Genealogy Web Journal
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Barbados: Brief Theory on Origin of Mestee Populations in the United States
By Alvie Walts
The Celtic Influence on Mestee Communities in the United States
Social status in North America in the past was very much based on both a economic and racial caste system.
Little known to most Anglo Americans today is that during the early 16th to 17th centuries that the Irish, Scottish and British of Celtic ancestry were regarded as inferior to the more prominent Saxon British. All three of these separate groups were regarded with scorn and scrutiny by there English masters.
Ireland, Scotland, Wales and even Cornwall and Devonshire of Southwest England have longed to be free from the English of Eastern England. William Wallace and Robert the Bruce of Scotland led several Scottish revolts against the English. Later, Oliver Cromwell defeated both the Irish and the Scottish making several of them prisoners.
In 1650-1651 Cromwell invaded Scotland and defeated the Scottish. Cromwell treated very badly the thousands of prisoners of war he took in this campaign; allowing thousands of them to die of disease, and deporting others to penal colonies in Barbados.
In all, we can see that the Celtic peoples of the United Kingdom and Ireland were treated throughout the centuries with scorn from the more Germanic British and subsequently the new Americas looked like very enticing to these groups of peoples. Many of these Celtic people came to America in hopes of having a new life and owning there own land after working for years as indentured servants to there wealthy masters.
The Central Asian and Iberian Influence on Mestee Communities in the United States
In the 8th Century, Spain came under the rule of invading Islamic Moor armies from North Africa. Christians and Jews were allowed to live under Islamic rule but had to pay a poll tax so they were not treated as equals in this society but religion from all of the faiths of Abraham were tolerated to a degree. A small section of Northern Spain continued to be ruled by Christians which by the 11th century had gradually re conquered the Iberian peninsula.
It was not however until King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella endorsed the Spanish Inquisition in 1478 that both the Jewish and Muslim faiths were brought to near extinction in Spain. Thousands of Muslims and Crypto Sephardic Jews who did not convert were put to death and tortured. Over 150,000 of the Crypto "Marrano" Jews went to Portugal to escape the Inquisition. Many of these people went to the Americas as either prisoners or settlers or indentured servants.
In the north various religious Inquisitions were also bringing under control the Jewish population of Northwestern Europe but not only the Jews of France and Northwestern Europe felt the pressure of the Christian Inquisition but also the Romany or Gypsy who also felt the pressure of the new religious orders to convert.
Originally of South Asian Indian origin, the Romany had been discriminated against for centuries in Europe and are still to this day in modern Europe looked at as a lower class of people. It is no wonder then that the Americas would have looked very enticing to this group of people. Possibly the term “Black Dutch” or “Black Deutch” was used for them in America. Later this term was adopted by Mestee people in the United States along with the term “Black Irish” to pass as white in the more dominant Anglo society. It has been speculated that the English Romany were also transported along with Spanish and Portuguese Jews, Celtic English and Scotch Irish to Barbados and other islands to work as forced labor on the Sugar Plantations. This was done during the 1600's by Oliver Cromwell and his forced assimilation of all religions and people in the British Isles.
Redlegs of Barbados: Possible Origin of the Redbone and Melungeon people
Thousands of Cromwell’s prisoners were sent to work in the Americas as prisoners or indentured servants after the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685 to Barbados and other Caribbean Islands. These people were composed of Southwestern Brythonic Celts from England, Scotch Celts and Irish Celts. There were also small groups of Portuguese and German indentured servants.
One community of Portuguese is thought to have gone to Barbados and other islands from South America. The small community on Barbados might have been Portuguese prisoners of the English navy sent away to work on the Sugar Plantations of Barbados and other Caribbean Islands. It is not known how many of there descendents intermarried with the English and Scotch Irish prisoners who were also sent to work as indentured servants in the Caribbean.
Together, these people become known as "Redlegs" because of the sunburn on there fair skin. Over the next couple of centuries the white common class was used as a buffer from the African American slaves who were brought in to work on the Sugar plantations. The African population became the majority on the island to work on the sugar plantations and the Redlegs were used as Militia. There appears to have been some inter-marriage between the Celtic and African people as well as some of the original American Indian natives that lived on Barbados though not to a great degree. Later, these Celtic/Portuguese/Mulatto people were deported to South Carolina where they became farmers in the British colonies.
A modern example of a Redbone class of people are the Irish travelers as seen in the movies. Yes, these people do exist and they live in the United Kingdom and have existed in Ireland since the Middle ages.
Virginia and North/South Carolina: The Melting Pot
Thousands of indentured servants and settlers swarmed into the Virginias and Carolinas of various groups including English and Scotch Irish. Those of Mulatto ancestry both Indian, white and Celtic (Scotch Irish-Brythonic English) were pushed to the outskirts of the more dominant white English and Scotch Irish.
They later became known by several names including Melungeons, Redbones, Brass Ankles and Turks just to name a few. One colony, the Crotoan "Lost Colony" of North Carolina probably became the Lumbee Indians of North Carolina. This group is a complete tri-racial society of Anglo, African and Native American.
Because of there social status these groups of Mestee people were more in contact with Native American tribes of the Virginias and the Carolinas and therefore not only traded and inter married with the Native population but also adopted portions of the Native culture. Native tribes that contributed to the Mestee groups of the United States include but are not limited to The Cherokee, The Siouan Saponi (also called Blackfoot or Cherokee Blackfoot), The Algonquin Confederacy of Virginia (many different tribes), The South Carolina Cheraw, The Catawba, The Choctaw, The Creek Confederacy (which consisted of many of different tribes), Alabama, Coushatta, Chickasaw, Tuscarora and hundreds of other decimated Southeastern Native American groups. Many of these Mestee and Indian groups moved to the Appalachian Mountains but there are communities all over the Southern United States from Kentucky and Virginia down to Florida and Westward all the way to Louisiana and Texas.
Mestee Groups Today
The Melungeons are the most widely recognized group today but others also continue to exist. The Redbone people of South Carolina and Louisiana. The Brass Ankles and Turks of South Carolina. The Brown People of Kentucky. The Carmel Indians of Ohio.
Then there are tri racial groups of Native Americans including the Lumbee, Haliwa and the Native American tribes of Louisiana.
In all there has been documented over 200 groups of Mestee peoples in the Southern United States. They continue to exist as a clannish people fiercely proud of there mixed heritage and ancestral background. The descendents of many nations of Celtic, African, Jewish, Romany, Spanish, Portuguese, Caribbean Mulatto and Native American people.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Spain
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Legshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbados http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_South_Carolina http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Irish http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redbone_%28ethnicity%29 http://www.melungeons.com/articles/may2004.htm http://www.geocities.com/~patrin/pariah-ch12.htm http://barbadosphotogallery.com/jpgees/people/dianatan.jpg
Picture of a modern “White?” child on Barbados.