Title: Interview with Karen Blu (August 21, 1973)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00007114/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Karen Blu (August 21, 1973)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: August 21, 1973
Spatial Coverage: Lumbee County (Fla.)
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00007114
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Lumbee County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: LUM 127

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Full Text


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and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

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LUM 127A

MV- Karen Blu, Ph.D. (B)
New York, New York

Interviewer: Brenda Brooks (I)
August 21, 1973

I: Today is August 21, 1973, in my home, Route 1, College

Court, in Pembroke. This is Brenda Brooks interviewing

Miss Karen Blu. Karen, give me some of your personal

history e.

B: I was born August 20, 1941 in Illinois. And I did my

undergraduate work at College, my graduate work

at the University of Chicago. It was during my graduate

period at the University of Chicago that I did field work-

here. I'm an anthropologist and I have my Ph. D., 1972,

from the University of Chicago.

I: Robeson County being such a very rural and comparatively

small place, how did you 14 out about Lumbee Indians

and Robeson County way in the north where you were? What

sparked your coming here?

B: Well, I had an advisor, Professor Raymond Fogelson.

I: Raymond Fogelson?

B: Right.

I: Spell that for me.

B: F-o-g-e-l-s-o-n, who had worked with the Eastern Cherokee.

LUM 127A 2

And I asked him--I wanted to work in the Southeast--

and I asked him what to work on and he gave me a lot

of literature on the Southeast and said look through it

and see what strikes you. And the Lumbee just jumped

out because they were such a large group -Wc b -
^sept s2 A V ~lopr -cr
there was no material basically on them.

And I said, "Why is this?" And he said, "Well, people

just haven't worked there." I said, "But it's large."

And he said, "That's right, and I think it's a fascinating

problem but nobody so far has done it." "Well, maybe I

will." And then I moved to Washington, D.C., and I met

William Sturtevant who is a curator at the Smithsonian

Institution. And he thought it was also a good project.

And with their mutual blessings, I came down here +o S-u
lskS Z ccMAA Se-e,

I: You must have found more material, though. You said

there was so little written about us. Did you find

more material to entice you to come even...?

B: Well, everything that I read, I did get into the history

and the few little things that I could. And at the time

I read everything there was. Before I came here I read

everything that I could lay my hands on that had been

written about the group here, and most of the published

LUM 127A 3

historical sources. There's been a lot more done since


I: And you were here at what time? What year were you here?

B: We were here from about April, '67, through August of '68.

I: And what was your actual day-to-day routine like here?

Were you...?

B: Oh, we lived right in Pembroke.

I: You lived in the Indian community, and what did you find

youtmaterial? How did you research?

B: Just talked to people.

I: You talked to Indian people here to do your...and what?

Working toward your dissertation or what?

B: My Ph. D.

I: Your Ph.D. And at this time, your husband...

B: Was also working for his Ph.D. He did his field work a-

has his dissertation from the kBw school of Social Research.

I: And you were both in the same field, anthropology.

B: Yes.

I: And having lived in the Indian community, did you feel

accepted by the Indian community?

B: Well, some folks liked us and some didn't.

I: Did you attend the Indian churches and the social events,

as they are, that...?

B: Yes, we did.

LUM 127A 4

I: And some of the people that you may have met during the

time you were here, what category were they? Were they

mostly farmers you talked to, or did you try to get a

variety of people?

B: Well, we tried to talk to all kinds of people, people

who worked in factories or people who worked on farms,

people who were sharecroppers, people who were land-

owners. Also tried to talk, in addition to talking to

Indians which we did mostly because we. lived in the

Indian community, we also tried to talk to some whites.

Most of those lived in Lumberton, I suppose. And we

tried to talk to some blacks.

I: What kinds of things were you seeking to learn from

the Indian community?

B: Well, it seem to me that one of the striking problems

here that Indians^was a- ppblem also, was the question

of identity. Clearly the community here is a distinct

one from the whites and blacks, but from all the literature

it wasn't exactly clear why this is so. And what I wanted

to do was find out how this _____ worked. Where

people found their identity, which they obviously had to

have or they wouldn't have been a separate community, and

what it was like and what it was all about.

LUM 127A 5

I: And so now I guess you can tell me who I am and what

I am from all your research!

B: No, you can tell me.

I: To go more into your study, maybe some of the things

you found out that maybe we couldn't be pinpointed as

a stereotyped Indian group. Did you find any uniquenesses

among the Indians? I mean our cooking methods, or things

that most whites might expect to find if you mention

"Indian" to them. They have stereo ideas of Indians and

they think that we're all blanket weavers or we live in

teepees or on a reservation. Are there, out in little

Robeson County, uniquenesses that you might describe as

far as cooking habits or anything like this that you

detected in your study?

B: Well,,what the main thrust of my study was.that as a

matter of fact you don't look for uniqueness when you

look for separate identities. Or you needn't necessarily

look for uniqueness, because that's been the problem all

along. I mean, other Indian groups have this very same

problem and that is as soon as they stop weaving baskets

or blankets or whatever, as soon as they start wearing

clothes like everybody else, immediately all the whites

around or all the people that are not Indians say, "Oh,

you're not Indian anymore." And of course, that wasn't

LUM 127A 6

what made them Indian to begin with, necessarily. I mean

that was a part of being Indian at one time, but now

a part of being Indian is wearing blue jeans and a Stetson

hat if you're a Sioux Indian, or overalls and smoking a

corncob pipe if you're a Lumbee farmer. Or wearing

stockings and a dress if you're a woman going to church,

a Lumbee woman going to church. So it doesn't lie in

uniqueness, it's the way people do things, the way they

talk to one another, the kinds of things that they talk

about and the kinds of relationships they have. The

way they walk, the way people talk, the meanings that

they give to words rather than the words that they use.

I: Well, just these areas that you've mentioned, I can certainly

appreciate your description because so often in my con-

frontations to maybe attain goals that are not necessarily

ascribed to Indians, someone has compared me to Indians

on reservations. And I say, well, why not compare me to

my fellow white girl in Robeson County rather than to try

to say, "Well, you're surpassing standards of Cherokee

Indian girls." Let me set my goals the same as other girls U

because I'm a human being in Robeson County. But, because

you said the way that people relate to each other maybe

has determined whether they're Lumbee or not, what kinds

LUM 127A 7

of things could one expect to have heard Indian groups

talking about? Maybe if you walk into, well, our county

fair is an example. If you find a group of Indians, men

and women, perhaps, what kind of things might we hear them

discussing in 1968?

B: Well, it's not necessarily the kinds of things that we find

people discussing, it's the way they do it. And to get

that...I really find it very difficult to talk about it

without having notes here. Some of that's in the disser-

tation and I think that's probably the best place to look

for it.

I: Well, how they talk, then. Do you mean the actual vocabulary


B: No, no.

I: Or the way they just feel comfortable talking to each

other whereas they couldn't talk to a multi-racial group

with that same ease? Is this the kind of...?

B: No, it's not that exactly. It's...for example, if you

walked into a dance hall and you found whites and Indians

and blacks there. And you looked out on the floor and you

saw couples dancing and whites were dancing with whites and

Indians with Indians and blacks with blacks--if that were

the case. You would see probably today tAxt each

group would have a different style of dancing. They would

LUM 127A 8

all be dancing to the same music. They might even be

using the same steps sometimes, but they'd all look dif-

ferent because they carry their bodies a little differently.

The rhythms that they respond to are slightly different,

whatever. So this is the kind of thing that I'm talking

about. How close you stand to one another, how close

do blacks stand, how close do whites stand. Do you use

lots of hand motions when you talk? Don't you? What

do you mean when you say "mean"? If you say somebody's

a mean person or that we're mean people, something of

tht sort. What does it mean to say that if you're a

Lumbee? Does it mean the same thing if you say it and

you're black? Does it mean the same thing if you say

it and you're white? No, it doesn't, as a matter of fact.

Mean the same thing. This

is the kind of thing that it seemed to me that's where you

have to look. And it's also where you have to look for

Indian identity in urban Indian situations as well. Urban

Indians and many other Indians, both reservation and non-

reservation, are finding themselves in the same position

as the Lumbee now. And they are constantly met with a

barrage of people telling them that they're not really

Indians. And yet, and they know that they are, but they

LUM 127A 9

find it very difficult to respond since everybody's

looking for these things like wearing feathers and

making pots doing silver jewelry and stuff like that.

I: It's a matter of white brainwashing, I refer to it.

But according to what you said, it would be just as

logical to go and study a group of white Americans.

You could find characteristics among them, but usually

we think of all these studies of minority groups. But

there are white groups, well, any white group you could

do the same type study and come up with probably similar


B: That's true, except in this case it was easier to study

a group like this because it had boundaries. White-

groups, if you study an ethnic community in an urban

situation, say, first of all it tends to be very large

and unwieldy. And second of all, they merge too easily

with the rest of the population. In other words, the

boundaries aren't drawn in quite the way they are here

where they're racial, and clearly this community has been

isolated, has a very interesting history, has very strong

community ties within itself which other groups don't

seem to have. Now there are some white groups that one

could study, I suppose. I don't know what _____-PA

LUM 127A 10

I: But basically you found it easy to study the Lumbees

in Robeson County because there are definite racial


B: It wasn't easy, but I think it would be easier because

the community is enclosed. It encloses itself and it

is enclosed by the social-racial boundaries. I don't

mean physical, I mean social.

I: Do you think that the white citizenry in Robeson County

would probably reveal as interesting a history as the


B: No.

I: Why? What do you think you couldn't find?

B: Because they haven't been put upon in the same way.

I: We have some of the old traditional names that seemingly

the same families have held onto ____ ___ for hun-

dreds of years. So I just thought perhaps if they were

studied as the Lumbees have been that...

B: Well, that would be a good thing to do that, too.

I: ...you might find similar findings. And what you said,

now, that you found it fairly simple...

B: No. I said it wasn't easy.

I: It wasn't easy. Well, did you ever find yourself mis-

taking a person you interpreted from his physical features

as being Lumbee and he was not Lumbee once you got acquainted

LUM 127A 11

and talked with him?

B: Well, you quickly learn you can't tell anything by

looking at someone.

I: Bow could you...how could a new person coming in to

the area be sure he had a Lumbee?

B: Well, there's a whole...there's a section in my disser-

tation about that whole problem. There's several ways

in which Indians identify one another, either by knowing

the person or listening for the last name or

I: What are some of the last names you refer to? The last

names, can you recall any of those names? I'm sure

Locklear is one you will mention.

B: Indians say that the distinctive last names are things

like Locklear and Oxendine, Lowry in this area.

I: These are some of the names that...

- B: Braboy.

I: ...you might...if a person is new, if they are Locklear

they can feel pretty assured that this person is Lumbee.

I wanted to talk some about your involvement or your being

aware of the political scene in 1968. We have had many

Indian candidates throughout our history but we've had few

successes on the part o Indian candidates, and I just

LUM 127A 12

wonder why. Are you aware of any of the statistics or

the figures or just general statements about Indian par-

ticipation in the political arena in '68 or even before

you came? Are you aware of how involved Indian people

were politically?

B: Well, that, as I said, that subject was my husband's

study, and I know a little but not very much. So I

certainly couldn't give you statistics, and even my over-

all impressions at this point are fairly faint. I'd have

to go back w e

I: Was it during this time that I think probably the first

efforts for a registration drive was conducted. Are you

aware of a registration that was going on?

B: Well, there were several registration drives at the time.

I: And this is one unique thing, I think, that even though

there were certain laws that were appealed and we, just

to take account of our history, that the white power struc-

ture in Robeson County, rather than to fight Indian regis-

tration, they always interpreted it as being easier to

dilute the Indian vote rather than to set up obstacles

that would prevent our registration. It seems strange

that most of the registration efforts came from someone

outside or we were provoked from outside. Some outside

LUM 127A 13

help had to come in before we began to register and vote.

And as I have done a little reading, I've learned that

they always felt that, rather than to have federal regis-

trars come in to do the job and they were sure it would

be done, that they would go ahead and allow Indians to

register and vote. But then they systematically set up

the process in that our votes would be diluted so they

would not be effective at all. So in '68 is I guess when

some of my generation were just becoming politically

aware and maybe involved a little bit, and there were

some efforts made on the precinct level. Do you recall

any precinct meetings after the '68 election?

B: Well, after the '68 election I wasn't here.

I: You left after the '68 election. Well, maybe it was from

talking with your husband who was visiting in the area

recently also that this was maybe the first concentrated

effort to organize precinct levels. We have to first

educate the Indian and black people that the game really

starts on precinct level and I think this was the first

time any concerted effort was really given to try to or-

ganize minority groups on the precinct level to get them

participating in it. But it was in 1970 that we really

reaped maybe the benefits of these first efforts when we

LUM 127A 14

JWEM able to get black- and IndianSin precinct official


B: I don't know if the 1967 and '68 were the first efforts

at precinct organization. I rather think they weren't,

S, though they may have been the

first relatively successful ones. In other words...

I: I'm sure they probably were not the first, but because

of the registered voters...

B: The registration oA __gotten high enough

that they could make...

I: It was just not effective.

B: Yeah.

I: How did you interpret the involvement of women injjust

in the mainstream of life in the Lumbee community when

you were here doing your study? How much of a role or

in the eyes of is the Lumbee woman? In your mind's

eye. I

B: Well, it's very hard for me to tell, beeeu I didn't par-
ticularly make an effort to find out what women were doing

and what their role was, unless it was obvious. There

were a few women who were rather prominent politically.

Probably the majority were not, though they certainly

had a hand behind the scenes. How much of a hand and

how they handled it I just don't know, and I'm concerned

LUM 127A 15-

to find out now V rC_& what women are doing. I'm

sorry I don't know cn 4Aa 4- e.-

I: You mentioned that your husband was basically interested

in the political phase of the Lumbee. What can you in

word maybe verbalize the area that you were most concerned


B: Well, my whole dissertation was concerned to identify,

define and show how an identity was worked out here, so

that what I tried to do was say what is going on now and

try to get a little historical perspective on how it got to

be this way. And it's tied into a number of different areas:

how ISsaaes=ae living, the nature of the county, the racial

set-up, the educational system--it's tied into a lot of

things. T 4-r L- e 4o o '4-k rC\ {o^- -+L.SS,

I: Well, I'm concerned quite a bit to interview a lot of

Lumbee women, but do you see any transition in the, just

the...well, the identity, the self-image a woman had of

herself. Did you ever find it convenient to interview a

woman that you recall?

B: Well, I talked to women, but as I say, I didn't talk to

them about that. And I'm sorry I didn't, because I don't.

know what their self-images would have been. They might

be considerably different now, I just don't know.

LUM 127A 16

I: What about the vocation of Lumbee women? Did you have

any idea of any women who have attained high positions


B: Oh, yes. There were a lot of women who had high positions

and good jobs and quite good at what they were doing.

I: What do you mean? How high?

B: How they fit into the community and how...exactly what

their role was outside of their jobs, again, I don't


I: What kind of positions would you categorize as good jobs

for a Lumbee woman?

B: People, women...prominent women t-k uLfl T 4 I

One of them is Helen SCV\te-rb CA t. o uo. C LoLuo,

and sits at the Indian desk in

the Office of Education, and she's always had a fairly

good role w Se U--

becomes quite a good position.

I: And I think she has been a key person in sort of blazing

the trail for others because we often refer to her when

we are trying to encourage a Lumbee woman to attain higher
heights. I know since Helen we have AdoctororNorma Jean

Thompson, who has come back to our own school here as a

professor. So I think Helen did really blaze the way for

others of us to follow as we will. Do you see any difference

in the economic structure of the county? I mean, here you

LUM 127A 17

were dealing with tenant farmers who were absolute sub-

jects of their landlord. They really were subject. Their

daily routine had to be within the approval of their

landlord. Do you see any difference now just by visiting

a few days here with us? Have you detected anything dif-


B: Well, there's more industry here. Exactly what impact

that's had on the people's lives, I just haven't analyzed

it. I'm still gathering materials e- *4.%oo..

I: Would you agree, then, that there is less day laborers on

the tenant farm and probably more factory workers in Robeson

County than in '68?

B: Well, I'm not sure about it, whether it's those people.

That is, those who were day laborers and at the very

bottom of the r r of workers. I'm not sure at

all that those are the people who are getting factory


I: Well, for example, one factory we have employs about three

thousand employees. That is Converse. And seventy percent

of that employment is Indian. So it's a known fact that

our population growth is not changed that much. I think

it has changed some...

B: No, but...

I: It has decreased, so these people had to have been here

LUM 127A 18

doing something before.

B: But are these people, the people who are being hired

by this plant, are they schoolteachers who are now out
of jobs? Are they marginal farmers who were their own

men to begin with? Or are they really the day laborers

who tvse and who can't read and write, who had no

technical skills at all except for...in other words,

who is it that's getting these factory jobs, and what's

happening to the people who were the very poorest

? Are they still the very poorestO Is

that where the change is coming or is it...? I rather
czr _Wpe-r l&q^ 5
think it's Lhe othrae oune, I'm not sure.

I: Well, with thirty-seven percent of our total population

in Robeson County having an education of eighth grade and

below, I feel confident that a person must be required to

read and write to get a job in these factories, but I feel

that most of this employment is people that are school

drop-outs. I think many young Indian men have maybe perhaps

worked in other towns, have been drawn back home...

B: I think that probably true.

I: ...because of the factory or the industrial influx into

Robeson County. Because we have a surplus of cheap labor.

I still want to get you to talk some about women. Are you

aware tht circumstances have changed as far as certain

LUM 127A 19

appointed boards in the county? Through your husband's

work maybe you were a little bit aware of different

responsibilities that fell on the county commissioners

or the various boards in the county. For example, the

Board of Elections. Are you aware of the circumstances

that existthere during the time your husband was studying


B: ,

I: And what kind of Board of Election do you recall having


B: Well, it was all white.

I: It was all white, and now, for the first time in our

history, we have a tri-racial board. And the executive

secretary was also white, and the secretary now is an

Indian. Do you have any first-hand information? I mean

obvious experience, or personal experience, rather, where

minority groups tried to exercise their rights in the

democratic process, during the time you were here for

registration or for actually voting?

B: Well, yes. There were a number of cases where people

tried to register and had difficulties in doing so, either

because the registrars had only a few hours each day.

which were during the peak working hours that people

could come and register. Therefore if you couldn't get

LUM 127A 20

off work to go and register, you didn't register. One

registrar was reported to have kept a large and apparently

vicious dog in his front yard so that even though he had

hours, people were reluctant to go through his yard to

get to his front door and knock on it, whether or not

he would register them. Some of these complaints were

related to the 4TA-0 o Board of Elections, and some-

thing was done about them. Others apparently had little


I: Do you feel like that one reason maybe we didn't get

relief earlier is because Indians and blacks just didn't

know the procedure to file a grievance? If we saw some-

thing going on, we just were unaware as to how to do it.

B: That's part of it, but the other part was even...there

were cases when people were very well aware of what the

laws were and what procedures k& ___follow, and

they were prohibited from it.

I: Well, and sometimes, too, I think some of these rules or

even the laws were set up in such a way that they could

not be...they were not really racist in fact but in the

practical application they were racist, because I think

this is one way the power structure in Robeson County

has maintained its control. Because they have had ut -Aj7,

LUM 127A 21

racism that they felt sure would be within the approval

of national and state government as far as the written

law. For example,Aour Board of Education is elected.

We have now eleven seats. but heretofore has been seven,

and these are staggering terms. So I eel that had these

terms all become vacant at the same time and had seven

candidates among the whites running, this would have

diluted the white strength and maybe we could have had

our two Indians in there. But when they set up rules

that you must vote for four and we have two Indians

"running and they have four whites, then we've got to

vote for two of theirs and therefore cancel out our

two Indians. So I think even though sometimes they

did have laws, they have guarded these so highly that

it has taken us a while for us to get our hands on them

and begin to study these laws and challenge some of these

systems. And something else, you were mentioning the

barriers that a registrar could personally set up. Out

of seventy-eight precinct judges and precinct officials,
c^t/or+o '10-
I think something like twenty 6ie fms- -ese 3y were

Indian and black and now there are sixty-eight out of IP.-

seventy-one. And for the first time also in the history

of the county, our Board of Elections are practicing the

LUM 127A 22

procedure that if a precinct reflects a certain ethnic

group that that predominant ethnic group have that kind

of representation on the precinct, on the precinct

official board. So I think that if you were to come

back and just make a comparison, you might find,I want

to think,positive changes in Robeson County. But I

think the overall picture, er, it's just a transition.

It's not that much improvement. It's just that things

change from one phase to another. Like I often say,

we've come from the cotton field/ to the assembly line,

But where has the power been all the time? And where

is the power right now? Who really gets the benefit

out of our working on the assembly line? Out of the

908 professional jobs in the county, less than four

percent of these are held by Indians. And even though

our industry employs so many, they just refuse to put

Indians in positions that they can be promoted or climb.

They'll put an Indian here and one there, and this is what

I often get from talking to Indians that, well, my brother

is the supervisor, he's doing quite well. But they don't

realize that he's one out of hundreds. And this is the

kind of educational process I think we're going through,

but as far as Robeson County changing that much, do you

LUM 127A Z2- --

see a whole lot of improvement in the whole picture,

or do you agree that maybe it's just a transition or

a change that...it's just a natural change?

B: OkIL r\o L e work very hard for tbae changes

V --e occur' and people still have to keep working.

I mean, you an't...there have been, I think, re gains

in certain areas made. But it's a situationhwhich you

just have to keep on trying, keep on at it, because it
OX So onVO as VrK. '(f!a p c-.
soaragw stop if

I: Well, as far as Indian identity, I'm sure you're well

aware that even nationally for the past year, quite much

focus has been placed on Indians.. Do you see that there

is more pride in Robeson County in being Indian than when

you were here in '68 or prior to '68? Is just the average

Lumbee, is he more willing to admit that he's Indian?

Because it was not to our advantage necessarily to be
L '-*3 e4frc.r" T':
Indian. So, -de-you expect we were...we're more...

B: __ ; Ti it's probably also the case with a great many

other groups across the United States. I mean, it's no

accident that ethnics all over the world or all over the

country are now standing up and saying, "I'm glad to be

Italian-American," "I'm glad to be Indian," "I'm glad to

be black." It's all kind of coming at once and people &dn

LUM 127A 23

able to bring out that secret pride which they held

within themselves, and bring it out openly. A4 on oou-

I: What do you think this means to the Indian community

as far as carry-over to other facets of our lives. If

I'm now proud to be Indian and this was a handicap before--

I wouldn't apply for a job because I was Indian. I felt

like I wouldn't get it anyway. How do you think this

will affect the total being of a Lumbee now?

B: Well, I don't know. I think there's a lot of pride in

community and a lot...perhaps more interest and knowledge

about what going on in the community now. Probably related

to that -.-k bJ Lrac- 4 \dUrr

I: Do you think that it would be easier for an Indian can-

didate to plan a campaign and 6X get Indian support than

five or six years ago?

B: Well...

I: Because of this Indian identity?

B: Well, +-de4t...I don't know. I in it depend

on who...

I: Well, just from a, maybe a general psychological effect

maybe I'm hoping that this Indian pride or Indian awareness

or identity has had on my people. I just want to think

LUM 127A 24

that this would be one more common bond that maybe

would just tie us that much closer together.

B: Uh, yes. I think it does have 4V-a- -ffec-

I: Karen, I'm interested to know during your period of study

here, you mentioned earlier that you tried to talk with

blacks, Lumbees and whites. And I wonder what kind of

image did you finalize or did you interpret that the

whites in Robeson County have toward Indians? Where

on the social ladder did they see the Lumbee?

B: Well, what I tried to find out was first of all what Indian

people say about themselves, how they act toward each

other, how they relate to one another, and how they view

whites and blacks. Then I tried to look at whites and

see how they viewed Indians and interacted with Indians.

SThen I tried to see how blacks viewed Indians eaA V-rcr

"-'________ -t so that you get

the whole county encompassed in this way. Each of these

communities isn't just a mon raeee. It's very complex

and there's lots of factions in it, so when I talk about

whites it won't include them all. Some feel this way

and some don't, but probably the majority...certainly

the majority probably rank whites at the top of some

LUM 127A 25--

kind of scale and Indians in the middle

and blacks at the bottom. That appears also to be the

way the socio-economic situation Blacks are

probably the poorest group in the county, though not

all blacks are poor. Indians are somewhere in the middle

though many Indians are better off than poor whites.

And the richest people in the county will be whites

though as I said, there are poor and rich in each of

these groups. But nobody is as rich as the richest


I: Would you say that there are a much higher percentage

of whites in the top categories, of course...

B: Sure.

I: ... and Indians, and then blacks would follow?

B: Yes.

I: That way.. you see that Indians epe"eotAposition...or,

in talking to them do they categorize whites up there

and Indians in the middle and blacks at the bottom?

B: Well, if you're talking about, as I say, socio-economic

kind of position, sure. Because they know that's the

way it really is. But if you say to an Indian, "Do you

think that white man's better than you?" he'll--if he

doesn't hit you--he'll say, "Of course not. I'm as good

LUM 127A 26

as anybody else."

I: But then, I think we have been molded in the frame of

thinking that in any area that whites are a little bit

superior because if we are competing scholastically,

whatever area...

B: See, this is the socio-economic aspect of it. I mean,
PreA b
if you say to somebody, ite better educated than

PA Indian" yes. On the whole, they get more education,

more years of education than Indians do. And I think

everybody recognizes that. But in terms ofo say ,"Do

you want to be white, and do you think that's better to

be than Indian," no.

I: They won't admit it. But at one time do you feel that

they really felt like it would have been better to have

been white, born white?

B: Uh-uh, nobody that I--that is, in '67-'68, I never ran

into people who felt that it was better to be white.

I: Well, the reason...

B: It's nicer in terms of living circumstances and having

enough to eat and things of that sort, but people did

not want to act white. They didn't want to act like

whites do. They didn't think whites acted very nicely

toward them and they certainly didn't want to turn into

LUM 127A 27

the kind of people who treated them [

I: Well, probably, in Robeson County, you would have had

a difficult time finding a person who would have ad-

mitted he wanted to be white. But we're very much

aware of many Indians who went away because of their

Caucasian features, and they were able to fit into another
kfl Vy\act
society as white. We've even had some go back to those

places and have birth certificates of their children

changed to Indian now that they are proud to be Indian.

So I think that as far as the category and the level on

the scale that whites place Indians, we have pretty

much accepted that, too. Do you have any idea as to

whether this tradition is going to continue like this

as far as as racial...on racial lines, or do you see

any changes that we will begin to have more black and

Indian in that top level, or shall we anticipate a

continuation of racial class?

B: Well...

I: Do you have any basis to...?

B: Race isn't na disappear overnight _. On the

other hand, I think it's possible that people will be

able to work out some kind of mutual living together

without having to say, "I'll become white," or "I'll

LUM 127A 28

become black," or "I'll become Indian." There will

be perhaps some way worked out where you can be Indian

and feel good about it and be black and feel good about

it and be white and feel good about it, and yet work

together to all come out better. \a i_ _li

picture cavzL 80ro' uj Vaean overm- j y vrA^.

I: Is this more of a social class trend? I mean, people

are getting into a certain social class and then those

who are in a lower social class, be they white, Indian

or black, they will now be in the categories as Indian

and black are now.

B: Well, I think both things butneither one e4 6kem OJre

S w .' One is something that's class and it's not .wIty,

to be poor whatever your race is. And the other is race.

And both of these things are going to exist for a long

time oc CSC -J T e rowen-Cm auq o4 rcvtae oaS SeaL

and I don't think one is g9 replace the other entirely,

and it's not clear which is the more vicious kind of


I: You came to Robeson County right after the Civil Rights

Act of '64, a couple of years thereafter. What kind of

experience do you recall as far as ____ \ civil rights


LUM 127A 29

in Robeson County? If you can recall, probably when

you came here you still saw three rest rooms. Did

you ever see...?

B: No, +0 that was gone by the time I came here.

I: Well, prior to the Civil Rights Act, in Robeson County

where we had just black and white in most areas in

the country, we had white Indians, and black. And

we had three drinking fountains&retail stores. And I

just wonder how much of this had really disappeared

maybe by the time you came to Robeson County.

B: Most of that kind of overt Se9rCe was gone. The movie

theaters C 45i -Wxi jc usye ajt-v i wV c aer

't^eo v They certainly weren't

segregated and restaurants were not supposed

to be segregated, but in fact they managed to maintain

themselves. There were certain restaurants that integrated,

others that stayed clearly white. Some were obviously

black because A.kti_ r and the white

restaurants maintained their way qg 1 __ simply

br making it unpleasant to go there if you were black

or Indian.

I: Don't you think that this separate racism was easily

maintained like you say because whites just refused to

LUM 127A 30

go to certain establishments and because Indians had

for so long been refused services in certain establish-

ments they didn't go even though now they had the right

to do so. So I think it was maintained much longer than

maybe some of the larger cities where we had people who

were asserting their rights. How about in the retail

stores? Do you recall having seen a balance tri-racially

as far as your clerks? Can you recall?

B: No, the earliest...as I recall, the earliest merchants

4idnlt have black, certainly black help, I'm not sure

about Indian jre e eS L, Sres l- ero-m

____d theAblacks ran a boy-

cott over -ae'^-- -'..... im got some positions

there. When I was here before, there were no Indians

at all working for osAzey NJ'heo dSo.t. no

Indians o- 'lcy -,Ls oAr So^\ern ^o.t; Jt, .

I: Do you agree that perhaps blacks have been used in

Robeson County for integration purposes and Indians

have been by-passed? You know, have you been made

aware of figures to verify this fact, that sometimes

even over an Indian blacks have been hired?

LUM 127A 31

B: _

I: Well, we have. I just wondered if you were like...

well, at Social Services where we have seventy-one

employees, fifty of those are white and there are--

if I can get my math right, if I remember correctly--

twelve are black and nine...or maybe it's fourteen are

black and the remainder is Indian. But so often I

have had that interpreted as being that the Indians

seem to bea threat to the power structure because

we had educational facilities here before the blacks

did, and we seem to be more of a threat to the white

power structure than blacks and so blacks were really

sought out before Indians were. They tried to form

a co-operative, not a coalition, just co-operate with

blacks more than Indians because Indians offered a

greater threat. Do you agree that there was a greater

threat, or do you see us in the same basic category as

the minority groups?

B: Well, when you tell me that story my first reaction to

that is none of those things, but rather that if Indians

get upset about the fact that more blacks have been

hired thi Indians, that has the effect of plli blacks

and IndianSapart which is all to the whites' good.

LUM 127A 32

I: Right. This is...

B: S_; 1 1

I: This is another basic maneuver that has been successfully

used throughout our history. Are there any other areas

that you found interesting that you might like to just

share in an oral history of the Indians that we could

mention at this time? Is there anything else as far

as...? Well, I mean, what about the churches among

the Lumbees? Did you find that our services are any

different from white Protestant churches that you may

have attended elsewhere?

B: As I say, only in style. That's...

I: You mean in another community if I go to a little Baptist

church, I might find the same general procedure? Whereas

we might...do they actually have these emotional meetings

that we sometimes get involved in in Indian churches?

B: Whites? Oh, yes. They have them.

I: Well, maybe it's because I haven't been exposed to that

many............................................ ...... ..

that maybe I was not aware of the actual kind of service

that one might experience if he attended a little white

LUM 127A 33

community church. I just haven't been exposed to that

many white churches away, well, even in Robeson County.

And before our tape ran out on the other side, we had

talked a little bit about the educational transition,

or what has happened in the educational field that you
4ro 1-n
might be able to talk about some- o your observationS,

comparing the time you were here before '68 and maybe
just from looking and talking wiah people for the last

two weeks.

B: Well, I think people are more concerned about and

interested in education _, -ar. e wer e-. Ifrc '

I: Did you ever hear of Indian parents attending a Board

of Education meeting when you were here before?

B: I know that some people did attend them, but not much.

I: You didn't hear...it wasn't enough that it would make

the newspaper.

B: No.

I: Where we have nineteen or twenty parents go down for a

Board of Education meeting, this kind of thing# was not...

B: No.

I: Well, this is happening now, I'm very happy to say. What

about Indian teachers? I'm a teacher myself, and probably

LUM 127A 34

because the only school that was available to me

happened to produce teachers. And most of us have

become teachers, but do you think that finally we're

realizing that we can attain higher goals and we're

beginning to accept the challenge and feel sure we

do have the ability and confidence in ourselves to

attain higher degrees?

B: Certainly more people are going on in school and getting

higher degrees _,, There's also more money

available for helping_.4,,4 ,, Schools all over the

country are aware of the need for this kind of thing.

I: Do you think that one Indian group or tribe communicating

with others has had anything to do with this, perhaps?

Because like you say, you found very little printed

about Lumbees, but I think now we're beginning to com-

municate nationally with other Indian groups. And

probably this has allowed us to get more financial


B' Yes.

I: Well, Karen, I certainly appreciate your talking with

me. If you have any other area, I'll be glad to talk,

but if not, we'll just conclude this hour. I want you

once again give me your complete mailing address and I'm

LUM 127A 35

sure probably you will receive a letter to ask your

permission to use this tape for research and for scholarly

purposes only, but just once again give me your mailing


B: 124 West 79th Street, Apartment 14D, New York, N. Y.,


I: Thank you again, Miss Karen Blu.

Just a comments. This is Brenda Brooks

requesting that a transcribed copy of this interview

aBrenda Brooks with Karen Blu be mailed to Karen at

the address given in the tape. Also, Karen has

material that hopefully will be published by this

time next year that the Oral History will possibly

be interested in securing. Also, Karen wishes to

know how she may receive copies of interviews that

have been done in Robeson County as a part of your

Southeastern Oral Indian History.

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