Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation

Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation

by Malinda Maynor Lowery


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With more than 50,000 enrolled members, North Carolina's Lumbee Indians are the largest Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River. Malinda Maynor Lowery, a Lumbee herself, describes how, between Reconstruction and the 1950s, the Lumbee crafted and maintained a distinct identity in an era defined by racial segregation in the South and paternalistic policies for Indians throughout the nation. They did so against the backdrop of some of the central issues in American history, including race, class, politics, and citizenship.

Lowery argues that "Indian" is a dynamic identity that, for outsiders, sometimes hinged on the presence of "Indian blood" (for federal New Deal policy makers) and sometimes on the absence of "black blood" (for southern white segregationists). Lumbee people themselves have constructed their identity in layers that tie together kin and place, race and class, tribe and nation; however, Indians have not always agreed on how to weave this fabric into a whole. Using photographs, letters, genealogy, federal and state records, and first-person family history, Lowery narrates this compelling conversation between insiders and outsiders, demonstrating how the Lumbee People challenged the boundaries of Indian, southern, and American identities.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807871119
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 04/15/2010
Edition description: 1
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 726,122
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Malinda Maynor Lowery (Lumbee) is an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a native of Robeson County, North Carolina.

Table of Contents

Preface Telling Our Own Stories xi

Acknowledgments xxi

A Note on Terms xxv

Introduction Coming Together 1

1 Adapting to Segregation 19

2 Making Home and Making Leaders 55

3 Taking Sides 81

4 Confronting the New Deal 121

5 Pembroke Farms Gaining Economic Autonomy 149

6 Measuring Identity 181

7 Recognizing the Lumbee 213

Conclusion Creating a Lumbee and Tuscarora Future 251

Appendix 265

Notes 275

Index 331

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

This is the first book to construct a full, layered sense of who the Lumbees are—and how they became who they are—as a Native American community. Lowery demonstrates that the core characteristics of kinship, reciprocity, and relationship to land have persisted in Lumbee identity, even as Lumbees—in dialogue with outsiders—enfolded new elements into their collective sense of self. Lowery's cogent explanation of the choices Lumbees made to accept the racial logic of Jim Crow in order to strive for community independence is nuanced, sensitive, and convincing. Her book will be a major contribution to American Indian, southern, and African American historical studies.—Tiya Miles, University of Michigan

Lowery's book is a wonderfully rich account of Lumbee history in the segregated South under Jim Crow and makes a valuable contribution to American Indian history and the history of the American South. A lively exploration of Lumbee identity in post-Civil War North Carolina, it figures identity as a complex and not always polite 'conversation' between insiders and outsiders that changes over time. Her argument is solidly grounded in archival research and also interweaves personal and family stories that enhance the narrative in beautiful ways. Her insights on race, identity, and recognition are subtle, nuanced, and powerful.—Jean O'Brien, University of Minnesota

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Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
THE PERILS OF RELYING ON ORAL TRADITION: Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery is an Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and holds a B.A. in History and Literature from Harvard University, an M.A. in Documentary Film Production from Stanford, and a Ph.D. in History from UNC-Chapel Hill. She also happens to be a Lumbee Indian. Professor Lowery claims that the Lumbees, numbering about 50,000, are the largest Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River. She acknowledges that they have no reservation, no treaties with the federal government, and no survivals of Indian language, customs, or beliefs. Her book purports to show how the Lumbee Indians have crafted an identity as a people, a race, a tribe, and a nation in a dialogue between insiders and outsiders. Lowery's argument is based on her extensive knowledge of the history of Native American relations with federal and state authorities and a sophisticated understanding of the concepts of the terms race, tribe, and nation. She notes that these terms were imposed upon Native Americans by Europeans, and they must be viewed in the context of changing times. She frankly admits that both Lumbees and outsiders have used these terms to achieve certain goals in various contestations involving identity politics. During the colonial period, the ancestors of the Lumbees were considered free Negroes or mulattoes. In the federal censuses from 1790 to 1830, Lumbee ancestors were listed as free persons of color, a vague term that was used to describe people of racially mixed ancestry. Under the North Carolina Constitution of 1776, they were eligible to vote if they met the property qualification. The Lumbee ancestors were willing to accept free black identity, rather than be disqualified from voting as were American Indians, who were considered at that time to be members of foreign nations. During the Civil War, the Lumbees were assigned fortification duty, a job normally reserved for slaves and free blacks. In March 1865, Allen Lowery and his son William were murdered by the White Home Guard on suspicion that they deserted from fortification duty in Wilmington and aided escaped Union prisoners. Henry Berry Lowery, another son of Allen Lowery, led a band that took revenge on the murderers of his father and brother. From that day to the present, the Lowery Gang has been celebrated as legendary heroes. North Carolina's 1868 Constitution, passed under Republican rule during Reconstruction, allowed non-whites, including the Lumbees, the right to vote. When the Democrats regained control of the state legislature in 1875, they instituted a system of segregated schools. The so-called Redeemers sought the support of the Lumbees, who had voted up until then as Republicans. In 1885, a state legislator from Robeson County named Hamilton Macmillan introduced a bill to recognize the Lumbees as the Croatan Indian tribe, based on a folk legend that they were descended from the Lost Colony of Roanoke whose only remnant was the name Croatan carved on a palisade. Two years after the recognition of the Croatan Indians, the legislature provided public funds for an Indian normal school, later renamed Pembroke College, which is today the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Lowery acknowledges that the Lumbees assumed the identity as Indians as part of a political deal to vote Democratic so that they could establish their own segregated schools. Lowery rationalizes this deal as the Lumbees's adopting (and adapting to) racial segregation and creating political and social institutions that protected their distinct identity. Federal recognition required descent from a known tribe, and there was some doubt whether the name Croatan referred to a place or a people. In 1913, the Lumbees petitioned the state of North Carolina to designate them as the Cherokee Indians of Robeson County. The federal Office of Indian Affairs (the Bureau of Indian Affairs, today) turned down the Lumbee petition on the grounds that if they were descended from any tribe, it would have been the Siouan-speaking Cheraw Indians from same region of North Carolina as the Lumbees. Other Lumbees maintain that their ancestors were Tuscarora Indians who migrated from eastern Carolina after they were defeated in the Tuscarora War (1711-15). Professor Lowery notes another legendary incident that occurred in January 1958, when a group of about seventy Ku Klux Klan members led by Reverend James Catfish Cole attempted to hold a rally outside the town of Maxton, North Carolina. The rally was disrupted by a group of several hundred armed Lumbees, who fired shots causing the Klan members to flee. The incident became the subject of a folk revival song written by Malvina Reynolds and recorded by Pete Seeger titled The Battle of Maxton Field. Lowery interprets the incident as follows: Indian values of family and complementary gender roles called on men to protect their families when threatened by outsiders. The irony is that the Klan rally was advertised as opposing desegregation, and the Lumbees resisted the federal mandate to desegregate their Indian-only schools. Professor Lowery argues that Indian identity is a historical process, not a fixed constant, but she admits that the only evidence of Indian descent is oral tradition. In this context of competing definitions of Indian identity, defining a people is so capricious that hearing stories and having conversations are sometimes the only consistent methods by which we gain understanding. The only problem is that Lowery dismisses published genealogical evidence--which she, incidentally, mentions in her bibliography--that conclusively proves that the Lumbees are descended from free-black property owners, most of whom migrated from Virginia to North Carolina during the colonial period. -- David Steven Cohen, Ph.D., Journal of American Folklore
Anonymous More than 1 year ago