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The Jackson Whites


Journal Articles:

"145 Minutes from Broadway," Country Life July/August, 1948.

A description of the Ramapo Mountain region with a recounting of the Jackson Whites legend.

Beale, Calvin L. "American tri-racial isolates," Eugenics Quarterly 4(Dec 1957):187-196.

The article discusses the origins of racially-mixed, isolated mountain populations like the Jackson Whites of New Jersey and the Melungeons of North Carolina and Tenessee.

Chanler, David, "The Jackson Whites, an American episode," Crisis 46(May 1939): 138.

The journal Crisis is devoted to discussion of black issues. Mr. Chanler writes that the Jackson Whites were considered to be black. They are an impoverished group under the control of the Ringwood Company of Bergen County, NJ, which employs many of them and provides substandard housing. There was a spate of newspaper articles about the Jackson Whites in the mid-30s brought on by the activities of Rev. A. F. Chillson of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Bergen County, who was interested in helping the Jackson Whites. The Ringwood Company became embarrassed by the attention and Rev. Chillson was soon moved to another church.

Cohen, David S., "The origin of the 'Jackson Whites': History and legend among the Ramapo Mountain People," Journal of American Folklore 85(1972):260-266.

Of the many articles written on the Jackson Whites legend this is probably one of the best researched and most reasoned. The term Jackson Whites is considered extremely offensive to the local people of the Ramapo Mountain region of northern New Jersey and southern New York states. The origins of the legend are explored and critically analyzed. The group is identified as ethnically distinct from neighboring peoples. The core family names of the group are de Fries, van Donck, de Groot and Mann, probably brought to the region by escaped Negro slaves or freedmen from Dutch plantations in the Hudson Valley region. These Dutch surnames can be traced in local genealogical records back to the 1740s. The original inhabitants of the Ramapo Region, considered to be on the frontier then, were racially mixed sons and daughters of freed black servants and Dutch farmers and plantation owners with these surnames. There is little evidence that the current descendants have very much Indian blood although there may be significant components from the Lenni Lenape and the Tuscarora. The single largest racial component appears to be Negro. The light coloration of many members of the clan arises from albinism and pie baldness from isolation and constant intermarriage within the extended clan.

________, "The Ramapo Mountain People: A Reassessment," New Jersey Folklore 2(1980):15-17

A general article on isolated, racially-mixed groups, including the Jackson Whites. It offers an analysis of the legends surrounding these groups and compares them with their own oral histories and traditions.

Collins, Daniel, "The racially-mixed People of the Ramapos: Undoing the Jackson White legends," American Anthropologist 74(Oct 1972):1276-1285.

A review of the literature fails to validate the Jackson White legends which traditionally have accounted for the presence of a racially mixed collectivity in the Ramapo Mountain area. Extant oral traditions supporting the least documented & most pejorative aspects of the legends serve to maintain isolation & threaten the continuation of the Ramapo Mountain community of racially mixed people. The name Jackson White connotes a racial anomaly spawned by inbreeding & intermarriage, born into ignorance & degeneracy, & condemned to poverty, feeble-mindedness & suspicion. It is shown that an enumeration of the Jackson White pop is impossible, if not irrelevant. Ways in which the Indian, white & Negro elements of these mountain people are accounted for are discussed. The Jackson Whites are a group of people held together by the isolation of the mountains, kinship, the mixed racial stigma & a defamatory legend. Changing the legends about the Jackson Whites to the history of the racially mixed people of the Ramapos is a necessity.

"Community of outcasts," Appleton's Journal of Literature, Science, and Art 7(Saturday, March 23, 1872):324-329.

One of the earliest accounts of the Jackson Whites as a clan or distinct group. The are described as poor, isolated and hermitic mountain people of mixed Negro, Indian, Hessian and Dutch blood. There are indications of albinism, mental retardation and other "degenerate" genetic anomalies.

Dunlap, A. R. and C. A. Weslager, "Trends in the naming of tri-racial mixed blood groups in the eastern United States," American Speech 22(Apr 1947):81-87.

Not reviewed.

Gilbert, William H., Jr., "Memorandum concerning the characteristics of the larger mixed-blood racial islands of the eastern United States," Social Forces 24(May 1946):438-447.

Greene, Florence E., "Tobacco road of the north," American Mercury 53(July 1941):15-22.

Ms. Greene describes the Jackson Whites as a "dull-minded, moral-less and lawless tribe of mountain folk who make the characters of Tobacco Road seem cultured and effete by comparison." She describes their homes as "squalid" and "jerry built" and notes that they can be seen "growing obliquely out of the mountainside like unwholesome fungi." [She neglects to mention that many of these homes were built by the Ringwood Company as workers' quarters]. The reiterates the principal components of the Jackson Whites legend as expostulated by John C. Storms, self-proclaimed authority on the subject. The Jackson Whites, and, by extension, others in the Ramapo Mountain region of New Jersey, were also known as "bockies" either from the name given to the oak splint baskets they wove. Many of the Jackson Whites were piebald or albino.

Harris, Mark, "America's oldest interracial community," Negro Digest 6(July 1948):21-24.

Not reviewed.

Harte, Thomas J., "Trends in mate selection in a tri-racial isolate, " Social Forces 37(March 1959):215-221.

Not reviewed.

Honeyman, Abraham Van Doren, "Early trials of Negroes in Bergen County," Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society 10(1925):357.

Not reviewed.

"Jackson Whites," Eugenical News 16(December 1931):218.

A horrific description of the genetic abnormalities found among the Jackson Whites complete with photographs meant principally as an object lesson in what miscegenation can cause.

"Jersey man and his wife doing noble work among Jackson Whites," Prospector, Nov. 12, 1936, p. 2.

The article focuses on the work of Rev. A. F. Chillson of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Bergen County, NJ, and his wife and their efforts to help the poor of the region, collectively known as the Jackson Whites.

Jessup, Elon, "Secrets of the Ramapos," Outing 81(Feb. 1923):217-221, 236-238.

This is an article on hiking in the Ramapo Mountains of Northern New Jersey. It focuses largely on the geology, botany and general sights to be seen. There is no mention of the Jackson Whites. The article, despite its promising title, is of interest principally as a romantic overview of the physical nature of the region and its "secrets."

Johnson, Guy B., "Personality in a White-Indian-Negro community," American Sociological Review 4(Aug 1939):516-523.

Not reviewed.

Johnston, James H., "Documentary evidence of the relations of Negroes and Indians," Journal of Negro History 14(Jan 1929):21-43.

Not reviewed.

Kaufman, Charles H., "An ethnomusicological survey among the people of the Ramapo Mountains," New York Folklore 23(1957):3-43, 109-131.

His research indicates that the musical origins of the folk songs of the Ramapo Mountain region are Dutch and Negro. There is little evidence for significant contributions from Indian, West Indian or German sources. This lends credence to the opinions expressed by others that the Jackson Whites are a mixture of Dutch and Negro lines.

Mayer, Allan J., "Is this tribe Indian?" Newsweek 95(Jan 7, 1980):32(1).

The article focuses on the recent attempts by the people of the Ramapo Mountain region to gain acceptance by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as the Ramapough Mountain Indians. They consider themselves to be descendants of the Tuscarora and Delaware tribes. The Jackson Whites legend is reiterated. Considerable credence is given to the notion that the current population is largely descended from free black pioneers and early Dutch farmers in the region. A dialect known as "Jersey Dutch" still echoes in their speech. This is offered as evidence of the connection with early Dutch settlers.

Merwin, Miles M., "The Jackson Whites," Rutgers Alumni Monthly 42(1963):8.

Not reviewed.

Price, Edward T., "A geographic analysis of White-Indian-Negro racial mixtures in the eastern United State," Annals of the Association of American Geographers 43(June 1953):138-155.

Not reviewed.

"Ramapo Memories," Magazine of History 4(September 1906):139-144.

Not reviewed.

Rankin, Edward S., "The Ramapo Tract," Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society 50(1932):375-394.

Not reviewed.

Sheppard, Caroll-Anne, "Where are the Pineys?" New Jersey Folklife 14(1989):21-29.

Not reviewed.

Skinner, Alanson, "A primitive new race in the very heart of civilization: the 'Jackson Whites'," American Examiner 1911. In the files of the Eugenics Records Office, Dwight Institute for Human Genetics, University of Minnesota.

Not reviewed.

Snedecor, Spencer T. and William K. Harryman, "Surgical problems in hereditary polydactylism and syndactylism," Journal of the New Jersey Medical Society 37(September 1940):443-449.

The article focuses on the hereditary malformations found in some of the members of the Jackson Whites clan, principally in the Van Donk family. Polydactyly (additional fingers) and syndactyly (fusion of the fingers) are common abnormalities. There is also a considerable amount of albinism, pie baldness and some mental retardation among the youngest members of the clan. The ancestry appears to be largely Indian and Negro.

Speck, F. G., "Jackson Whites," Southern Workman 40(1911):104-107.

The Jackson Whites clan seems to have been founded by core families of native Algonquin Indians, probably Minisinks of the Delaware nation, with some of the Tuscarora who lingered for a rest in the Ramapo Valley on their retreat from North Carolina in 1714 to join their allies, the Iroquios, in New York against the British. Runaway Negro slaves and freedmen from the Dutch colonial plantations in the lowlands nearby added their blood to the mix. Some of the current surnames, van Donk, de Fries, Mann and de Groot come from these origins. The conclusion is that the Jackson Whites are a mixture of three racial lines and that their isolation led to the inbreeding which has resulted in some of the current genetic problems of the group.

Stuart, William, "Negro slavery in New Jersey and New York," Americana Illustrated 16(Oct. 1922):347-367.

Not reviewed.

Thompson, Edgar T., "The little races," American Anthropologist 74(Oct 1972):1295-1306.

Not reviewed.

Wallace, Anthony F. C., "The Tuscarora, sixth nation of the Iroquois Confederacy," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 93(May 1949):159-165.

Not reviewed.

Weller, George, "Jackson Whites," New Yorker 14(September 17, 1938):27-30, 34, 36.

Mr. Weller's largely sympathetic article describes the clan as consisting of "self-respecting mountaineers of ancient lineage. . ." Maxwell Anderson in this play High Tor has his heroine refer to the clan in her remarks to her suitor: "We can't live in your cabin, and have no money, like the Jackson Whites over at Suffern." They were also referred to as "the Jacks." Many of the members of the extended clan are albino. It was not known at the time whether this condition was the result of inbreeding or of lack of copper sulfate in the mountain diet. One of the Whites, Nellie Mann, was the great-granddaughter of a Hessian deserter from the British Army who traveled with the Barnum & Bailey Circus for many years billed as a wild girl captured in the Australian bush. Nellie, who was proud of her standing with the D.A.R. insisted on being announced as "a beautiful American albino from our own Ramapo Mountains," which was ruinous to her career as a sideshow curiosity. The article follows the genealogy of the core families of the Whites. Mr. Weller notes that "it is harder to find out something that happened in the Ramapo Mountains two generations ago than what happened in the Fiji Islands at the same period." Much of the history of the Jackson Whites is obscure because they were largely ignored by polite and genteel society in the valleys below their mountain homes. The article continues to recount, in considerable detail, the legend of the origin of the Jackson Whites.

"Who are the Jackson Whites?" Pathfinder (Sept. 5, 1931):20.

Not reviewed.

Messages In This Thread

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18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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