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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Defining "Color"

Hello, all!

For an excellent, extremely detailed book on terms such as "color" "race" "mulatto", check out the following book:

Africans and Native Americans : The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples by Jack D. Forbes

(availabel at

Essentially, Forbes says that perception of "us" and "them" changes through time and space and culture, that the terms used in different places and different times did not mean the same thing then as now, and especially when adopted into another language. (Even the perception of color is culturally influenced.)

He says we have to agree upon definition of terms before we can have any meaningful discussion. (Amen.)

Along with all of this, he gives a very good discussion of the evolution of servitude/slavery in North America and on relations between the "races." One of his best comments is that "from the Red man, they wanted his land; from the Black man they wanted his labor" and that the slave laws were predicated on achieving these goals. (Not an exact quote.)

(You think it's hard to define these terms now. Wait 'til you read this book. You'll never be able to use the word "race" without a two-paragraph introduction again -- or at least the quotations.)

On the personal side, I am a descendant of the the Driggers clan - virtually all of whom are descendants of Emanuel Rodriguez (Manuel Driggers) of 1640s Eastern Shore of Virginia, listed as Negro slave.

Manuel didn't die a slave and by the 1790 census, all Driggers in the South were listed as either mulatto or white. The name also shows up among the Melungeons and the Lumbees of North Carolina.

I've seen comments from white Southern Driggers that say, "I've never seen a black Driggers" and I've seen comments from black Northern Driggers that say, "I've never seen a white Driggers."

There is an interesting study in here for somebody, someday.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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