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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Of Melungeons and Other Historical Mysteries

Arch Goins and family, Melungeons from Graysville, Tennessee, c. 1920s

Arch Goins and family, Melungeons from Graysville, Tennessee, c. 1920s

When Dr. Thomas Walker and Daniel Boone first explored what they would name the Cumberland Gap, the pass which allowed western expansion by the colonists in the Mid-Atlantic region in 1750 – they found a group of folks living in the area who were not Native Americans. They spoke English, and by appearances were neither white, black, or Native American. They became known as Melungeons, partially based on an early statement by one of the group that they were “Portugee”.

Theories have abounded as to how thee folks got there, and from where they came from. The most romantic of which claimed that they were descendants of survivors of the “Lost Colony” and Virginia Dare on Roanoke Island near the border of Virginia and North Carolina who mysteriously disappeared in 1586/7. Others have it they were the descendants of Portugese sailors and Turkish slaves who had been shipwrecked along the Barrier Islands protecting the Carolina and Virginia coasts during the 15th or 16th Century. Still another had them as descendents of slaves originating from the first Spanish Colony located on the Virginia/North Carolina Coast founded by Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón in 1526, which was destroyed by a slave revolt.

None of these historical theories was true.

Another long standing mystery is what happened to the initial African slaves brought to Virginia in 1619. Because there were no slave laws in Virgina at that time – they were purchased as Indentured Servants. Serving of a period of years to pay back the cost of their voyage – or “purchase” cost…

After which they became free, along with the hundreds of thousands of white Europeans who had been brought to the Colonies as Indentured Servants typically to pay off their debts. Permanent black slavery wasnt legally institutionalized in Virginia until about 1670, when a number of “Slave Codes” were ratified in response to several slave revolts, and complaints of slave owners about the economic cost of having to free their slaves.  So what happened in the intervening period to these black folks who were brought to America – served as Indentured labor and paid off their debt to be free? The commonly accepted story is that they intermarried with Native Americas – which is only partially true.

Laws against miscegenation between black and white were codified about 1660 in Virginia. The issue was in large part that by treaty (with Native Americans) and law – the status of a couple’s children, slave or free – was based on the status of the Mother. Thus if an African male slave married and had children with a white female Indentured Servant – any resulting children were freedmen. This posed an economic conundrum for Virginia slave holders, and a loss of valuable property in the form of new slaves. Thus we start to see laws being put into place to prevent this.

Unions between black and white was far more common than many historians would have you believe – and not just the result of the slave Master raping their slave women. By some calculations, supported by DNA tests – about 30% of what is now considered the white population of the US, whose families lived in slave states before the Civil War have black Sub-Saharan ancestry. The result of these marriages was the establishment of large bi- and tri- racial communities in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Louisiana. The groundbreaking work of Professor Paul Heinegg, of the University of Virginia “Free  African American Families of Virginia and North Carolina” and which has been expanded to now include Maryland, Delaware, and other states  – found that the genesis of most Free African American families before the Civil War in Virginia and North Carolina was the result of these unions between black males and white women. If you will recall, Thomas Jefferson kept his offspring from Sally Hemmings in slavery.

Unions between black slaves and white indentured servants were not rare – a situation creating the need (at least from the slave owners viewpoint) for laws prohibiting such unions. Which leaves the question – where did these families, established before the permanent slave laws,  go after finishing their indenture?

Part of my own family were what is called”Atlantic Creoles” (descendants of a white Sea Captain and an “Indian” woman who moved to Montgomery County  from what is now the Norfolk/Newport News area in 1719) whose children migrated from Montgomery County, Virginia on the lower Rappahannock River to an area near the Cumberland Gap on what is now the Virginia – West Virginia border to escape re-enslavement. They would fight a nearly 50 year legal battle in the Courts to retain their freedom. There was already a thriving black (or tri-racial) community there. What they did was to follow the path after the American Revolution of many European-American settlers and move west to the “frontier”, forming stable communities along the Virginia -West Virginia border.

Indeed there is evidence through letters that Confederate troops stayed out of certain counties in Virginia and North Carolina because the majority of the residents were freedmen who took a dim view of Confederates and would shoot any Confederate who wandered into the wrong territory. I have more then anecdotal evidence that being a slave catcher wandering onto some of those counties was a terminal profession. You can track some of that looking at General Sheridan’s campaign in the Shenandoah – looking at where they DIDN’T fight the Rebs.

My Dad, who was a Historian always claimed that the Melungeons of the region were actually the descendants of the first Africans brought to America who had intermarried with white Indentured Servants and had served out their indenture and moved to the remote area to escape persecution.

Turns out he was right. He referred to these folks as “cousins” – although I never figured out why, or have proven any direct family relationship with any of the 40 or so Melungeon families. He was also good friends with one of the Goins family descendants.

Melungeon history researchers at various times have claimed that several famous people were descendants of Melungeons, including Elvis Presley, Ava Gardner, and Abraham Lincoln. That is in all likleyhood wishful thinking – as I have never heard on any evidence to back such claims. The truth of which would be explosive.

Melungeon DNA Study Reveals Ancestry, Upsets ‘A Whole Lot Of People’

For years, varied and sometimes wild claims have been made about the origins of a group of dark-skinned Appalachian residents once known derisively as the Melungeons. Some speculated they were descended from Portuguese explorers, or perhaps from Turkish slaves or Gypsies.

Now a new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy attempts to separate truth from oral tradition and wishful thinking. The study found the truth to be somewhat less exotic: Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Black History, The Post-Racial Life

 

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The New Jim Crow – The Conservative “Race War”

The present blooming fantasy of white victimization has roots in the peculiar violent institutions of the 19th-century American South. In the distant mirror of history, it’s easy to spot the irony and the guilt: even before the Civil War began, whites worried that their slaves would rise up and repay their masters in kind — filch the fruit of their labor, rape them, and beat them, sometimes to death. As soon as the balance of power shifted and news of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse circulated throughout the former slave states, those fears ran amok

A common recruiting method of white supremacist groups is to play on their potential member’s percieved “victimization” by minorities. Ergo – that they are failures in life because black/brown/yellow/green folks were “given” jobs or opportunity over them because of race. As I have said before the conservative side of the American political spectrum has absorbed a lot of ideas from the racist right, and mainstreamed them into conservative mantra and consciousness.

The narrative is pretty much laid out in the video below –

One of the most flagrant results of this was the perversion of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division under the Bushit Administration as a vehicle to track down and prosecute incidences of “reverse discrimination. That is, discrimination against whites by minorities. The problem being that after 8 years and spending hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money…

Only one verifiable case was ever found by said lawyers. This despite over 13,000 cases of classical discrimination being filed a year by minorities.

Reality and logic play no part in this from a group of folks who believe the presence of two, self styled “Black Panthers” at a Pennsylvania polling place during the 2008 Presidential Election was enough to sway voters across the country to vote for a black man – and that such constituted a “massive” level of voting fraud…

Despite consistent and massive efforts by Republicans in 2000 and 2004 for limit minority voting though denying the availability of voting machines, and “erasing” large number of minority voters from the rolls in Florida based on “faulty” data.

The right wing’s “racial services machine” though the “7 Sisters”, a group of right wing foundations which pour hundreds of millions of dollars a year into conservative think tanks and causes – supports this sort of racial narrative to the tune of an estimated $100 million a year. These groups have funded the publication of books by folks such as Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray “The Bell Curve”, Sowell’s contributions to  TownhallWorldNetDaily,OneNewsNow and the Jewish World Review,  Dinesh D’Souza whose book “The End of Racism oddly enough inadvertently makes the case for racism’s continued existence, and Jared Taylor’s “The Color of Crime” using faulty logic and fake statistics to make the case for black on white crime. Fox News advances these narratives though such commentators as Sean Hannity, and as of late Bill O’Reilly.

Black conservatives are well funded to support the narrative that whites are under attack by “Speakers Bureaus” such as Project 21, and trusty, safe black conservatives like Sowell, whose recent article fully supported the existence of a “war” by black folks against white folks based on anecdotal evidence

The problem being, just like the “New Black Panther Party” (having nothing to do with the original Black Panthers and consisting of perhaps 50 members nationwide) controversy, and the “Reverse Discrimination Controversy” – there is no statistical evidence to support that in any way that whites are being targeted by roving gangs of black or brown folks attacking white folks in any numbers beyond random.

Conversely – spending $100 million a year in investing in racist narratives…

Totally deconstructs the idea that racism is no longer a factor in American life.

The “white victimization” industry promoted by right wing media, and their well paid quasi scientific cohorts has very real consequences.

These cases are similar to the hue and cry raised over the “Central Park Jogger” case in the 90’s – where gangs of black youth, supposedly “wilding” were convicted of the brutal beating and rape of a woman jogging in Central Park. The tragedy of the victim was compounded by the fact that the courts convicted 5 innocent kids of the crime, adding additional victims to the carnage – who had been convicted largely due to the media hype, and assumption of guilt by the media and police who beat “confessions” out of the youths…

And of course, most recently the Trayvon Martin murder.

In Conservative Media, A “Race War” Rages

It was near midnight on April 14 when the Chevy Cavalier carrying Dave Forster and Marjon Rostami rolled to a stop at a red light in Norfolk, Va. As the pair waited, one of a crowd of teenagers on the sidewalk threw a rock at the passenger seat window, prompting Forster to get out of the car and confront the aggressor.

That’s when the beating began. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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“Never Make a Pretty Woman Your Wife”…Or Apparently, a Dumb One

Wow – My first thought in reading this article was “this explains the popularity among women of those dreadful Uggs boots!”

Recall this image of Venus Williams –

Looking dumb as a beauty strategy to attract guys.

It also goes a long way to explaining conservative men walking around with tented trousers at the thought of the Sno’ Ho’ – Sarah Palin…

And the lore (and allure) of the “dumb blonde” stereotype.

Do Men Find Dumb-Looking Women More Attractive?

Ask a straight man, “How do you like your women?” and it’s unlikely he’ll answer, “Dumb and sleepy.” But according to new findings, these characteristics—and any other traits suggesting that the lady isn’t particularly alert—are precisely what the human male has evolved to look for in a one-night-stand.

In an article soon to be published in Evolution and Human Behavior, University of Texas–Austin graduate student Cari Goetz and her colleagues explored what they called the sexual exploitability hypothesis. The hypothesis is based on thedifferences between male and female reproductive strategies as humans evolved. For ancestral women, casual intercourse with an emotionally unattached man who had no clear intention of sticking around to raise any resulting offspring constituted a massive genetic gamble. By contrast, for a man with somewhere around 85 million sperm cells churned out every day—per testicle—the frivolous expenditure of gametes was far less detrimental to his genetic interests. Goetz and her team began with the assumption that—because our brains evolved long before prophylactics entered the picture—female cognition is still sensitive to the pregnancy-related consequences of uncommitted sex and women remain more reluctant than men to engage in it. They set out to test the idea that any indication that a woman’s guard is lowered—that she’s “sexually exploitable”—is a turn-on for your average man. “[T]he assessment of a woman’s immediate vulnerability,” surmise the authors, “may be central to the activation of psychological mechanisms related to sexual exploitation.”

Reminds me of an old 60’s song…

This is an inflammatory hypothesis, of course, and the language employed in the field doesn’t help matters. It’s worth noting that in the evolutionary psychology sense, the word exploitable simply means that a woman is willing or can be more easily pressured into having sex—which takes her own desires, rather disturbingly, out of the equation. Even if she’s the aggressor, a prostitute, or a certifiable nymphomaniac, having casual sex with her would still constitute “exploiting” her (or at least her body), according to this model.  Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2012 in and the Single Life

 

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Smackwater Jack’s Squirt Gun

This one is downright strange.  Seems to me that there is a lot of information on the Internet, including YouTube videos, of what happens when a gun explodes.  While there are plastic guns – they are pretty carefully designed not to explode when fired. One has to assume the unsuccessful designs never made it to market – because many of the unsuccessful designers are no longer with us. That self inflicted Darwin – self elimination from the gene pool thing again…

Man Makes Shotgun Out of Super Soaker

Among the 100 or so guns confiscated in southeast Fresno over the last three months, Sergeant Mark Hudson says one in particular certainly stands out.

“It’s dangerous for those officers being out on the street to see something like this obviously,” Hudson said.

Fresno Police say 54-year-old Randy Smith was walking in the area of Barton and Nevada on Saturday night.

He had a “Super Soaker” water gun hanging around his neck from a sling.

Normally, officers might not think much of it.

But police say they were just briefed about people turning toys into shotguns.

So they stopped Smith, and sure enough, instead of water inside his gun, he had a real shotgun shell.

“He took the Super Soaker apart, was able to fashion a barrel to where he was able to make what’s considered a zip gun, where you can fire one round through it. In this case it was a 20 gauge shotgun shell,” Hudson said.

“The guy that made that gun, he probably got maybe $30 worth of parts,” Bill Mayfield, who works at Gilmay Guns in Fresno, said.

Mayfield says it doesn’t take a gunsmith to make something like this.

But it’s definitely not a smart move.

“The firearms cartridge with the gun powder is an explosive. The device they’re building has to be able to contain the pressure of that explosion,” Mayfield said. “So they’re just relying on, maybe this will hold up. Well, you could be putting a gun next to your head, or you could be putting a hand grenade next to your head.”

Smith faces a laundry list of charges, including being a convicted felon in possession of ammunition, a felon in possession of a firearm, manufacture of an illegal weapon and a misdemeanor warrant.

 
 

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How Do You Make Our Schools Smarter… By Dumbing Down Our Elected Officials?

A favorite Republican whipping post is our “failing” educational system”…

The problem being that many of the Republicans who most vociferously shout about American Educational shortcomings…

Have benefited so little from their experience  in a learning environment.

I mean, if the first step to building a strong house is to dig a good foundation…

Then you best better hire a builder with more than a passing familiarity with a shovel.

Didn’t do so great on that last vocabulary test? That’s OK, there’s a place in Congress for you. The current class of congressmembers speaks at a 10.6 grade level—down almost a full grade from 2005’s 11.5 grade level on the Flesch-Kincaid scale. According to a political scientist at the Sunlight Foundation, the open government group that ran the numbers, one reason for the decline is the influx of new members who were elected in 2010, many of them with Tea Party support. “Particularly among the newest members of Congress, as you move out from the center and toward either end of the political spectrum, the grade level goes down, and that pattern is particularly pronounced on the right,” he says. In easier-to-understand terms: All of the 10 members who speak at the lowest grade levels are Republicans, and nearly all are freshmen.

Sophomoric? Members Of Congress Talk Like 10th-Graders, Analysis Shows

It turns out that the sophistication of congressional speech-making is on the decline, according to the open government group the Sunlight Foundation. Since 2005, the average grade level at which members of Congress speak has fallen by almost a full grade.

Making The Grade

The Sunlight Foundation analyzed the Congressional Record and found that Congress’ ranking on the Flesch-Kincaid scale — which evaluates readability — has dropped a grade level in recent years.

Average grade level of Congressional speeches

Every word members of Congress say on the floor of the House or Senate is documented in the Congressional Record. The Sunlight Foundation took the entire Congressional Record dating back to the 1990s and plugged it into a searchable database.

Lee Drutman, a political scientist at Sunlight, took all those speeches and ran them through an algorithm to determine the grade level of congressional discourse.

“We just kind of did it for fun, and I was kind of shocked when I plotted that data and I saw that, oh my God, there’s been a real drop-off in the last several years,” he says.

In 2005, Congress spoke at an 11.5 grade level on the Flesch-Kincaid scale. Now, it’s 10.6. In other words, Congress dropped from talking like juniors to talking like sophomores.

Of the 10 members speaking at the lowest grade level, all but two are freshmen, and every one is a Republican. For the record, though, Drutman isn’t passing judgment about whether speaking at a lower grade level is a good thing or a bad thing.

South Carolina Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney ranks the very lowest, with a grade level of 7.94. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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American Zombies – Cadillacs and Conservatives

Cadillac had a problem about 10 years ago when it’s marketing folks finally came to the realization their buyers were dying off…

Literally.

Cadillac’s market appeal was to folks over 60 who had grown up with large American style cars, a shrinking demographic. Younger folks who had been weaned on smaller, typically foreign cars preferred the smaller size and handling characteristics of foreign luxury makes, versus the bloated floating gunboat handling common to America cars. They were much more likely to gravitate to Acura, Lexus, or Mercedes than to buy a “hog”.

The CTS was designed to attract younger buyers with style, handling, and performance competitive with foreign Luxury brands.

In response to the realization that their market was literally dying out – the company went on a crash campaign to attract younger buyers by introducing models like the CTX whose handling and performance characteristics were more in line with their foreign competitors.  Now – the company didn’t really have a change of heart as the Brobdingnagian gas guzzler SUV line proved – and their clinging to the 60’s era American maxim that more cubic inches and horsepower makes up for all design shortcomings…

But – they at least (grudgingly) are making an effort.

Which puts them far ahead of Republicans, who are facing the same market issue. Their market is white, male in their 60’s and 70’s and dying off. Not soon enough for many of us – but thank God for small favors. Their counter approach seems to be to turn their believers into Zombies – a technology which worked with some success in creating the Tea Party. Unfortunately the technical difficulty of retainng live, functioning brain cells is still beyond their reach – resulting in even bigger problems.

Case in point –

GOP problem: ‘Their voters are white, aging and dying off’

When presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney appears before Latino small-business owners in Washington on Wednesday, he’ll address a group whose explosive birth rates foreshadow a seismic political shift in GOP strongholds in the Deep South and Southwest.

“The Republicans’ problem is their voters are white, aging and dying off,” said David Bositis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, who studies minority political engagement.

“There will come a time when they suffer catastrophic losses with the realization of the population changes.” Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Was Columbus Jewish?

One of those historical mysteries was the actual background of Christopher Columbus, the European credited with “finding” the Americas. Some scholars now believe that Columbus was actually Jewish, and hid his background and religion to escape persecution common in Europe at that time. This would be interesting, as Columbus is also widely seen as opening the “New World” to Christianity.

Artist depictions of Columbus landing often include Christian Symbols and the presence of the Church in the form of a Priest carrying the Cross.

Was Columbus secretly a Jew?

Today marks the 508th anniversary of the death of Christopher Columbus.

Everybody knows the story of Columbus, right? He was an Italian explorer from Genoa who set sail in 1492 to enrich the Spanish monarchs with gold and spices from the orient. Not quite.

For too long, scholars have ignored Columbus’s grand passion: the quest to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims.

During Columbus’s lifetime, Jews became the target of fanatical religious persecution. On March 31, 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella proclaimed that all Jews were to be expelled from Spain. The edict especially targeted the 800,000 Jews who had never converted, and gave them four months to pack up and get out. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in American Genocide

 

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