Multiracial Families/Communities

“Free People of Color” in Slaveholding North Carolina: The Andersons of Granville County

By Vikki Bynum

Late last year, I was contacted by Raymont Hawkins-Jones, a descendant of a family I’d written about many years earlier: the Andersons of Granville County, North Carolina. The Andersons were one of the many fascinating free families of color that I’ve studied over the years, and I enjoyed learning more about their history from Raymont. Back in pre-internet 1992, pretty much everything I knew about my subjects was what I’d learned from records held at the North Carolina State Archives. Today, social media has enabled me to meet many of their descendants and to access additional records posted on the internet. The same digital revolution that stimulated me to create this blog also allows me to revisit my early topics of research and bring their stories up to date! (1)

The Andersons and the families with whom they intermarried belonged to a community of people defined by society as non-white, but who rarely appeared as slaves in North Carolina’s state and court records. As I’ve noted in earlier Renegade South essays about the mixed heritage communities of Gloucester County, Virginia, and the “Winton Triangle” of North Carolina, the lives of free people of color reveal far more complicated histories of racial identity, class, and race relations than the broad images of “white freedom” and “black slavery” would suggest.

In fact, families such as the Andersons are central to understanding historical events that preceded and followed the institution of slavery, including colonization, the American Revolution, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the postwar rise of the Ku Klux Klan, and the New South era of white supremacy.

The very existence of free people of color, especially those in the South, threatened the growing institution of slavery. Southern whites especially feared their influence on slaves as the United States moved toward a Civil War generated by national conflicts over slavery. Determined to prevent free people of color from exercising full rights of citizenship and mobility, lawmakers increasingly policed their behavior through oppressive laws and customs.In my first book, Unruly Women: the Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (1992),  I published my findings on the Andersons and touched on the lives of free families bearing the names of Boon, Chavis, Curtis, Day, Fane, Haithcock, Kearsey, Mayo, Richardson, and Tyler. During the course of my research, I also become familiar with the Bass, Guy, Pettiford, and Taborn families of Granville County. With no diaries or first-hand accounts available to me from the families themselves, I focused on their court-house experiences and what they revealed about the lives of multi-ethnic free people governed by race and class-based laws in a slaveholding state.

Back in 1992, I knew next to nothing about these families’ heritage, and mostly referred to them as “free blacks.” Today, thanks to conversations with Raymont and after reading Kianga Lucas’s Native American Roots blog, I realize that the courts’ label of “free people of color” masked their extensive and varied Indian ancestry. The Bass family, for example, with whom the Andersons intermarried, originally descended from the Nansemond tribe of Virginia’s Powhatan Confederacy. Likewise, many of Granville County’s free people of color claim descent from various Indian tribes such as the Tuscarora of eastern North Carolina and the Pamunkey, Chickahominy, and Saponi of Virginia. Descendants of these tribes were among the earliest people of color to migrate to Granville County, where they settled in the vicinity of the town of Oxford and the townships of Fishing Creek, Kittrell, and Tally Ho. (2)

Map courtesy of Kianga Lucas.

Writing for the Atlantic Monthly in 1886 under the pseudonym David Dodge, Oscar W. Blacknall of Kittrell township gave an eye-witness description of his neighbors. Because of “exclusive intermarriage in their own class,” he wrote, they displayed a “considerable infusion of Indian blood” revealed by their

“long coarse, straight black hair and high cheekbones . . . joined with complexions whose duskiness disclaims white blood and with features clearly un-African.”

Sampson Anderson (1844-1906) with wife Jane Anderson (1852-1923) and son Robert F Anderson (1872-1914). Sampson was the son of Henry Anderson and Nancy Richardson. Jane was the daughter of Mark and Crecy Anderson. The family lived in Granville and Wake Counties and relocated to Washington, D.C. in their later years. Source: Ancestry, Username: rewinder11. Courtesy Kianga Lucas.
Lillian Anderson (1882-1932) daughter of Thomas Anderson and Sarah Tyler. Lillian was about four years old when Blacknall’s article appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. Photo courtesy of Kianga Lucas.

Because the Andersons were free during colonial times, I wondered whether they and their kinfolk had descended from indentured servants rather than slaves, or had perhaps been freed between 1740 and 1770, when European Enlightenment ideals generated criticism of slavery. That era not only provided the ideological underpinnings of the American Revolution, but fueled debates about the morality of slavery, setting in motion the gradual abolition of slavery in the Northern colonies. The plantation South did not follow suit, but numerous Southern slaveholders nonetheless sought to save their souls by privately manumitting slaves.

Greed overcame white misgivings about slavery enough for framers of the U.S. Constitution (ratified in 1788) to grant protections to the institution. The matter was anything but settled, however. Antislavery sentiments never completely died out, and reemerged in the 19th century among various religious groups, notably Wesleyan Methodist farmers in North Carolina, and politically in the Free Soil and Abolitionist movements.

Although the 17th century Bass family of Virginia appears never to have suffered enslavement, the Andersons, who lived nearby, were held in bondage by John Fulcher, an English planter of Norfolk, Virginia, who eventually freed them. In 1712, decades before the era of the American Revolution, Fulcher manumitted fifteen slaves, thirteen of whom bore the surname Anderson, two the surname Richardson. He bestowed 640 acres of land as well as freedom on these slaves, eight of whom were still children.

I suspect that John Fulcher was kin to the Andersons. Not only were kinships common between masters and manumitted slaves, there is also the matter of Fulcher’s divorce from his wife, Ruth, some twenty years earlier. In 1691, Ruth Woodhouse Fulcher was granted a legal separation from her husband by Virginia’s Lt. Governor Francis Nicholson. Such separations were rarely granted to women in 17th century Virginia, particularly not under the terms granted by the Lt. Governor. Nicholson not only assigned legal guardianship of the couple’s son to Mrs. Fulcher, he also ordered Mr. Fulcher to pay her two thousand pounds of tobacco annually. (3)

These were unusual decisions in an ardently patriarchal society. Clearly, Lt. Gov. Nicholson was disturbed by whatever undisclosed charges Ruth Fulcher brought against her husband. Might she have accused her husband of sexually crossing the color line, of fathering children among his slaves? Were the slaves he manumitted in 1712 his own children, and did they include the mother(s) of those children? (4)

Whatever his reasons, John Fulcher’s freeing of his slaves fed fears of slave revolts among Virginians. The colony’s General Assembly responded by recommending passage of a law forbidding manumission, citing it as an incentive for slave revolts.

Exactly when and where the Andersons were first enslaved seems as uncertain as how they gained their surname. In the Southern colonies, where Indian wars, servitude, and slavery overlapped, they may originally have been Indian war captives whose descendants mixed with other Indians, African slaves, English colonizers, or white servants, creating mixed-heritage peoples with no fixed racial identity—except in the minds of white leaders who marked them as non-white under the heading of “free people of color.” The Bass and Anderson families’ lives intersected in 1699 when Edward Bass, a son of William Bass, Sr., purchased land from John Fulcher. After Fulcher freed the Andersons, the two families intermarried. In the first half of the eighteenth century, they migrated from Norfolk, Virginia, to Granville County, North Carolina.  Once settled, Basses and Andersons married among other free families bearing names such as Chavis, Day, Goins, Harris, Hawley, Kersey, Pettiford, Mitchell, and others. These families, too, identified their roots as Native American. (5)

By the late eighteenth century, the names of free people of color appeared frequently in Granville court records and documents. George Anderson, whose will was probated in May 1771, left an estate that included at least seventy acres of land to heirs bearing the surnames of Anderson, Bass, Pettiford, Harris, and Smith. To Nathan Bass, he left a “plantation’ on which Bass already lived. To various other kinfolk, he left cattle, a mare, pewter plates, and a bed. Clearly, the founding families of this community had established solid yeoman-class roots. (6)

A revealing petition about the families’ status was also presented in 1771 to the North Carolina Assembly. Here we see Granville’s growing community of free people of color asking to be exempted by the state from paying taxes that were described as “highly derogatory of the Rights of Freeborn Subjects.” (7)

Colonial taxation laws had long discriminated against people of color, taxing not only free males over the age of twelve, but also females, on the assumption that all non-whites “worked the ground,” whether enslaved or not. In this era of emergent republican ideals, race-based economic discrimination against free people was condemned by the petitioners as unjust. Grouped among their names were those of free people from the area of Oxford and Fishing Creek: Gibea Chavis, Benjamin Bass, Lewis Anderson, Edward Bass, David Mitchell, and William Chavis. (8)

Criticisms of slavery and demands that free people of color be respected as citizens were soon quashed after the American Revolution. As the 19th century’s Cotton Kingdom emerged, Southern demand for slave labor increased. The one drop rule of race came to prevail. Whether free people of color were dark or light-skinned,  and regardless of whether they had white or Indian ancestors, they were labeled “Negroes” or “Mulattoes”—meaning that they were fit for slavery and their freedom thus a threat to its stability. For that reason, Southern states passed laws further limiting slave manumission. At the same time, they passed stricter laws that further limited the mobility and rights of  free people of color.

In response to their diminishing status, Granville County’s free families of color emphasized their Native American roots and often denied African ancestry altogether in hopes of distancing themselves from slavery. Local court records from the three decades before the Civil War, 1830-1860, reveal a fractious caste of people,  one in which intra-family feuds and scuffles with whites generated court charges of affrays, assault & batteries and filings of peace warrants. Not surprisingly, white authorities seemed all too eager to police the neighborhoods of families who lived in the interstices of freedom and slavery.  (9)

Social contact between people of color and whites ranged from affectionate to violent. People from various backgrounds traded goods, drank, gambled, fornicated—and occasionally tried to marry—across the lines of color and status. Tavern keepers were frequently targeted for running “disorderly houses” that included all manner of such interracial activities. Public affrays no doubt reflected internal tensions created by such activities.

Illustration from frontispiece of Victoria Bynum, Unruly Women

Poor white and free women of color occasionally ran taverns as an alternative to working in the homes and fields of other (mostly white) people. When taverns added interracial prostitution to the menu of services, authorities labeled them “bawdy” as well as “disorderly” houses. White women Elvira and Sally Short, for example, were specifically cited for “procuring” “whores” who engaged in “dreadfully filthy and lewd offences” that included “men, women, free persons, and slaves” who gathered there day and night. (10)

But it was not prostitution per se that seemed to concern white authorities. The courts punished sexual relations between whites, free people of color, and slaves far more frequently than they punished the sale of sex among whites. By their very nature, taverns were assumed to encourage sexual activity among patrons; it followed, then, that owners who ignored boundaries of race and status were suspected of fostering sexual intimacy across those boundaries.

Free people of color were not to fraternize with either slaves or lower-class whites. In 1856, tavern-keeper Nancy Anderson was accused of violating laws that forbade such camaraderie. Specifically, the courts charged her with running a “disorderly” house in which whites, free people of color and slaves engaged together in “whoring, drinking, and gambling.” That she was not charged with running a “bawdy” house indicates that interracial mingling (including sexual intimacy), not prostitution, was the offense.

It was not whites who initiated the charges against Nancy Anderson. The three men who testified against her (one of them her kinsman, Ephraim Anderson) were free men of color. Although we know that ethnic differences, economic status, and who one associated with all contributed to conflicts among people of color, we don’t know the exact reasons that these men appeared to police social contact between a woman of their community and neighboring slaves. (11)

Among whites, mingling between the races ended in death for Tom Peace, a white man, who carried on a relationship with Tabby Chavous (Chavis), a free woman of color, for some ten years. The fact that Tom regularly treated Tabby with the respect reserved for white women infuriated his brother, Dickerson Peace, who brought fornication charges against the couple in 1844. Undaunted, Tom and Tabby continued to attend public gatherings together well into the 1850s. When they appeared together at a neighborhood barbecue in 1854, an enraged Dickerson attacked and killed his brother. (12)

The courts regularly sought to counter interracial relationships and, that failing, to control the lives and labor of mixed-race children born to such relationships. The long-term relationship between Susan Williford and Peter Curtis, discussed here and in Unruly Women, (pp. 88-93) demonstrated the stages of that control: first, the guilty party was charged with fornication. If the woman subsequently became pregnant, bastardy charges would follow. At some point, usually after the age of five, the bastard child, defined as an “orphan,” (i.e. lacking a legal father) would be apprenticed to a member of the community until age 21. By contract, these apprenticed children worked for their “masters” until adulthood, depriving them of their freedom and the affections of their parent(s). Their mothers, of course, were deprived of both their children’s affection and their labor—a crucial element of survival in the rural Old South. Her punishment by the courts also demonstrated the larger threat that personal as well as political alliances of class and race presented to slaveholding society.

In part, the courts’ forcible apprenticeship of illegitimate children—many of whom were impoverished whites—to more prosperous members of the community prevented them from becoming economic and social burdens for county governments. By 1830, however, the system clearly provided a handy way to deny freedom to an increasing population of free children of color, at the same time claiming their labor for the white community. (13)

Relatively prosperous free families of color such as the Andersons managed to escape the apprenticeship system. Marriage among free people of color within their own community, land ownership, and gainful employment defended them against this practice. A number of free families of color from Granville, including William Evans, Anderson Pettiford, Joseph Curtis, and Lucy Richardson,  managed even to rescue the children of friends and family from the apprenticeship system by becoming apprenticeship masters themselves. These families gained custody of community children through the very system that would otherwise have bound the children out to whites. (14)

The free community of Granville’s Oxford area struggled for autonomy right up to the Civil War and beyond. Archibald “Baldy” Kersey, a propertied free man of color with multiple ties of kinship to its core families, had long engaged in illicit trade among slaves and white citizens. (15) Court records show him charged more than once with illegally possessing guns and with various thefts connected to illegal trading. During the Civil War, such trade networks among slaves, free blacks, and whites flourished, causing Sheriff William Philpott to describe Kersey to Governor Zebulon Vance as

“the worst rogue and seducer of slaves I have ever known. He has a range from here to the extremity of the state east, as he has been trading that way for years.” Furthermore, Philpott reported, Kersey had recently broken out of jail with the aid of two white men. (16)

Scene from movie The Free State of Jones, 2016. STX Entertainment.

Baldy Kersey’s resistance to authority took a political turn during the Civil War and Reconstruction. One can only imagine the formidable force that he and Newt Knight of Mississippi’s Free State of Jones would have presented the Confederacy had Kersey been part of a coalition of free people of color, slaves, and deserters fighting from the swamps of the Leaf River.

From the Daily Conservative, Oct. 7, 1864. Courtesy Kianga Lucas

In 1868, Kersey joined a coalition from the Tally Ho district of Granville County to fight against the Ku Klux Klan’s overthrow of Reconstruction. He and six men from the Curtis, Williford, Anderson, and Tyler families petitioned Governor William Holden in the name of “the Colored Race and laboring class of white people” for aid against “outrages” committed by the Ku Klux Klan in Granville County. (you may read those petitions and my analysis here.)

People of color were powerless without a full commitment from Northern leaders to hold back the tide of violence and white supremacy campaigns that derailed Reconstruction and ushered in segregation and second-class citizenship for people of color. The descendants of Granville’s free community of color, however, successfully resisted at least one method—the Grandfather Clause—devised by Southern white politicians to deny the vote to people of color.

During the late 19th century, poll taxes and literacy tests proved an effective means of disfranchisement, since many freed people were poor and illiterate. Even if one could read, literacy tests were designed to be failed. Some Southern politicians, however, objected to such laws because they also discriminated against poor white men (whose votes they needed). Enter the Grandfather Clause. In 1900, North Carolina’s state constitution echoed those of other Southern states by exempting voters from taking literacy tests and paying poll taxes if their grandfather had legally voted in or before the year 1867.

As intended, this blatant act of racial discrimination disfranchised men whose fathers had been slaves. In North Carolina, however, free men of color had legally voted until 1835, the year in which the state’s new constitution outlawed it. Thus, the grandfathers of many people of color had voted! Accordingly, in 1902, 1904, 1906, and 1908, some eighty descendants of the Anderson, Boon, Mayo, Tyler, Taborn, Pettiford, Kearsey, Howell, Day, and Chavis families successfully registered to vote during the South’s most violent era of racial disfranchisement and segregation. (17)

John Thomas Tyler (1862-1943), son of William Tyler Jr. and Sally Kersey. One of many Granville Co. citizens who registered to vote under the Grandfather Clause, he was the nephew of Baldy Kersey, who, like Wm. Tyler, protested KKK outrages during Reconstruction (see petitions). Photo courtesy of Kianga Lucas.

The mixing of peoples from three continents of the world in the North American colony of Virginia was an unintended result of an international Commercial Revolution that eventually reshaped the world. The Andersons and other ambiguously labeled “free people of color” carry the DNA of diverse peoples who variously lost lands, were wrenched from homelands, were reduced to chattel slavery, or who became rich from all of the above. Native peoples of early 17th century Virginia faced dispossession, enslavement, and slaughter by English entrepreneurs. Poor whites were uprooted from England as indentured servants to serve as menial laborers in America. By the second half of the century, these servants were replaced by African slaves, who represented a more stable economic investment for Virginia planters.

But colonization only begins to tell the history of America’s free people of color throughout the United States’ ongoing struggles over religious, racial, economic, and territorial hegemony. Their 19th century experiences are central also to understanding how conflicts over slavery led to the Civil War, how Reconstruction was thwarted by a violent and political corrupt counter-revolution that resulted in “redeemed” state governments committed to white supremacist doctrines.

By 1900, Southern literature and politics overflowed with the sentimental language of the South’s glorious Confederate “Lost Cause” version of the Civil War. The myth that states’ rights—not slavery—caused the war, leavened by “old timey” images of benevolent planters and contented slaves, provided a romantic origins tale for New South whites. As the 20th century opened, Southern leaders entertained the belief that racial segregation protected “pure” bloodlines while they placed the governance of society in “superior” white hands.

The battle against legalized segregation and disfranchisement on the basis of race brought a constitutional victory against racism in 1955, but America’s understanding of racial identity—what it is, what it means, and who decides it—remains a hot button issue of debate in the 21st century.

Post Script, 4/2/2018: In the words of historian Barbara Fields,

“Racism is not a product of race. Racist Actions produce the illusion of race.”

Louis Henry Horner, 1875-1927, great-grandson of Henry Anderson (1793-1849) and Nancy Richardson (1805-1866). Courtesy of Raymont Hawkins-Jones.
Armitta Magdeline Horner Wilson (b. about 1876), great-granddaughter of Henry Anderson and Nancy Richardson. Courtesy of Raymont Hawkins-Jones
Samuel Horner, (1887-1955), great-grandson of Henry Anderson and Nancy Richardson. Courtesy of Raymont Hawkins-Jones.


  1. My work on communities of free people of color appears in Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (1992), and The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies (2010).
  2. The historical origins and racial identities of free people of color were far more complex than communicated by contemporary labels such as “black,” “Negro,” “Indian,” “Mustee” or “Mulatto” The Basses self-identified as Indian and English. In 1727, William Bass Sr. obtained court documentation swearing that he was of English and Indian heritage, with no admixture of African. In 1742, his son, William Bass Jr., did the same. According to family historian Kianga Lucas, the Andersons, likely of Indian, English, and African heritage, shared the Basses’ Nansemond Tribal connections. On the erasure of Native American ancestry by white authorities in the age of segregation, see Lucas,
  3. On Fulcher’s manumission of his slaves, see Lucas, “The Norfolk, VA, Origins of the Anderson Family of Granville County,” June 14, 2015, Native American Roots:  For Lt. Gov. Nicholson’s court order, click here:
  4. On Southern patriarchal law and its effects on divorce and charges of interracial sex as grounds for divorce, see Bynum Unruly Women, pp. 59-87.
  5. Colonial Granville County marriage records include the names of many free people of color. Before 1800, the Bass name was most common, followed by Chavis, Anderson, Mitchell, Evans, Day, Pettiford, and Kersey. These families would remain the most visible of Granville’s free people of color before and during the Civil War Era. Published in Brent Holcomb, Marriages of Granville County, NC, 1753-1868 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc. 1981.)
  6. George Anderson will reprinted in Thomas McAdory Owen, Granville County: Notes in Preparation for the History and Genealogy of. Montgomery. AL.
  7. William L. Saunders, The North Carolina Colonial Records (Raleigh: Josephus Daniels, 1890)
  8. In September, 1668, Virginia passed the first colonial taxation statute that specifically targeted free people of color, including women, on the basis that all people of color were agricultural laborers: “WHEREAS some doubts, have arisen whether negro women set free were still to be accompted tithable according to a former act, It is declared by this grand assembly that negro women, though permitted to enjoy their ffreedome yet ought not in all respects to be admitted to a full fruition of the exemptions and impunities of the English, and are still lyable to payment of taxes.” Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large, vol. 2, p. 267. Petition signer Lewis Anderson is likely the same man who left a will in 1814 that named the following free people of color as heirs: Isaac Anderson, Abel Anderson, Augustine Anderson, Wright Anderson, Zachariah Anderson, Thomas Anderson, John Anderson, Darling Bass, Sarah Anderson (from Owen, Granville County Notes, vol. 2)
  9. Criminal Action Papers, Criminal Actions Concerning Slaves and Free People of Color, and Miscellaneous Records of Slaves and Free People of Color, Granville County, NC State Archives. Discussed in Bynum, Unruly Women, pp. 78-82
  10. On poor white women and interracial mixing in Granville County, see Bynum, Unruly Women, 88-99, and Lucas,
  11. State v. Nancy Anderson, County Court, May 1856, Criminal Action Papers, Granville County, NC State Archives.
  12. State v. Dickerson Peace, March 1854, Criminal Action Papers, Granville County, NC State Archives.
  13. In 1826, the state legislature passed a law that empowered county courts to apprentice any child of a person of color who did not have “honest industrious occupation.” This meant that even married couples of color might lose custody of their children if the court deemed it advisable. Between 1830 and 1860, Granville County’s free children of color were bound out in far greater numbers than were white children.
  14. Apprenticeship records, Granville County, NC State Archives; Bynum, Unruly Women, pp. 99-103.
  15. According to Kianga Lucas, the Kersey family arrived in Granville County in the early 1800s. Their tribal origins, she notes, are with the Algonquian speaking Weyanoke tribe who later intermarried with the Iroquois speaking Nottoway and Tuscarora tribes.
  16. On Archibald Kersey, see Bynum, Unruly Women, pp. 78, 123, 153, and Lucas,
  17. On the Grandfather Clause and for names of those who voted in Granville County despite it, see Lucas,

73 replies »

  1. This is amazing. I always enjoy your posts because it gives me some insight into my own family “names”. For many blacks it’s very difficult to patch it all together. My last name is Day (the “e” added after my grandaddy came back from the war) and my grandmother’s was Ash. I was told that her side was from the South.. And at some point moved up North to Canada. I’ve got to make a trip to Granville!

    • My family names are Bass, Anderson, Jones ect… I love this blog and Kanga. I am still searching for my Anderson family. Our DNA comes back with over 30 matches to Keziah “cuzzie” Anderson and William “Billy” cole yet I can not make the connection. So if anyone knows of John Henry Anderson born 1846 Jan. in Kentucky I sure would appreciate a heads up.. Again THANKS TO EVERYONE for this site.

      • Thank you for your comment, Kim! So glad you like this site. And I agree, Kianga is a great researcher with her own wonderful blog!


    • Hi Stephanie! My great grandfather is Pervis/Percy Daye from Granville County. He also added the E to our last name. I wonder if we are somehow related? Best! Dominique

  2. This is amazing work! Thank you for sharing. I will definitely be referring back to this as I continue to decipher the lives of my own ancestors, most of whom were in nearby Franklin County.

    Renate Sanders

  3. Enjoyed the article immensely and it brought to mind my encounter years ago with a black gentleman from the Carolinas or Georgia by the name of B. Anderson. He was seated at his desk as I entered the room, where upon he stood to greet me. He introduced himself and I replied that I was too was B. Anderson. He replied, “No relation I presume.” I answered with, “You never know. Being from the south, I’m sure you’ve heard of the proverbial wood pile.” I thought he was going to fall down laughing. Ice breaker for sure.

  4. As I am tracing my Haith family tree, I have come up with many of the surnames in this reading. I am new to genealogy but drinking in the abundance of information that I come across in the construction of my family tree. It seems to me that these families have mixed and married among the many different tribes of the local areas of immediate residents. The broader I cast my net for ancestral information the broader the canopy becomes in my family tree. I truly enjoyed this reading and it has given me a few more avenues to comb over.

  5. I descend from Nathan Gibson/Gipson, whose family was very early described as fpc in census records. Later, he & his family are described as mulatto until 1860. Beginning with the 1870 census, all members have since been identified as white. My great grandmother called herself Black Dutch. I had my DNA tested; however, it came back 99% european: no African or Native American ancestry detected. Photos of two of the family members identified as mulatto do not display any discernible African or Native American characteristics: light skin, black hair and crystal blue eyes. Many of the surnames you list are also associated with Melungeons. I understand DNA has not always been helpful with those descendants either. I feel like there’s a societal piece that we are still missing.

    • Hello skc3198,
      I read your comment. Which DNA company did you test with? Ancestry DNA company is lousy because if you have any percentage of native or african or both that is below the bar of 1%, then they do not even bother to include that on your DNA test results report because that is their stoopid policy. Very biased. Their only benefit is that they do give you a list of DNA cousin matches. Anyway, I recommend 23andme company because their policy is very fair! They will include every single thing on your report and leave nothing else. I am sorry you apparently did not get your money’s worth.
      Wendy Cunningham
      Proud to be Mixed
      Medford, Oregon

      • David, I have not uploaded to Gedmatch. I attempted it last year without success, but will try again as soon as I get a chance. I will contact you here if I’m successful.

      • Just Google …
        How to upload my Ancestry raw data to
        Quite a few videos will pop up that show you how step by step….
        Good luck….

  6. I am white living in Australia having an American father. I did my DNA and found African DNA specifically Southern Central African Hunter Gatherer. I have been working my way through my matches for anyone who is either AA or has this specific African DNA but identifies as white. The name that comes up most frequently is Cooper. I can’t work out the how of it yet. I will say that there is a Goodwin Cooper who married a Pettiford in the tree of a cousin at 4-6 level. A touch of irony is that I live in Granville in Sydney Australia.

  7. Dear Vikki –

    I read with great pleasure your most recent post about the history of the Anderson family,Granville County’s free people of color, and the shifting status of free people of color throughout the South in the 18th and 19th centuries. Much of your post echoes the research I’ve done in Southampton County, VA, regarding the free people of color who were the neighbors of my own ancestors in that area in the 18th century. Some of the family names, in fact, show up in both places. In 1676 an Ann Kersey bound her mixed-race son as apprentice to one of my ancestors, and a hundred years later a friend of my ancestors left property to his mixed-race lover Agatha Kersey to be used for the education of her children. More interesting, in 1752 a William Bynum, who may have been a relative of yours, was a co-defendant with Thomas Taborn, the richest mixed-race landowner south of the Blackwater River, in a suit for debt. Mr. Bynum, I’m afraid to say, did not acquit himself well with regard to the Taborn family and others of his mixed-race neighbors. Thereby hangs a fascinating tale of betrayal, and a picture of the declining fortunes of Southampton’s mixed-race community. This particular community, like many others, moved south as Virginia’s laws became more restrictive, with many of them showing up in the next generation in Northampton County, North Carolina.

    I’ve written a couple of short blog posts that cover some of the same ground as your most recent one:, and I’m a bit surprised that you didn’t mention the monumental work of Paul Heinegg, at, which served as the indispensable foundation for most of my own research. There’s also a great story about the first African-Americans in Virginia in *The Birth of Black America, *by Tim Hashaw.

    My husband and I recently saw *The Free State of Jones, *and loved it. Keep up the good work!

    • hello Carla,

      Great to hear from you, and I love your website and your work! My message here will be short because I’m getting ready to leave town tomorrow and won’t have my computer with me. But I wanted to tell you before I leave how much I appreciate your work—we certainly share many of the same historical interests! I also want to urge my readers to click on your links–they will surely find your essays fascinating, and they may find information pertinent to their own research.

      You’re right; Paul Heinegg’s website is a goldmine, and I have visited it often, just not for this particular essay.

      That William Bynum you mention likely was kin to me, not certain how close.

      Glad you liked the movie, and thanks for your good words. Hope we can communicate more once I return home.


  8. I am a descendant of the Kelly/Bynum family from Durham and Chapel Hill, many of the Bynums look almost white or Native American, My grandmother Inez (Bynum) Kelly had darker skin, but long straight black hair.

    • Elaine,

      Interesting! I know there are many Bynums in that region, and that my own ancestors started out in that region back in the colonial period.


  9. I am so pleased to have read such rich history. I am in the midst of unraveling DNA matches on both sides of my family as my parent’s ancestors were in adjoining counties during the 1800s and earlier in Virginia. Some of the Bynum names I’ve noted are Moses, Lewis, Feryman, Charles, John Lewis, and William ( Isle of Wight). Bass is also a familiar surname. A368651 T156550 A626588 A489781 A079782

      • Hi,

        We the Bass Family have our complete family history chart. We did meet several times decades ago to develop a strategy to reclaim our Heritage and Privileges. However, that was before the internet and searching was hard.

        Contact me should you want to speak to family members direct.

        If you think that’s fascinating wait until I tell the history of the other side of my family. It blows this story out of the water.

  10. This sounds like my family history, which originated out of Baltimore, Maryland. I am beginning to wonder how many more of these stories exist where an indentured servant married a slave and how the people lived afterward. While researching my family, I found a Master’s Thesis written by Sandra Perot entitled “RECONSTRUCTING MOLLY WELSH: RACE, MEMORY AND THE STORY OF BENJAMIN BANNEKER’S GRANDMOTHER.” Molly was an indentured servant who married a slave, who was formally an African Prince from Senegal. I think you will enjoy Sandra’s analysis. She wrote, “Thus, marriages between African men and white female servants were more common than we in twenty-first century America might think.” Enjoy!

    • Thank you for your comment, Jackie. There are many fascinating stories like that of Sandra Perot’s thesis buried in the records. Thanks to the work of Paul Heinegg, much information is now available online.


  11. I was shocked and surprised when I stumbled across your work. My mother is from Granville County. You spoke of the Pettifords family of which I am related, not really sure how but I’ve heard this name a lot. My family is the Gilliams and they share a lot of traits you described. I will share this with my family immediately! A great deal of tracing the Gilliam family has been done, but more is definitely needed. Thank you sharing.

    • You’re welcome, Sharon; thanks for commenting! The Pettifords of Granville County were of great interest to me, especially one Esther Pettiford who was born sometime in the late 18th century.


  12. Thank you for this wonderful article about my family! Lillian Anderson is my great-grandmother and that photo is actually mine as originally cited in Ms. Lucas’ blog (as it was pulled from I am “waniehol.”) Thank you for your outstanding work and research.

    • So nice to hear from you, ElleMoore! I love the photo of your great-grandmother, and appreciate being able to include it in the article. Thank you as well for your comments about the article and my research!


  13. Hello, enjoyed your article. My 4 great grand mother was Mary Bass who had a son named Ben but his last name was Richardson. My 5th he grandfather was Tom Green he was the son of Samuel Williams (white slave owner ) and mother was a slave named Crease she and her children where freed when Samuel Williams died . Other names are Richardson, lynch,Boone, Silver,Harris and Anstead these families all intermarriage in the area of Halifax,Hollister and Warren NC.
    I did Ancestry DNA and showed I was 29% Irish , Western European , African with only >1 % Native American although many of family are members of Saponi tribe.

    • Hello Joe Ann Lynch Barbour. Would you be related to the Silvers? My mother is a Silver and we don’t have much oral history to go by. This makes research challenging. If you would like to connect my email is Thank you!

      • Yes my line is direct from Creasy and Samual Williams down to Tom Green an John Green. On my father’s side his grandmother was Mary Silver and I also know her parent’s names. Both sides of my family intermarried many times. What is your mothers name and do you know her parents? Would love to communicate with you and share information. Right now I am in NC where most family originate from. Will be here till 6/24/18

  14. Hello Joe Ann and Vikki……I’m just finding this site and I am excited. My name is Angel Anderson. My father is James Maryland Anderson. His father was Everette Anderson. Everette’s( MayBell Copeland) father was Robert Anderson(Sarah Adams (?). I believe they came from the Warrenton, Halifax, Fishing Creek, area. The names that I am somewhat familiar with are: Alston, Anderson,Copeland, and West.
    When I began to read this article, I could not help but feel like you were speaking of some of my ancestors. I really got excited ! ! I once had very thick, long hair…
    Thank you for all your work ! I will be trying to obtain some of the books and articles that were mentioned.

  15. Thank you so much for this information as I am
    In search of my ancestors and some of the missing information in my family tree. My relatives were the Tyler’s and Chavis of North Carolina. This facts of servitude and bastardly bonds may be the link to some imperative infomation that I have been searching for connecting to my 3rd great grandmother Arminta Chavis. I look forward to reading more of your posts.


    Tawanda Daniel

  16. Curtis George Daye
    Thank you very much. I am Curtis George Daye the great(4) grandson of Mary Day (1761) and John Webb, the great (3) grandson of Simeon Curtis and Margarite Boone. I related to most of the “free people of color” who occupied the Dutchville, Fishing Creek, Stem, and Tally Ho areas of Granville County, NC. You have provided a narrative for “Daye Family Genealogy” project which I have been working on for over 20 years. Currently, have over 2,000 names of record including Andersons, Basses, Day(e)s, Evans, Pettifords, and Taborns from Durham, Granville, Person, Orange, and Vance counties. I encourage relatives to contact me at or call (919) 949-1607. Again, thank you!

    • Thank you for commenting, Curtis Daye; it’s nice to meet you! I’m glad that you found my narrative useful to your own family history project, and I appreciate your providing information for descendants who might like to contact you!


    • Hello, thank you for your post. I am interested in finding the Day(e) family genealogy. Would you please tell me how I can find it?
      Thank you,
      Dawne Daye

    • Hi Curtis, I am also interested, as my family are Day(e)s from Tally Ho/Granville. I will contact you via email. Thank you!

    • Hello I’ve just received the pleasure of reading this blog.Unbelievable that I just lost my mom Annie Ray Pettiford and my father Yancey Pettiford in 99 . Being close to them I heard a lot of stories . My father told me of stories that we weren’t slaves. He also said that we were descendants of a Indian tribes called the Blackfoot Indians. I wish I could have read this to him. He said the first of Pettiford people had high cheek bones and black wavy hair. He said his father only used water on his hair.He also told me that with that some of the ancestors was intertwined with the whites and that is why some Pettiford’s are very fair skinned and green eyes.

      • I appreciate the information you have shared here, Shirley! It adds to the long record of Granville County, NC’s remarkable community of mixed-ancestry peoples. It’s wonderful that your parents shared their family histories with you. I’m sorry you recently lost your mother, and glad that your father is still with you.


  17. Thank You -Thank You ALL ! I just found this site. Surnames- Scott,Bray,Mabry,Day,Green,Anderson,Evans,Harris,Gilliam,Davis,Sturdivant,Harwell,Low,Coleman ect. all of Granville. This site is helping me to untwist social thinking. Chief Richard Haithcock of the Saponi-Catawba has written a book called (The history of the Saponi-Catawba Nation and their Indian friends and neighbors ) in Granville. That was very helpful as well. Most all of my lines gradually moved into surry co. n.c. then into southern mo. I am very grateful for the hard work shared on this site and i am sending all a hug. I am eager to learn more and willing to share. SKYE
    PS – is another site on natives of granville.

  18. I realize this is a post from April. I have been reading all your works and research for months now in fascination after by accident – watching the movie. I had no idea it was going to lead me back to my family roots as I had never heard of the ” Free State of Jones” I am a direct Descendent of James M Valentine, the Coats, the Welchs, and so on – all my ancestors. I then found your books on North Carolina and found other you had mentioned my grandfathers family line – Cannon Bower and the Faucetts… You might find it interesting to note that after the civil war (as you have noted in your book) Many southerners after the civil war joined the Mormon Church. My North Carolina relatives – the Faucetts ( Cannon Bower is a GGG grandfather) also joined the LDS church and migrated to Colorado as did James M Valentine ( one of my great great grandfather – the other GG grandfather was is brother William – as they had children that married each other – 1st cousins))from MS. later marrying Mary Knight( second wife) My grandmother Inez Valentine married Jesse Faucett…

    • Hi Nancy,

      I found it amazing that your post appeared in my moderator file while I was–literally–working on an article about Reconstruction in Orange County, N.C. that includes the Bower(s) family! I first discovered Cannon Bower in the Southern Claims Commission files, where he is identified as supporting the Union during the Civil War. I’m particularly interested in how he is related to Lydia Bowers and her daughter Ann, who are a focal point of the article I’m writing. they all seem to have been from Durham.

      And how fascinating that you are also descended from the Jones County Valentines, etc! Of course, I’ve noted the connections between the N.C. Piedmont and the Mississippi Piney Woods in my books, but it’s still kind of amazing to “meet” people who are descended from two different groups of people I’ve studied and written about over the years! Thanks so much for your comments. The additional Mormon connections are interesting, too.


  19. Vikki – thank you so much for your comment in return. I have always felt very connected to my southern ancestors ” my people” – which is funny as I was born and raised in California, I have never even travelled to the South. I will look forward to that article ! I found your chapters on the women of NC most interesting and I too wondered if Lydia Bowers was a relative… Best regards. Nancy

    • Nancy, I was born and raised in California, too! Somehow, I was always drawn to my dad’s Mississippi roots.

      The article I’m writing is a reworking of chapter three of Long Shadow of the Civil War. So, unless, I make find new material on the Bowers (I’ve been searching!) you won’t see anything new about the your family in it. I read Cannon’s will on today and did a bit of digging on his line. No connections that I could find to Lydia and Ann. Probably very distant cousins–Cannon had a slew of siblings!


  20. Lucy Richardson is my 5th great grandmother and I’ve been having such a wonderful time learning about my paternal side of the family

  21. Question concerning which Political parties backed your findings, on the laws as they changed time and time again to keep FPC in this cycle of life,
    As to what I have read and looked into I my own kinfolk, Gibson’s, Collins, Moore’s, Hall’s, Chavis, Mitchell, Bunch, Goins.
    The Political Party I find for this sin was the Democratic party.
    Would be very interested in your findings on this same subject or did you as most who research our families turn a blind eye to Politics that were involved
    In keeping our people inslaved and just use the General excuse THAT IT WAS DONE BY WHITE PEOPLE, But the truth is Blacks also had Slaves and so did the people in the NORTH.
    Mr. David Gibson.
    My Gedmatch kits are,
    Me, T042751
    My Father, A597347
    My Great Aunt, T038871

  22. Thanks, David Gibson, for your thought-provoking comments and questions. You are correct that some people of color owned slaves, and that the North also participated in the institution of slavery. From that factual standpoint, however, the history of slavery and the oppression of free people of color throughout the North and South is a historically complex and constantly evolving story.

    Take your question about which political party was responsible for the sins of racism and the repressive legal actions it brought. During the antebellum period, the two major parties—Democratic and Whig—were both complicit in maintaining slavery. There were always some members of these parties who opposed slavery, however, and who increasingly opposed its expansion into the western territories. Slavery dwindled in the North with the rise of industrial wage-based capitalism, while in the South, slavery fueled the growth of plantation-based agriculture, particularly after the cotton boom. Northern Whig industrialists began to oppose the expansion of slavery because they did not want to compete with slaveholders in reaping the commercial promise of the West. At the same time, a growing labor movement in the North among Democrats also opposed slavery’s expansion into the West because working men did not want to compete with slave labor in potential new states such as Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, and California.

    So you see, this issue of slavery and the passage of repressive laws against FPOC cannot be simply laid at the feet of Democrats. Some of the richest slaveholders (and white supremacists) of the South were Whigs.

    And it gets even more complicated. The Abolitionist Movement, led by free people of color and their white allies (many of them Quakers), began to gain traction in the North (and in a few pockets of the South) by the 1830s. After failing to convince Congress to even consider abolishing slavery, these abolitionists joined with those Northern Whigs and Democrats who opposed the expansion of slavery and formed a new political party—the Free Soil Party—in the 1840s. The Free Soil Party eventually evolved into the Republican Party of the 1850s. The Republican Party was not an abolitionist party, but it did take stand against the expansion of slavery outside its current boundaries when it nominated Abraham Lincoln for the presidency in 1860. The rise of the Republican Party caused the demise of the Whig Party, which in the South had tried to find a way to continue to compromise the issue of slavery and keep the Union together. Southern Democrats, however, pushed for unlimited expansion of slavery, and from there began a movement to secede from the Union altogether should Republicans have their way. With Lincoln’s election, Southern Democrats took most of the slaveholding states out of the Union in favor of building a slaveholding Confederacy. The Civil War soon followed.

    My point is this: it’s very easy to blame slavery and racism on the Southern Democratic Party because of its no-compromise stance in favor of the expansion of slavery into the western territories and states, and because of its leadership of the secession movement. But make no mistake, slavery was practiced by Whigs and Democrats alike. At local levels, such as in Granville and surrounding counties in North Carolina, both parties participated in the passage of racist laws designed to control people of color in the name of protecting the institution of slavery.


    • We are Melungeon’s, said to be Portuguese who are thought to have went adrift during the Spanish Inquisition and Shipwrecked into the East coast around what is today The Outer Banks, Just one of many theories on how we really arrived in the Americas.
      I appreciate your reply to my question and yes we all can point a finger of blame, but in the end I realized, ” THERES ONLY ONE RACE AND THATS THE HUMAN RACE”.
      We need to look at Civilizations throughout History only to see that Slavery
      is a part of every Society since the beginning of mankind, without want for change it will repeat itself…..
      Mr. David Gibson

      • David, you are so on target with this: “There’s only one race and that’s the human race.” There is no more a “black” race than there is an “Irish,” “German” or “Indian,” etc., race. Biologically, we are all part of the human race, with an infinite variety of physical characteristics representative of the different parts of the world from which we descend. The theories concerning Melungeon history are a fascinating example of this centuries’ old global process.

        Yes, slavery has historically been practiced widely, and in different forms. And the creation of “race” provided the means for its justification time and again, just as it continues today to be used to justify unequal access to prosperity and justice worldwide. Only when humankind aggressively polices its inherent greed do we see a modicum of opportunity for all regardless of their physical appearance, gender, or class status.

        Thank you for your comments.


  23. I am related to the Pettiford, Bass, and Tyler families (perhaps also the Andersons as well I think) and found this commentary very insightful and informative and confirms a lot of hearsay passed down over the years.

    • Thank you for your comment, Crystal! Your words mean a lot coming from a descendant who has heard family stories over the years. I so enjoyed my research on the communities of Granville County–it really helped me as a historian to better understand the nineteenth century South.

    • My line on my Father’s side of the Family were called Melungeans who I believe may have also tied into your lines the lines back are well documented in Tennessee, North Carolina, to South Carolina along the Pee Dee River this is where the trail dries up, but by DNA more and more clues are linking to the Lumbee’s and some matches coming from Alabama. Thanks, David Gibson.

  24. This is for he Anderson family. My mom is half Lumbee, our surnames are Anderson, Jones, and Brown. My mother’s maternal grandmother was Victoria Anderson. Victoria’s father was Thomas G. Anderson born in 1835 in New York City. I am trying to track down his parents. Victoria and her siblings, Thomas Jr., Saraha Lousia and Jacob were all raised on Staten Island New York. Thank you anyone who has any information.

  25. I dont know much about the other families, but i have heard of the Pettifords from my late father (Alexander Roberts). My Grandfather owned 70 acres on SASSAFRAS FORK. I would like to know more.

    • Array, to learn more about the Pettifords, I recommend you visit Kianga Lucas’s website,

  26. My family is also from Granville county, but you did not mention them. In your research did you find any mention of the Braswell family? They too held the same characteristics of the families mentioned; light, fair skin with long, straight black hair. I have not been able to trace the Braswell name very far. I am very interested in the origin of the family name and how they came to Granville county.
    My husband’s family is also from Granville county and his mother’s maiden name was Kearsey. His sister suspected that their mom may have been a descendant of native americans. Your research confirms that suspicion. My husband’s father is from Hillsborough and in my research I was able to trace the Soponi relocation to Hillsborough from Granville county. I’m not sure, but I appears that his parents may be descendants of the same Saponi tribe. His dad is a Cotton/Cearnel and both of his parents had the same features, fair skin, long, straight, black hair. Please correct me if your research has different information.
    Can you please share any additional information that you may have? I look forward to your reply.

    • Shawn, I am familiar with the Braswell name from my research. I will check my files and get back to you asap. Thanks for your comment!


    • Shawn, I checked my files, and so far have found nothing on the name Braswell. I thought I remembered it, and still haven’t given up, but I suspect I was actually remembering one Lydia Brassfield from a different county. You are nonetheless correct that the Brasswells are connected to the Granville County mixed people that I wrote about in the above article and in my book, Unruly Women. Kianga Lucas includes them in her Granville County research. If you haven’t already checked out her blog, please see

      Best of luck,

  27. I have discovered this site, and I am so happy. My sister and I have done some genealogy and so far have found only one slave line, my mother’s father. My mother’s mother is from a Smith -Harris – Chavis -Ferguson line, we traced back to 1630 so far and they were always FPOC. What is funny is when I had my DNA done it didn’t register any Native American ancestry even though I know it’s there, it showed on my brother’s test, we are waiting to see what my sister’s test shows. We are also trying to find more information on my father’s family Mickey (Mickie, Michie) – Tibbs, we have traced this line back to 1830 in Orange Co. Va. where they were freemen. I must find a copy of your book Unruly Women, I feel I might some of ancestors in it’s pages.

    • F. Bennet,

      I’m happy, too, that you discovered Renegade South! Of course I’d be delighted if you bought Unruly Women, but I’m also be happy to check its index and my research files for any names you’d like to provide me with.


  28. Hello i am a Andersons of a,west indies descendants but mother is from Winston Salem NC my mother looks like an African indian this story made my ears go up like wow i know we are related to the actor Rodchestor Anderson and i know Marion Anderson is my great great great great aunt the first black oprea singer this story just hit mi like a ton of bricks the pictures struck like wow they look like my mom side the free slave photos Mary Anderson

    • Kenneth,
      I’m so glad that this article and its accompanying photos speak to your own Anderson ancestors!


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