Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South

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

Malinda Maynor Lowery
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 368
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0416-9
    Subjects: History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. PREFACE Telling Our Own Stories
    (pp. xi-xx)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  5. A Note on Terms
    (pp. xxv-xxviii)
  6. INTRODUCTION Coming Together
    (pp. 1-18)

    In June 1936 Carl Seltzer, E. S. McMahon, and D’Arcy McNickle were sent by the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA) to Robeson County. They were well-educated and accomplished men: Seltzer was an anthropologist from Harvard, McMahon was an attorney from Washington, D.C., and McNickle was a novelist who had attended Cambridge University. Only McNickle, who was then serving as the administrative assistant to OIA commissioner John Collier, had visited the county before. He had come earlier that spring on what was probably one of his first assignments for Collier. McNickle was of Metis (Cree) and Irish descent, and he had...

  7. 1 Adapting to Segregation
    (pp. 19-54)

    My family photographs ring with layers of belonging; we have one of the Pembroke “graded school,” or elementary school, that features my dad’s sister Faye (Figure 2). She is on the left end of the front row, and my great-uncle Theodore Maynor is the teacher (third row, left end). Aunt Faye was in the first grade, but some of those children on the top row don’t look like first graders—they’re preteens but most likely in their first year in school. Each child in this picture came from an Indian household; they had two Indian parents and lived within a...

  8. 2 Making Home and Making Leaders
    (pp. 55-80)

    The James and Edna Sampson family lived in the rural Deep Branch community, east of Pembroke. They farmed cotton, tobacco, and corn for a living. Mr. and Mrs. Sampson were among the 20 percent of Indians who owned land in the early twentieth century. Miss Bessie Oxendine, a local Indian schoolteacher, took a picture of the Sampsons in the springtime, on a day when the family was tearing down a sweet potato hill (Figure 3). Some of the children are holding a sweet potato in their hands. To store sweet potatoes through the winter, Mr. James dug a hole in...

  9. 3 Taking Sides
    (pp. 81-120)

    The photographs in Figures 4 and 5 are of the same man. Someone, however—perhaps the photographer, an archivist, or an anthropologist—has given the man different labels. In blood he is “mixed,” in name he is “Croatan.” How do we know which label is right? Can theybothbe right?

    In 1911 many Robeson County Indians viewed neither label as correct descriptors of their identity. Labels presented classificatory challenges, especially for the professional “outsiders” charged with speculating on Indian identities. A host of choices had been made for me as a historian before I found these photographs. Apparently, no...

  10. 4 Confronting the New Deal
    (pp. 121-148)

    At age twenty-one, my father dropped out of college and started work in a local furniture factory in Robeson County; he had a wife and three children to support. Fifty-three years later, one morning over breakfast, he recalled the layout of the factory’s segregated restrooms—White, Indian, and Colored.

    “When I started there I was working at night,” he said. “And the plant manager showed me the White bathroom to use, he didn’t show me the Indian bathroom.”

    “Did he think you were white?” I asked, thinking how lots of people mistake my family members for Italians or Jews.


    (pp. 149-180)

    The rural Indian family pictured in Figure 6 lived in a one-room, windowless house without running water or electricity, probably in the Red Banks or Prospect communities. They were sharecroppers and candidates for resettlement onto Pembroke Farms, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) program to assist Indian tenant farmers. This house belonged to their landlord and not to them; it was probably built sometime after the Civil War. The table and bench are rough-hewn and handmade and might have come with the house. Pictured here is the kitchen part of the room; Mama cooked over the open hearth. The table looks...

  12. 6 Measuring Identity
    (pp. 181-212)

    The individuals shown in Figure 10, along with 200 other people, applied to the Office of Indian Affairs in 1936 and 1937 for recognition as having “one-half or more Indian blood.” Referring to “these people,” D’Arcy Mc-Nickle and his companions from the OIA said that they “did not have a clear understanding of the term Indian.” Anthropologist Carl Seltzer took the photographs as part of anthropometric tests he conducted to determine each applicant’s quantity of “Indian blood.” The photographs represent one point of view on Indian identity: Indianness is defined by one’s head shape, size, skin color, and hair texture....

  13. 7 Recognizing the Lumbee
    (pp. 213-250)

    My great-uncle Theodore Maynor spent the 1930s teaching school after having earned a teaching certificate in 1928 from Cherokee Indian Normal School. He was an all-star athlete in basketball, baseball, and football and eventually became part of the first group of inductees into the school’s athletic hall of fame. The Coast Guard drafted him early in World War II, and after the war he returned to college to earn a baccalaureate degree at Pembroke State College for Indians (the same institution with a different name). In 1946 Uncle Theodore joined the college Veterans’ Club. That year, Lumbee photographer Elmer Hunt...

  14. CONCLUSION Creating a Lumbee and Tuscarora Future
    (pp. 251-264)

    Despite decades of political division, Indians in Robeson County worked together to cultivate their sovereignty on 18 January 1958 at Hayes Pond, near Maxton. That night, members of the Ku Klux Klan, arguably the nation’s most dangerous organization, rallied there to “put Indians in their place, to end race-mixing,” according to the group’s leader, James W. “Catfish” Cole. “I am for segregation,” Cole announced after his followers burned crosses on the lawns of two Indian families he had accused of violating segregation’s boundaries. Cole’s attacks in the local media referenced Indian women’s supposedly “loose morals,” and he threatened an Indian...

  15. APPENDIX Genealogy Charts
    (pp. 265-274)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 275-330)
  17. Index
    (pp. 331-339)