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Our Undying Past

Red, Black, and Sometimes White


This new group taps into many African Americans' newfound interest in their native roots.

New Year’s Day brought a fascinating article out of Atlanta about black Native Americans. It should be no surprise that the two groups mixed over the centuries. Both were marginalized and persecuted by Europeans, with many American Indians being enslaved along with Africans in the early decades of contact, and with blacks sometimes being enslaved by Native Americans.

In the 1970s I delved into this complicated phenomenon when researching a story about an organization called United American Indians of the Delaware Valley. The coalition, now defunct, was dominated by a North Carolina group known as the Haliwas. Many of its members were triracial – black, white and red. Haliwa is an invented name that refers to the two rural counties, Halifax and Warren, where the group was concentrated. For generations, the Haliwas were what anthropologists term “triracial isolates” – subsisting on a toehold of isolated land, until many of them departed on the Great Migration north Read More 
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Philadelphia's Indian Set-Aside


It's believed that the so-called Wampum Lot would have touched on the southern edge of Welcome Park and run toward Bookbinder's, as shown in this photo by Nathaniel Popkin.


The listener’s question last week stumped me. “Is it true,” she asked, “that William Penn set aside land in Philadelphia for the Indians’ permanent use?”

At author appearances for Visions of Teaoga, my historical novel about Indian-settler conflict, I’ve welcomed the various questions that have come: Why did I tackle this topic? How does one research it? What are the lessons for today?

But this query, about a possible Indian reservation right in Philadelphia, brought me up short. It came during a talk-back portion of my presentation at the Ethical Society on Philly’s Rittenhouse Square. I responded that it was news to me, though it was plausible given Penn’s early good will  Read More 
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