The Question of Race in Robeson County, 1864-1885

UNCP Author/Contributor (non-UNCP co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Hannah B. Harrell (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP )
Web Site:
Julie Smith

Abstract: My senior project deals with the unique racial composition of Robeson County, North Carolina. Although the present racial composition of Robeson County is distinctly tri-racial, this has not always been the case. For many years Robeson County was seen as a bi-racial area with an additional marginal group of people that later became known as the Lumbees. The road to recognition as a distinct race of people has been a long one for the Lumbees and one that was not traveled without hardship and oppression. However, through it all the Lumbees have maintained their identity as a people. The time period, 1864 to 1885, is a pivotal time in the racial history of Robeson County and that is why I have decided to focus on this time period.The main component of my project is to look at the process by which the Lumbees were finally recognized at Native Americans instead of being viewed as simply "persons of color" without their own distinct identity. This struggle is essential to understanding the Lumbee tribe and their culture. The Reconstruction period after the Civil War was integral in bringing about change in the lives of the Lumbees. Usually Reconstruction is only viewed by its effects one either the white population or the African American population. However, I will shed light on its effects on other groups of people who were oppressed because of their skin color. One of my main goals with this paper is to examine the ways in which the races were categorized during Reconstruction in the Southeastern United States. In a country that was so obsessed with a bi-polar racial viewpoint, the Lumbees presented a challenge to the traditional black and white landscape. Therefore I plan to research the various ways in which Lumbees were categorized by the local, state and federal governments. My research poses the question of where do Native Americans fit into the bi-racial mainstream? I want to define the status of each of the races and how did each race define itself. I also will examine the forms of discrimination that African Americans, Native Americans, and other persons of color experienced in Robeson County during Reconstruction. I will compare to see if they all experienced discrimination on an equal scale or if there were varying levels of oppression. I will also examine the racial hierarchy of Robeson County and determine where the Lumbees along with African Americans, were placed within the hierarchy.One of the most important aspects of my project is to compare the situation in Robeson County during Reconstruction to the other events going on throughout the United States during the time period. Because the racial composition of Robeson County is so unique, I want to see if the racial climate of Robeson County is equivalent to other areas. This will include examinations of oppression against both Native Americans and African Americas in the United States during this time.A final aspect of my project that is important is the relationship between both groups of oppressed peoples in a tri-racial society. I want to examine how the dominant, elite white population served to pit poor whites, African Americans and Native Americans against one another so that they could remain in power. All of these people were oppressed but none wanted to be on the bottom of the racial hierarchy. The dominant white population knew that they were the minority and therefore avoided these marginalized peoples from banding together and gaining control. However, it served to create a great deal of racial tension and strife. This topic is important because it helps to explain the persistence of racial tendencies in Robeson County and how it is uniquely different from many other areas. It is also important because it examines the effects of Reconstruction on the Native American population. Native American history is often seen as an anomaly that should be studied by itself rather than be included in United States history. However, my project will serve to show that Native American history is distinct but it is essential to understanding the whole of United States history.

Additional Information

Honors Project
Language: English
Date: 2005
Robeson County, North Carolina, Bi-Racial, Tri-Racial, Lumbee, Native American, 1864, 1885,

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