Monday, January 3, 2011

Confederate General and his Negro-Indian Daughter


During the course of my research on “Community, Culture & Identity” I came across a story that was another eye opener. I have become accustomed to “men of privilege” in the Five Slave Holding Tribes having children by slave or Indian women. It appears Douglas Hancock COOPER was no exception.
Douglas H. Cooper

The “Chronicles of Oklahoma” give a glowing account of this man’s exploits as a Mississippi politician prior to the Civil War. They share his experiences as the Indian Agent for the Choctaw Nation, yet buried in an obscure record of a "Negro-Indian" woman is the testimony that Douglas H. COOPER, Indian Agent, Confederate General of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles, is her father!
 
Joanna BLACK ~ Dawes Choctaw by blood # 4190

The complexities of this story are on par with all the others I’ve been chronicling but this story took an unusual twist that brings up tons of questions on the effects of the racial caste system among the so called Five Civilized Tribes. It illustrates how race politics can be detrimental to an individuals mental health. Joanna BLACK nee COOPER is one who suffered in this system and my guess it had everything to do with her inability to deal with “identity” issues in her community of Choctaw Indians.

Here is a woman born around the end of the Civil War in 1865 fathered by a man who was and became influential in the politics of the Choctaw Nation. She was also the daughter of a “Negro-Indian” Mary A. BROWN nee THOMAS who may have had similar problems but was better equipped to deal with them than her daughter. The story of Joanna COOPER that deserves to be told!


There isn’t much in the records that indicate COOPER had anything to do with Joanna. The only children attributed to him are the seven he fathered with his wife Frances Martha COLLINS. Under what circumstances Douglas COOPER met Mary THOMAS-BROWN and fathered her child is not a part of the story in the “Chronicles of Oklahoma but so many stories of miscegenation during this period rarely get told.




If this were not enough, this story becomes tragic for Joanna and I suspect her children. Joanna marries a “white man” by the name of William BLACK (I can’t make this stuff up folks.) From all indications he was not a responsible man and did little to support his family.



Dawes Jacket of William BLACK # D682 p.4

It became clear to Joanna’s family that she was no longer able to take care of her children. William BLACK was not making an effort to support Joanna or their children. It was the testimony of Joanna’s sister Ida BANKS and her daughter Maggie E. BUTLER that provided the portrait of a woman who succumbed to the pressures of life in the territory, possibly conflicted with the need to provide for her children and burden by the issues of identity that may have caused her to lose her sanity.



Dawes Jacket of William BLACK # D682 p.21 Interview of Ida M. BANKS nee BROWN



Dawes Jacket of William BLACK # D682 p.22 Interview of Maggie BUTLER nee BLACK



Dawes Jacket of William BLACK # D682 p.23 Interview of Maggie BUTLER nee BLACK


Tragically we don’t know if Joanna's mental illness was caused by not having a relationship with her father Douglas H. COOPER. We don't know if her illness was the cause of being abandoned by her husband William BLACK. Clearly, when BLACK left her and the children, Joanna’s mental stability left as well.

It would be interesting to know about this family and any descendants who survived such a tragic episode. In my opinion it also serves as an example of how many people of African-Native descent fought with the idea of where they fit in that society.

Certainly more people survived the dilemma of being part this and part that but even today we see some traces of people struggling with identity issues if they have a family history tied to the Five Slave Holding Tribes.

I'm sure there is a lesson here somewhere?



7 comments:

  1. It sounds like these are women of my family of the Choctaw Nation, from your article. Ida Banks (aka Ida Byrd) is the daughter of my GG-Grandmother and sister of my G-Grandfather. I have very little information on her outside of references made in other interviews or birth certificates, etc. I had no prior information on Joanna Cooper or her children; however I have noticed that nick-names or second names were used a lot (they were usually changed by the slave owners). In my records I do show a sister of Ida's dying in August 1899. I would be interested in learning more, if possible, as OUR story does indeed deserve to be told!

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  2. Hi Terry,

    Thank you for this post. It's your neighbor, Sandy, in the bay area. Many of the statements in this post are similiar concepts and issues of what women in my family have experienced as well. My families story is very similiar, as discussed before. My Great Grandmother Angie Chico and her sister all had children with Chickasaw Indian men and one can conclude based on the names of men on their cards many were "affluent" due to politics or members of the Confederate Army as Martin Chico (Colonel of a Chickasaw Mounted Rifle Battalion) was the son of Charley Chico where my family were slaves. We should get together and share information. I also have many stories that I can share that have been a result of this "mixed blood identity" and how it affected my family then and in present time. Our stories do need to be told..........

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  3. Joanna Black is my Great Great Grandmother her daughter Maggie Black married James Butler and there youngest son William Claud Butler is my mothers father. Maggie passed shortly after giving birth to my grandfather he has two older brothers Henery Clyde and millard.

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    1. Greetings Allyson, Thanks for taking the time to comment! I have been uncovering many cases of Chahta lusa families like yours who have ancestors on the blood roll and I have been curious if the descendants are aware of their history and connection to the tribe.

      I took a quick look at the 1900 census and saw where Maggie was living with her grandmother Mary with her siblings and other relatives. It was interesting to see they were classified as Black instead of Choctaw Indian.

      Would love to see any photos of your ancestors if you had them and wouldn't mind sharing.

      Are you a card carrying citizen of the Choctaw Nation?

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    2. How would I become a card carring citizen of choctaw nation is it to late or to far down the blood line.

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    3. You can learn all of the steps to become a Choctaw citizen from the official online site for the nation at:
      http://www.choctawnation.com/

      You can call or write them for the particulars but I believe you essentially have to "prove" a direct link to an ancestor on the "Choctaw by Blood" roll. Since Joanna Black died prior to the final roll being establish all you have to do is make a direct link to your great grandmother Maggie.

      I would also add every direct descendant to Maggie AND her siblings are eligible for citizenship as well. What it comes down to is some good old fashion genealogical work, providing original state certified documents (birth and death) records for a CDIB (Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood.)

      After successfully securing a CDIB record you should be able to apply for "tribal membership" aka citizenship. I would encourage you and anyone else in your family that has an interest in becoming a member to do so. In the process I would hope you discover your other relatives who descend from Maggie's brothers and sisters.

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  4. I do have some photos of Maggie Butler I beleave it was around 1914 the time my grandfather was born. I will have to get a copy from my mother and up load it. I am not a card carrying citizen of the choctaw nation I have been looking into it. I ends with maggie my grandfather was listed as a white baby and never had a card he was raised by his grandmother on his fathers side.

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