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AfriGeneas Genealogy and History Forum Archive 3

Family History of Joe Louis

Hello Afrigeneas Family!

This following information comes from a very fragile copy of: The Ring

World's Foremost Boxing Magazine

May 1936

*Published by the Ring, Inc.

Vol. XV No. 4

The life of Joe Louis
Brown Bomber descended from Fighting Stock-Relatives Reveal Blood of Cherokee Chieftain Flows in Detroiter's Veins-Would Battle at Drop of Hat in His Boyhood Days, Admirers Recall to N.E.A. Feature Writer
By Floyd Tillery
NBA Service Special Correspondent

"Us is a proud family of folks," said one the oldest of the Barrows. "Our forebears were born in slavery time and you how it was then with the good-looking mulatto women. There wasn't no marryin', of course, but us is got the best white blood of the whole country in our veins-and the best Indian blood, too.

"Our grandmothers, long before the war, were never less than half white. Our grandfathers, for the most part, were the big white landowners and the big Indian warriors.

"We were all at least three-fourths white and the the rest is more Indian than African.

One didn't have to question this genealogical report. Just take a look at dozens of Barrow men and women, dozens of nearly full grown youths, and little boys and girls by the scores, up there in the Buckalew country. Some of them are as fair as any Anglo-Saxon; some of them have coal-black hair, high cheek-bones, and well-arched noses. Some have red hair, yellow hair, even white hair.

None of them is dark-skinned like the average southern Negri, though many are the typical freaky-looking zambos. Others are pleasantly pigmented like the "Brown Bomber"--very light yellow, with wavy hair and brown or blue eyes.

*Photos are shown, one has the following captions:
"In this group we see Aunt Cora Barrow, one of Joe's staunchest admirers, "I got to give way these her three gals (three little girls shown) so they can go to school somewheres", she says.

All the Barrows are intelligent, in fact the most intelligent and independent colored folks I have met in the south. And they are all land owners.

"But us and our chillun ain't got no education to speak of," said Joe's Aunt Cora. "Us don't have no schools to go to."

Joe's Aunt Donnie said, "I've got fifteen chillun and none of 'em has had schoolin'." Fully a dozen of Donnie's drove were crowded around the three-room Barrow cabin-the old home place where the reunion is going to be held "when Joe and Sis Lillie come back home for a visit."

*A Photo of an old home is pictured with the following caption:
"In a cabin of which this is one is almost the replica, in the same localitiy, Joe Louis was born in the Buckalew mountains. Only the chimney of Joe's birthplace now is standing."

Every Barrow man, woman, and child is proud of Joe. They look on him as a new and far-away god who'll soon be coming down to Alabama to see them.

It's hard scratching for these families to make a living. It takes all they can rake and scrape to pay taxes and buy half enough to live on, they declare.

Their farms resemble large crazy quilts of land with irregular patches of rocky, hilly soil, separated by deep red gullies and large solid areas of stratified flint.

The roads through the country are almost impassable, narrow, very rough, and quagmires when it rains. The Barrow people up there in the mountains seem to be living wholly unto themselves, utterely apart from the surrounding civilization.

But they impress you (with something of a tug at your heart) with their clear thinking, their health, their independent manners. Nothing bold or impudent. Just a kind of noble bearing, an innate, honest dignity. I don't believe the quest of racial or social equality ever entered their minds.

Joe Louis was a battler of note when he was still a boy, back in the Buckalew mountains of Alabama, where he lived until he was ten.

So it's no surprise to the friends of his boyhood days that the "Brown Bomber" has reached his present position in the fight game.

His success just seems natural to all the old residents with whom I talked on my visit to the Barrows and their kinfolk down "where the stars fell".

"Why that boy was a battler when he was only four," vowed Neal Freeman, 70 year old great-uncle of Joe, going right on pulling fodder as he talked to me, "We didn't call it boxin' in them days; we called it knockin', I've seen Joe Louis knock four boys at a time. He'd put a chip on his shouldeer and dare boys two times bigger then he was to know it off.

They'd tke the dare; then Joe Louis would beat the devil out of them. "But his mammy was a fighter before him, I've seen Lillie Reese, when she was a gal, knock *igger boys and pound 'em till they were bloody. "His daddy was such a man, too, big and strong as an ox before he lost his health and had to be sent to the state hospital.

Photos shown on two pages: the first shows a man and four children with the following caption:
"Convincing evidence of the Indian Blood of Joe Louis Barrow is given in pictures on the next page of Joe's grandmother, Victoria Harp Barrow, and his grandaunt, Octavia Harp, half Cherokees, decendants of Charles Hunkerfoot, Cherokee chieftain. Above, "Mun" Barrow, father of Joe, is shown in a picture taken before Joe was born, with four of the "Bomber's" brothers and sisters, Emerelle, Alvania, DeLeon, and Susie.
The second photo is a female of a very caucasoid description with the following caption: "Grandma Victoria Harp Barrow". The Third Photo is a female of Mixed blood Indian female wearing Native American frontier clothing and beaded necklace, with the following caption: Octavia Harp, Joe's Grand aunt. The Fourth Photo is of a young boy standing alone very with a very somber expression meagerly dressed what appears to be a tattered one piece outfit, with the following caption: "This could pass for a picture of Joe Louis when he left Alabama at the age of 10, say the "Bombers" kin. It shows a cousin of Joe, in his picturesque everyday tatters, at his Buckalew mountain home."

Below is family tree, showing white, Indian and African blood in Joe's veins.

Family Tree Has the following information:
Joe Louis (Barrow)
Father-"Mun" Barrow, Mother-Lillie (Reese) Barrow
Grandfather-Lon Barrow, Grandmother-Victoria (Harp) Barrow
Great-grandfather-Anthony Barrow (Slave) and Ann (?) Barrow
Great-grandparents on Victoria's side: (?) great-grandfather and Susan (?) Harp.

Great-great grandfather (the father of Anthony Barrow (Slave); James Barrow, White planter, ownere of thousands of acres of land and hundreds of slaves.

Victoria Harp Barrows Line:
Susan Harp (her father was James Harp) a Prominent half-breed, wealthy planter and slave owner. His father was Charles Hunkerfoot (Full-blood) Cherokee chieftain and an unknown mother.

The story continues:
Joe was only a tot of two when his father who stood six feet three inches and weighed 190 pounds, worn by years of bitter, grinding toil and the ceaseless worry of trying to support a growing family on meager earnings broke under the strain.

"Mun" Barrow had spells of illness for some time and finally was sent to the state hospital for the insane. There he died, some relatives say. Others declare that he is still alive, a patient in the hospital.

From a boyhood admirer of Joe came further evidence of his youthful prowess.

"Joe Louis wuz juz lak all de rest of de Barrows-dey is all mighty high-pression people-and Joe Louis would fight you in a minute. I'se seen him whup a half-dozen little kids at a time. "Yas, suh, I know'd him well. Fact is, later on. I come mighty nigh marryin' into de Barrow fam'ly." "I was standin' good-high wid one of de Barrow gals, but she didn't lak my color. "You see de Barrows have alluz wanted to stay as white as dey could, and I wuz a little to dark to suit; but dat wuz all dat wuz wrong wid me, de gal said. Yas, suh, I sho did know Joe Louis!".

"Course, Joe Louis is a fighter!" exclaimed George Carlisle, who claims to be a cousin of Louis, looking up from the sports page of the Atlanta Constitution, "The boy comes from a fighin' fam'ly. His manny could whip evvy *igger boy and *igger man in the country. "I've seen her wrassle and knock wid de toughest bucks on Buckalew mountain. And let Lillie Reese git mad wid you, you'd sho better clear out, or you'd be in fer de worst lickin' you ever got.

"I've worked side by side wid her in de fields. She could plow and ditch and cut cordwood equal to de best among us. She had to work hard atter dey took Mun off.

"Mun was so strong, even den, dat he broke de plowlines we had his wrist tied wid, and go away from us."

"How old was Joe Louis when he left here?" I asked his Aunt Cora, whose husband helped care for the boy after Mun Barrow lost his mind. "Someone told me he was only four years old," I added.

"De devil-he was high as he is now!" dissented Cora. "I don't know 'zactly how old Joe Louis wuz when he leff, but he wuz old enough to know what my old man wuz up to when he wuz tryner mesmerize wid another woman, 'cause Joe Louis told on his Uncle Albert one day and hop me ketch right up wid de slick rascal!"

"Just what kind of a boy was Joe Louis, when he was little?" I asked Cora.

"All right, long as you'd let him alone; but he was de very devil when he got mad; and he'd try to beat the tar out-a anybody what crossed him, then.

He was a kind-hearted little fellow, though, I 'members well enough how, when one of my chilluns wuz a little sick baby, Joe Louis give me fifty cents and said, "Aunt Cora, take dis and by it some medicine."

"I suppose Joe Louis has plenty of money, now, hasn't he, Cor? "Oh, good God, yes! Just as soon as he won his last fight, he bought him a $7,000 automobile-had it made in de fac'try jest for him-hit's a eight=cylinder Something-or-Nother. Dey say de thing's so dev'lish big hit blocks up de streets in Dee-troit when Joe Louis goes ridin'round in it.

"Yeah, he got plenty money. Why, my God A'mighty, ain't he done sent his Uncle Albert a ticket to come to Dee-troit! My old man's done gone on up there, now.

"I knows Joe Louis'll be too busy to keep him 'way fum dem Dee-troit high yallers! But I bet you dis; I bet you when my old man comes back, he comes back wid all his pockets stuffin'-full of money what Joe Louis goner give him!"

Time was when there was not talk of pocketfuls of money, not even a dream of such a miracle, among Joe Louis' kin. For several years after the death of "Mun" Barrow, the widow fought a discouraging, heart-breaking battle to keep her brood alive. Then she married again, her second husband being Patrick Brooks, a widower, with a large flock of his own.

Brooks had made a trip to Detroit, where he had been told that there were plenty of jobs for colored folks in the Ford plant. So he and Lillie assembled their two flocks, sold their few possessions, borrowed a little moeny to help tide them over, and set out for the new Utopia.

Young Joe Louis knew little of boyhood pleasures, but thanks to the time he spent in Brewster's East Side gymnasium in Detroit instead of taking violin lessons, as he mother supposed, everything is all right now.

All seven of Louis' brothers and sisters are doig well. All reside in Detroit. The oldest sister is Mrs. Susie Woodall, who wishes Joe had waited awhile before getting married.

Alvanious Barrow, 28; DeLeon Barrow 26; and Lonie Barrow 24, full brothers of Louis, all work in the Ford Plant, where Joe labored before turning professional.

The next in line in the Barrow family is Mrs. Eulalie Gaines.

Vunies Barrow is 19, and the youngest of the family. She is the apple of Joe's eye. He took his kid sister to California as a reward for being graduated from high school last spring. She matriculated at Wayne Univerity, Detroit this fall, and is preparing to teach. All the Barrows, from Ma Barrow down, look much like Joe Louis Barrow. All of them including Ma, want him to win the title, defed it twice and retire.

They do not believe that anybody can beat Joe, but they don't care to have him run the risk.

In the past, your Negro battler felt that he had to cater to the white customers, and that the white customers look for a clown complex in every brown scrapper. As a result, your Negro boxer very often was a mimie, a man of antics, an actor. You will find this true in baseball as well as in boxing.

But Louis does not exhibit that trait because he is were answered in no uncertain terms by Louis when fe fought Carnera and Baer.

Louis is a Negro fighter with a family mission-the winning of a sufficient sum of money to make the Barrow clan-the Brooks clan-in Detroit, independent of vicissitudes of fortune and time.

You gaze upon the moon face, the dead pan, of this Negro who is called Joe Louis, and you wonder if he possesses the so called killer instinct, which we maintain is lacking in so many of the fighters who pass for killers in the squared circle.

You are sure that Louis does not possess the instinct to cut and rip and hurt, until you see his eyes narrow to tiny slits, and then you know. He exhibited that trait against Carnera. You know that he can hurt, that he wants to hurt, that he has the instincts of a fighter.

The end.

Submitted by
Your Afrigeneas Sister
Angela Molette

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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