Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Friday, March 13, 2009

Froggie's Friday Book Review - "Black Indians - A Hidden Heritage"

Almost ten years ago, after finding that I had a Gibson ancestor, I began researching South Carolina records for information about John P. Gibson, my great-great-great-grandfather, born in that state about 1799. One of the first references I found to the Gibson family in South Carolina was in a book entitled "White Over Black," by Winthrop D. Jordan. Included in that book was mention of the South Carolina Gibson family headed by Gideon Gibson and a discussion of the family's questionable racial heritage. Since then, I have continued to research and read any historical reference materials I can find that relate to South Carolina's so-called "tri-racial isolate" groups, in hopes of piecing together the ancestry of Gideon Gibson, identifying his descendants, and hopefully, finding out more about my own Gibson family.

It was the search for more Gibson family history that led me to the book reviewed here today, "Black Indians, A Hidden Heritage," by William Loren Katz. During a visit to Albuquerque a few years ago, I was wandering around the University of New Mexico bookstore and happened upon the book, which I immediately bought and read on the plane on the way home. Copyrighted in 1986 by Ethrac Publications, Inc. and published by First Aladdin Paperbacks in 1997, this 198-page book explores the inter familial relationships of Native Americans with other ethnic groups in early North American settlements.

In his book, Katz uses actual photographs and illustrations to help tell poignant stories that are both revealing and enlightening. Beginning with settlements in early British colonies, including the Pee Dee River area in South Carolina, Katz chronicles the life, customs, and movements of Native Americans from colonial areas into Indian Territory, to Texas, and on further west. Katz has included profiles and often, photographs, of men with mixed racial ancestry who became leaders in areas occupied by Native American tribes. Among the profiles contained in the book are life stories about Edward Rose, George and Stephen Bonga, and James P. Beckwourth, and how their ancestries, familial relationships, and occupations were deeply intertwined with Native Americans.

Katz has presented the results of his research in a book that is both straightforward and easy to read. Although the book is not lengthy, only 198 pages including its bibliography and index, it is a most powerful one. I highly recommend the reading of "Black Indians - A Hidden Heritage" to anyone who is seeking to explore the relationship of tribal heritage and racial ethnicity in the United States

1 comment:

  1. Good review, Janice. I'd love to read this. Will look for it in the library right away. What does the term "tri-racial isolate" mean exactly. I understand the tri-racial but not the isolate.

    I've just discovered that my Richards ancestor "owned many slaves" and that's a little disconcerting. And he had those slaves here in Texas right in the heart of some of the Indian tribal lands in the early part of 1800.