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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
P: This is the Indian Oral History Program. I am conducting an
interview this afternoon with Mr. Lew Barton. I am conducting
this interview in the living room of Mr. Danford Dial in
Pembroke, North Carolina. This is July 31, 1972. The first
thing I would like to ask you, Mr. Barton, is if you would give
me your full name.
B: My name is Lewis Randolph Barton.
P: Where were you born?
B: I was born about four miles outside Pembroke, North Carolina on
Maxton, Route 3.
P: What is your birth date?
B: June 4, 1918.
P: Mr. Barton, let's get started by asking you a little bit about
your family background. Tell me about your parents and we will
start first with your father, his name and where he came from.
B: My father was a native of Robeson County. He is no longer
living. His full name is Harker Randolph Barton. I have been
told that he was named for an island on the coast, Harker's
Island. He married Catherine Anne Dial. I am the only boy in a
family of seven surviving children from that union.
P: Where was your father's family from, if he was a native of here?
B: You mean his immediate family?
P: Well, his own grandparents--were they also natives here. Were
your father's grandparents [natives]?
B: My father's grandfather was a native of England. They came over
here after the "Lost Colony" era. My Lost Colony connection is
in other areas. Does that help you?
P: Yes, that helps very much. Tell me about your education.
B: Well, I attended school at Prospect High School on Maxton, Route
three. I attended King's Business College for about six months.
I received my bachelor's degree in English and history from
Pembroke State University, or Pembroke State College at that
P: It was still an Indian college when you attended?
B: Yes, June 7, 1957. I taught school for three years in the public
schools. Then I went to the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill. I received my Master's degree in English.
P: What about your accident that cost you most of your sight?
B: Well, it really cost me all my sight, and doctors feared
permanent loss of all my sight. This was on September 10, 1950,
in an auto accident. Actually, I do not remember how the
accident occurred because all that I can recall is that I seemed
to be sailing through space, and I was falling on my head. The
thought occurred to me that my brains would be knocked out when I
hit the ground. I put out both arms to shield my head and both
those arms were broken so that seems to substantiate that.
I was unconscious for several weeks afterwards. I did not know
that I was blind. When I finally regained consciousness, I asked
them to remove the paper from over my face. I think I was in an
oxygen tent or something; I could hear the paper rattling, and I
said, "Would you please move this paper from over my face so I
can see?" My wife, I guess, I believe it was my wife sitting on
the side of the bed and I could hear the catch in her voice when
she said, "You are blind." I said, "What am I? Where am I?
What am I doing here?" She said, "You were in an auto accident."
I said, "Whose car?" She said, "Your car." I said I did not
have a car; I did not even remember that I had a car. When she
told me that the grill of the care was red, this sort of jolted
my memory. I remembered the car that I had had. Then I asked
her how it happened; just about all that I can remember about the
actual accident is from what other people have told me. It was
blocked out. I have a very hazy memory, if any memory at all.
Maybe what I remember is something people told me, I do not know.
I am not sure.
P: Since we are going to be talking mainly about the Lumbee Indians
and your connection with them, let's straighten out your
relationship. First of all, how much of a Lumbee Indian are you
B: Well, I am one hundred percent Lumbee Indian, for all practical
purposes. I have always thought of myself as belonging to this
group; I have always loved them; I have always been called an
Indian; I have always suffered as an Indian; and I have always
borne the burdens and responsibilities that go with being an
Indian. I consider myself an Indian.
P: Were both your mother and father Indian?
B: They both regarded themselves as Indians, yes.
P: Well, does that mean that you were biologically a full-blooded
B: No, it does not. My grandmother on my mother's side had all the
appearances of an Indian; my grandfather, Marcus Dial, was
brought up in the family of a Dial man, but he was really a
Jackson. So he adopted the name of the family. I have always
been told that my grandfather was partially white.
P: Growing up, as a child, were you conscious of the fact that you
were an Indian, in terms of how other children treated you?
B: Well, maybe in the Indian community which covers several hundred
square miles. I did not come into contact with children from
other groups until I was nine years old.
I was living at that time near the old Harmly schoolhouse, which
was a white school. We had moved on the tenant farm of Abner
McLean. His son and I were very close friends. We were so
attached to each other we could hardly be divided. I remember
his mother, I always called her Mrs. Leila McLean. She was a
very beautiful lady; she was a very kind lady. She would make
cookies, which we called tea cakes. Robert Abner was her son.
We were the same age.
There was also a little white girl, a Bowie girl in the
community. We would play together and there was no attempt made
to separate us at that age.
The only thing different that I noticed about it is that I was
never invited to eat at the table. I was never invited in very
often, but we would play in the yard. Mrs. McLean would bring
food out in the yard. She was very much attached to me as well.
I think she actually loved me, and I have nothing but kind
memories of those people.
It just was not done; they did not invite Indians into their
homes; nobody did it. But at that time I did not notice the
difference. It was only later after he moved away, after they
moved out of the community, He and I wept and so did this girl,
because this was a very close friendship between the three of us.
We never noticed our racial differences that much. Some of the
people aware of that were the parents, and they were not what you
would call unkind about it. These were unusual people if you
compare them with most Caucasian families in Robeson County.
P: What happened when you were nine years old?
B: After we moved, it was a little later on that they moved, and it
was only then that I began to notice the differences in attitude
and why I was never invited to the table. They were so kind!
There was a Negro family that seemed strange to us; from the
children's point of view. I remember the little boy who baby-
sat. He would sit around and make up songs about Mama and Papa.
I can hear him singing now as clear [as then]. We did not feel
any ill feelings toward him or anybody at that age.
I think that my relationship there has been good for me because I
can only remember the McLeans with kindness, in spite of these
differences. These were not differences that they practiced
alone, but they were differences that everybody practiced. I did
not know why they did and really did not care at the time.
P: Were you aware of any particular problems going to school? You
went to an Indian school did you not?
B: Yes, I did. But we went to a separate Indian school. At one
time I walked eight miles to school going and coming. Eight
miles each way. We would carry our lunch. We were very poor and
sometimes we did not have a lunch to carry.
The problems that stick out in my mind as a child are the vicious
dogs along the way. There were particular homes that had vicious
dogs. Sometimes I would feed them biscuits out of my lunch pail;
try to make friends with the dog. Sometimes when my sister and I
got to school, we had fed our entire lunch to the dogs. This
probably saved us from being bitten.
P: You had Indian teachers?
B: Yes, until I reached high school I had Indian teachers at school.
P: Do you feel the curriculum was any different in an Indian school;
taught by Indian teachers?
B: I do not think the curriculum was different. I think we had the
same books. I have no way of knowing really what books they used
in the white schools, but I assume they were the same. For
instance, in the primer which was the first grade we began at, we
read about Baby Ray; "Baby Ray has three kittens. The kittens
are little. The kittens are cute," and so on. I remember the
story "The Kittens are Coming." I think the curriculum was about
P: How did it happen, as a poor boy, you were able to go to Pembroke
B: Well, when I first entered I had to drop out because I did not
have the money. During that time you could go to the end of the
year. At the end of the year, before you got credits, you could
pay your fees. Hopefully, I went. I lost several semester's
work because I was not able to pay the very small fee.
I went to school many times, I remember, very poorly clothed in
overalls. I remember one day when the seat of my pants were
torn, I backed away from the door. Some of the other children
were better dressed than I. This bothered me a lot.
So I worked harder; sort of as compensation. Then another thing
that probably made me work harder than the other children was my
vision. I was not able to take part in athletics as the other
children because I was not able to judge the distance of a ball
coming at me. It would probably hit me in the face instead of my
catching it. This was very embarrassing, and the kids would
So I buried myself in books. I probably read all of the classics
in the Prospect Library. I remember during my high school days,
during this time you rented your textbooks. We were so poor I
was never able to rent books, much less purchase them. So I
borrowed books from my friends and I helped them with their
lessons in return. I read the classics and had a good background
in reading because I loved to read. I read constantly. I read
Shakespeare even before I got to high school.
P: What is the history of Pembroke College?
B: What is now Pembroke State University began with one teacher and
one classroom taught by the late R. W. Moore, who was the
grandfather of Professor Adolph Dial (of Pembroke State
University today). There is one mistake that people make in
writing the school's history. The first law establishing
education for the Indians of North Carolina, of Robeson, was
passed under the influence of Hamilton McMillan. That was in
1865. The bill to establish a normal school was passed in 1887.
This is really the bill upon which Pembroke State University was
established. But many people writing about it do not make that
distinction. I do not guess it is a very important one, but the
schools were very small in the beginning and usually had one
Even when I was going to school, we had to go to into the woods
and cut our own wood to keep warm. I remember one day I was
cutting wood, and a boy in my class came up behind me and was
struck in the forehead with the axe. Fortunately, it was the
flat part of the axe.
P: Was the campus where it is now?
B: At Prospect, yes, it was the same place.
P: Now we were talking about Pembroke College. What do you mean by
B: Well, this is when the incident occurred. I had drifted, you
know, in talking about the time I struck the boy with the axe.
But Pembroke State University is on the same campus it has been
on for many years. Originally the first building was located at
Pates, North Carolina.
B: Yes, just a few miles from here. But that building no longer
stands. Later on it was moved to its present site; that was done
in the nineteenth century.
P: But it was moved here because this is really the center of the
B: Yes, this is considered, even today, the educational and cultural
center of the Lumbee Indians. Because Pembroke is no longer an
Indian institution there might be somebody at Pembroke State
University who might resent that description. But this has
always been considered the cultural and educational center.
In the very early days "Scuffletown", which is really a
corruption of Scovilletown, was the center. It was sort of a
mystery center for the Indians, because at that time the Indians
did not welcome strangers into their midst. There are reasons
for that. If you came into the community and said, "Where is
Scuffletown?" They would say just keep walking in the direction
you are going; it is down the road a ways. It did not make any
difference which direction you were traveling, it was always away
from "Scuffletown" or Scovilletown, and nobody ever found it.
Nobody knew where it was, except the Indians, and they did not
But of course this brings into focus a lot of attitudes that have
always been with us since we resided on the coast. After our
amalgamation with the "Lost Colony", when the white settlers
came, they looked at us askance, and some of the Indian groups
did too. So, we were discriminated against by both sides and we
tended to keep to ourselves. Being a peaceful group we kept
withdrawing inland as the population began [to grow] on the
coast. We kept retreating, but of course, there were some of our
people here as early as 1660, according to some Lumbee scholars.
P: I want to get back to Pembroke College. When you were there.
What were the dates of your attendance at the college?
B: Well actually, I entered, I believe, in the year 1947. I had to
drop out because my parents were not able to finance me. So
after this year's work, I dropped out.
P: You say this was in 1947, after the war? Or was it 1937?
B: It was earlier than the war. I re-entered after the war. But at
this time I had one credit for one year's work.
P: I see. So you had gone to Pembroke in the thirties to begin
with. I want to ask you, when you went there as a freshman,
those were the Depression years?
B: Yes, sir.
P: How large an Indian enrollment was there at Pembroke?
B: I never did have occasion to check the number, but there must
have been four or five hundred enrolled.
P: This was set up, as I understand, to train Indians to become
teachers. This was the function of a normal school.
B: Yes, sir. But in the beginning, you see, we had to start from
scratch. We did not have any educational background; we lost our
educational background in 1835 because of the revision of the
North Carolina Constitution, which prohibited us, as well as the
Cherokee of western North Carolina, from attending schools. They
would not allow us to vote. Before that we voted and fought in
all the wars. We did everything that anybody else did.
But after 1835 this became the period of the "Dark Ages" for the
Indians. So, we had to start in 1835; we started from scratch.
Nobody was educated; and not too many of the white people because
our educational system in North Carolina began in 1840. So, the
system overall was not that great.
P: What did you study at Pembroke?
B: You mean my major and minor?
B: I majored in English and minored in History.
P: With the plan to become a school teacher?
B: Yes, I meant to do that as a livelihood and write on the side. I
dreamed of writing ever since I was a child. For that reason I
completed twice enough credits for a major in the field of
English. As a consequence I was awarded the first annual "martyr
award" for excellence in the field of English upon receiving my
P: Now where were you living when you went to Pembroke? In Pembroke
itself; did you live at home?
B: Yes, you see, the war years interrupted some things for me. As a
boy I plowed in the fields for fifty cents a day. By this time
we had moved on the farm worked by my grandfather, which was
owned by Professor Adolph Dial's father, Noah Dial.
So we lived there and Professor Dial and I plowed many days
together. They had a mule who knew when twelve o'clock came.
She would turn and start toward the house. She would grip the
bit between her teeth and he could not keep her one minute
longer. I was plowing with a horse, named Nell, a black mare. I
would laugh because, and I can still see Professor Dial's heels
dragging in the soil as this mule took him, not down the road,
but right across the field; over the crops and everything. This
frustrated him terribly, but it was a great joke for me.
Sometimes he wanted us to trade and let him plow Nell, who was
gentle, and me plow the mule. I always insisted on Nell; Nell
and I were very great friends.
P: Is Professor Dial a graduate of Pembroke?
B: Yes. He got his master's at Boston University.
P: You did your undergraduate work at Pembroke and then you went on
to Chapel Hill to do graduate work?
B: That is right. After I had taught for three years in public
P: Did you serve during World War II?
B: Yes, I did. I had one year of college when I was blinded in
1950. I was sent back to PSC [Pembroke State College] by the
State Commissioner for the Blind. After teaching for three years
and being relieved because of my vision, they suggested that I go
on to some university, and they would maybe pay my tuition and
board. They did not do anything for my family, but they did take
care of me. Of course, we were happy to do that and went to UNC
[University of North Carolina] at Chapel Hill. I and received my
major and minor in English.
P: What about your World War II career?
B: Well, I felt drawn to the war with the boys away after Pearl
Harbor. I remember I was sitting and talking when the news came
on the battery radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. A friend
of mine, Ed Loughery, was sitting there beside me. He was in the
service at this time, he said, "Lew, how would you feel to be
wearing your country's uniform and hear this news?" It was
terrible. I felt so strong. I resented the fact that Pearl
Harbor had been bombed and to me this seemed to be unprovoked.
Maybe they did not see it that way. But even after I was
married, I believe I had three children at this time, I went to
the draft board and asked them, I said, "I am going to have to go
eventually, will you send me now?" So they did.
P: Where did you go?
B: I went to Bainbridge, Maryland. I was inducted into the Navy. I
have always admired the Navy. I worked as an electrician for a
short period. I received my boots, by the way, at Bainbridge,
Maryland. I decided to become an electrician, because in between
working in fields and so on, I had studied electricity for a
time. I learned to wire houses, so I decided to work in the "E"
department. Then I was transferred to the U.S.S. Corps, a ship
which played a major role in winning the battle for the Atlantic.
Our duty was against German submarines. So I worked with the "E"
division for a time.
P: Did you note any special discrimination in the military, as a
result of your being an Indian?
B: No, actually they did not put me down as an Indian,. I asked
them to, but they did not. They said there is no difference.
But I knew two other Indians from different groups. I do not
even remember the groups that they were from. One boy was from
Alabama, he was named Guy Bill, and they had another boy who as
an Indian [who's name I do not remember]. At that time they did
not induct negroes.
P: But there was no discrimination in the military as far as Indians
B: Not over acts, you know, as far as the officers were concerned.
But people never really noticed that I was an Indian. My
appearance, I guess. I did not have any problems because of
P: Mr. Barton, what about your wife. Who is she?
B: My wife is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Nocie Locklear.
P: And what is your wife's name?
P: Berna Locklear Barton.
P: When were you married?
B: I believe it was in 1939.
P: Did you say you have three children?
B: I had three children when I went in the service. Today we have
nine children. You will always find Indians usually have large
families. There is a reason for this; the reason being that
children helped earn a living on the farms.
P: They were an economic asset.
B: Yes, in my case I have always felt a sort of horror of being
alone in my old age. I wanted a lot of relatives and of course I
have a lot of relatives. At that time contraceptive devices like
the pill were not known as they are today. It might have been
quite different had they been. But Indians generally have large
P: How old are your children?
B: The youngest one is thirteen and the oldest is in her thirties.
P: So, you have enjoyed living in a large family, a large immediate
family and collateral relatives?
B: Right, and I think it is great because after the oldest child is
born and you teach that child very carefully, that child passes
on what is learned to the other children. It is just great; we
get together and have reunions; we have a ball.
P: Mr. Barton, your wife then by her name is Indian too is she not?
P: Locklear is an Indian name.
B: There is an interesting anecdote connected with her father's
name, Nocie, and her brother--there were only two of them, Berna
and Nocie, Jr. When Nocie was christened, he was christened by
R. W. Moore, the man who began the school system we spoke of a
little while ago. He asked Nocie Sr.'s mother if he had been
named and she thought what he actually said was "name?" She
replied, "No sir." The Reverend Moore thought she said "Nocie,"
so he put down Nocie. When he discovered the error he went to
her and said, "I am terribly sorry I made this error. Why did
you not tell me about it?" The fact of the matter was she had
too much respect for him to change it. To her this was something
that the Reverend Moore gave him; that the Reverend Moore named
him. This is the way it is going to stay. That is the way it
stayed. So when my father-in-law and mother-in-law had two
children, a boy and a girl. The boy was named Nocie, Jr., so
they created a new name.
P: How is it that you became one of the major spokesmen for the
B: I guess I sort of inherited it partially. My love of books--I
remember when I was in high school, the kids would come to me to
write little mushy love letters for them. So many of them came
to me that sometimes I would write the letter for boy, and then
when the girl received the letter she would come over and say,
"Lew, I want you to answer a letter I got today. I got the
greatest letter today. I want you to answer it." So, I would be
writing both ways sometimes. I was borrowing probably a little
bit from Shakespeare whom I had already started reading. I read
Wuthering Heights, Pilgrim's Progress, Mark Twain. It was just
that I tried to read everything I could find that Mark Twain
wrote, and today I love Mark Twain. Of all literary people, I
guess, Mark Twain was the greatest. [I] loved him.
P: So you feel that it was because of your educational background
and your acquaintanceship with books that you became a Lumbee
B: I always regarded my people sort of as a sheep having no
shepherd. I always loved them because they were so very kind.
If you go to their house and it is mealtime, they say, "Come on
and eat. Oh, come on," you know. If you need help, they are so
very warm, and I have always been able to recognize their
remarkable human characteristics. I have felt that they were
When I was very young I read a book about Henry Berry Lowery
which was very derogatory and was very uncomplimentary where our
people were concerned. My grandfather was one of the people who
petitioned Congress in 1889. I heard them talking about school
problems and many other problems, and I would sit around
listening. I grieved over it very much, and I said to myself and
to God when I was praying, "Dear God, if other people could see
my people as I see my people, they would love my people the same
way I love my people."
I saw at a very early age that the problem seemed to be that they
were not understood. I wanted to do something about this, and
for some reason I have always had a literary tendency. I call it
that anyway; I enjoyed reading. I have taken off for the woods
many times and read all day long. [I have] gone to the river
and stretched out on the bank and read; and to me it was like
going to another world, you know. It is all so different from my
own world. Nobody was hungry, nobody was ragged, nobody had
prejudice. But after I was nine years old I began to be aware of
P: This sense of purpose then in leading the Lumbee Indians came as
a result of family tradition?
B: Partially, only partially. I had experience as I grew up.
Because after you grow up in this county, you see, people do not
object to children playing together until they reach a certain
age, and then they draw the line strictly. This is a social
peculiarity I do not quite follow, but this is the case. I
started into a store one day; they would not even sell Indians
ice cream in a drugstore.
P: This was in Pembroke?
B: No, this was in Maxton. I went in with my cousin who was dark.
He had beautiful black Indian hair; typical Indian hair We went
into this drugstore. I knew I had been in there and bought ice
cream, although people said they would not serve Indians. But I
never thought of myself as anything but Indian, so I said, "well,
somebody is wrong, come on in here Herbert, and let's get some
ice cream." So we walked in and asked for some ice cream. The
attitude was quite different. He could tell, you know, from his
appearance that Herbert Locklear was an Indian. So, he said, "We
do not serve Indians in here." So we turned and started walking
out of the door, and we got to the door, the proprietor of the
drug store called me back. He said, "Come here." I walked back
and he said, "The next time you come in, come alone and you will
get your ice cream." I do not remember what I said, but I
insulted him. I probably laid the "SOB" on him! [I] walked out
of the store and I never went back.
I formulated a philosophy right there. I said that as long as
somebody feels that way about me and my money, or my people and
their money, I think the twain shall never meet, if I can prevent
it. They will never get a penny from me for anything, so I never
went back there for drugs or anything else.
We used to walk to Red Springs because this is where the movies
were. I lived about nine or ten miles away, and we would walk
all the way to Red Springs to the theater. They did not allow
the Indians to sit on the bottom floor; this is where the white
people sat. Indians and Negroes went up in the balcony. The
balcony had a division and on one side the Negroes sat, and on
the other side the Indians sat. But it had one compensation--the
rates were lower. So I did not complain too much because I did
not have much money anyway. I did not care; I was not all that
anxious to sit on the bottom floor.
Many times they could not distinguish Indians from white people,
and they would have a little Indian boy who stood at the door to
tell them who was Indian and who was not an Indian. So if you
were a young Indian boy, and you wanted to show off a little bit,
you took your girl to the movies. If they were very bright you
simply tipped the little Indian boy, and he let you go in and sit
down and the white people did not know the difference. This did
not bother me too much because as I said there was this
compensation; the rates were lower.
P: So you experienced discrimination towards the Indians very early
in your life and decided to do something about it.
B: Yes, I could go down to the courthouse, which was supposed to be
the hall of justice, and in that courthouse there were separate
restrooms for white men, white women, Indian men, Indian women,
black men and black women.
P: Triple facilities.
B: Right. Six separate restrooms.
P: Mr. Barton, how did you put your sense of purpose into action in
terms of doing something about the Lumbee Indian plight?
B: Well, at a very early age I sold my first three stories. I was
first interested in fiction. Like any other American boy I
became interested in cowboys. First three stories I sold to
Street and Smith's Wild West Weekly of New York, were accepted
and published. This was at the age of fourteen. I may sound
immodest, but I have always seemed to have a way with words.
I remember one day when I was in high school, I had a white
English teacher. I wrote a story--we were supposed to write
stories and turn them in. I wrote my story and turned it in.
When she read it, her face turned red, and she called me to the
front. She said, "Lew Barton, you did not write this. Tell me
and tell the class which book you copied this out of." I broke
out laughing, you know. Good gosh, can you not tell a homemade
story from the real thing? So she says, "You go back there and
you write me another story, and you write it in my sight." So I
went back, and I wrote the story in her sight. I said, "Lord,
help me to write a better story than that first one. Please!"
And so I did. Later on in life I asked her, "Did you like the
second story better than the first?" She said, "Yes." I did
that. I went up there and carried it to her, then she apologized
to me before the class, which if I had lost any confidence in
her, this redeemed it, you know.
From there on she kind of took me under her wing, and I became
sort of a special student to her. She encouraged me, as long as
I was in high school she encouraged me. She said, "Lew, I give
you greater objectives; I was thinking of you in terms of most of
my students, and you are different." I said, "I am not
different." I never liked to be called different, or thought of
as different; I am like the rest of our people.
But I believe the good Lord had a hand in all of this. I began
writing for the paper at a very early age. The Robesonian has
been published successfully for over a century. Some of its
first stories was about Henry Berry Lowery, the Indian outlaw.
The very fact that it has been so successful has some
I went to the editor, the late editor, Sharp. I told him, I
said, "I love to write." I said, "May I write for your paper?"
He said, "Yes, because I need somebody to write cross-state news.
I will pay you a little something for your writing." So I wrote
and I remember some of the first trouble I got into. I said
there is certain women in this community who really do not need a
newspaper because, you know, they gossip a lot. Afterwards,
three different women jumped on me and said, "What do you mean
writing about me." I had not used anybody's name. They are all
P: Well, let's get back into this business of you becoming sort of
the written word of the Lumbee Indians.
B: Well, that is very complimentary to me. I was chosen as "Tarheel
of the Week" by the Raleigh News and Observer in 1970. I was
called a "gentle warrior for the Lumbee Indians." This grew out
of the fact that people came to me with their problems. I have
written I guess thousands of letters to officials over individual
problems. My father did it before me. He only had a sixth grade
education, but he could write, and Indians came from miles
There was one time my father was hailed into court, with a sixth
grade education, and charged with practicing law without a
license. All he had done was take care of some correspondence.
He had collected some VA claims, and some insurance claims, and
this sort of thing. My father had a reputation. He studied at
home by fireplace and he had a way with words. He helped his
people so much that the some of the lawyers probably assumed that
they were losing money, and so they hailed him into court. But
my father never charged anybody for writing a letter.
There were times when people would come over to the house and
say, "I have got an extra bag of flour. I want you to have it."
Or [they would say] something like, "I have got a chicken I would
like for you to have," or "I have got a ham I would like for you
to have." But after that he would accept no gifts. He said he
would have nothing for helping his people.
P: How did you come to write this book?
B: Well, I guess some of the derogatory things written about our
people went very deep when I was a child. For a long time I did
not know whether they were true or not. But I did not believe
them. They did not coincide with what my people told me about
Our people, at a certain age they--at least they did when I was
coming up--called a child to their knee and they would tell it
the important things to know. This did not go together. For
instance, the name Croatin, some writers who wrote at a distance
and never bothered to investigate first hand, said this was a
convenient label for people of obscure origins. I wanted to know
because tradition of my people said we were descendants of the
lost colony and our descendants also a segment of the Tuscarora
and a segment of the Cherokee.
Because the Lumbee Indian Valley is a unique valley. It is a
valley surrounded by swamp, and it was almost inaccessible to
anybody except the Indians for a long, long time. This is where
displaced persons came. The refuge of times. The reason our
people took up residence here is simply that people looked at
them askance because of their white blood which was as repulsive
to some groups of Indians, as the other was to the colonists. So
this is where they came. These things always fascinated me, and
I said, "This is the most ironic thing I have ever heard of."
So, I talked to Miss Mary Livermore, who is a sister to Mr. R. H.
Livermore. She would tell me; she was so sympathetic; she was a
missionary; she said, "Lew Barton, do not let people tell you
there are that many skeletons in your closet. You get on that
story and you write it!" Mary was honest to everybody, and she
was Christian with a purpose. She believed in what was right.
She would not twist the truth or twist what was right or wrong to
help us or anybody else. She often said, "Lew Barton, you are
just like a lot of the other people among your people. You say
'Amen' to everything I say, but you do not do it. So do it now."
She let me go over some clippings of hers. She said, "Look at
this. You have go a glorious history." As I read, I became
fascinated with the things, you know, just what she told me.
I have always heard that tradition. But still I have heard that
charge that this was false, completely, just trying to cover
something. I guess I half believe it, and half believed that
maybe my people were wrong. But the more I thought about it, I
felt the obligation to prove it one way or another. And if I had
found that our people had been guilty of something like this, I
would have felt terrible. I might not have published my book.
But I would have felt terrible that I was seeking the truth, and
I went for the truth. I have always been interested in all our
problems, and at a time when people did not do this.
I remember one lady in particular; I do not even remember her
name now. But she was a deaf-mute, and she was a writer. She
being deaf, we could not talk to her, but she would write. She
said, "Lew, we ought to get together, and exchange ideas." So
she and I would get somebody to go by her home, and she would
walk down the road. She would not dare let somebody in a car
pick her up, not an Indian. For that matter I would not have
dared to do the same thing, if it had been the other way around.
P: That is right in this area?
B: Yes, she lived in Lumberton. We would go to the river and she
would write, and I would write back. She would carry lunch
along, and we would have the grandest time. We discussed
everything, every social problem in this world I guess, including
world government, and this sort of thing.
P: Mr. Barton, tell me how do you write now, because of your
eyesight? Do you dictate?
B: I dictate to myself on the tape recorder usually. I touch-type,
I have learned to touch-type because I have written so much so
frequently before I lost my vision. Of course, I studied typing
too at King, at Charlotte. This was a great asset to me after I
lost my vision. Of course when I was at the university and in
college I had reader service. But I could stretch this service
simply by having my reader to read it on the tape because we did
not get but one dollar an hour for a reader.
It was very difficult to get a reader. After I went to UNC,
incidentally, I would like to tell you a little incident that
happened. They had sort of frowned on Indians there, I guess; or
at least maybe it was because I was a newcomer, even though I was
blind. I asked for a reader service, and I had no takers. I
walked into class one day in the Shakespeare class, and the
daughter of Dr. Paul Green (he wrote the "Lost Colony"), the
great playwright, she [Janet] came in; she must have heard of the
problems that I was having. Anyway she came up to me one day in
the classroom, and right before all of those people (all of whom
admired her; naturally they would, all of whom were angling to be
Janet's friend), she put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Lew
Barton, I hear you have been trying to get a reader and have not
[been able]. Why do you not give me a job?" I said, "You are
kidding me." She said, "No, I am not. How much does it pay?"
Out loud, deliberately [she said this] for the class to hear.
She became a reader. She said, "I will do more than become a
reader. I will coach you through your class, boy. You just give
me that chance." From then on, boy, I had it made. You know,
the rest of the students followed her lead, and I will always be
grateful to her because this is an understanding human being.
She did this for me.
P: Mr. Barton, as a result of your book, did you find that the
Lumbee appreciated what you were doing?
B: At first, our people were so discouraged they did not. They have
only begun really to envision what I was driving at. At times
they thought I was a little touched in the head because I spent
so much time writing. Some of them, I am not talking about all
of them. For example, I wrote a poem about an experience I had
where some kids thought I was so strange that they threw a brick
through the window one time. But gradually, they found everybody
has to prove himself among our people, which may be a very good
thing. You have to prove yourself.
P: You had proved yourself by publishing this book?
B: Yes. So, the other day at the lumbee homecoming they awarded me
the Henry Berry Lowery Memorial award. This is the highest award
which can be conferred by our people; I would not have been
prouder of the Congressional Medal of Honor because this
represented approval at home among my own people.
P: Your peers had accepted you.
B: Yes, maybe for a long time they looked on me askance because
after all, there were many Indians who were better off than I,
and I have always tried to identify with the more unfortunate
Indians. I did not really strive to enter the middle class.
P: Have you any official position in the Lumbee community?
B: I am generally regarded as the Lumbee poet and historian. It is
not an official thing. But if you ask almost any Indian not many
Indians would quarrel with that.
P: As I understand it the Lumbee do not have a formal tribal
B: No, they do not. This has been discouraged. There are people
for one reason or another that say forget this Indian stuff, you
know? They do not encourage it. One reason is fear that the
Indians are too closely knit, too closely united. They have
opposed political strength that might go counter to the
establishment. And they have always opposed a coalition between
the Indians and the black people.
I wrote a story about that called "Iago." "Old lago, man's
insane, formed without a soul, how can I know like lago, for thou
would not steal my control. All our culture, like a vulture
about has easiest way. Who can spot thee, who can block thee,
from the wall of men's grave." And so forth. This sort of
person goes to one side. Instead of fighting the battle himself,
he will go to one side, and whisper mean and ugly things like
lago did, in Shakespeare's Othello. Then go to the other side,
and set those two people at odds, and then stand back and enjoy
the fight. They fight his battle and he does not do anything.
This is done politically. It is done often, if we have a leader
who emerges too prominently. This sort of thing comes up.
P: Do you have a leader now?
B: We usually have a leader, or several leaders, whom everybody
understands to be leaders, our people. They do not always
P: They recognize you then, as the poet and historian of the Lumbee,
are there are political leaders which are recognized.
P: Who are these leaders?
B: Well, I do not think many people would quarrel with Harold
Brooks, probably our most prominent political figure. Although
he has never run for office, Howard is very active. This is
P: He is the man who runs the drugstore?
B: Right. He is so quiet you would never think of him.
P: But he is considered the political spokesman.
B: He is the influence.
P: Influence with what?
B: Among our people.
P: The white people?
B: Mostly, we have embraced him.
P: I see, do you go to him?
B: [The] whole community.
P: In other words, the Indian community goes to Mr. Brooks in times
B: Yes, it changes, and it shifts sometimes. For example, during
the trouble with the Ku Klux Klan, Sam Oxendine, was generally
regarded as one of our top leaders.
P: But now Mr. Brooks is?
B: Yes, I would say so. Somebody might have other ideas, but he is
a new leader.
P: He is a young man?
B: Oh, yes. [A] very dedicated man. Mr. Danford Dial is emerging
as a leader. Professor Adolph Dial has emerged; he is the kind
of man that also has emerged. For example he was sent as a
delegate to the Democratic Convention. For the first time in our
history we had a man who went from both parties. John Robert
Jones will go to the Republican.
P: Adolph Dial went as the representative to the Democratic National
convention in Miami, Florida.
B: Right. He has had an opportunity because the Methodist Church
has a program going. The United Methodist Church has a program
to help minority groups. Adolph Dial was a leader of the
Prospect Methodist Church. He has a good background and so on.
He has traveled over a hundred thousand miles last time I talked
with him. It is probably much more than that now.
P: Now you have become sort of the written voice of the Lumbee. Not
necessarily the spoken voice of the Lumbee.
B: Yes. Well, I guess that would be the best evaluation. I was
sent to the first convocation of American Indian Scholars at
Princeton, New Jersey. Mr. Dial went at the same time, and we
also had an Indian boy from the college group. So we had three
delegates to that.
P: Have you played an active role in that organization? The first
convocation was held, have there been others?
B: Yes, there was one this year. I did not go this year, but this is
why this one was held at Princeton, New Jersey. It was sponsored
by the Ford Foundation who paid all the expenses for three or
four days to the tune of about $45,000 for that convention. For
the first time Indian leaders, Indian scholars were allowed to
meet each other or had the opportunity to meet each other, I
should say. Like Professor Momaday [N. Scott] who is a Pulitzer
Prize winner , and I think he is head of the English
Department at University of California. [He was] called a man
made of words, and I will agree for I heard him lecture.
P: Are there other men of scholarship besides you and Adolph Dial
among the Lumbee?
B: Well, I would say that we have many educated people. We have
well over five hundred professional people. But as far as
literary endeavors are concerned, that has not been such a
lucrative field as to draw many people out. But more people are
coming in all the time.
P: Is anybody working, are you working on a Lumbee Indian folklore?
B: Yes, I am collecting folklore. I had a story called "Me Told
Tales along the Lumbee" which appeared in the November issue of
the North Carolina Folklore Journal. I told one of the stories
in the form of a poem. I borrowed some of Edgar Allen Poe's
technique. This one was called "Nightmare Cabin." It tells
about this area. Of course education is driving the "conjure"
woman and the "conjure" man out of the system. But they are
still very colorful to me. At one time they were very powerful
people; they exerted a lot of influence. Among their other
accomplishments they are supposed to be able to handle a seance
and call back spirits. And this is what this poem is about, "The
P: What do you see as the future of the Lumbee Indians?
B: I see a very bright future for our people. If we take advantage
of the gains that we have made, if we do not become complacent.
The battle is not won. We have made great advances, but we are
just now in a position when we can really exert ourselves. On
the other hand, we are threatened with extinction because we have
lost our schools, we have lost our university, and we need a
focal point. We are hoping to establish our own newspaper. We
have had newspapers in the past which fold up when they become
too Indian. You know what I mean? After all newspapers depend
on advertising. Most of the business in Robeson County are owned
by non-Indians, although the Indians still own quite a few.
P: And they depend on Indian dollars whether they are Indian owned
B: Right. That is true. So we are hoping the climate is right now
and we plan to start our own newspaper, January 1. We had The
Lumbee going, and it published for two years. Then a man came
in, one of the American friends, a Quaker gentleman who was very
outspoken, and he attacked some of the county power structure.
So the advertising dried up over night. The paper folded. This
is how power hurts.
P: So you are going to try and start another paper by January, 1973?
P: Are you going to have any official connection with it?
B: I am going to be its editor. Howard Brooks will be part-owner,
and my son Bruce Barton, who has been at Chapel Hill for years,
will be coming home to help with it, too. He is also going to
work with Howard and his drugstore.
P: This will be published in Pembroke?
B: Yes. We have a makeshift paper, a stop-gap paper going. It
comes out once a month called the Carolina Indian Voice, but it
is not very professional. It is being operated now on a non-
profit basis. It is going now, but we need a professional paper.
We need to have a full-sized paper.
P: As you look at the situation what is wrong with the elimination
of Indian schools and an Indian college? Why not have the Indian
children go to regular schools and become a part of the culture?
B: They do not stand a Chinaman's chance, if you will pardon the
expression. They are discriminated against. We have lost
thirty-nine teachers the first year. The integration plan went
into effect--I called it as bogus as a nine dollar bill. I did
that before the nation. I went on number of nation-wide
programs. The thing about it is it was not really integration.
It was a perpetuation of the same old segregated pattern; But
you see when they say that integration was inevitable, they began
to make plans.
The blacks and the Indians have supported freedom-of-choice plans
for many years. There are six full districts here in a county of
ninety some, eighty-five thousand population. Good gosh, we do
not need that. And some people propose a single system; but they
fight that tooth and nail, and the reason they fight it is
because they want to retain control of the Indian schools, the
traditional Indian schools.
P: But they are gone, the traditional Indian schools, are they not?
B: Not in Robeson County they are not.
P: They are still here.
B: The traditionally white schools they are not gone either.
P: What you are saying is that the Indian children go to Indian
schools and the white children go to white schools?
B: To a large extent. We have token integration in Robeson county
P: HEW [U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare] is not
objecting to this?
B: HEW is in conspiracy with the Robeson County school system in my
opinion. I have heard Young Allen, who is the superintendent of
the Robeson County system, which is more than sixty-five percent
Indian say that, He says "I sat right there opposite that man for
ten years pleading with him," and he was talking to an HEW
official from Washington. He conceded that this was true.
But you see the Indians had no say in formulating this plan. The
blacks had no say in it. Then they fixed it up the way they
wanted to fix it up. They annexed white rural communities to the
city communities. You see how they retained control is that they
have in effect two votes to our one. Because the people in the
city districts are able to vote in their own district and in the
county district which is primarily Indian. But the Indians are
not allowed to vote in their districts.
P: Are the Indian schools manned by Indian teachers?
B: Well, there has been some integration. I would say that Prospect
has been integrated less than perhaps in the others.
P: What is the difference as you see it?
B: Oh, maybe a couple of others too.
P: What is the difference between Indian schools and white schools
right now in Pembroke?
B: They have not changed except a few. You know, they have a few
more whites and a few more Negroes.
P: But is the quality of teaching the same? Between the Indian
schools and the white schools?
B: The quality of teaching is not good in the county system period.
P: In all schools?
B: But I would say their city systems are a little bit better
because they can tax.
P: So the Indian schools are being hurt by not getting as much
B: Well, they never have received, in their history, they have never
received the amount of money appropriated for them. As a matter
of fact a politician just a couple of years ago accused the
school officials of stealing from Indian schools. You know, he
did that publicly and that really caused the spirit to stir. But
the Indian schools have never received their full share; However
you want to express it. They have been shortchanged.
P: Have the Indians in Pembroke during your lifetime played any
activist political role? Have they been involved in sit-down
B: Oh, yes, in 1970 when this bogus integration plan went into
effect, which was drawn up to favor white students and white
parents and so on, throughout the entire year we had sit-ins, in
their traditional schools for the whole year. And I would say as
many--Mr. Danford Dial would know about that than I--but I would
say there were at least five hundred students that sat in during
the entire year. And some of them finally gave up and quit
P: What has been the busing situation of Indian children?
B: Well, we have always bussed. Now I will be frank with you.
Bussing was practiced for years for the purpose of not of
achieving a racial balance, but of preventing it, you know. For
example, a bus might come all the way to Pembroke to pick up a
white child and then carry that white child down to the nearest
white school, which would be miles away. But it was a thing that
was agreed upon. It was not regimentation in a sense; yet all
three races agreed with it. Which I think was fairer than what
we have now.
The mother who brings a child into the world does not have the
right to say where that child can go to school, no matter if it
is a good school or a bad school. Somebody in Washington says
where that child is to go to school. And I think the freedom of
choice plan worked better for us. I do not know how it worked in
P: But in the Indian area you feel it works best?
B: Yes. I think the black people, and the white people agree. This
is one thing we are all agreed on. There was no coercion. I
mean it was an honest plan. Nobody has ever shown that it was
anything else. I was simply they did not want us and we did not
P: This is between Indian and white?
P: What is the feeling among Indians as far as blacks are concerned?
B: Well, as I said a while ago, politicians find it convenient to
keep the Indians and blacks as far apart as possible. However,
we have come to see that, and we are more tolerant of each other.
During the last election we have sent a black man to Raleigh for
the first time.
P: Now you say "we sent him", do you mean the Pembroke Indians?
B: I mean the Indians and the Negroes. But the reservation reporter
reported what had happened, you know, and how this coalition had
B: And I sent a copy of it to the county paper, and of course, the
county paper did not publish that.
P: Mr. Barton, one of the things I want to get on the tape is for
you to tell me something about that Klan incident of the fifties,
about which there has been so much publicity.
B: Well, I do not know just what you like to know.
P: Well, I do not know very much about it at all. So I wish you
would tell me as though I knew nothing at all about the thing.
B: Well, it happened in 1958. The Klan became ambitious and some of
the people out of state came into this state from South Carolina.
They came over here and saw that a lot of Indians had the
appearance of white people. They thought that a lot of race
mixing had been going on. But this is something which happened
beginning in 1587, and actually was not the case. There might
have been some isolated instances of white Indian marriages, but
nothing like the Klan suspected. So they decided to teach the
Indians a lesson. James Cole was Grand Wizard at the time.
P: Where is he from?
B: He is from South Carolina. He had first come into this county as
a minister who was deadly--much against what he called "race
mixing." Our people and others gave him the cold shoulder. He
came back later with the Klan and as Grand Wizard of the Klan.
He was going to teach the Indians a lesson, and he stated this
publicly. The papers were full of it--how the Klan was coming
in, what it was going to do to the Indians. It angered people,
and many of the white people because they did not want anybody
rocking the boat--even the Klan! They did not need any help from
P: They had done pretty well on their own.
B: Right. It got the people so angry that on the night of the
eighteenth, there was a meeting.
P: The eighteenth of what?
B: I believe it was October eighteenth.
B: Right. [The Klan] met near Maxton. Our people had the situation
sewed up, because the Klan had bragged how they were going to
come there heavily armed, and they were going to straighten out
racial things in Robeson County. They were heavily armed, and so
all the Indians were heavily armed when they went. They had just
about bought out all the shells and guns they could find in
hardware stores in Robeson County. They just started; they came
up there on the makeshift platforms.
P: This is in Maxton, you say?
B: Near Maxton, on Haye's corn field.
P: Now this is where the Klan had called a meeting and they were in
the corn field?
B: Right. So the Indians drove up and parked along-side the road,
and they stayed at a distance. Just as soon as somebody went
there and strung up that light for them (getting ready to have
the meeting), somebody shot out the bulb and all hell broke
loose. Hundreds of rounds of ammunition were fired.
It is an old tradition among the Indians that before you destroy
anybody you give them ample warning. So this is what was
happening. Do not kill anybody if you can help it. But if you
part James Cole's hair with a bullet...you know. They were
warned against that, you might not be as good a marksman as you
think. [They told everyone] do not kill anybody, this time. But
you warn them. Be sure that they are warned. So when all that
firing began, the Klan turned tail and ran.
P: Including Cole?
B: Including the Grand Wizard. His car got stuck in the mud, in the
sand. His wife and family were in it. Of course Sam Oxendine
was sort of keeping things in control for us. Sam is a
Congressional Medal of Honor winner, you know. In World War II
he was a tail gunner and he is not afraid of the devil! He is
calm and level-headed. He was American Legion leader. He had on
an American Legion hat that night. He and my brother-in-law,
Charlie Warax, had been named as those who were foremost
[leaders], but there were many leaders. Sembrook claimed credit
for all of it. Anyway the Indians cooperated. One thing I can
say for James Cole; he is one of the few people who has brought
our people together in unity.
B: Right. Anyway, somebody says, "Help those women and children
out." So they pushed the car out. They turned over some of the
Klansmen's cars, and they confiscated the sound equipment. They
bore away the KKK banner, you know, like some token of battle.
It destroyed the Klan. It destroyed the Klan's image nationally.
Really this is what happened. Because this was a disastrous
defeat, and the reason it happened really was a question of pride
on both sides. They never attacked American Indians before now.
So the pride of the Indians was at stake; the pride of the Klan
was at stake; nobody could afford to back down.
But this story has a happy ending, because several years later
after they had found that they had made such a terrible mistake,
some of the Klansmen, some of the leaders of the Klan came back
into the county and invited Lumbee Indians--all Lumbee, to come
to Fayetteville on a given night and sign up for the Ku Klux
P: An exclusive organization.
B: Right. One of the most exclusive organizations. [James Cole]
was convicted for inciting a riot and actually served his time.
Later on he was killed in an auto accident. He was a very
colorful character; I will have to say that for him.
That broke the back of the Klan in North Carolina, although, you
know there was a Congressional investigation of Klan activity
several years ago. North Carolina was supposed to be the most
Klan-infested state in the Union. I doubt if there is really too
much to this, because those groups have never been too effective
P: I wanted to ask you, Mr. Barton, where were you on that fateful
B: Well, I am going to tell you the truth. I was at home by my
radio listening to a play-by-play description of what was going
on, being announced by a man who was in the ditch, watching from
the vantage point of the ditch where he could look over. I was
on my face praying to God Almighty that nobody would be killed.
Now that is where I was. This is where the gentle warrior--the
Lumbee Indian--was that night.
There are several reasons for this. In the first place, with my
vision I could not possibly get out of anybody's way in a mad
stampede; I knew what was going to happen in advance; I wanted to
be there, in a sense, and in another sense I did not. I was not,
if you will allow me to be immodest. I did not stay away because
of cowardice. It was simply because it was not practical and
nobody would agree to lead me or carry me, and so I stayed home.
After it happened I fell on my knees and I started praying to God
that nobody would be killed.
P: But it was fortunate that it came out that way.
B: Yes sir, several people were hit, but if somebody had been
killed, then public sympathy would have been wiped out. The
animosity would have been directed against us instead of for us.
P: In this latest thing, the "Save the Old Main" on campus, what
role did you play?
B: Well, I have been given the credit for instigating it. I do not
know whether I agree with that or not. I will tell you what
actually happened. I went to Pembroke State University campus to
investigate some rumors that I had heard for a possible newspaper
story. I found out that the de-Indianization of Pembroke State
University, was actually true. There was cause to worry. I
found that the college that is about forty miles from here is
more benevolent to the Indians.
P: What college is that?
B: Southeastern. Percentage-wise it is much more benevolent. We
did not have an Indian Studies course, one had been scheduled for
several years, but it never would have materialized if I had not
written that so-called de-Indianization article.
The fact that Old Main was scheduled for demolition was one of
the objections that I raised; I put it in the form of a question,
I raised a question concerning all these things. I found that
the very word "Indian" was no longer used in the records at
Pembroke State University. I found that there were about two
hundred students. I found that their Lumbee club on campus--they
were trying to do away with that; they were bringing pressure
against that; they did not want it even to exist on campus. A
number of things related.
But the immediate thing was that Old Main was scheduled for
demolition and it was a symbolic thing. So I came home, and I
wrote my story. It was published. Mr. Danford Dial called me
up, and he was so worried about this thing. Oh, my! I guess he
and I have talked all night more times than once. He said, "I
have got to do something." So Mr. Dial organized or went along
with the demonstration in front of the college. I will always
remember that sign that he carried--a Stop sign--I will always
remember the words, how grieved he was about this thing. Mr.
Dial is a man who feels very deeply, so dedicated to his people.
He loves his people above all things I guess. I guess he would
give his life for his people without hesitation.
So, he told me what he was doing and I carried a story on that.
Of course when I carried a story, I did not have to write any
more. Other people took it up from there, and they wrote about
it. We have had stories in the New York Times; we have had
stories in all of the Indian publications; we had AP, UPI
releases; we have had lots of publicity on it.
Naturally we were seeking help form all directions. Mr. Dial
mentioned Mrs. Janie May Locklear to me. [He] said it was sort
of a grass roots movement, but it needed some direction. So we
got together and she agreed to come with us. She [Janie] was,
you know, so grieved about it. People began to write poems about
it. One poem Mr. Dial wrote was great. I do not know, he
probably wrote several poems, you will have to ask him and he can
tell you about that. All I did was...
P: Sort of strike the spark.
B: Right. The need was already there. People already had many
P: Mr. Barton, what about this Dr. Jones who is president of
Pembroke? Has he played a leadership role among the Lumbee?
B: He is chancellor of Pembroke State University; it is now a part
of the University of North Carolina.
P: He is a Lumbee Indian, is he not?
B: He was born in South Carolina, and he admits to being a Lumbee
Indian. On Lumbee Homecoming Day we invited him to speak. He
got up and said, "I am an Indian just like anybody else. I have
got 'American Indian' on my birth certificate." Brantley Blue
got up behind him and said, "I want 'Indian' somewhere besides on
my birth certificate."
P: I sort of get the impression from talking to you and talking to
others that he is not highly regarded as a spokesman for the
Lumbee Indians in this area.
B: Well, he has never spoken for our people. He has spoken for the
University. To him, he wants to see the university grow, and
under him it has grown. But it has grown at the expense of the
Indian people, and there were only fifty-four black students at
my last count. Our people have been systematically shut out.
P: Dr. Jones, to your knowledge, has not appeared in Washington or
on the state level expressing an Indian point of view in let us
say the same way that Adolph Dial has?
B: No, or Brantley Blue or Janie Maynor Locklear, or Danford Dial or
P: I see.
B: Or any of our people.
P: He has not denied his Indian heritage, but he does not think and
act like a Lumbee Indian.
B: No, he believes in the old, I believe perhaps he is sincere. I
am not opposed to him. I would not walk across this room to see
him removed. I started out with one purpose in mind, and we all
agree that that one purpose was to save the Old Main, all the
other things aside. We said Old Main is our star; Old Main is
what we are out to save; and we are not out to hurt anybody; this
is not our purpose.
P: Did Dr. Jones work to save Old Main?
B: If he did I do not know about it. He took a stand. He asked
them to destroy it originally, I understand. [He took a stand]
at the last when after the entire Democratic Convention adopted
the salvation of Old Main as a plan of its platform.
P: Yes, I saw that.
B: After that, Dr. Jones went before the board and asked them to
save it. That was after we had [won the battle].
P: The battle was won then?
B: Yes, we even had the support of the White House; we had the
support of the Brantley Blue Indian Claims Commissioner. Dr.
Jones was severely criticized by Leo de Sioux, the director of
the National Congress of American Indians, who came over here and
spoke at a rally.
We held a rally and raised money. Even people who were afraid to
associate themselves with the movement publicly, they bought
plates; we sold plates; we sold more plates than we had people
present, many more.
P: There is a question that I find already. Are the Lumbee Indians
more formal with each other? I notice that you people who have
obviously known each other for a long time, still address each
other as "Mr. Dial" and so on.
B: This is a courtesy. It is sort of a custom, I think. It grew
out of this school system because in the early days we felt the
teachers should be respected by the students. It usually is a
sign of respect. I guess that is the best way to describe it.
P: I have sort of been a little bit conscious of it. I know that you
and Mr. Dial are good friends, and probably have been for many
years, and yet you identify each other on a last name basis. I
wondered if that was a Lumbee Indian tradition.
B: I do not think so. You see, we are together largely before other
people. He and I were classmates. He says, when we are off by
ourselves, he will say, "Lew" or I might say "Danford." But I
have to do it so much in public that I might, whether we are
talking just he and I together, it may still be "Mr. Dial."
P: Well, I am still trying to learn about the Lumbee, and that is
the reason I was asking the question whether this was a custom.
B: This does not mean that we are at a distance, or that we are that
formal. It is simply that we have had to be formal so often. We
do respect each other. But, when we are together, for instance,
Janie and I, I always say "Janie," and Janie will usually say,
"Lew" if we are talking and it is nobody but us. When I am
talking to Commissioner Brantley Blue I say "Brantley", and he
P: Well, it was just a curiosity thing. Mr. Barton, I want to ask
you a concluding question here because we have already gone on
longer, perhaps, than we should. What are your own writing plans
for the future?
B: Well, I would like to establish an annual for the Indians. One
thing, I would like to have something like a Who's Who and What's
What among the Lumbee. I would like to establish a newspaper or
help establish a newspaper.
P: Well, you are going to do that.
B: Right. I would like to go on writing. I would like to complete
my folklore studies.
P: Of course you are in my same age bracket, so I figure you have
long years ahead of you.
B: Well, I hope anyway. I would like to lecture. I enjoy
lecturing, and I have had very good luck in the lecturing I have
done. I have always had people later on to remain when they did
not have to remain and ask questions.
I would like to go on doing something for our people. I would
like to complete a novel. By the way, I did write a novel,
attempting to inject humor into the whole thing. I call it A
Pine Barrel and a Bucket of Mud. But then after I wrote it, I
questioned my approach. You know the television production that
is so successful now, I think maybe it would go now because I
make fun of prejudice and that sort of thing.
P: Sort of "All in the Family" from an Indian point of view?
B: Right! I believe after awhile we will be able to joke about
these things. And I think we should.
P: Why have you not gotten a position teaching at Pembroke?
B: Well, the white's power structure would not hear of that because
I have been too influential in promoting the Indian causes.
P: The white power structure then of Robeson County controls the
B: They did until now. We are only now beginning to have a fair
share. You see, even in registering the Indians there were
thirty-nine white people occupied in registering, registrars; two
Indians, and one Negro. This is just an example. Our family
income is so low. We have, judging from figures published by the
Robeson County church organization, the annual income is $4500 in
that area for whites. For Indians it is $1300 a year, for blacks
it is about $1400 or about $100 a year more.
P: Personally though, you feel that the white community would stand
in the way of your economic advancement, if it could?
B: Oh yes. No doubt about that. You see, I have been as independent
as possible. If I had a job in the public schools, I could not
write and express myself, see. There would be problems I would
have to wink at, I would have to ignore if I stayed in the
Robeson County system. There is no doubt about that; they are
anti-Indian. Now you see, our numbers being so nearly equal,
they are afraid the Indians will dominate over the blacks, and
Indians will get together and dominate.
P: You look like such a natural to be teaching at the college with
your background and your position and you love of lecturing and
your training as a teacher.
B: Well, thank you.
P: But I understand now it is the opposition of the white community
which has prevented this.
B: Well, I am sure it may not be directly that, but that has
something to do with it. For example, last year when we started
working on Old Main, when I published my so-called de-
Indianization article, I talked to Professor Rondess; and at that
time, he was the head of the English department. At that time he
had tentatively agreed to use me occasionally as a lecturer. But
after I made this expression, he told me in a telephone
conversation, I got a rumor that Professor Ackley had been fired
because Professor Ackley published a letter supporting my
article, and he suggested things that PSU could do for the
Indians. Professor Romness said to me, "There is an acceptable
way to practice freedom of speech, and there is an unacceptable
way." I says, "How about Professor Ackley? I heard that he was
fired." He says, "He has not been yet, but if he continues he
his expression he is going to be." Then he said, "Matter of
fact, Lew, I have been considering you. I tentatively plan to
use you as a visiting lecturer. If you continue this thing, I am
going to have to withdraw my consideration." And at the end of
the conversation he says, "You are interested, are you not?" I
said, "Frankly, sir, no, not under those conditions. I am not
interested at all. Keep your crumbs."
But even after that he wrote me a letter and in this letter he
tried one thing. He said that if I had the attitude that the
university owed me anything, it would militate against me.
Although he had gone to lengths to see that they practiced fair
employment policies and this, then he comes up with this
statement about "if you feel that the university owes you
anything, it will tend to militate against you." I felt like
telling him to go to hell. I did not tell him to go to hell, but
I told him to keep his crumbs.
P: Are you presently engaged in writing a book now?
B: Yes, sir, I always have a writing project going. I want to
complete the folklore.
P: That is what you are presently working on then, the folklore?
B: Yes, sir.
P: That is your present writing project. Well, Mr. Barton, I think
we have come along way on this interview. This is not the only
way to conduct one, but from here on in it is going to be in your
hands now, as you help inaugurate the Lumbee project here in
B: Well, we certainly thank you for the opportunity of working with
you on this, and I think it is a very worthwhile project. I
think there is nothing on earth more important than the promotion
of human understanding. This is so important.