Wednesday, February 23, 2011

African American History of New York Before the British

by Janet Crain
Black History Month is drawing to a close and I wanted to present this little known aspect of American History. Free and enslaved blacks played an important part in Dutch Manhattan. I am presently reading The Island in the Center of the World by Russell Shorto. The author has the amazing ability to make the teeming city of Manhattan disappear and enable the reader to see the meadows and hills, streams and waterfalls, all gone now and flattened into the foundation of the high rent district of the most powerful city in the world. He brings the people back to life also and the African Americans who were there from the first receive their due importance.

Free Blacks and Slaves In Dutch Manhattan
African American History of New York Before the British

Nov 19, 2009 Melissa Cooper
Slavery in New York

The early history of black life in New York City includes slaves, servants and free men, and dates back to the earliest days of the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam.

According to Leslie M. Harris, author of In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City 1626-1863, the first known European-based settler of Manhattan was a free black, or mixed race, sailor named Jan Rodrigues. In 1613, Rodrigues was marooned on the island of Manhattan, put ashore off a Dutch trader by his shipmates for unknown reasons. He appears to have adapted readily to Native American life, becoming fluent in several native languages and eventually marrying a woman of the Rockaway tribe. As the wave of European explorers and traders arrived on the island, Rodrigues thrived as a translator, negotiator and trader.
Changing European Rationale for Slavery

In 1625, a small group of persecuted Walloons settled on the green island that the Lenape Indians called Mannahatta, or Island of Many Hills. The following year, eleven African slaves, owned by the Dutch West India Company, joined them.

By the 1640s, New Amsterdam was home to black and Native American slaves, free blacks, and black and white indentured servants. Originally only non-Christians could be kept as slaves with the supposed goal of bringing them to God. Conversion would theoretically lead to freedom. But as the colony's dependence on slave labor increased, the rules and rationale would change. By the mid-1850s, the Dutch Church stopped converting blacks. Race, not religion, was becoming the distinguishing mark of the slave.
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Free Blacks and Property Rights Under the Dutch

Slavery under the Dutch was very different than it would be under the British or in the post revolutionary United States. Free blacks had the uncontested legal right to own property; that ownership was, according to Peter Stuyvesant, “true and free.” In 1647, records state that among a group of settlers who had gathered to await Stuyvesant’s return from Europe, were whites, slaves and free blacks, including Anna von Angola, an African widow who had recently been granted ownership of a farm on Manhattan.
Legal Rights of Slaves Under the Dutch

Slaves too had property rights, although they were prohibited from owning either real estate or human beings. Slaves, like free blacks, had legal rights and access to the court system. They regularly filed, and often won, suits against Europeans for damages, unpaid wages and other wrongs. Slave testimony was accepted in court, and slaves could work for wages.
Half-freedom and the Start of New York's Free Black Community

In 1644, slaves used the court system to petition for freedom. The Dutch responded by granting "half-freedom" to the original eleven slaves and their wives. Half-freedom was a newly created legal state that permitted these blacks to live as free, self-sufficient men and women on gifted land near the Fresh Water Pond. But half-freedom also imposed conditions: the newly freed blacks had to work, whenever called upon, for the Dutch West India Company and pay an annual tribute. If they did not meet these conditions, they could again be made slaves. The state of half-freedom could not be passed to their children, who remained slaves.

The land given to New Amsterdam's half-free blacks would develop into the center of Manhattan's free black community. Two hundred years later, the area would be known as the Five Points, a notorious slum of blacks and Irish immigrants.

Blacks in New Amsterdam's Final Days

In 1663, as they prepared to cede ownership of New Amsterdam to the British, the Dutch granted complete freedom to all half-free blacks. When the British took over the following year, Manhattan's black population included approximately three hundred slaves and 75 free blacks, thirty of whom were landowners.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Big Sale at Family Tree DNA Ending in 20 Hours

Family Tree DNA currently has an offer via their Facebook page for 40% off a range of DNA tests for 24 hours only in celebration of the company receiving 5000 likes on their fan page. The offer applies to NEW kits only.
Full details are on their Facebook page.
You do not have to join Facebook or "like" the page to qualify for the discount.
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Monday, February 7, 2011

Cumberland Gap Homecoming

Cumberland Gap Homecoming

All events will be held in the Holiday Inn Express in Middlesboro, Kentucky (1252 N. 12th St.), right on the main drag just north of the Cumberland Gap.  These sessions are sponsored by the Cumberland Gap Yahoo internet group who has a shared interest in how DNA can help with genealogy research.  Sessions are free, but seating is limited, so first folks there get to sit down.
A few rooms at a discounted rate are still available at the Holiday Inn for this group by calling the hotel directly at 606-248-6860 and telling them you are with the Cumberland Gap Homecoming.  After the Holiday Inn fills up, the Sleep Inn next door may have rooms available.

Bring your research and genealogy, a pedigree chart and be prepared to share.  Come and sit a spell.

Sessions are only scheduled for the mornings so participants will have time to enjoy the rest of the events being held at the Cumberland Gap Jamboree.
Each evening, companionship time will be offered in the meeting room for visiting and discussing the events of the day.

For updates to this schedule, I recommend subscribing to the Historical Melungeons, Native Americans and Appalachians Blog at or subscribing to our Yahoo group by sending an e-mail to:
If you are interested in the Cumberland Gap DNA project, we have two projects, one for paternal (yline) DNA that follows the male last name, and one for maternal (mitochondrial) DNA which follows the maternal (mother, mother’s mother, etc.) DNA and genealogical lines. 
You can also e-mail me or my co-administrators for the project FAQ - Roberta Estes,, Penny Ferguson or Janet Crain  
This schedule is not cast in concrete and is subject to change.  Hope to see you in June.

Cumberland Gap Homecoming Schedule

Wednesday, June 8th - Welcome Reception - 7 PM - Holiday Inn Meeting Room (all events are in the meeting room)
Welcome to this informal reception.  Please grab a munchie (Walmart is across the street) and bring along to share.  Bring your own nonalcoholic drink.

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

8:30 - 9:30 DNA and Genealogy Introduction - Roberta Estes
Come and learn about how DNA can be used for genealogical research.  You’ll learn about how DNA testing works for both males and females.  We’ll make science understandable, and by the end of this lecture, you’ll be putting together your own genealogical DNA test plan.  Bring your pedigree chart along for quick reference.
9:30-9:45 - Break

9:45 - 10:45 Pennsylvania Connection to the Cumberland Gap - Arnold McClure

How Pennsylvania ties into the migrations through the Cumberland Gap, down the Shenandoah Valley and down the Ohio Valley to Kentucky.  Mr. McClure will offer a timeline for the migrations and answer questions you may have about your own ancestry that may help with your research.

10:45 - 11:00 - Break

11:00 - 12:00 - Twists and Turns in the Rocky Road - Roberta Estes

This fun filled lecture uses case studies of both Y-line (paternal) and mitochondrial (maternal) DNA testing to show how DNA can be used to both prove and disprove relationships between people.  Be prepared for surprises.  This is our most entertaining and most requested presentation and makes a few family skeletons dance.

7:00 - Sit a Spell
Just come and visit, exchange info, share stories....and well....just sit a spell.  

Friday, June 10th, 2011

8:30 - 9:30 Yikes, My Results are Back!  Now What??? - Roberta Estes
Have DNA results but aren’t sure what to do with them?  This session walks you through how to interpret your results and how to get the most out them.  This presentation is for both Y-line and mitochondrial DNA.

9:30-9:45 - Break

9:45 - 10:15 Women Who Spied for the Confederacy - Connie Lawson
Eleven women of various social and economic backgrounds who spied for the Confederacy during the Civil War

10:15 - 10:30 Break

10:30 - 12:00 Where Have all the Indians Gone? - Roberta Estes
This presentation uses the information presented in Robertas most recent academic publication titled “Where Have All the Indians Gone?"  This unique approach combines long buried historical data about the Native American tribes that inhabited the area between the Atlantic seaboard and the Appalachian Mountains with DNA information to provide both answers and new questions.  Where are the descendants of the Indians today?  Who are they?  Where are they?  What happened? 

7:00 Sit a Spell

Saturday, June 11, 2011

8:30 - 9:30 The Melungeons - Jack Goins
Who were the Melungeons?  Where did they come from?  Who were their ancestors?  Are you descended from a Melungeon family?  Learn about these fascinating people from the premier Melungeon researcher and Hawkins County Archivist.

9:30 - 9:45 Break

9:45 - 10:45 Melungeons and DNA, the Untold Story - Roberta Estes

This presentation combines history, genealogy and DNA to address the mystery and myth of the Melungeons of Hancock and Hawkins County, Tennessee, their ancestors and descendants.

10:45 - 11:00 Break

11:00 - 12:00 Cumberland Gap Migrations - Roberta Estes

Who were the pioneers who settled in the Cumberland Gap area?  Where did they come from?  Who stayed and who used the Gap as a gateway to the west?  What does the DNA of the members of the Cumberland Gap group tell us about those hearty pioneers, where they came from, and who they really were???  Join us on our journey along the Wilderness Road to discover their history.

7:00 - Sit A Spell

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

John Powell, his own worst enemy and everyone else's

What do Margaret Sanger, Marie Stopes, H. G. Wells, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Emile Zola, George Bernard Shaw, John Maynard Keynes, John Harvey Kellogg, Linus Pauling, Sidney Webb and many other prominent Americans have in common with Hitler? Eugenics; an idea conceived with good intentions, but nourished in bigotry, class-ism, condescending paternalism, and finally inhuman solutions. Its most infamous proponent and practitioner was Adolf Hitler who praised and incorporated eugenic ideas in Mein Kampf and emulated Eugenic legislation for the sterilization of ‘defectives’ that had been pioneered in the United States.” Who were those pioneers?

Eugenics would have been so much bizarre parlor talk had it not been for extensive financing by corporate philanthropies, specifically the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune. They were all in league with some of America's most respected scientists hailing from such prestigious universities as Stamford, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton. These academicians espoused race theory and race science, and then faked and twisted data to serve eugenics' racist aims.

In addition to those named above; Virginia white supremists who committed horrendous acts of prejudice; Walter Plecker and John Powell were until recently little known outside their home state. If the Melungeon awakening had not occurred these two men may not have as yet, become as well known as they now are.

And even so, John Powell's name is just now being removed from the music building, Powell Hall, at Radford University in spite of the findings of students who researched him and asked for this removal in 2005.

It is interesting to note that this damning information was well known for many years previously and John Powell was a popular subject on the Rootsweb Melungeon mailing list prior to 2005.

It is tragic that a person with John Powell's enormous gifts of intellect and talent was blindsided and hindered by his own prejudices. He believed Anglo Saxon music superior to any other music including German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Jewish, Oriental, and of course American Indian or African. And just as he sought to keep the "Anglo Saxon race" pure, he strove to keep music pure from any of these polluting influences.  Apparently his extensive education had not imparted to him that the Anglo Saxons were a Germanic people originally and in any case, a small part of England's over all genetic make up.

One is tempted to hope that Hell for him is to spend an eternity being laughed at for his insufferable, pompous, pseud-intellectual, ignorance. But I digress.

Here is his story:

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Documentary Genocide: Families Surnames on Racial Hit List

 As despicable as Walter A. Plecker was, he did not operate alone. There were others whose wealth, high position and influence destroyed many lives. Tomorrow we will meet one of them.

Documentary Genocide: Families Surnames on Racial Hit List

By Peter Hardin, Times-Dispatch Washington Correspondent
Sunday,March 5, 2000 A1

Long before the Indian woman gave birth to a baby boy, Virginia branded him with a race other than his own.

The young Monacan Indian mother delivered her son at Lynchburg General Hospital in 1971. Proud of her Indian heritage, the woman was dismayed when hospital officials designated him as black on his birth certificate. They threatened to bar his discharge unless she acquiesced. The original orders came from Richmond generations ago.

Virginia’s former longtime registrar of the Bureau of Vital Statistics, Dr. Walter Ashby Plecker, believed there were no real native-born Indians in Virginia and anybody claiming to be Indian had a mix of black blood.

In aggressively policing the color line, he classified “pseudo-Indians” as black and even issued in 1943 a hit list of surnames belonging to “mongrel” or mixed-blood families suspected of having Negro ancestry who must not be allowed to pass as Indian or white.

With hateful language, he denounced their tactics.

” . . . Like rats when you are not watching, [they] have been `sneaking’ in their birth certificates through their own midwives, giving either Indian or white racial classification,” Plecker wrote.

Twenty-eight years later, the Monacan mother’s surname still was on Plecker’s list. She argued forcefully with hospital officials. She lost.

Today, the woman’s eyes reveal her lingering pain. She consulted with civil rights lawyers and eventually won a correction on her son’s birth certificate.

“I don’t think the prejudice will ever stop,” said the woman, who agreed to talk to a reporter only on condition of anonymity.

She waged a personal battle in modern times against the bitter legacy of Plecker, who ran the bureau from 1912 to 1946. A racial supremacist, Plecker and his influential allies helped shape one of the darkest chapters of Virginia’s history. It was an epoch of Virginia-sponsored racism.

A physician born just before the Civil War, Plecker embraced the now-discredited eugenics movement as a scientific rationale for preserving Caucasian racial purity. He saw only two races, Caucasian and non-Caucasian, and staunchly opposed their “amalgamation.”

After helping win passage in 1924 of a strict race classification and anti-miscegenation law called the Racial Integrity Act, Plecker engaged in a zealous campaign to prevent what he considered “destruction of the white or higher civilization.”

When he perceived Indians as threats to enforcing the color line, he used the tools of his office to endeavor to crush them and deny their existence.

Many Western tribes experienced government neglect during the 20th century, but the Virginia story was different: The Indians were consciously targeted for mistreatment.

Plecker changed racial labels on vital records to classify Indians as “colored,” investigated the pedigrees of racially “suspect” citizens, and provided information to block or annul interracial marriages with whites. He testified against Indians who challenged the law.

Virginia’s Indians refused to die out, although untold numbers moved away or assumed a low profile.

Now, eight surviving tribes recognized by Virginia in the 1980s are preparing to seek sovereign status from the U.S. government through an act of Congress. About 3,000 of the 15,000 Indians counted in Virginia in the 1990 census were indigenous to the state, experts say.

As they bid for federal recognition, more Indian leaders are talking openly about the injustice of Plecker’s era. They gave a copy of his 1943 “hit list” to Virginia members of Congress along with other data in support of their bid.

Modern scholars have studied Plecker and the racial integrity era. Their findings contributed to this article. Yet he’s not widely known today.

“It’s an untold story,” said Oliver Perry, chief emeritus of the Nansemond Tribe.

“It’s not that we’re trying to dig him up and re-inter him again,” said Gene Adkins, assistant chief of the Eastern Chickahominy Tribe.

“We want people to know that he did damage the Indian population here in the state. And it’s taken us years, even up to now, to try to get out from under what he did. It’s a sad situation, really sad.”

Said Chief William P. Miles of the Pamunkey Tribe: “He came very close to committing statistical genocide on Native Americans in Virginia.”

Chief G. Anne Richardson of the Rappahannock Tribe spoke bluntly: “Devastation. Holocaust. Genocide.

“Those are the words I would use to describe what he did to us,” she said. “It was obvious his goal was the demise of all Native Americans in Virginia. . . . We were not allowed to be who we are in our own country, by officials in the government.”

For people of Indian heritage, Plecker’s name “brings to mind a feeling that a Jew would have for the name of Hitler,” said Russell E. Booker Jr., Virginia registrar from 1982 to 1995. That view “certainly is justified.”

Indeed, one of Plecker’s most chilling letters mentioned Adolf Hitler - and not unfavorably.

“Our own indexed birth and marriage records showing race reach back to 1853,” Plecker wrote U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier in 1943. “Such a study has probably never been made before.

“Your staff member is probably correct in his surmise that Hitler’s genealogical study of the Jews is not more complete.”

Plecker also used haunting rhetoric in publishing a brochure on “Virginia’s Vanished Race” a month before his death in 1947. He asked, “Is the integrity of the master race, with our Indians as a demonstration, also to pass by the mongrelizations route?”

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

You could win $20,000 and a journey to your family's homeland. is partnering with NBC to help celebrities discover their family stories in Season 2 of Who Do You Think You Are? And giving you a chance to win an amazing experience of your own.

NBC's acclaimed alternative series "Who Do You Think You Are?" follows some of today's most beloved and iconic celebrities as they embark on personal journeys of self-discovery to trace their family trees. From the trenches of the Civil War to the shores of the Caribbean, and from the valleys of Virginia to the island nations of Australia and Ireland, each episode will reveal surprising, inspiring and sometimes tragic stories that are often linked to events in American and international history.

The celebrities featured in the second season are Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Rosie O’Donnell, Steve Buscemi, Kim Cattrall, Lionel Richie, Vanessa Williams and Ashley Judd.

Each week, a different celebrity is taken on a quest into his or her family history. The search is one of surprising and deeply emotional encounters, resulting in one of the most compelling reality formats of recent years. During each episode, viewers will be taken on a personal and often mysterious quest following some of America's best-known celebrities into their ancestral pasts, as they uncover stories of heroism and tragedy, love and betrayal, secrets and intrigue, that lie at the heart of their family history.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Walk Toward the Sunset Again

 I'm glad to see this play running once again, but would like some documentation for the statement that Melungeons couldn't own land or get an education in the mid-1900's. And for the statement that Chief Attakullakulla was a good friend to the Melungeons. JC

Emily Myers and Jesse Reed struggle with life in post-Civil War
Hancock County during “Walk Toward the Sunset.”

Walters State Community College brings a regional favorite to a new generation with the drama “Walk Towards the Sunset.” The play, written by Kermit Hunter, tells the story of the Melungeon people, a disenfranchised group centered in Hancock County.

Melungeons are a mixed-race group, which, even in the mid-1900s, were denied the right to own property or obtain an education.

The play ran as an outdoor drama for from 1969-1975 in Sneedville. Historian and author Wayne Winkler credits the play with creating a sense of pride among the Melungeon people.

“Even today, there are Melungeons who don’t want to admit or discuss their heritage. But those who do talk, do so openly and often loudly,” Winkler said.

Bringing the play back to life has been a welcome challenge for Walters State students, according to director Jerry Maloy, associate professor of music and theatre at Walters State. The cast includes several proud Melungeons (some of whom are cast as an angry mob) and many students have embraced the mystery surrounding the people.

“Every day, a student comes into class eager to share something new learned about the group or that someone they know has Melungeon roots,” Maloy shared. Maloy also has special praise for Adele McDonald, music director of the “Walk Toward the Sunset.”

The play has exposed students to the Melungeon world, but it has also given them a glimpse into the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian Nation. Native American Fred Bradley appears as Chief Atakullakulla, a friend of the Melungeon people.

The play is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 3, 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 5 and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 6. Saturday night’s performance is part of “The Mildred Haun Festival: A Celebration of Appalachian Literature, Culture and Scholarship.” Hunter and Winkler, author of “Walking Toward the Sunset” will both be part of a panel discussion following this performance and tickets will be on a space-available basis. That performance begins at 8 p.m.

Tickets for other performances are $5. Reservations may be made by calling the Division of Humanities at (423) 585-6947.

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