We are currently living through hyper-tribalistic times.
I will go out on a limb, and say I do not expect certain tribes to follow this blog, ever – however much I wish they would.
Yet no tribe is immune from what might be called “the allure of truthiness”.
Whether leftist, conservative, liberal, red, blue, green, religious, secular, or neo-fascist, many now pick a “side”, and then buy wholesale into the entire package of dogma or orthodoxy associated with that tribe.
When our own gang says something which aligns with our ethos, and sounds like it SHOULD be true, we tend to take that information on board without too much scrutiny.
Example: “Most people accused of witchcraft through the ages were herbalists and midwives who were viewed with suspicion and hostility by The Patriarchy.”
It would be hard to find anyone familiar with second-wave feminism who does not accept the foregoing statement as a matter of orthodoxy. It just sounds like a “truth”.
Except it is not. When we carefully sift the historical evidence (court transcripts, etc.) we find a very different picture. People, especially in rural areas, did NOT tend to get rid of valued members of their communities.
Indeed, herbalism and midwifery were two skills which often transcended “racial” boundaries in early colonial and frontier-era America. In Appalachia, “granny witches” and midwives were very often women of color or indigenous women of relatively secure social standing.
On the subject of slavery in America, it is extremely interesting how both ends of the political spectrum come to a mutual agreement on some things, for entirely different ideological reasons.
Almost all “white” people tend to agree that slavery was part of “elite” society.
Those on the left will point to the Confederacy’s mobilisation of the white underclasses in order to protect the interests of elite slaveholders.
Those on the right will continue to claim the Civil War was about “states’ rights” in the face of northern aggression, not slavery. After all, slaves were only held by a minority of the population, right?
This commonly held view, that slavery was solely part of southern plantation society, à la Gone With the Wind, is utterly wrong.
Once cotton replaced sugar cane and tobacco as the primary slavery-enabled cash crop, it is true that the largest INDIVIDUAL slaveholders in America were found in the Deep South.
But slavery ran its insidious tendrils through every layer of society.
In regions where agricultural land was unsuited to plantation-style cash crops, individuals might have held fewer slaves per farm or business, but they still utilised the labor of the enslaved in a myriad of ways – building, carpentry, blacksmithing, cattle herding and droving, roadworks, milling, cooking, spinning, etc.
And when an Appalachian slaveholder, for example, found himself hard-up for cash, slaves were simply rented-out, as one might hire-out a threshing rig.
After years of sifting through records, it has become clear to this writer that slavery was not the province of elites only. Slavery was far more widespread and extensive, even in so-called “poorer regions”, than most people have ever imagined.
I have decided to regularly post the surnames of slaveholders with particular links to so-called “poorer regions”.
Perhaps 90% of the people represented by these surnames were the holders of less than 10 enslaved people – and usually holding less than 5 people in bondage.
The sharp-eyed will compare these slaveholder surnames with the surnames of “people of color whose descendants are now white” which I’ve already begun posting.
The sharp-eyed might then be tempted to jump to certain conclusions.
This story gets waaay more interesting before it gets finished…
Abernathy (from Scottish “Abernethy”)
Abshire (some lines apparently a corruption of German “Hübscher”; see also “Hipsher”)
Adkins (also Atkins)
Aiken (also “Aken”, “Akins”, et al)
Aldridge (sometimes interchangeable with “Eldridge” or “Aldrich”)
Almond (see also “Allman”, et al)
Anderson (also “Annison”; often interchangeable with “Henderson”)
Anno (“Anneau”?, “Agneau”?)
Austin (rendered sometimes “Alston”)
Ballance (perhaps a softened plosive variation of “Palance”?)
Bare (usually from German “Baer” or “Behr”)
Baugh (see also “Bach”, and in Appalachia, “Back”)
Bean (sometimes a foreshortened form of “MacBean”)
Beatty (sometimes rendered as “Baty” or “Beatie”)
Beavers (often an Anglicised patrynomic of German “Bieber”)
Benge (sometimes given as “Bench”, and sometimes misrendered as “Bunch”)
Biggerstaff (variation of English “Bickerstaff”)
Birdsong (perhaps Anglicisation of “Vogelsang”?)
Blackmon (sometimes also “Blackman”)
Blagrove (often a corruption of “Blackgrove”; also “Blagrave”)
Blevins (possibly Anglicised patrynomic of Welsh “ap Blethyn”)
Blewitt (also “Blewett”)
Blissard (also “Blizzard”)
Bobo (origin unclear, perhaps from French “Barbeau”)
Bolling (also Boldin, Baldwin, Bowlin, Bowlen, Bowling, Bouldin, Bolin, Bolen – could “Bowline” be original source of this name?)
Boswell (rarely given as “Bazel”)
Bouldin (also Boldin, Baldwin, Bowlin, Bowlen, Bowling, Bolling, Bolin, Bolen, perhaps “Bolton”)
Bower(s) (sometimes patrynomic of German “Bauer”)
Branham (often rendered “Branum” in Southern Appalachia)
Brashear(s) (from French “Brassieur”, and in rare cases a corruption of “Bradshire”)
Bratcher (apparently at times a corruption of “Bradshire”, “Bradshaw”, and “Brashear”)
Breeden (also “Breeding”)
Brewer (sometimes Anglicised version of German “Brauer”)
Brittain (also “Britton”)
Brown (often from German “Braun”)
Broyles (patrynomic of German “Breule”)
Buckaloo (misrendering of Anglo-Scottish “Buccleugh”)
Buis (usually of French or Dutch origin))
Bundren (perhaps a corruption of “Bondurant” sometimes)
Bushong (perhaps from French “Bouchon”, probably sometimes via circuitous route from “Beauchamps” through German Alsatian variant)
Butcher (often an Anglicisation of German “Metzger”)
Byars (sometimes “Byers”)
#BeforeWeWereWhite #history #appalachia #slavery #slaveholders