Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery’s Lecture at UNC-Pembroke

20 04 2010

Lumbee historian described her new book at UNCP

Original Article: http://www.uncp.edu/news/2010/malinda_maynor_lowery.htm

Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery introduced her newly published book, “Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation” (UNC Press; 2010; 339 pages), on April 13 at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery discusses a photo from her book

Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery discusses a photo from her book

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Dr. Lowery’s appearance was a part of the Native American Speaker Series, sponsored by the University’s American Indian Studies Department and Office for Academic Affairs.

The book tells the story of a formative era of the Lumbee Tribe by the UNC-Chapel Hill historian, who is a member of the tribe. “Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South” is often a personal look at a harsh time that includes references and photos of family and friends living in a close-knit community.

The setting for the reading and book signing was also very personal. Dr. Lowery’s husband, Willie Lowery; parents Waltz and Louise Maynor; two sisters, Cherry Beasley and Lucy Maynor; and many friends were among the 85 in attendance at the Chancellor’s Residence for the reading and book signing.

Dr. Lowery said “Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South” is her effort to “pay forward the blessings” she has received from her family and community because she will “never be able to pay them back.”

“The story I tell in this book is not always pretty, but I think it’s an honest story,” she said. “It’s about how a group of Native Americans carved out a place for themselves with an iron-sided wall in place between the races.

 “White supremacy was a fact of life” in the era, she said.

Dr. Lowery earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, a master’s degree in documentary filmmaking from Stanford University and a master’s degree and doctorate in history from UNC-Chapel Hill. The book was derived from her dissertation, although a more personal version.

There are four layers of identity among the Lumbee, Dr. Lowery maintains:

  • First, there is kinship, or “who’s your people” as the local saying goes;
  • Second, there is place, or “where do you stay” in terms of church and community;
  • Third, tribe; and
  • Fourth, race.

Dr. Lowery carefully described several archival photos of school students and family members that she distributed via handout to the audience. The pictures, also included in her book, are archetypes of a time long gone.

Book signing – Maxine Amos, Dr. Cheryl Locklear and Magnolia Lowry have their copies signed.

Book signing – Maxine Amos, Dr. Cheryl Locklear and Magnolia Lowry have their copies signed.

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“This is the picture of poverty amidst affluence all around,” she said of a photo of a woman and her two children in the family kitchen that is lined with advertising posters, probably put there to block cold wind.

  The complexities of race, blood quantum, tribal government and      federal recognition were outlined as they shaped the tribe’s identity over time.

Using photographs, letters, genealogy, federal and state records and   first-person family history, Dr. Lowery demonstrates how the Lumbees challenged the boundaries of Indian, Southern and American identities.

The era depicted in the book begins and ends with great triumphs in Lumbee history – the story of Henry Berry Lowry’s war against tyranny during the Civil War and Reconstruction and the 1958 rout of the Ku Klux Klan.

“I wrote this book for my people to remind ourselves of how we can divide and unify ourselves in the face of threat,” she concluded.

Dr. Rose Stremlau, a faculty member in UNCP’s American Indian Studies Department, was Dr. Lowery’s roommate in Chapel Hill as the book came together. She introduced her friend.

“Malinda was close-up to the conversations…around the kitchen table and in the tobacco fields,” Dr. Stremlau said. “She struggled to tell this story.

Book Cover“Her people are on every page,” she said. “She is passionate about the well-being of her people.”

Former UNCP Chancellor Joseph Oxendine, a Lumbee, was in the audience. He said he is in one of the book’s photos.

“It’s a fascinating story,” Dr. Oxendine said. “I am pleased with what she’s doing to remind us of our identity and to be proud of it.”

Also in the audience was Dr. Lowery’s history class from UNC-Chapel Hill who spent the day touring sites in the county. It is the first class about Lumbee history ever taught in Chapel Hill.
“I loved her presentation and the photo,” said Julia Kramner, who is from Asheville, N.C. “This is our second visit here. To see things in person makes it more real.”

The class read “Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South,” she said.

“We’re getting to be experts on Lumbee history, and we have a yearlong project in the works,” said Kristen Gnao of Burlington, N.C.  “Coty Brayboy’s grandmother cooked fried chicken and cornbread for us.”

A member of the class, Coty Brayboy is a Lumbee from Robeson County. The students’ project may be viewed at lumbee.web.unc.edu.

“Meeting the people who made this history makes the story rich, not abstract,” Gnao said. “It was a good day.”

Dr. Lowery will return to campus at noon on June 26 during Lumbee Homecoming for a presentation in the Baptist Student Union. She promises an interactive meeting.

Chancellor Charles Jenkins welcomed guests to the residence, saying, “I believe we are making some history here tonight with this event.”

Shalom Cherian-#6

23 03 2010

Today’s reading was from Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery’s Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South. The selected readings were the preface and the introduction.

In the preface, Lowery begins with an introduction to the geographical location, and goes on to introduce the Indians of Robeson County, NC. I think the geographical introduction was a good way to emphasize the importance of place to the Robeson county Indians. The book focuses on how these Indians have toiled to create an identity as a People, a race, a tribe, a nation-these the main aspects of Indian identity that the book focuses on.  Lowery points out that the markers of Indian Identity have been/are fluid and has changed/may change over time depending on various circumstances. Notions of Indian identity may have two very different perspectives- one, for those inside the community (they Know they are Indian), and the other for outsiders who may have specific ideas of what qualities may constitute being called ‘Indian.’ An example that the author gives is the various name changes that the Robeson County Indians underwent from 1885 to 1956.

Inspite of segregation, disempowerment, and factionalism, Robeson County Indians have maintained their identity as a people held together by the bonds of place and kinship. According to Lowery, Kinship and place is the main foundation of identity for these Indians. Factionalism among the Indians, and how it has been used as a strategic response to political conditions, and its effect on Indian Identity is a big topic that Lowery covers in the book. Lowery explains why having an Indian perspective on the historical events surrounding them is vital. Also, she reminds us that the Robeson county Indians are not only Indians, but also Americans, and southerners, and that their oral traditions and history are integral pieces of American Histories.

In the introduction, Lowery begins with the narrative of the 1936 visit of the OIA members to Robeson County. This visit was meant to help the Indians gain federal recognition. But, the OIA’s criteria for proving the ‘Indianess’ of Robeson County Indians was through testing ancestry and physical features. However, this undertaking harmed, more than helped the Indians efforts for recognition. The OIA failed to recognize the history of the coalescence of these Indians, and the kinship and identification within the community.

Lowery explains how and why Robeson county Indians are a “nation of nations” (p. 5). Te present day Lumbees and Tuscaroras are the results of mass migrations, intermarriage, and cultural exchange between various tribes like the Cheraw, Peedee, Tuscarora that lived in/settled in and around Robeson county during the 16th and 17th century.  The roles of women in the community are explained and the importance of ancestors to group identity is shown. One thing that I was surprised by, is when Lowery points out that ancestry and kinship can be distinct aspects of identity for the Lumbee Indian. Personally, I have never had to think of them as separate.

The historical events that impacted the Indians during the 18th and 19th century are mentioned. For example, how the Robeson County Indians lost their right to vote in 1835. The White supremacist landscape of the south, is against which the Indians suffered segregation and disempowerment. Lowery uses the events of Henry Berry Lowry as an example of how Indians reacted to increasing amounts of restrictions set on them. The Lowry war had integral effects on the South and on the community. The event gave Robeson county Indians a social identity and a drive to be politically active and achieve autonomy.

I never understood Why the Henry Berry Lowry story was tied in closed to the identity of the people. But on reading the last few paragraphs of the introduction, I think I understand better. Question I would like to know more about:

1. Would Henry Berry Lowry consider himself a Lumbee?

2. Do the Tuscarora hold Henry Berry Lowry in the same light as the Lumbee do?

Source: An Interview with a Tuscarora. Finding who/what Henery Berry Lowry means to them?

Julia Kaminer #4

16 02 2010

Source: Turpentine Still; Fayetteville, NC.

I was delighted when I began Josephine Humphreys’ Nowhere Else on Earth to discover a wealth of distilling references within the first few pages. However, I quickly realized these references did not refer to the manufacturing of moonshine, but turpentine. While Humphreys’ history of turpentine stilling is not directly connected to my topic of moonshine, it is still a great starting place. Her book raised two questions in my mind: Mainly, what is the relationship between the distilling of turpentine and the distilling of moonshine? Is there any overlap? And secondly: What is the relationship of women to distilling? For in the book it is Cee Strong who distills turpentine and Rhoda Strong Lowery who holds a fascination with the industry, not the men in the Strong family. These are questions that I look forward to researching as the semester and my research project continue.

These questions led me to several sources – none of which were definitive but many of which were helpful starting places. While I did read some articles to get a background on turpentine, including a very accessible one published by Auburn University, my favorite sources were postcards of both turpentine and moonshine stills from the North Carolina Collection at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The specific source I chose was of a turpentine still in Fayetteville, North Carolina. There were postcards of turpentine stills from Wilmington and Southern Pines as well, but the one from Fayetteville struck me as most similar to the one Josephine Humphreys’ describes in her book. The scrubby pines, rough buildings, and scattered barrels depicted in this postcard serve as a visual prompt, helping readers to imagine what Rhoda Strong Lowery’s world may have looked like. It is this evocative ability that makes this postcard a lovely complimentary source to Humphreys’ book.

Shalom cherian -#4

16 02 2010

My final project topic being about Henry Berry Lowrie, this week’s reading was very relevant to the topic. Reading the novel, Nowhere Else on Earth, gave me a clearer sense of the background of against which Henry Berry and his gang made their moves. At times I had trouble viewing the book as a work of fiction, because it gave a very sure, logical (at least according to me)ending and explicit detail, something that the more academic and historical sources, and newspapers couldn’t do. A source that I found related to the topic was “Eagle Clipping” by Jack Thorne. Jack  Thorne was a news paper contributor, and he wrote about Henry Berry Lowrie, and his version/interpretation gave me a different perspective on the course of events.

Josephine Humphrey’s Nowhere Else on Earth, is a novel based on historic facts and events that happened in Robeson County, NC.  With the civil war as the backdrop, the protagonist tells of her life, her love, and her community during that era. The core of the story revolves around, Henry Berry Lowrie and his band of men, who by their acts, thrust the Indians of Robeson County in the national spotlight. I think Humphrey effortlessly weaves together fact and fiction, to give us an interpretation of the historical events that surrounded Henry Berry and his gang, and at the same time, so much more about the Indians of Robeson County: their customs, their ways of life, the everyday events of “Scuffle town”, their identity, their race relations, their economic situation, their hope and dreams.

Jack Thorne (also known as David Bryant Fulton), was a African –American author born in NC. His articles and letters constantly appeared in Wilmington and New York newspapers. He mainly wrote on racial and social matters, and the happenings in Robeson County, did not escape his notice. In 1907, his book “Eagle clippings” had a article on Henry Berry Lowrie. I thought I would be interesting to read his perspective on how things went down during 1864-1870’s in Robeson County. His outside-in perspective, balances well with the inside-out perspective Josephine Humphrey gives. He starts out by saying the name “Scuffletown” came from the fact the area was a free negro settlement(Thorne,65).He claims Henry Berry Lowrie was “octoroon outlaw”(Thorne, 65). He compares him to Jesse James, an outlaw of the west. He points out the relationship between the free colored people (Indians), the Whites and the Blacks. His historical events that led to the murders committed by Henry Berry and his gang, parallel those Josephine Humphrey gives. Thorne, mentions Steve Lowrie, being the most blood thirstiest of the gang. Thorne mentions the bank robberies, but I’m not sure if he was trying to associate or dissociated them from the Lowrie gang. He describes how some of the members of the gang were taken to various jails and prisons. I think Thorne gathered his information, from the newspapers of that time, and he definitely has significantly different ideas about how different members were captured, including a report of a Mexican bounty hunter. There is very little mention of the Rhoda Strong in his article.

I think Thorne’s essay is important because it represents how the majority of the country learnt about Henry Berry Lowrie. Not being a journalist, Thorne’s views may have solely arrived from gathering information that was printed in the newspapers of that time. Long before, historians, and researchers started writing about Henry Barry Lowrie, Thorne’s understanding of the importance and the impact that  Henry Berry Lowrie made on NC, is appreciated.


-To what extent can I use Josephine Humphrey’s novel as a source for my topic of Henry Berry Lowrie?

-Thorne mentions a news reporter from NY, who wrote a “flattering story” about the Lowrie gang after he visited them. Is this the same as the article poster that Glenn-Ellen Starr showed to the class?

(source: email Glenn-Ellen Starr , ask her)

-Try to search for article around 1865-1900, about events in Robeson County.

Join “Lumbee Ghost Stories, Legends, and Lore” on Facebook

14 02 2010

Nancy Fields, one of our community experts and collaborators for our class, has established a Facebook group devoted to her passion for Lumbee Ghost Stories. I encourage all of you to check it out and join, because it contains a wealth of information not just on Ghost Stories but on Henry Berry Lowry, healing practices, and culture and oral tradition in general. It’s a great resource–lots of Lumbees are participating. I don’t know if this link works but here goes:


If the link gets you nowhere, just search FB for the title of the group.