Saturday, August 1, 2015

An Interesting Question

Public ledger., September 27, 1883, Image 2



An Interesting Question Relative to Persons of Mixed-Extraction

One of the state officers yesterday received the following letter from the County Superintendent of Schools of Polk county.

Benton, Tenn., September 22 -
Dear Sir: Please inform me relative to persons of mixed or negro blood. What amount or degree of negro blood by law prohibits them from entering and being taught in the common free schools of the county, when they have been enrolled by the common school directors as colored scholars?  Please write me by return mail and you will very much oblige,
yours truly,
F. P. Kanester



The Question asked in this letter seems a rather strange one, but in the light of some information furnished an American reporter by an East Tennessean its pertinence is apparent.  This gentleman said that there are in the counties of East Tennessee and western North Carolina a class of persons called by the common people of the country "Molungeons."  They are of dark complexion, and evidently of mixed blood.  They claim that they are of Portuguese descent and not of negro extraction.  In one or two instances writs of mandamus have been issued against county superintendents of schools to enforce the admission of these person to white schools.
The same question entered into an important suit where the heirship of an estate was at issue.  One side tried to invalidate a certain marriage by proving the the husband was of negro blood, and hence could not legally marry a white woman.  Witnesses were brought from North Carolina where the man formerly resided, to prove that he had always been regarded there as a "Molungeon," or a person of Portuguese extraction.  The attempt to prove negro blood was ineffectual and the suit was decided on this point.