A few different groups of people have used the term "Black Dutch," often
as ancestral reference.[1,2,3,4,5]
According to researcher James Pylant, based on his extensive survey
of American families claiming Black Dutch as part of their heritage:
"There are strong indications that the original "Black Dutch" were
swarthy complexioned Germans. Anglo-Americans loosely applied the term
to any dark-complexioned American of European descent. The term was
adopted as an attempt to disguise Indian or infrequently, tri-racial
descent. By the mid-1800s the term had become an American colloquialism;
a derogative term for anything denoting one's small stature, dark
coloring, working-class status, political sentiments, or anyone of
English speaking colonists were unable to pronounce the word “Deutsche”
(Germans) and the word “Deutsche” became “Dutch.” For example,
“Pennsylvania Dutch” (more strictly, Pennsylvania Germans) are the
descendants of German immigrants who came to Pennsylvania prior to 1800.
-Casey Taylor, May 2 2009
German Gypsies (Roma
People) are also known as Black Dutch, and there is some
overlap in surnames between present-day Gypsies and the American
families with a "Black Dutch" tradition.
Sometimes mixed-race people such as
identified themselves as "Black Dutch" to facilitate acceptance as
Native Americans, mainly
sometimes created a false, "Black Dutch" heritage to remain on their own
land and to purchase new land. This occurred often after the
Trail of Tears,
Cherokee would not admit to their actual heritage for fear the land
would be taken away from them. In fact, many people born even in the
early 20th century claimed Black Dutch heritage for this reason.[citation
1. Bible, Jean Patterson (1975). Melungeons Yesterday and Today.
Signal Mountain, Tennessee: Mountain Press.
2. Elder, Pat Spurlock (1999). Melungeons: Examining an
Appalachian Legend. Blountville, Tennessee: Continuity Press.
3. Pylant, James (1997). "In Search of the Black Dutch", American
Genealogy Magazine 12 (March 1997): 11-30.
4. Cassiday, Frederic G. (1985) Dictionary of American Regional
English, Vol 1, A-C. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.
5. Rozema, Vicki (2007) Footsteps of the Cherokees: A Guide to the
Eastern Homelands of the Cherokee Nation, Second Edition.
John F. Blair, Publ.