Entries by Brian Halpin

Follow the Leader

  This is a statue of Roger Williams. Roger Williams left England and went to America in the 1600s. He was a Puritan, and deeply committed to his religious beliefs. As someone who writes from a strongly secular standpoint, you might expect me to have some criticism lined-up for Roger Williams. But no. You see, […]

Coming to America, 1700s-Style

  Americans like to keep their foundational stories simple.  The Appalachian frontier was settled by white folks – primarily the Scots-Irish, along with a decent number of Germans. Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone are the heroic faces of this era, although neither was a hero, nor were either of them “Scots-Irish”. But let’s leave that […]

Mysterious Origins and Forgotten Wars

  In late 1696, French forces under Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Governor Jacques-François de Monbeton de Brouillan, along with their Acadian (Cajun) and Abenaki allies, destroyed 23 English settlements along the coast of the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland – all in the space of three months.  With at least 100 English dead, and many scores […]

The Magic Dress of Harriet Surguine

  When “Before We Were White” was chosen as the name for this blog and podcast, it was fully intended to be provocative. After a couple of years, though, various messages and emails have made me realise that many readers and listeners are still viewing American ethnic history through the lens of “race”, as if […]

The Mix Zone

  Many people have asked me why it is that a blog and podcast dealing with the general ethnic history of the USA should have so much focus on Appalachia. This is a highly simplified map I made in order to answer that question. The colonisation of what would become the USA was effected mostly […]

Cowboys, Indians, and the EPA

  The biggest-selling country music album of the past three and some odd decades was Garth Brooks‘ “No Fences“.  I don’t count Shania Twain as “country”. Sorry. I’m going to give a guy with a degree in advertising the benefit of the doubt here, and choose to believe that Brooks’ chosen album title was a […]

Know Who You’re Dealing With

  2024 will quite possibly be remembered as the final stand-off between two visions of US identity. And no, I do not believe the two-party system serves these visions in any meaningful way. As someone who turns 60 this year, I’m just about old enough to have witnessed the ebb and flow of USA politics […]

How to Disappear People with a Pen

  Old Mix Americans are often brought-up hearing family lore speaking of some indigenous American ancestry somewhere in the tangled branches of their family trees. In this age of culture and identity wars, claiming any indigenous ancestry while presenting a “white” appearance and living within mainstream American culture can lead to attacks from both The […]

La Llorona and the Ghosts of Pre-Anglo America

  Pre-Christian folklore with no clear origin can inspire a range of feelings. Wonder, fear, awe… “The Green Man” of Britain is one such character – is he the spirit of nature itself? Is he benevolent, malevolent, or terrifyingly indifferent? Is he in, or of, the woodlands and trees, or just their protector? Is he […]

Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be

  Almost everyone is guilty of it – some more than others. The common belief that “things ain’t what they used to be”, and in most cases, a wistful belief that things were better “back in the day”. There are a million arguments to be had concerning exactly what part of the past was better, […]