Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation
With more than 50,000 enrolled members, North Carolina’s Lumbee Indians are the largest Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River. Malinda Maynor Lowery, a Lumbee herself, describes how, between Reconstruction and the 1950s, the Lumbee crafted and maintained a distinct identity in an era defined by racial segregation in the South and paternalistic policies for Indians throughout the nation. They did so against the backdrop of some of the central issues in American history, including race, class, politics, and citizenship.
Lowery argues that “Indian” is a dynamic identity that, for outsiders, sometimes hinged on the presence of “Indian blood” (for federal New Deal policy makers) and sometimes on the absence of “black blood” (for southern white segregationists). Lumbee people themselves have constructed their identity in layers that tie together kin and place, race and class, tribe and nation; however, Indians have not always agreed on how to weave this fabric into a whole. Using photographs, letters, genealogy, federal and state records, and first-person family history, Lowery narrates this compelling conversation between insiders and outsiders, demonstrating how the Lumbee People challenged the boundaries of Indian, southern, and American identities.
“This is the first book to construct a full, layered sense of who the Lumbees are–and how they became who they are–as a Native American community. Lowery demonstrates that the core characteristics of kinship, reciprocity, and relationship to land have persisted in Lumbee identity, even as Lumbees–in dialogue with outsiders–enfolded new elements into their collective sense of self. Lowery’s cogent explanation of the choices Lumbees made to accept the racial logic of Jim Crow in order to strive for community independence is nuanced, sensitive, and convincing. Her book will be a major contribution to American Indian, southern, and African American historical studies.”
–Tiya Miles, University of Michigan
“Lowery’s book is a wonderfully rich account of Lumbee history in the segregated South under Jim Crow and makes a valuable contribution to American Indian history and the history of the American South. A lively exploration of Lumbee identity in post-Civil War North Carolina, it figures identity as a complex and not always polite ‘conversation’ between insiders and outsiders that changes over time. Her argument is solidly grounded in archival research and also interweaves personal and family stories that enhance the narrative in beautiful ways. Her insights on race, identity, and recognition are subtle, nuanced, and powerful.”
–Jean O’Brien, University of Minnesota