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The Mixed-Race Delaware Moors

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  • AP Gifts
    The Moors of Delaware: A Look at a Tri-Racial Group ... An intermingling of races was one of the products which occurred with the early European exploration
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 8, 2009

      The Moors of Delaware:
      A Look at a Tri-Racial Group ...

      An intermingling of races 
      was one of the products 
      which occurred with the early European exploration 
      and settlement of the North American continent.

      Stemming from these earlier interminglings, there 
      exists within the  Eastern United States  today, in 
      numbers totaling between fifty thousand and one 
      hundred thousand persons, a variety of surviving, 
      localized strains of mixed blood peoples.

      Those called the Moors or the Delaware 
      Moors are a group of such descent.


      In a June, 1953 article, the geographer, Edward T.
      Price, mapped the locations of the chief populations 
      of racially mixed groups in the Eastern United States.

      Through the particular geographic distributions of 
      these groups, Price indicated how environmental 
      , such as swamps or inaccessible 
      and barren mountain country, favored their growth.

      Many of the groups are located along the tidewater 
      of the  Atlantic  and Gulf coasts where swamps, 
      islands, or peninsulas have protected them and 
      kept alive a portion of the aboriginal blood which 
      greeted the first white settlers on these shores.

      Other pockets of these groups are located farther 
      inland, in the Western Piedmont area, backing 
      up against the  Blue Ridge  and Alleghenies.

      A few of the groups are to be found along the top 
      of the  Blue Ridge , and on several ridges of 
      the Appalachian Great Valley just beyond.

      In addition to mapping the distribution and indicating 
      environmental circumstances pertaining to these 
      racially-mixed groups, Price also noted a number 
      of common phenomenon related to them.

      These groups have been presumed to be part white, 
      with varying proportions of American Indian and 
      Negro blood
      , although a lack of solid documentation 
      concerning the origins of a good number 
      of the groups
       makes determination 
      of racial composition uncertain.

      Due to their particular racial mixtures, these groups 
       are recognized as of 'intermediate' social status
      sharing "lots" with neither Whites nor Blacks, 
      nor enjoying the government protection or 
      tribal ties of typical Indian descendants.

      Old census records have indicated that the 
      present number of mixed bloods have 
      sprung from great reproductive increases 
      of small initial populations of the groups.

      The predominance of a limited number of surnames 
      within each group at present is in line with such a 
      conclusion, and is also indicative of their high 
      degree of endogamy, resulting from their 
      intermediate status and their relative geographic 
      isolation from the mainstream population.

      Characteristics of generally lower educational and 
      income levels, as well as large families, tend to further 
      mark the racially-mixed groups as members of the 
      more backward sector of the American nation.

      While all of the aspects mentioned above are 
      descriptive of similarities
       between the various 
      racially-mixed groups distributed throughout the 
      eastern  United States , one must also realize that 
      each group is essentially a unique phenomenon

      Each one stems from a particular inter-mixture 
      of "races"
      , and is related to a specific locale 
      with recognition of the group crystallized by 
      a name applied, either by the group itself or, 
      by the people surrounding them in their region.

      The phenomena which Price noted as common 
      denominators in his analysis of racially-mixed 
      groups generally hold true for the people 
      called Moors, who reside in the  Kent  and 
      Sussex   Counties  of  Delaware , and across 
      the Delaware Bay in  Southern New Jersey .

      Concentrations consisting of members of this group 
      are located in lowland, tidewater areas of the two 
      states, areas which are basically rural, even today.

      Moors make up the largest portion of the total 
      , (a little over three hundred persons),
       of the small community of Cheswold, 
      Kent County , Delaware .
      (Cheswold is about five miles north 
      of the larger state capital,  Dover ).

      These people also inhabit the rural 
      area surrounding Cheswold.

      A number of Delaware Moors make their homes
       in and around the small town of  Millsboro , 
      and along the north shore of the Indian 
      River in  Sussex County ,  Delaware .

      In addition to the Moors living in and around 
      Cheswold and  Millsboro ,  Delaware , a similar, 
      but more dispersed, number of Moor families 
      live in rural, southern  New Jersey .

      One finds Moor families in the farming 
      territory outside of  Bridgeton ,  Millville , 
      and  Vineland ,  New Jersey .

      The location of the Cheswold community 
      does not, at first, seem to concur with Price's 
      indications that racially-mixed groups flourish 
      in relatively isolated geographic areas

      The fact that Cheswold is so near to  Dover , 
      and also, just west of a major state highway, 
      Delaware Route 13, is at variance with that thesis.

      However, farmlands have served somewhat 
      as a buffer
       between Cheswold and  Dover , 
      and the Moor community has remained, 
      up to the present, a separate entity

      Information concerning the settlement in Cheswold 
      by the Moors is more akin to Price's thesis.

      There are indications that Cheswold was not the 
      initial settlement area for this group of Moors.

      Informant Wilson Davis, a Delaware Moor, stated 
      that the Moors of Cheswold originally lived about 
      ten miles to the northeast at  Woodland   Beach , 
      a more marshy area along the  Delaware Bay .

      According to Mr. Davis, the Moors moved to farm 
      farther inland and to settle in Cheswold during 
      the last quarter of the nineteenth century, as 
      the result of a large storm which inundated 
      much of the land surrounding  Woodland   Beach .

      The Moorish areas in  Sussex County ,  Delaware  
      and in southern  New Jersey  are in more 
      sparsely populated, rural regions.

      In both regions, the landscape is covered by truck 
      farms or dense pine forests, and neither area 
      is crisscrossed by major traffic routes.

      Geography has played some part in setting the Moors 
      apart from the mainstream American population, 
      but the racial-composition of this group, linked 
      to their origins, has played a more primary role.

      A number of scholars have taken note of this 
       which, for the most part, considers itself 
      'distinct' from both Negro and White "races"

      Researchers have examined their mixed-blood 
      characteristics and have endeavored to 
      trace the precise origins of the Moors.

      In discussing the physical appearance of the 
      Moors, as well as the Nanticoke Indian 
      descendants to whom some Moors 
      are related, C.A. Weslager wrote: 

      certain facial characteristics...
      set them apart from both 
      Whites and Negroes.

      The Darkest have Brown skins 
      and the Lightest resemble their 
      White neighbors in complexion.

      Blonde, red and sandy hair may be seen, but 
      the majority have brown or black hair, 
      either wavy or straight and coarse
      like that of the full blooded American Indian.

      Kinky or woolen hair...is not often seen
      ...straight noses and thin lips are typical.

      Eye colors range from grays and 
      blues to dark brown and black.

      Many of the mixed-bloods 
      have sharply chiseled features, 
      swarthy complexions and straight hair....

      Others are distinctly Indian-like in appearance, 
      having high and wide cheekbones, 
      even among the same family.

      Light skinned Parent often have 
      dark skinned children and vice versa

      No one has really been able to trace the 
      precise origins of the  Delaware  Moors.

      Legend and historical hearsay 
      have suggested possibilities.

      C.A. Weslager, in his book Delaware's Forgotten 
      , presents (in his own words) legends of three 
      categories which he collected from Delaware Moors.

      One (1) category of legend purports that the Moors 
      originated sometime before the Revolutionary 
      War through the founding of a colony along the 
      Atlantic coast of the  Delmarva peninsula  by 
      a group of dark skinned Spanish Moors.

      Through intermarriage with the local Indians come 
      the people called Moors in  Delaware  and  New Jersey .

      A second (2) category of legend Weslager 
      refers to as pirate legends.

      These legends stated that Spanish or Moorish 
      pirates, in the later eighteenth century, were 
      shipwrecked off the  Delaware  coast in the 
      Delaware Bay  or near the Indian River Inlet.

      The shipwrecked men were taken in by the Nanticoke 
      Indians and came to marry Indian women, thus 
      beginning the mixed stock of Delaware Moors.

      Some versions of this legend considered the 
      shipwrecked men as Spanish, French, 
      or Moorish sailors and not buccaneers.

      Weslager categorizes a third (3) legend type, 
      which he found most popular among the Moors…

      In this legend type a beautiful woman 
      and a dark-skinned slave or slaves 
      are the central characters.

      The woman was wealthy, either Spanish or Irish, 
      and lived on a plantation in southern  Delaware .

      She purchased one male slave …fell in love 
      and had children of dusky complexion.

      Not being accepted by the white community, 
      the family sought associations elsewhere 
      and consequently, mixed with the Indians
      in the vicinity of the plantation.

      Other modifications of this plot said that  
      similar women bought seven couples of 
      Moorish slaves whose children intermarried 
      with Indian descendants living on Indian River.…

      However, this does not account for the fact 
      that most of the surnames of the Delaware 
      Moors suggest English descen

      Although the specific origins of the Delaware Moors 
      is unclear
      , most scholars and the Moors themselves, 
      have tended to come to the consensus that the group 
      can be identified as being a racial-mixture of
      Indians who once occupied the Delmarva region 
      (the Nanticokes and the Lenni Lenape), 
      of Whites of European descent, and 
      of some unspecified African strain

      Also agreed upon is that the Moors of Delaware 
      have come to be related, by blood and marriage 
      ties, to the Nanticoke Indian descendants of 
      Indian River Hundred, Sussex County, Delaware.

      Returning to Price's thesis concerning tri-racial 
      groups, one finds that, as with other groups, 
      the Delaware Moors developed their particular 
      racial-mixture in much earlier times, 
      (in this case, during the Colonial period), and 
      that the present numbers in the group are 
      descendants of that earlier mixed population.

      According, to written sources and informants, it 
      has been customary for Moors to marry Moors

      Because of this endogamy, the Delaware 
      Moors today, as a group, consist of 
      members of closely interrelated families…

      In terms of occupation, most Moors have been 
      tenant- or landowning farmers and have earned 
      moderate and respectable incomes from working the
      land, thus not needing higher academic educations.

      The male Moors who entered the labor pool in 
      non-farming occupations with no higher education 
      found various blue-collar level jobs in construction, 
      maintenance, or factory work, for example.

      The Moor women who have worked have 
      done so in factory work, as domestics 
      or as sales persons in retail stores.

      Some persons who have previously investigated the 
      Delaware Moors have considered them no different 
      outwardly from other rural or small town Delawareans.

      Other writers have felt the Moors
      maintain their own peculiar traditions.

      When doing field research among the 
      Delaware Moors in the early 1940's, 
      C.A. Weslager claimed that ...

      "beneath the surface lurk shadows that 
      can be traced to Indian life of the past…

      It does not appear that a peculiar lifestyle or variant 
      traditions have been the elements marking the 
      Delaware Moors as an identifiable group.

      Strong family ties and separate social 
      structures do seem to be forces 
      maintaining a "groupness" among them

      Informants indicated that most social affairs 
      for the Moors are and have been family affairs.

      Both Mrs. Dorothy Carney and Wilson Davis recall 
      the "Big Thursdays" which were held annually at 
      Woodland Beach  on the second Thursday in August.

      This was an all-day affair of picnicking 
      and entertainment
       such as swimming, 
      dancing, wrestling, and foot races.

      Wilson Davis says that it was strictly a Moor 
      , a time when relatives from Cheswold, 
      lower  Delaware , and from  New Jersey  came 
      together and the whole clan had a reunion…

      The clannish nature of the Delaware Moors and the 
      existence of their own network of organizations and 
       have, in good part, been created by the 
      dynamics of prejudice and racial discrimination

      These elements which in some ways 
      set the Moors apart, are not due to 
      significant cultural-differences
      between the Moors and their 
      mainstream counterparts.

      As with other minorities, the Moors have 
      often been barred from
       the cliques, social 
      clubs, and churches of White America .

      Consequently, they have needed to construct to 
      a certain extent their own parallel social world.

      There are now many interests served by the 
      preservation of this separate communal situation

      it is doubtless that many of the Moors are 
      psychologically most comfortable in it, even 
      though they desire that discrimination in such areas 
      as employment, education, and housing be eliminated

      This is slowly happening as the climate of the nation 
      of the whole end of the particular regions 
      inhabited by the Moors become more 
      tolerant toward racial minorities

      While the Moors have long been behaviorally 
       into mainstream American life, 
      they are still in the process of becoming
      structurally or institutionally assimilated

      As long as there are needs to be served by such 
      strong family ties and parallel social structures

      the Moors of Delaware and southern  New Jersey  
      will remain a viable and identifiable group.



      Delaware's Forgotten Folk 

      The Delaware Moors are a group of Mixed-Race 
      individuals related to the Delaware Indians. 
      The Delaware State Legislature refused to recognize 
      the Moors as either Indians or as Moors. 
      They were classified as "Negro" on state records and 
      the Delaware Indians were proclaimed "EXTINCT". 
      The Nanricoke Indians fought back 
      as did their close relatives the Moors. 
      Eventually both won some degree of recognition. 

      The scholar C.A. Weslager writes of his time among these 
      "Forgotten Moors" in his works The Nanricoke Indians 
      (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1983) 
      and Delaware's Forgotten Folk (Philadelphia, 1943). 

      The Delaware Moors were a result of an admixture of Nanticoke
      (Amerindian), Irish (European) and Moorish (African) bloodlines.

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