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Did you get the significance of this old photograph?

Did you get the significance of this old photograph?

 

My grandmother’s mother made the children wear hats so their skin wouldn’t turn darker than it already was.  The Bone Family really didn’t have dark complexions . . . maybe like someone from southern Spain.   However, that alone would set them apart and make them subject to abuse during the first two decades of the 20th century.  My mother said that she always wore a hat, while hoeing the fields for the same reason.  She did not want to look different.

My grandmother had trouble finding a suitable husband because she was related to most of the young Uchee-Creek men in her community.   Creeks have always practiced a taboo against marriage with relatives or members of the same clan.  My grandfather Obie had blue eyes and so was allowed to attend public school.  However, he had some Creek ancestry from the other end of South Carolina and therefore didn’t mind marrying my grandmother.   Their honeymoon was at Tallulah Falls and the Nacoochee Valley.  Mama Ruby said that one of her mother towns was in the Nacoochee Valley.

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

11 Comments

  1. jamesrhodes666@msn.com'

    The Vietnamese, especially those who want to come to America, wear large hats and gloves that go up to and past their short sleeves. When asked why, they almost 100% tell me: “We don’t want to be ‘too dark’ when we arrive in America….” They know black and Native history better than most Americans!

    Reply
    • That is very interesting too. So they have the same concern that the Friendly Creeks had!

      Reply
  2. Byrongeb@hughes.com'

    Interesting comment about hats. My family all lived in Grady and Thomas counties to the west of Waycross and all the women and many of the men wore wide brim hats while working. My uncles often wore old pith helmets like in Africa and my grandmother wore a very wide brimmed hat whenever she was outside as did many of the older women. The younger people did not, as a rule. No alleged Native American in our families but the sun was bright and it was always hot as hell in South Georgia. We all got dark and would get sunburned too. Usually the hats came off with picture taking. Even many African Americans working with us in the fields wore hats. Especially while priming tobacco in August or September. It was just common sense. You could still get heat stroke no matter what your race and I have treated many a case of those in Georgia and Texas.

    Reply
    • Now that is interesting too. People back then were not so interested in a tan.

      Reply
  3. mlee@uwf.edu'

    This reminds me that my Granny who was what some call tri -racial today (Choctaw, white, & Creole from LA) always wore wide brim hats to keep her skin light & also wore long sleeved shirts all year. It must have been hot in summer living on a farm but she didn’t work in fields just her flowers & veggie gardens, She did not believe in tanning for us grand daughters either, the boys could & did tan easily. As children we never thought about it but as adults we found out about the racial make up of both sides of the family & keeping racial makeup secrets in the segregated South. My Granny’s first husband was part Creek from Alabama, her second white from MS. In order to get & marry husband number two during the Depression she gave her daughter who was way too dark to a member of her side of her family to raise as their own child. Everyone was told the daughter had died & my fair skinned, blue eyed father posed no problem for anyone with the Creek & Choctaw & Creole blood kept secret inside the family. Going back through pictures of the older women on both sides of the family I see through the 1940s all the women wore longer dresses with long sleeves & wide straw hats in summer. Some of it may have been the style but now I don’t think so much.
    Marcie

    Reply
    • That reminded me! My mother also wore long sleeves in the summer when working on the farm as a teen or in her garden as an adult. Meanwhile, I wear as little clothing as possible in the summer. LOL

      Reply
  4. silverton4@silverton4.net'

    Wearing long sleeves and hats in summer is much more likely to have been practiced to keep fair skinned people from sunburn than to keep indian blood from being obvious. There was no stigma at all attached to indian blood where I grew up, which is in the Piedmont region of South Carolina, across the state line from Charlotte. I grew up in the ’50s there, so my childhood should have been spent, if you all are correct, in some KKK ruled society where a suntan would get you lynched. That is absurd, of course.

    That part of the Carolinas has a large segment of people descended from several tribes, and our family histories show plenty of mixing with other ethnicities as well as a history of property ownership and varying levels of privilege that couldn’t have existed if what you all are claiming is correct.

    All of this speculation about racial hatred existing at the level you folks are claiming is revisionist. If southern society was as bad as you’re saying it was, there would, quite simply, be no descendants of the original tribes living anywhere in Georgia or the Carolinas today. My own ancestors would have been driven out or lynched and so would yours have been. Try not to engage in the same kind of revisionist historical theory that the official Cherokee revisionists are pushing. It just muddies the waters and causes error.

    Reply
    • Well there was certainly a stigma, where my mother grew up. She definitely didn’t have a fair complexion. Without exposure to sun, it had a yellowish tint like Southeast Asians.

      Reply
  5. mlee@uwf.edu'

    Not being revisionist, but my grandparents lived in south Louisiana & MS where there was KKK activity into the 1950s. People who lived there were rightly concerned about the color of their skin causing potential problems for them. I knew personally members of one family whose lighter skinned children left the area as soon as they graduated from high school & never came back. Since we moved away from MS I don’t know if the family finally died out or the last of them left the area. I just remember in school being very sad for them because they were going to leave their family. It was the first time the world of the segregated South came home to us kids in my family.
    Marcie

    Reply
    • As I said in my article, “white” people wouldn’t not marry “Indians” when my grandmother was a young woman. That all changed during World War II, but my mother did avoid getting a sun tan.

      Reply
  6. kkakins@gmail.com'

    I love this picture for the chickens. Roaming free and eating bugs. I wish more chickens got to live this life these days. Reminds me of my childhood at my grandmother’s. Pale skin wasn’t only desired by people of color, but white women also protected their skin because it was a matter of social class. Whiter women didn’t have to work in the fields and had more money. So if you were seen as whiter you were seen as wealthy enough not to have to do your own farm work. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s mother made her daughters were bonnets. It’s prevalent in a lot of pioneer histories.

    Reply

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