Re: [Generation-Mixed] (Article): "Mixed-Race Heritage, Mixed Emotions"
- Hello Friends-I was looking through the Census records from the 830's in Alabama... You will see the name of the Euro-American slave holder, value of propety and number of slaves. This is interesting...slaves are clearly distinguished between "Black" and "Mulatto".Prior to the late 1800's, the Federal Government seemed to officially recognize only four "races": White, Black, Mulatto and Indian. (Also see my Ethnic Origins page for more information on this subject). Later they added categories for "Chinese" and others.Generally speaking, a "Mulatto" is someone of medium dark skin, or even "yellow" skin as described on some old records. However, in the early years of the census, there were not enough race codes to cover every possible race, so many people were listed as "Mulatto" who were of some other origin. So keep in mind that those listed as Mulatto could be mixed Black-White, White-Indian, Black-Indian, or a combination of all three (Black, Indian and White, also called "Tri-Racial"). This doesn't even account for those who might be dark skinned but of some other origin (Melungeon, "Black Dutch", North African Moors, Sephardic Jews, etc). As you can imagine, this was a "catch-all" category on the early census records. In 1790, anyone considered "Mulatto" would have been listed in the "Other" columns. In 1800 through 1840, they would have been included in the "Free Colored" columns. In 1850 and later, they would have been listed with a race code of "M" in the "Color" column. In many cases you'll find these same people listed as "White" on some census records, so it makes you wonder what the census taker based it all on.
"Free Colored" was used as a category on the 1790 through 1840 census (actually listed as "Other" in 1790). As I mentioned above under the "Mulatto" section, "Free Colored" could mean almost anything. The census taker used his own discretion to determine who fit in this category, so it is hard to say what the dividing line was between "White" and "Colored" in his mind. A "Free Colored" person could be a black person who was not a slave, or it could be person who had some black blood and some white blood, or it could be someone of some other origin, but who had dark skin or in some other way did not fit the census takers idea of what "white" was. Here are some of the most likely possibilities for identities of "Free Colored" persons in these records:
- A Black person of African origin who was not a slave (though may have been in the past).
- A person who was of mixed blood, being part Black and part White (officially a "Mulatto")
- A person who was of mixed blood, being part White and part Indian (Native American).
- A person who was of mixed blood, being part Black and part Indian.
- A person who was of mixed blood, being part Black, White and Indian ("Tri-racial").
- A "Melungeon" , which is of questionable origin, but had dark skin, but "white" features. No one knows for sure where the Melungeons originated, but the most common claim is that they are of Portuguese origin.
- "Black Dutch", which may or may not mean persons who originated in Moorish regions of Spain or North Africa (including Sephardic Jews), who later migrated to the Netherlands, where their darker skin gave them the title of "Black Dutch". They later coming to America. This is just one theory about who the "Black Dutch" were