (the whole verse) of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” The whole verse shows clearly that God, instead of intending to unite by immigration and amalgamation all nationalities, before determined and appointed their bounds of separation. He gave Africa to Ham, Asia to Shem and Europe and the West to Japheth. He also gave form, brain and color to each family suited to develop the countries in which he placed them.

Dr. Talmadge says: “The advantage of the influx of nations, through mighty additions of foreign population to our above population I think God is giving, to fill this land with a race of people 95 per cent superior to anything the world has ever seen. Marriage outside of one own nationality and with another style of nationality is a mighty gain.”

The Doctor then speaks of himself and of the very great gain by mixing the Scotch and Irish. Dr. Talmage knows that the European nations are largely made up of the white or Japhethic race, all of the one primordial race. The Doctor is a great man in some respects, but what would he have been if only his Scotch and Irish blood had been supplemented with a little sprinkling of negro, Indian and Hottentot? He proposes to make (not the North) “but the whole United States a great caldron, in which to mix all races and all nationalities, and to formulate in this caldron, out of all races, a new race or manhood “95 par cent, superior to anything this world has ever seen.”

The Doctor proves, as he thinks, from his garbled text, and from a scientific analysis of one single part of man, “the blood” that all men are the same. Now if the Doctor really wanted to be fair in his presentation of his subject to the world, why did he not subject the hair, skin, bones and odor of all the races to the same analysis? Why just take one thing, “the blood.” All animals have some one thing in common with man, seeing, hearing and tasting belong to the ass as well as the man.

If all the races are one when put into his big caldron, will they not still be one when he takes them out? If the putting of all the races into the big caldron, with all their different colors and odors, would make them all Scotch-Irish, it might be well to put them in, but so far as the experiment has been made up to date, the facts are that in exact proportion as you put in white, black, or yellow, it comes out white, black or yellow in the very same proportion it was put in. If the white and black mix they will be mulattoes in all coming generations.

I have never seen the results of amalgamation on so large a scale as the Doctor proposes with his great caldron; but I have seen the white, black and Indian, all mixed up in one person, but that person was nothing like Dr. Talmage’s beauty nor was he 95 per cent. beyond anything I had ever seen. The white and yellow were very much marred in the mixture, and the black not much improved, if improved at all. The mulatto may, in some respects, be an improvement on the negro, but he is certainly no improvement on the white man, and in the long run the mulatto, like all the other hybrids, becomes extinct. My long observation goes to prove that in mixing the races all are weakened and none are benefitted. All the different families of the same race may be benefitted by mixing, like the Scotch and the Irish, but never by mixing the races. If God had intended the amalgamation of all the races, why did He, by creation, or miraculous interposition separate the races, and appoint them bounds, and give to each the place of his habitation. The negro is not a human invention, nor is the white or yellow man, but a divine appointment. The three colors are primordial, and are not radically changed by food, or climate. The negro was black four thousand years ago, as he is now. God says he cannot change his skin any more than the leopard can change his spots, and yet the Doctor would change God’s decree.

Europe and the North brought the negro from his God-given home, and sold him to the South, then becoming dissatisfied with what they had done, destroyed a half million of Southern white people to set the four million of negroes free. In their modes of warfare they showed that they were capable of the deepest depravity, and really acted worse than common Savages. Now they are dissatisfied with the freedom of the negro, and their most popular and sensational preacher sounded the bugle note on the 3d of March in Brooklyn, N.Y., to rig up a big caldron, into which be proposes to cast both negroes and whites, and stew them both down to a common mulatto, and destroy both the white and black races, and substitute them with a race of mulattoes, a type of humanity God never made. There is not a mulatto or mule in the primordial type, in the kingdom of nature. The Bible, experience and God in universal nature, are all pronounced against the amalgamation of the races. I have never known a Scotch-Irishman, Dutchman or Englishman, not even a cold blooded Yankee to improve their posterity by mixing with negroes and Indians. Nor have I ever known the negro or Indian much improved by mixing with them. The real facts are the negro has no more affinities for the white and yellow races, than they have for him.

Dr. Talmage says: “There was a time when I entertained race prejudices, but thanks to God that prejudice is gone and if I set in a church on one side a black man and on the other side an Indian and before me a Chinaman and behind me a Turk, I would be as happy as I am now standing in the presence of this brilliant auiience. The sooner we get this corpse of race prejudice buried the healthier will be (not our Northern) but American atmosphere.”  This is the most pronounced social equality and amalgamation I have ever heard from any man. I have denied, that the Northern churches held any such views, and that it was only a ghost of Southern imagination. Dr. Talmage is a representative mam, and knows the mind and feelings of the North.

Dr. Talmage ought to be a good Presbyterian and let God’s divine decrees alone. Did God not ordain the races? The Doctor ought to be tried for heresy and put out of the church for trying to violate the divine decrees by making mulattoes out of people which God has made white and black. I would suggest to the good Doctor and his brilliant congregation, to make the experiment of mixing the races on a smaller scale, and not have so large a funeral all at onca. Let one of the Doctor’s daughters marry a negro, and another a Chinamen, and another a Hottentot, and then let his Elders follow his exaple, and take time and see if, on a small scale, they can produce a race 95 per cent above anything the world has ever seen.  Then show his picture of this new development to his Northern friends, who drive the negro children out of their white public schools.  If the North will fix up large gardens and invite the negroes to come up North among their friends, and then enter into a hearty amalgamation, the negro problem may be solved.

If the good Doctor will take the time and pains to review the history of nations, their decay and final fall, he will see that in most instances their ruin was the result, both religiously and politically of mixing nations and amalgamation. God forbade the Jews to mix with other nations. Dr. Talmage, in the face of the Bible, proposes to build up a great nation out of the very causes that have destroyed greater nations. I have no doubt but our good Dr. Talmage and brilliant Brooklyn congregations would suffer crucifixion before they would mix their families with negroes, Chinamen and Hottentots. This great country has been built up, not by the Hametic or Shemetic races, but by the children of Japheth–English, Dutch, Scotch and Irish, and the country will never be injured by the immigration, of those nationalities, or our amalgamation with them. I am English and German, but no negro or Chinaman. An Englishman or Scotchman is not a foreigner in this country, but one of the same white family. —S. P. Richardson.

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The Life and Times of Mary Musgrove

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Religion, United States, Women on 2013-07-17 03:31Z by Steven

The Life and Times of Mary Musgrove

University Press of Florida
296 pages
6 x 9
Cloth ISBN 13: 978-0-8130-4221-3

Steven C. Hahn, Associate Professor of History
St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota

One of the most recognizable names of the colonial Deep South

The story of Mary Musgrove (1700-1764), a Creek Indian-English woman struggling for success in colonial society, is an improbable one.

As a literate Christian, entrepreneur, and wife of an Anglican clergyman, Mary was one of a small number of “mixed blood” Indians to achieve a position of prominence among English colonists. Born to a Creek mother and an English father, Mary’s bicultural heritage prepared her for an eventful adulthood spent in the rough and tumble world of Colonial Georgia Indian affairs.

Active in diplomacy, trade, and politics—affairs typically dominated by men—Mary worked as an interpreter between the Creek Indians and the colonists–although some argue that she did so for her own gains, altering translations to sway transactions in her favor. Widowed twice in the prime of her life, Mary and her successive husbands claimed vast tracts of land in Georgia (illegally, as British officials would have it) by virtue of her Indian heritage, thereby souring her relationship with the colony’s governing officials and severely straining the colony’s relationship with the Creek Indians.

Using Mary’s life as a narrative thread, Steven Hahn explores the connected histories of the Creek Indians and the colonies of South Carolina and Georgia. He demonstrates how the fluidity of race and gender relations on the southern frontier eventually succumbed to more rigid hierarchies that supported the region’s emerging plantation system.

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Cherokee Phoenix: Remarks on the Report of the Committee on Indian Affairs in the House of Representatives

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2013-06-26 02:26Z by Steven

Cherokee Phoenix: Remarks on the Report of the Committee on Indian Affairs in the House of Representatives

Cherokee Phoenix and Indians’ Advocate
New Echota, Georgia
Wednesday, 1830-03-30
Volume II, Number 50
Page 1, column 1b; Page 2, column 2b
Source: Hunter Library, Western Carolina University and Georgia Historic Newspapers

We have read that part of the report of the Committee on Indian Affairs in the House of Representatives, which describes the condition of the Cherokees, with feelings of indignation, and sincere regret that otherwise intelligent men should be prompted by self-interest, to the reiteration of studied and criminal misrepresentations.  We were aware, considering the political opinions of a majority of the committee, of the general principles which would be promulgated by them, still we did not in the least suppose that, to justify the policy of removing the Cherokees, such unfounded and untenable premises would be resorted to.  But it is even so.  As truth cannot be brought to second their design, misstatements and falsehoods, derived from interested and mercenary persons must be put in requisition.  It matters not what is sacrificed, so that the great arm of removing and destroying (as we do now verily believe) the Indians may be accomplished.  We can now no longer exercise charity for the advocates of Indian emigration, when it is apparent that their design is intended to be brought about by deception-this is the battery to demolish truth and justice, & with what skill and dexterity it is handled, may be learnt from the following extracts of the report.

The committee are constrained to believe, from the effects of the new institutions, [Cherokee Government]  and the sentiments and principles of most of those who have the direction of them that the Cherokee Indians of pure blood, as they did not understand the design, so they are not likely to profit by the new order of things.

The committee here hazard assertions gratuitously. How do they know in the first place, “the sentiments and principles of most of those who have the direction of these new institutions?”  By what process have they been led to the knowledge and  what are the sentiments and principles here spoken of?  Should they not in justice to themselves, have stated what they are?  The sentiments and principles of the Cherokees are contained in the written constitution long ago made public, which secures to every free man equal rights and privileges.- In the second place, how do the committee know that the full blooded Cherokees did not understand the design of these new institutions, and of course are not likely to be profited.  We take it for granted that they did understand them, for these new institutions were sanctioned by them, having been reduced into a written form by persons (some of pure blood too) elected for the purpose by their votes.
When the mixed race began to assert its superiority, may be dated the commencement of the deterioration of the mass of the tribe.

When the mixed Cherokees were admitted into the councils of the nations “may be dated,” the overthrow of Indian prejudices against civilization, and consequently the commencement of that improvement which has so justly distinguished the Cherokees, the assertions of the committee to the contrary notwithstanding.

That part of their ancient usages which secured an equal division of the presents and spoils which fortune threw in their way, has been slowly undermined.  Wealth has long since become the principal badge of distinction among them, and those who possess it constitute a distinct class.  However patriotic or public spirited some few individuals of those who were active in forming the new government may have originally been they have at last been compelled to yield to the general spirit of those around them; and the only tendency yet perceivable in the new institutions has been to enable those who control them to appropriate the whole resources of the tribe to themselves.  For this purpose, they have in effect, taken the regulation of their trade into their own hands.  They appear, also to have established something in the nature of a loan office or bank, in which are deposited the funds arising from the annuities payable by the Government; and these are lent out among themselves or their favorites.  The committee have not been able to learn, that the common Indians have shared any part of the annuities of the tribe, for many years.  The number of those who control the Government are understood not to exceed twenty-five or thirty persons.  These, together with their families and immediate dependents and connexions (sic), may be said to constitute the whole commonwealth, so far as any real advantages can be said to attend the new system of government.  Besides this class, which embraces all the large fortune holders, there are about two hundred families, constituting a middle class in the tribe.  This class is composed of the Indians of mixed blood, and white men with Indian families.  All of them have some property, and may be said to live in some degree of comfort.  The committee are not aware that a single Indian of unmixed blood, belongs to either of the two higher classes of Cherokees, but they suppose there may be a few such among them.  The third class of the free population is composed of Indians, properly so denominated, who, like their brethren of the red race everywhere else, exhibit the same characteristic traits of unconquerable indolence, improvidence, and inordinate love of ardent spirits.  They are the tenants of the wretched huts and villages in the recesses of the mountains and elsewhere, remote from the highways and the neighborhood of the wealthy and prosperous.

In regard to the annuities, we have stated in a previous number of the Phoenix, that they are not divided among the people as in ancient time, but paid into the treasury of the nation and kept as a public fund for the support of the government and other public objects.  Do the committee suppose that these annuities are so large that they are the cause of much wealth and corruption to the “mixed class?”  ???_try do we can tell them better.  The whole amount of these annuities is very little over six thousand dollars and the sum paid yearly to each member of the council “mixed” and “pure blood” for services, is from seventy to one-hundred  dollars.- This small pittance is all they receive.- There is now no “loan office or bank” among the Cherokees.  When there was one, every person; “mixed’ or “pure blood” if he was able to pay, had the liberty of borrowing.  It is therefore false, positively false, when they say that “those who control the new institutions appropriate the whole resources of the tribe to themselves.”  It is a little surprising that the Indian committee in congress should indirectly advocate cold ignorant customs of the Cherokees; such as the custom of dividing among the individuals of the nation, the annuities, a dollar’s worth or so of goods to each, which could not possibly benefit them.  It is civilization which has changed the custom, and however the Hon. Committee may be disposed to impugn the motives of those who have been instrumental in bringing about the change, it is a triumphant instance of the civil improvement of the Cherokees.

But the most remarkable reasoning of the Committee is where they say that the number of those who control the Cherokee government does not exceed twenty-five or thirty.  What of that?  How many control the government of the United States of 12,000,000 inhabitants?  One Chief for 40,000 souls, while the avaricious, the despotic and wealthy “mixed” Cherokee is a representative of only a few hundred.  What did the committee mean?  Did they intend this as an objection to the new institution?

If the committee are not aware whether a single unmixed Cherokee belongs to either of the higher classes, it is because they did not seek testimony from a proper source, or they did not wish to believe existing facts. The speaker of the council of last year was of “pure blood.”-the Clerk of the Council was of “pure blood.”…

Read the entire article here or here.

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Anti-Miscegenation Movement

Posted in Articles, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2013-01-29 05:02Z by Steven

Anti-Miscegenation Movement

Columbus Enquirer-Sun
Columbus, Georgia
page 5, column 3

Source: Digital Library of Georgia

Organization In Louisiana to Prevent the Intermarriage of Whites and Blacks

New Orleans. September 20.—A practical movement has been inaugurated in Bossier parish, in this state, for the abolition of miscegenation. There have been during the past year or so several spasmodic efforts in this direction, both in Louisiana and Mississippi. Self-constituted vigilance committees have warned white men with negro wives and mistresses to leave them and lead a regular life, and when this failed have ridden through the parish, severely whipping both men and women who disobeyed this order.  In Mississippi there were several arrests, convictions and sentences for violation of the law prohibiting intermarriages between the races, and in Louisiana one man was severely cut in a scrimmage arising from this movement. But these anti-miscegenation raids were spasmodic, the freaks of a few wild young men. The present movement is more serious and more general, and is a thorough and practical organization, like that of the prohibitionist, to break up miscegenation.

The first meeting was held in Bossier parish in July, whore the subject was generally discussed, and adjourned over to this month to find the drift of public opinion. It was found that public sentiment among the whites was well nigh unanimous on the subject. The recent meeting held at Cottage Grove, in the upper portion of Bossier parish, was the result. There was no secrecy or mystery about it. It was an open mass meeting, in which all the people of the neighborhood—farmers, clergymen and others—assembled. The meeting was opened with prayer and presided over by a clergyman. The resolutions were of the strongest character. Those guilty of miscegenation were threatened with social boycott, and warned that they were insulting the race feelings and moral principles of the community. But the gist of the meeting was the appointment of a vigilance committee of nineteen to serve notices on these white men living with negro women—the vigilants were not instructed as to what they should if this warning is unheeded—and the appointment of another committee to assist in the organization of anti-miscegenation societies in other parishes in the state.

This plan of operation is warmly supported by the press. The Bossier Banner declares that race purity must be preserved at all hazards, the line must be sharply and distinctly drawn, and those who cross it must pay the penalty. The Robeline Reporter of Natchitoches, edited by the father of the present attorney-general of the state, approves the idea.

As this sentiment prevails in most of the neighboring parishes, it is thought that the present organization, by giving a start to the anti-miscegenation sentiment, which in this part of the state is now stronger than the anti-liquor sentiment, it will spread through north Louisiana if not into the neighboring states of Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas. There is no law in Louisiana against the intermarriage or cohabitation of f[r]aces, this prohibition, which was strongly urged by many persons, being voted down in the late constitutional convention, but miscegenation is growing rarer every day, in deference to the strong public sentiment on this point.

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A Race Question: A Negro Man With a White Wife—Some Nice Points of Law—Indians Have Greater Nuptial Privileges.

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2013-01-28 22:36Z by Steven

A Race Question: A Negro Man With a White Wife—Some Nice Points of Law—Indians Have Greater Nuptial Privileges.

Columbus Enquirer-Sun
Columbus, Georgia
Saturday, 1886-11-20
page 8, columns 3-4

Source: Digital Library of Georgia

A very interesting case, both as to the facts and the nice legal points involved, was tried this week at the circuit court in Seale [Alabama].  A negro man was on trial, charged with living in adultery with an alleged white woman.  The prisoner had been living with the woman as his wife for quite a number of years, and had begotten by her a family of children.  As the parties were seated within the bar of the court, they formed an interesting group. The man was as black as midnight, and in appearance, showed prominently every characteristic of the African make up. The woman, on the other hand, was white of skin and had in every liniament of her features the Caucassian cast of countenance. Their two boys, aged respectively about 8 and 10, sat between the black father on the one side and the white mother on the the other, and were of a yellow or copper color.

The defense was based on the position that the woman, although white to all appearances, was yet of mixed blood. The state conceded that if the woman was of such mixed blood, as in contemplation of law, she would be deemed a negro; that then the man could not be found guilty. But the state insisted that if the woman was in fact, or in law, a white woman, that then her marriage with the defendant was unlawful and invalid, and the living together being admitted, the man would be guilty as charged.  So the case tuned on the point whether the woman was of white or mixed blood.

On this point the woman herself testified that as far back as could remember she was living with negroes; that she had never seen either of her parents, but that her mother was a white woman, and she had been told that her father was a bright mulatto or part Indian.

No other positive testimony was introduced. The state asked the court to charge the jury that if they believed the woman’s testimony that then they must find the prisoner guilty, and argued in support of the request that the woman having been shown to be of white maternity, that by legal presumption she herself ws white until the contrary was shown, or until she was shown to be of negro paternity; that this legal presumption put the burden of proof upon the defendant, which burden was not lifted by her vague and hearsay testimony as to the mixed blood of her father. The court charged as requested.

The defense insisted that testimony about one’s own nativity, such as age, place of birth, parentage, etc., was, in the absence of better testimony, a matter of common report, and as the woman had testified that she had been told that her father was of mixed blood or part Indian, that her testimony on that point should have its due weight, and ashed the court to charge that, looking at the whole testimony, if the jury had a reasonable doubt us to whether the woman was of white or mixed blood, that then they must acquit.

The court again charged as requested.

It cropped out incidentally in the discussion that although it is unlawful for whites and negroes to intermarry, yet one of aboriginal blood may marry either white or black according to his own supreme election and not be subject to any legal penalty. So that, if one is arraigned on a charge of miscegenation, they have only to induce the belief that they are of Indian origin and thereby escape the clutches of the law. There are some curious things in municipal as well as natural law. In this case the verdict was not guilty.

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Let it be proclaimed abroad that miscegenation cannot exist in Georgia.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2013-01-27 03:48Z by Steven

At last we breathe easier. The fiat has gone forth that in Georgia crime shall not go unwhipt of justice, nor shall moral rottenness reek in our midst. Our State will not be a doggery for the depraved, the corrupt, and the vicious of other States. In our midst miscegenation, even when sanctioned by the unholy statutes of other States, shall be crushed out, trampled under foot, and the guilty parties shall meet with sure, certain, condign punishment.

The cases which have been before the District Court for two days past have excited, not interest alone, but deep concern in the minds of our citizens. “Was this hydra-headed monster of corruption to be declared legal? “Was our sense of morality to be insulted? Was the marriage relation to be disgraced and rendered infamous? Were we to be compelled to see festering corruption walking about on the streets, jostling against us in the crowd, staring at us in the public places? These were the questions which arose and perplexed our citizens, and the threatened appeal to United States authority to override our laws, our customs, our sense of moral decency, added a strong feeling to them.

But Judge Lawrence and an impartial jury have spoken. Such things shall not exist. Let those who would disgrace humanity go to Tennessee, go to Massachusetts, go wherever corrupt and infamous lawmakers will protect them; but there is no place for them in Georgia. The ball is in motion, the law will be enforced strictly and to the very letter, and its boa-constrictor folds are now tightening around the neck of crime and corruption. Let it be proclaimed abroad that miscegenation cannot exist in Georgia.

The District Court: The Miscegenationists on Trial—Able Argument of Mr. Irwin—The Ku-Klux Bill Threatened,” The Atlanta Weekly Sun, (August 16, 1871). (Source: Georgia Historic Newspapers).

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The District Court: The Miscegenationists on Trial—Able Argument of Mr. Irwin—The Ku-Klux Bill Threatened.

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2013-01-27 01:41Z by Steven

The District Court: The Miscegenationists on Trial—Able Argument of Mr. Irwin—The Ku-Klux Bill Threatened.

The Atlanta Weekly Sun
page 7, columns 2-5

Source: Georgia Historic Newspapers

The District Court yesterday was the centre of much excitement, and as usual on such occasions, the negroes were out in full force. It was generally understood that the miscegenationists were to be placed on trial.

At the usual time the Court opened, Judge Lawrence in the chair.

  • The State vs. H. Ruddell, gaming, was argued.
  • The State vs. Wm. Beatte, was then taken up.
  • The State vs. Green Martin, larceny from the house, was tried.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty in each of the above cases.

The excitement rose to fever heat when WM. HOBBES, a miserably debased and brutal looking white man, who claimed to be married to a negro wench. Hobbes is an old man, over 60, with gray hair; while the wench who sat by him was black as the ace of spades. He looked the embodiment of all the utter and helpless depravity which it is possible to instil into a human being, while the wench looked really ashamed of her companion. It was stated by us some time since a collection was taken up in one of the negro churches to procure counsel for these persons.

The State was represented ably by Capt W. G.Irwin, District Attorney.—The prisoner was defended by B. H. and A. M. Thrasher, and T. K Oglesby, who, it is stated, have undertaken the defence of all the miscegenationists.

The defence moved for a transfer of the case to the United States District Court. They claimed that under tho 15th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States all persons are equal in the eye of the law; that they have an equal right to marry whom they please, and do what they please. They claimed that Wm. Hobbes, white, and Martha Johnson, colored, were legally married, and were guilty of no offence. They relied on the Civil Rights Bill, the Ku-Klux Bill, and other Congressional machinery, as maintaining their position, and asked this Court to forego action, and refer the matter to the United States District Court.

Capt W. G. Irwin, District Attorney, in a very forcible manner, resisted the motion. He claimed that all such questions as marriage and contracts were exclusively within tho purview of State law; that the Court was well able to attend to its own business, and should do its duty without regard to other bodies.

The Judge decided to go on with the case.

After being gone into and concluded, the jury brought in a verdict of guilty.

WILLIS HARRIS, NEGRO, AND MARY SILVEY, WHITE, were then called up, on a charge of fornication. The Thrashers and Oglesby defended them also. Mary Silvey is a poor, degraded looking woman, whose ignorance is her only excuse,. The parties claim to have been married in Tennessee. The point was admitted by the State.

Capt. W. G. Irwin produced a great array of authorities conclusive of the criminality of the parties, even if married in another State. In controverting the application of the law of comity to this case he claimed that where an act, performed and looked upon as valid in another State, and which was opposed to the interests, policy or Constitution of the State, it was not to be recognized by this State at all. Section 2696 of the Code of Georgia says:

“Sometimes persons are capable to contract by the law of the place of the con- tract, but incapable, under the law of this State. In such case, generally, the law of the place of contract is enforced, unless the circumstances show an attempt to evade the law of this State, or the contract is of such a character as contravenes the POLICY of our law.”

It is impossible for law to be more plainly adapted to a case than this. No intelligent lawyer will deny that if the law of Tennessee regards as valid mixed marriages, to recognize that law would not only be to “contravene” the policy, but the very Constitution of this State, which, in paragraph 9, section 1, article 5 (section 4988 Irwin’s Code) says:

The marriage relation between white persons and persons of African descent, is forever prohibited, and such marriage shall be null and void.

Among the preliminary provisions of the Code of Georgia is a paragraph which plainly declares the extent to which Georgia adheres to the comity of States, and reads as follows:

“Section 9—The laws of other States and foreign nations shall have no force and effect of themselves within this State further than is provided by the Constitution of the United States and is recognized by the comity of States. The courts shall enforce this comity, until restrained by the General Assembly, so long as its enforcement is not contrary to the policy or prejudicial to the interests of this State.

And, again, in Section 1707 of Irwin’s Code we read:

“The marriage relation between white persons and persons of African descent is forever prohibited, and such marriages shall be null and void.”

Capt. Irwin read many other authorities, and made an earnest, manly and patriotic appeal for the preservation of public morality by tho enforcement of the law and, the prevention of such marriages as tend to bring disgrace upon society and humanity.

Barton Thrasher replied, and repeated his ideas about United States Courts, quoting Dick Busteed’s decisions, etc.

The Judge reserved his decision until to-day.

These cases are creating a great deal of excitement among the legal fraternity. We have heard, whether the report be true or false, we do not say, that the defence of these cases had been refused by four legal firms at least. Society and sound morality demands that this disgusting crime shall be punished with the utmost severity of the law. The crime is such as to make the heart turn sick, and we hope that District Attorney Irwin will continue to discharge his duty until the evil is torn up, root, branches and all.

The Miscegenationists Convicted—Judge Lawrence Reads His Decision in the Tennessee Case—Sentences, Etc.

The interest in this Court yesterday was unabated, and the new fledged “suffragists” were out in full force, to see whether the law would allow them to marry ad libitum, and gravely speculated upon the result. It was over an hour before the wheels of justice got into motion, when REV. ORION GEORGE, the negro who married William Hobbes, white, to Martha Johnson, black as charcoal, was called up. His counsel, Albert Thrasher and T. K. Oglesby, seemed to dwell considerably on George’s ignorance of the law, alledging that he was legally compelled to be ignorant of everything until within the last six years, seeming to forget that if he had equal rights under existing laws, that he is also under equal responsibility for his acts, and that if there is injustice in it, it attached to the United States, and not to the State of Georgia. Mr. Thrasher’s argument was based almost entirely upon the Civil Rights Bill. The defence also made a point that Hobbes gave George a regular license to perform the marriage, but forgot (we suppose) to state that the license only authorized George to perform the marriage if there was no legal impediments, and that Hobbes imd Martha Johnson were too dissimilar in color to escape the detection of even the bamboozled George, Mr. Oglesby’s speech sounded like the opening of the campaign of 1872. It made us feel like depositing our ballot instanter—on paper. District Attorney, Irwin, ably sustained the State, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty.

As soon as the verdict was rendered, WILLIS HARRIS AND MARY SILVEY, the Tennessee miscegenationists were called up to hear their verdict, previous to the reading of which the counsel asked leave to say something in mitigation, which was granted.

The Counsel—These parties were married in good faith, in Tennessee. Coming here they were not aware of the consequences. They are now willing to leave the State if the clemency of the Court is extended to them. One of the jurymen, Mr. King, has just informed me that he wishes to say something in mitigation.

The Court—Mr. King has leave to proceed.

Mr. King—Before saying anything, I would like to ask that girl a question.

“The Court—You may ask it.

Mr. King (addressing himself to the woman)—Are you the daughter of Washington Silvey, of Campbell county?

Mary Silvey—I am.

Mr. King—Your Honor, I knew that woman’s father well. He was an honorable man, as was also her grand-father.—Her mother died while this woman was a child, and her father died shortly after. She has never had any good influences around her, has been thrown into disreputable company, and I wish to God to take that poor unfortunate from the side of that nigger.

Mary Silvey—I was poor, with nothing to eat and no clothes. This man took me and gave me clothes and kept me from starvation.

Mr. King—I am sorry for the poor creature, but sincerely hope your Honor will divide them. She has no sense, and is a miserable specimen. I ask this for the sake of those who would be her friends.

The Court—The request will be taken into consideration.

Mr. King appeared to be deeply affected to see the daughter of an old friend and honorable man thus chained to degradation. His Honor then proceeded to read his DECISION IN THE TENNESSEE MARRIAGE CASE.

He spoke substantially as follows:—

This is an accusation of fornication against “Willis Harris, (colored), charging him with living in fornication with one Mary Harris, a white woman, and against said Mary Harris for same offence. The defence set up was Marriage. No evidence was introduced; but it was admitted between counsel that the parties were legally married in the State of Tennessee, as allowed by the laws of that State. At the enquiry of the Court it was stated that the Certificate of Marriage was in Court—but the District Attorney not pressing proof of its authenticity, it was taken to be a true Certificate of the fact of Marriage; and the case was argued at length and with ability by the Counsel on both sides before the Court, August 8th. The Court reserved its judgment until this morning, August 9th. At first glance, and before argument of Counsel, I was inclined to the opinion that the lex loci contractus would govern the case, and so intimated to Counsel, for the purpose of having the argument directed to that point I cannot award too much praise to the ability and zeal of the District Attorney exhibited in the array of law and precedent brought to bear on the question, and which served to dissipate from the mind of the Court all doubt prima facie entertained.

Upon examination of the law and authority cited by him, (viz: Code of Georgia—Sect 9, 1709—2696; a. a. 1868; Georgia Reports—34, p. 40; Georgia Reports—38, 75, 86; Georgia Reports—29, 321; Georgia Reports 36, 388, 389; Story, conflict of laws, Sect 29;) I am fully satisfied that the intermarriage of the parties in the State of Tennessee, however legal in that State, must be held to be null and void in this State.

The setting aside the general principle of the lex loci contractus in this case proceeds on the ground that such marriage is in contravention of the public policy of our State—vide authorities above cited. Public policy, adopted and upheld for the support and improvement of the morals, the peace, the good order and security of society in a State, is of itself ex-necessitate in view of the importance of these objects, of paramount authority, and must override special principles of law, however just in themselves, and long respected and observed, when these conflict with such public policy. Under the laws, for instance, of Utah, or customs having the force of laws with them, a man may have any number of wives. Now, though this may bo perfectly legal and right there, in the state of society these existing, can it be supposed that any State where the Monogamic relation between the sexes is preserved and upheld by law, would for an instant suffer a polygamic citizen of Utah to move into its midst, and corrnpt society by his example? Surely not. But is it less offence against the public policy of the State or the good taste and feeling of its citizens to suffer parties to cross the border of a neighboring State, and bring with them relations forbidden byoour laws or grounds of public policy? No—assuredly no.

In ruling then that the marriage of the parties in Tennessee is null and void, and that the lex fori must be given the case, it follows that the parties are guilty of the accusation.

The case of Ada Thompson, for vagrancy, was taken up, and a verdict of guilty was rendered.

His Honor then announced himself prepared for THE READING OF THE SENTENCES.

The miscegenationists, et. al., were ranged in a row, and received their various assignments with due composure.

  • The State vs. Wm. Hobbes, white, living in fornication with Martha Johnson, colored; fine of $1,000, or six months in limbo.
  • The State vs. Martha Johnson, colored, living in fornication with Wm. Hobbes, white; $200, or three months in limbo.
  • The State vs. Willis Harris, colored, living in fornication with Mary Silvey, white; $250, or six months in limbo.
  • The State vs. Mary Silvey, white, living in fornication with Willis Harris, negro; $1,000, or six months in limbo.
  • The State vs. Orion George, negro preacher, marrying parties forbidden by law; $50 and costs, or ten days in his prison cell.
  • The State vs. Green Martin, larceny from house; $100, or six months on the public works.
  • The State vs. Wm. Beatte, larceny from the house; $100, or six months on public works.

The miscegenationists, through their counsel, have given notice that they will certiorari the cases.


The Boa Constrictor of Law Tightening its Folds around Vice and Immorality.

The Moral Feelings of the People Vindicated.


At last we breathe easier. The fiat has gone forth that in Georgia crime shall not go unwhipt of justice, nor shall moral rottenness reek in our midst. Our State will not be a doggery for the depraved, the corrupt, and the vicious of other States. In our midst miscegenation, even when sanctioned by the unholy statutes of other States, shall be crushed out, trampled under foot, and the guilty parties shall meet with sure, certain, condign punishment.

The cases which have been before the District Court for two days past have excited, not interest alone, but deep concern in the minds of our citizens. “Was this hydra-headed monster of corruption to be declared legal? “Was our sense of morality to be insulted? Was the marriage relation to be disgraced and rendered infamous? Were we to be compelled to see festering corruption walking about on the streets, jostling against us in the crowd, staring at us in the public places? These were the questions which arose and perplexed our citizens, and the threatened appeal to United States authority to override our laws, our customs, our sense of moral decency, added a strong feeling to them.

But Judge Lawrence and an impartial jury have spoken. Such things shall not exist. Let those who would disgrace humanity go to Tennessee, go to Massachusetts, go wherever corrupt and infamous lawmakers will protect them; but there is no place for them in Georgia. The ball is in motion, the law will be enforced strictly and to the very letter, and its boa-constrictor folds are now tightening around the neck of crime and corruption. Let it be proclaimed abroad that miscegenation cannot exist in Georgia.


The City Council and Soda Water—Mr.Tignor Explains Sabbath Violations.

The Court room yesterday morning was not infested with as many niggers as usual; and, no doubt, the sad fate of the miscegenationists contributed to this absence. It was again over an hour after the regular time before tho Court proceeded to business…

…The case of Meister, white, miscegenationist, was continued until September.

  • Wm. Mathershed, an old white man, apparently on the brink of the grave, was found guilty of miscegenation. His sentence will be read to-day.
  • Squire Manuel, negro, miscegenation. Plead guilty. Sentenced to $500 fine, or six months at hard labor.
  • Hampton Scott, negro, miscegenation. Pleaded marriage. Fined $500 or six months hard labor.

Read the entire article here.

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