Geneaus

African American Genealogy and Spirituality in the U.S.

There were a collection of genealogies called Free African Americans of North Carolina and Virginia by Paul Heinegg.  In this publication, Heinegg writes of "light-skinned descendants of families formed the tri-racial isolate communities of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Louisiana." 

I've heard stories from family about my great-grandmother Mary Wilson of North Carolina. They used to say: "she had long straight hair and she was extremely light, she was Indian.  Your grandfather was the darkest one of all the children, and folks used to comment on that." 

Mary Wilson was one of these "light-skinned descendants".  Rumor has it that these people were unidentifiable.  People did not know if they were Black, White, Indian, Portuguese, or other.  What was said was that Sir Raleigh left Roanoke to travel back across the ocean he left everyone behind and by the time he returned everyone was gone, but what was speculated was that they mixed with the Native Americans and eventually through mixed breeding the white was wiped out and what was left were these "light-skinned" people:


Some of the lighter-skinned descendants of these families formed their own distinct communities which have been the subject of anthropological research. Those in Robeson County are called "Lumbee Indians," in Halifax and Warren Counties — "Haliwa-Saponi," in South Carolina — "Brass Ankles" and "Turks," in Tennessee and Kentucky — "Melungeons" and "Portuguese," and in Ohio — "Carmel Indians." Several fantastic theories on their origin have been suggested. One is that they were from Raleigh's lost colony at Roanoke and another that they were an amalgamation of the Siouan-speaking tribes in North and South Carolina [Blu, The Lumbee Problem, 36-41].