Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Along with changing the blog's name, I've also changed my focus. From now on I'm primarily interested in the history and genealogy of the Droddys, Ashworths, Perkins, Bunch, Bass, Johnson and Dial. There are plenty of other researchers out there equipped to do a better job worrying about the interconnectedness of the other families than am I. Good luck to them.

Part of my reason for changing focus is my evolving understanding of what or who is a Redbone. I'm glad we had the conversation, but I suspect we're all walking away with different conclusions. I tend to believe with my cousins that (1) the word is a racial slur, and (2) it's about the experience. If you grew up outside of the community, then you're not, but (3) you can call yourself anything you want; you just don't have the right to decide for anyone else.

Me? I'm going to be talking about my mother's people.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Cold Mountain, the book

by Charles Frazier. Anyone out there who imagines himself or herself to be a Redbone would do well to read this book. Speaking for myself, I was not taught the history of the South, but rather, I was taught the Myth of the South. There's a helluva lot of difference. Most of our ancestors avoided the Civil War. Some of the bucks in Texas who never accepted nor understood why they were rejected by their White neighbors, joined the Confederate Army, but most of our ancestors just stayed home and avoided the Home Guard. Some even worked with the opposition. Ask Don Marler about Copperheads.

Major Samuel Ragsdale inherited a batallion from Lt. Col. Andrew Daly. He aggressively recruited groups previously ignored: Cajuns and Redbones. Most of the Redbones who served in the Confederate Army served with Samuel Ragsdale. I'm sure he promised them acceptance as Whites after the Civil War. What other reason would have motivated them to join the forces of a political idea that saw them as inferior?

My line of Ashworths stayed in the swamps and kept on with their lives. I think that any present day Redbones who finds pride in the Southern "noble cause" to be about the same as someone who brags about his grandparents being mentally retarded. Hello?

Read Cold Mountain, and then come back and tell me how proud you are of your ancestors who were stupid. Come back and tell me about it, if you don't mind. I can't promise I won't make fun of you behind your back, but I do promise to be polite about in public. Send me an email or post in the comments here. Oh come on, now. I already make fun of most of you, which is helluva lot kinder on my part than most of you are towards me.

The South sucks. It always has. It treated our people like shit, just about the way you now treat homosexuals. Just as you wrap yourself in your half-assed, ignorant understanding of THE BIBLE, Southerners used to preach about how we, your Redbone ancestors, were less than human and justified it with that same Bible.

Here's an old Redbone saying for you to ponder: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

At the time of the Civil War, Southerners considered Redbones to be just another bunch of niggers. Nowadays, it's not so much about race as it is economic class, and let me tell you, most of you fools have digressed in social standing.

That's just my opinion. If your opinion is different, speak up. Write a comment, or better yet, start your own damn blog.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Re-Reading Marler on Redbones

I used to think Don Marler was the most knowledgeable person I knew on the subject of Redbones. A cousin, LV Hayes, is the most knowledgeable person I know in terms of our interconnectedness. He knows how we're all related. LV has been very stingy with his opinion about who he thinks is or is not a Redbone, in part, I believe, because he does not like the word Redbone and thinks people distantly related to its real meaning who find some sort of misguided pride in the idea to be idiots. I agree with him in part.

Don's book is the only one written about our families, thus far, and it was self-published, which means it was never vetted by anyone with critical knowledge about the subject. The Redbone Heritage Foundation is Don's baby. The main problem with Don's book is that he's willing to call anyone with an Indian grandmother tradition in Louisiana a Redbone. We Redbones know better.

It is noted that none of the present members of the Redbone Heritage Foundation have made any attempts at connecting with their dark, but distant cousins in Starks and Singer. Those Redbones would be my cousins.

Back to Don's book. There are a couple of areas that I thought inconclusive and felt that he made more of an issue than I thought was there. The connection between the "Redbones" of South Carolina and the "Redbones" of Louisiana was very weak. The only connection I saw was the similarity of circumstance and choice of word used by Whites.

My next issue is similar. He would make the Melungeon connection more than it is. Rhoda Mosely and Drury Bunch are thought be from Kentucky because of a census wherein they said that's where they were from. They were considered by the census taker to be not-White. Were they Melungeon? Were Melungeons a self-identified sub-group in 1840? Probably, but not conclusively. Their daughters, Anna and Mary, went on to be grandmothers of large and powerful clans. That did not make their dozens of grandchildren Melungeon. No more than Keziah make her dozens of grandchildren Indian.

My theory? If you can call it that. Their self-identify evolved just as the racial codification intensified. It took at least two generations for them to think of similarly situated people as kindred spirits. The social-anthropological question is how many generations of a group being separate is required to make the group a "people." They began as a group from many areas with many different experiences. Some had supported the American Revolution, some apparently didn't. There may be a pattern showing how they cooperated as a group and not just as cousins, but it hasn't manifested itself to me, yet. We are not a people united by a culture, we're just a borderline racial mix who continue to identify with cousins, just as their ancestors did 200 years ago. There may be an acknowledgement as between two people who identify an ill-defined kinship, but there is no value given that similarity of circumstance.

I think Marler wants to make their interactions more than they were. What Don would call "Redbones" I would call "similarly situated, mixed-race people who were White-identified, but who obviously were dark complexioned and therefore not accepted as White." "Redbone" is a more efficient word. They did not, in my opinion, ever identify with each other because of the particularness of their circumstance. I don't think the girls in Starks thought of the girls in Pitkin as members of the same tribe, just different high schools. Anyone with experience here, just weigh in.

Okay, you idiots at the Redbone Heritage Foundation, read my lips here. I'm saying outloud what others are saying about you. I just happen to have a pulpit. You can continue to ignore me and call me names amongst yourselves. That just proves you're a bunch of idiots. You still don't have any Redbones in your group, so you need to figure out a way to reach out to actual Redbones. Why is that so difficult for you to grasp?

You people are a bunch of idiots. Sorry, but you're going to need to start over.

My problem with the word "Redbone" is that it is an offensive word to many in that community. It was never our choice of descriptive adjectives. It was a word used by Whites to describe us. We never used the word in a positive way before about 1980. When my cousins and I used it, we did not use it in front of our parents. Even today, if you called my mother a Redbone, she'd slap you.

Maybe we do need to reclaim the word, but it's not for a bunch of "Wannabes" to tell those of us who are still dark anything.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm celebrating our Two Hundredth Anniversary of being in Texas and Louisiana. We are kick ass people!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

My Bones are Red, the book by Patricia Ann Waak

The best I can say about it, is that it has a great title. The worst I can say about it is that she mixes her own brand of religion and spirituality into genealogy and uncritically accepts myths that support her conclusions.

Although she would be only about 1/8th Redbone if Redbone was a racially determined identity, she claims a larger spiritual identity with Redbones, or at least with her father's family, decendants of Leonard Perkins, the son of Old Josh Perkins. Also, she paints our Perkins ancestors with as black a brush she can. Maybe it's to express solidarity with her grandchildren whose fathers are African-American. I'm not sure we Redbones are all that willing to embrace our Blackness just yet. If I say there's nothing in the record that would prove our Blackness that would be accepted in a court of law today, I'd be accused of being in denial about it. But if we Perkins and Ashworths have so much Black in us, how come it doesn't pop up occasionally? Indian pops up a lot. White pops up a lot. Black hasn't popped up to my knowledge, unless it was reintroduced. Maybe you've seen otherwise, but I sure haven't seen anything that convinced me beyond a reasonable doubt.

Me, personally? I don't care. I'm more interested in their stories. Heinegg is a lot more accomplished a researcher than I and is probably a lot smarter, so maybe that's why he concluded Esther Perkins' baby was by a Black slave because she later named a child Dorcas and the guy who paid her fine owned a slave by the name of Dorcas. Could have happened that way. But if it did, the next several generations had better start marrying Indians because all the Perkins I know look a lot more Red than Yellow, if you catch my drift. Here's something I know from observation. The children of White and Black parents, DO NOT LOOK INDIAN.

I know this isn't scientific, but just look at us (those of us that are still dark, anyway). We do not look Black. We either look White or we look Indian. So tell me this much, Pat, if Old Josh married a White Scottish woman, a fact you accept in your book, why are their grandchildren being called Indians in the Texas census? Don't you think if your grandmother looked like a White-Black mulatto, that census taker would have marked the box Mulatto and not Indian?

I'm probably a lot more accepting of the idea of Black roots that almost every Redbone I know. The ones that say it don't matter are liars. Yeah, that's right. I called you a bunch of liars. Prove me wrong. Go to the First Pentecostal Church in either Starks or Singer and stand up and testify about how proud you are of your Black blood.

We Redbones are amongst the fiercest anti-Black racists I've ever encountered. Maybe that's what we were running from in North and South Carolina. I just want to know why the African disappeared so quickly from the blood. We certainly intermarried enough for it to pop up on a pretty regular basis.

Like I said, though. I'm alright with the theorhetical idea of an African ancestor. I'd just like to see the proof. I love Heinegg's conclusions regarding Esther Perkins. That's one of the grandmothers of my line. In fact, I think she's my grandmother about three or four different times. Is that possible? I know that James and Keziah are my ggggggrandparents twice. Lord, I'm probably my own third cousin, twice.

Heinegg had every librarian in the South helping him. I'm willing to accept many of his conclusions, but in theory. He showed me nothing that said Esther's sperm donor was African. And since her grandchildren and great-grandchildren sure as hell look Indian and not Black, if he was a slave, he must have been an Indian slave.

I could probably be shot down right now by someone very familiar with the Perkins Defamation suit in Tennessee. The people that gave depositions against J.F. Perkins were so blatantly racist that they tried their best to describe the Perkins as a bunch of Negroes. The thing is, all those White people who had married a Perkins sure as hell didn't think they looked Black.

My Ashworths are all dark, but then again, all my Ashworths are also Perkins. The record suggests they started out dark, the Ashworths I mean. That reference in the book about the South Carolina Regulators said that he was dark haired and had swarthy skin. Did that mean a good tan? There's so many unknown factors there that any conclusion is just guessing. Each day we learn more. That's very exciting.

If I'm in denial about it, then I stand in solidarity with my ancestors who for 250 years have struggled not to be unfairly burdened with a racial epithet not of their own choosing. If I have eight great-grandparents and one of them is rumored to be Black, three are rumored to be Indian, and four are White. What am I? In 1836 Texas I would be Black. It would be up to me to prove the non-existence of the Black and Indian great-grandparents. Anybody who's done any genealogy knows how difficult it is to prove anything in the 17th and 18th century, must less disprove something. It's my theory that we're more likely to be Indian mix because available Black women belonged to someone who didn't go around farming out their women to recent immigrants from England. Heinegg's theory about Esther's children notwithstanding, but please, Paul, show us more proof than just conjecture and conclusion.

The race discussion is central and germaine to any discussion about Redbones. It is the camel in our tent. I do know if you bring up the Black angle with most of my cousins in Louisiana, you're going to lose them as an audience. They're going to tune you out completely, if they don't slug you for suggesting they're part Black. Pat even goes so far as to suggest that our cattle instincts are from Africa. She short shrifts the obvious Indian in our genes and jumps to make us Fulani or Masai because we were cattle herders. Even though her sperm donor didn't leave us a name, he did manage to give his cattle herding instincts to his Indian-looking children.

That makes two books out about Redbones to my knowledge. Don Marler's Louisiana Redbones is still the most definitive thus far. I'm hoping for a few more in the future. The part of the story that most fascinates me and about which I would like to write someday, is the early Texas experience. The more books about Redbones, Perkins, Goins, Ashworths, etc., the better my foundation for writing about our families' experiences in Texas.

We're not in competition with each other to get these stories out. If ten of us line up and tell our story, there will be ten different stories.

Now a side note. Lucille Perkins Robinson has just published a book about her family. It's called The Descendents of Chester Allen Perkins & Ora Lee Johnson. The Perkins connection is obvious, the less obvious is that Ora Lee Johnson is the granddaughter of Winna Droddy and William "Red" Strother, and the great-granddaughter of Adna Samuel Droddy, Sr., my great-great-grandfather. I can't recommend it highly enough. She has captured the flavor of Chester and Ora Lee's legacy in the stories of their children and grand-children. She mixes old obituaries with pictures of the next generation of this family.

Lucille is an incredible woman in the greatest tradition of Redbone women. I am honored to call her cousin. She lives in Rayne, Louisiana. If you Wannabes and Usetobes want to actually meet real Redbones when you're meeting in Alexandria, go visit Lucille, and buy her book while you're there. It may not tell you anything you don't already know, but it'll show you some pictures of some of your Redbone cousins who are still Redbones.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

LV Hayes has commented (scroll to bottom of page)on a couple of my posts. His comments are very important to the discussion about who and what is a Redbone. This is what LV has to say:

Your commentary ignores some crucial historical facts. In 1888, DeQuincy, Starks, Lunita, and DeRidder DID NOT EXIST (I'm not sure about Singer, but think it probably also didn't yet exist). All of these communities came into existence because of the railroad coming through the area in the mid 1890s. The shift from "mulatto" to "white" also took place at different times in different parishes. In 1840, the distinction is made in Rapides Parish, but in 1850, it disappears. In 1870, it's made in Cameron Parish, but in 1880, all the "redbones" are "white". It is sometimes hard to do, but the historical facts must be sought out and identified for what they were. There was never a "redbone" homeland in Louisiana (and probably also no where else) except in transition.

LV Hayes
Hereditary High Chief of the Sacred Mugwumps
He's just joshing us with the hereditary chief title. Our people don't have hereditary titles.

There are two points being made in his comment. The first, regarding the founding of the towns of Singer, DeQuincy, DeRidder, and Starks. I referred to them as Redbone homelands in a post. In doing so, I took romantic license. Those present day towns did not exist in the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century. Our ancestors were there, however, even before the beginning of the 19th century. For two hundred years they have lived in that general area. That is the heartland of our stories, our genealogy, our cemeteries. The towns are Redbone towns, because they were founded by Redbones as towns, not as Redbone towns, but towns.

I consider myself a Redbone. I do not consider it to be a racial term, but rather a code word for a collection of experiences unique to my ancestors with a racial factor.

There is no argument but that our ancestral families were considered non-White by the dominant society upon their arrival in Louisiana between 1787 and 1810. Although the brothers James and Moses were considered White in the 1800 census in South Carolina, in 1810 they and their families were considered FMC (Free Men of Color). We've always pointed to that fact to demonstrate the arbitrariness of the racial classifications. I think it's obvious that we considered ourselves White. Look at the many incidents of our people marrying outside of our group. In every instance we know about, Redbones married Whites. I have not seen a single instance where a Redbone married a nonWhite who was not also a Redbone. I think its obvious that most of our White neighbors also considered us White, dark white, but White. Letitia Stewart and Henderson Ashworth no doubt fought for their marriage to be recognized because they were in disbelief. We were successful in Texas in large part because we accumulated wealth during a time when there were no racial constraints on our competition with everyone else. The Mexicans considered us Americans and treated us like they treated all Americans. There was no point in law about Whites coming first.

As Texas rebelled against Mexico, 0ur ancestors lined up with the other American colonists to resist the Mexicans. When those Ashworth and Thomas boys were refused by the militia, it was a precursor of the grief that was to come from the Texans and they began adopting the Color Codes like the rest of the slave owning Southern states. After 1836, we clashed repeatedly with a dominant White society that insisted our families were Free Black. We didn't agree to it then, just as we don't agree with it now. We have never accepted without dispute the notion that we have any Black blood.

LV would quibble with me about the timing of our ancestral families change in racial classification. He mentions Cameron Parish, but avoids Beauregard and Calcasieu. In 1880, my great-great-grandfather, Thompson Lorraine Ashworth, and his family continued to be listed as Mulatto in the U.S. census. We know race continued to be an issue of contention in 1891 when my great-grandpa Amos Owen Ashworth, his brother Austin, Josh Perkins and others were in a gunfight with some White guys supposedly because the Whites called them all a "bunch of Redbones." The headline REDBONES RAMPANT on the front page of the Lake Charles paper makes the strongest case for how the dominant White society looked at our people.

I don't think any of my ancestors ever thought of themselves as anything but White. I think they told the story about being Portuguese because they believed it. We also have the Indian grandmother myth, leading me to believe in an Indian grandmother somewhere back there. We don't have an African grandmother myth, and because we have so many sources into our family, the mathematical probability of the African grandmother is great, but not absolute. She may well be in the tree, but there's little to show for it. Certainly not as much as the Whites in 19th century America made of it. It is offensive to me that even today the Whites in Texas are discounting our own story by appending our unique history to that of African-Americans. Our struggle was not the struggle of Blacks in America. Ours was the struggle of being non-White in America.

I like to compare our families' histories with that of the Cane River Creoles of Color who in 1810 were rich, educated, slave owners. To the Whites they were just a bunch of high falutin' French-niggers. Our Ashworths and Perkins were just arriving in Louisiana. We do not know why our families left South Carolina. Were they escaping increased racial animosity? Perhaps they were political refugees, since there is evidence that two men by the name of James Ashworth and of the approximate age of our ancestors, father and son, served in pro-British militia units in the American Revolution? Maybe they came to Louisiana because it had a more sophisticated appreciation of the degrees of color based on the French Code Noir which gave people of color more legal rights than did South Carolina. How much more attractive Texas must have seemed to them where they could compete without any color restrictions.

Fast forward the tape two hundred years. The Cane River Creoles are no longer rich, are no longer the rich literate culture of its slave-culture heyday. They're just Black. The present day Redbones are accepted as White by all of Louisiana's cultural groups. Why did the Cane River Creoles lose their position and get reclassified with Blacks, racially and economically? The only difference I can see is that we never agreed that we were anything but White. It took us about a hundred years of determined resistance to being marginalized into a subracial category, but we did it.