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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Russ Hyden 1 LUM 180 A
B: This is Tape 1, Side 1 of a book by Lew Barton, P.O. Box 35, Pembroke,
North,Carolina, 28372, as suggested by Dr. Samuel L. Proctor, Director
Oral History Program, The Department of History, Florida State Museum,
The University of Florida at Gainesville, entitled, What People Want
to Know Most about the Lumbee Indian.
Title Page: What People Want to Know Most about the Lumbee Indians-- a
contemporary history of the Indians of Roberson and adjacent
counties of North Carolina in question and answer form, by
Lew Barton, M.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill, 1964; B.A. Pembroke State University, Pembroke, North
Carolina, 1957; student Kings Business College, Charlotte,
North Carolina, 1950; student State School for the Blind,
Butner, North Carolina, 1954; author of The Most Ironic
Story in American History, Charlotte, North Carolina, 1967;
Story of a Robeson Indian, Lumberton, North Carolina, 1954;
Rhythm: A Little Lumbee, Hollister, North Carolina, 1961;
Way Out in Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1963; and
Suggested by Dr. Samuel L. Proctor, Director, Oral His-
tory Program, Department of History, Florida State Museum, the
University of Florida at Gainesville
Page I: Preface--That of the Indians of Robeson and adjacent counties of
North Carolina (with one county, Dillon, in South Carolina) is a
local history of national interest and significance. Virtually
unknown or forgotten during long periods of the past, people today
want to know--and I believe, have a right to know--all sorts of
things about us.
Who are they? Where did they come from? Where are they going?
2 LUM 180 A
What do they want? Are they really Indians? Are they really
the descendants of Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony? How do they
rate as just plain, good citizens? What advancements have they
made socially, economically, educationally, politically, religiously,
and in all other constructive ways? Could and would you describe
their lifestyle? Are Lumbee Indian women pretty? How do Lumbees
compare with Whites and Blacks of the same general area? Just
what did happen between the Lumbee Indians and the Ku Klux Klan
in 1958--and why? Why are your people so much in the news? Is it
true that the Lumbee Indians staged sit-in demonstrations in their
own schools because they didn't want to integrate? Is there a dis-
tinctive Lumbee folklore? Is there an unforgettable folk hero among
your people? If so, would you name and describe him? Is it true
that some of the Spanish buccaneers may have settled in your Lumbee
River valley? Is it true that your people were isolated from other
peoples for centuries? If so, why? Do you still have conjurers
among your people? How about medicine men? Somewhere, Mr. Barton,
I read this description of you and your book, The Most Ironic Story
in American History: "An exotic book by an exotic author about an
exotic people." Do you care to comment on this description?
Until some sixteen years ago, the people of the Lumbee River
Valley were virtually unknown. I recall the title of an article
about us some two decades ago, for example, entitled, "Nobody Knows
Anything About the Indians of Robeson County." And in 1947 when
the late Ms. Mary H.Livermore and I organized a local historical
association, we had difficulty mustering enough college students
on campus where I was a student and she head of the Religious Edu-
cation Department, to even organize. Of this despite the fact that
3 LUM 180 A
I was then editor of the Pembroke Progress, and had all the persua-
sive power of the editorial page at my command.
Then came that magic night of January 18, 1958--and the Indians
of Robeson and adjacent counties of North Carolina almost instantly
soared to national--and even international fame.
Since I began my investigation of Lumbee Indian history in
1947, and particularly following the Battle of Hayes Field, in which
the Ku Klux Klan was disastorously defeated by the Lumbee Indians
psychologically if in no other way, I have received literally hun-
dreds of questions from points throughout the United States and even
abroad. Following the publication of my sellout book, The Most
Ironic Story in American History in October of 1967, this interest
has seemed to intensify. For example, a reporter from the Tokyo
News Service, and an anthropologist from as far away as South Amer-
ica, journied all the way to Pembroke just to interview me relative
to Lumbee Indian history. People want to know, and have a right to
know I believe, all sorts of things about someone so much in the news.
When great volumes of correspondence began to pour in to then
mayor of Pembroke, J.C. Oxendine and his son, Simeon Oxendine, then
acting as titular heads of the Lumbee Indians, the younger Oxendine,
knowing of my newspaper experience and my interest in the history of
our people, sought me out for help in answering all this mountain
of correspondence. I plunged in--and I have not stopped answering
questions to this day.
Naturally, I did this work gratis. Yet it has all helped me
in my own study of Lumbee Indian history. Because when I did not
know the answer to a particular question--and believe you me there
have been many such instances--the interest in that particular thing
4 LUM 180 A
acted as a sort of spur, prodding me on to find the answer. Often I
have traveled from Pembroke to Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Charlotte,
and to other cultural centers 5i the state, seeking information about
our people. I became a familiar sight in courthouses from here to
the coast, as I searched for information about old land grants,
marriages, deaths, deeds, and all the rest of it. I have made a
diligent search of the colonial records of North Carolina, of
government records in Raleigh and Washington, learning what I could
from census reports, laws passed relating to our people, and all
the rest of it. Naturally, I have always been interested in the
history of our people since early childhood days, reading everything
about them I could lay hands on.
Yet, until some sixteen years ago, our people were relatively
All this indifference bothered me. And what bothered me even
more were the lengthy diatribes, often by prejudiced authors of
catch-penny publications, against our people. I knew them to be
a kindly people, full of generosity, Ct'l ij; lil-Jreligiously
practiced, hospitality even where strangers were concerned. They
appeared to me as sheep having no shepard. And often as a boy,
when I had read some particularly derogatory account of our people,
I lay worrying about it throughout the night. I early resolved to
do something--whatever was possible--about our plight.
Something else bothered me. In 1887) fifty-four local Indians,
including my grandfather Marcus Dial and my uncle James Dial, Sr.,
had sent a petition to Congress asking for financial help in the
education of our children, who were virtually without educational
facilities at all at the time. In the petition they claimed to be
5 LUM 180 A
"a part of Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony now living in Robeson
County." That petition is now a part of our Federal Government
Two North Carolina historians, Ashe4Mooney, I learned, had taken
issue with this, claiming that the name Croatan that we then offi-
cially bore was simply a "convenient label for a people of obscure
Had my people lied? Were we imposters? Was Hamilton McMillan
the father of Lumbee Indian education, mistaken in his pamphlet,
Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony? MacMillan, a prominent lawyer
of nearby Red Springs, had begun his investigation of Lumbee Indian
history as early as 1864, by his own statement. As late as 1914,
he was still active in the field of investigation; for as the record
shows, he then took part in the MacPherson Congressional Investigation
into the ancestral background of the Lumbee Indians. (The Indians
of Robeson and Adjoining Counties of North Carolina by O.M.
MacPherson, United States Printing Office, 1914.) That report is
also a permanent part of official Federal Government records. The
conclusion of that two hundred fifty-four page study is that we are,
d indeed, the descendants of Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony, the
Hatteras Indians and the product of further amalgamation.
That should have settled it--but it didn't. The majority of
the American people have never accepted the truth about the Lost
Colony, mostly because they can't stomach the idea of miscegenation--
especially between Indians and first Englishmen to settle in this
country. I am not being factitious. I will attempt to fully just-
ify that statement later on in the text of this book.
Roy Thompson, prize winning writer for the Winston-Salem Journal,
6 LUM 180 A
with characteristic humor, had this to say relative to our
beginnings in Robeson County when he appeared recently on the
"Spirit and Substance"program at Pembroke State University:
7 LUM 180 A
We have certainly been"persecuted and fouled up," as Roy
Thompson puts it, so much so that it is little wonder that we took
so little interest in our own history until fairly recent years.
In 1947 when I told Ms. Mary Livermore, for whom the library
at Pembroke State University was later named, that I had decided
to write the history of our people, she smiled. "Come on in, Lew,"
she said. "The water is fine." But even I entered the water
rather reluctantly at first, fearful of what I might discover
its deep, dark, mysterious surface; although, Ms. Livermore, a
white missionary who had made a special study of our history her-
self, had often assured me that we have "A glorious heritage and
one of which you can all be justly proud."
By 1950, however, I was good and wet. Already articles on the
history of our people had appeared in the Robesonian, the County's
only daily newspaper; and still other historical articles
were held over and published in the giant February, 1951 Historical
Edition of the Robesonian, then celebrating its eightieth year of
publication. Some of these articles were written while I was in
attendance at Kings Business College, Charlotte.
Then on September 10, 1950, calamity struck. In an automobile
accident of that date, my vision was totally--the doctors feared,
And so it was that 1954 saw me enrolled at the State School for
the Blind, Butner, North Carolina. While there, I wrote a book en-
titled, Issue: The Story of a Robeson Indian, For the right to
publish this book at installments, the Robesonian paid me one hundred
dollars, as I recall. Ms. Helen Cutting, superintendent of the
Butner School for the Blind, was one of the good angels in my life--
8 LUM 180 A
and thank goodness, there had been a number of these--helping me
to adjust and encouraging me in many ways.
Leaving the Butner School for the Blind in the latter part of
1954, I enrolled at Pembroke State College where I had previously
completed one year of college training. I graduated from their
institution on June 7, 1957 and during the following three years
taught English in the public schools of fir North Carolina. I
then decided to enter the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill where I received my M.A. degree in January 1964. It was not
until October, 1967, however, when I published my book, The Most
Ironic Story in American History, Since that time, as before, I
have been occupied in research connected with local Indian history.
In the following pages, I shall give some of my findings. I propose
to do this in question and answer form, remembering as best I can of
the many questions which have been asked me relative to Lumbee Indian
history over the years. NaturallybI cannot remember all these in the
order in which they have been received.
A number of good things have happened to me--and to my people--
since the publication of my book, The Most Ironic\Story in American
History in October, 1967. The best summation of these "good things",
I think, is the one which begins on page 1 of the January 31, 1974
edition of the Carolina Indian Voice (Vol. 2, no. 5) edited and pub-
lished by my eldest son, Bruce Barton. The thorough text of this
story will be included later on in the text of this book. (This
book is continued on the other side of this tape).
END SIDE ONE
9 LUM 180 A
SIDE 2 WHAT PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW MOST ABOUT THE LUMBEE INDIANS
Lumbee Poet, Lew Barton Recognized In "A-World-Fame4Work"
An air mail letter from Cambridge, England, has just
informed Lumbee poet and historian Lew Barton here
that he is in line for still further international
recognition--this time, biographical inclusion in "A-
World-Famed-Work", the Dictionary of International
Biography (Cambridge, England, October, 1974, Eleventh
edition, vol. XI). This will be the second time such
recognition has come to Barton, who was also a biographee
and bibliographee in the International Who's Who in Poetry
(London, England, 1972), a special hand-made "Royal Edition"
of which work was presented to Queen Elizabeth II. A
similar edition of the first mentioned work will go into
the Queen's private library at Windsor Castle. Barton's
name was presumably put forward by staff researchers, as
this is the publishers method of collecting names of people
thought to be worthy of bibliographical inclusion. The
letter was signed by editor Ernest Kay.
How does a man--in this case, a member of one of
America's tiniest minorities--come to be known and recog-
nized on a world level? It isn't easy--and there are no
guarantees. But when a friend once told Lew (I.S. Randolph)
Barton that he didn't stand a chance in the world of letters
"because you are an Indian," he politely replied, "This is
America. I will speak. I will be heard."
10 LUM 180 A
He did and he has been. Recognition of his accomplish-
ment has come at international, national, regional, state,
county and community levels--at one time or another, in one
way or another.
In 1972, two newspaper stories written by the man John
Mason described as "A tiger with velvet claws," marked the
beginnings of two national campaigns, both of which were
successful and each of which was among the top ten news
stories of the region for that year. One was the drive to
save Old Main, oldest building on the Pembroke State Univer-
sity (formerly Pembroke State College for Indians), campus.
The other was an effort to get a man (of Italian descent)
buried for whom funeral arrangements had been incomplete for
sixty-one years. Both stories appeared originally in the
Lumberton, North Carolina Robesonian, which has been in pub-
lication for more than a century.
In 1967, Lew Barton published a sellout book, The Most
Ironic Story in American History (Charlotte, N.C.) In 1969,
of T NecK-
he was a recipient of "The Distinguished CitizenSAward,"
presented by the Pembroke State University Alumni Association.
"We...present this plaque as a token of our appreciation for
your dedication, sincere and untiring efforts to make the
Pembroke community a better place in which to live. You have
been a public relations ambassador for your people by telling
the story of the Lumbee Indians. We salute you."
In 1970, Lew Barton was named "Tar. Keel of the Week" by
11 LUM 180 A
a Raleigh News and Observer panel whose duty it is to make
such a selection each week, and John Coit of that news-
paper staff dubbed Barton, "The gentle warrior for Lumbee
In 1971, the"gentle warrior" was presented with the
second annual Henry Berry Lowry Memorial Award, coveted
highest honor bestowed by the Lumbee Indians
In 1972, "The man of velvet and steel," as he has been
called also, became the only know American Indian whose
name ever appeared on a literary map of North Car6lina--
and the only person from his county (Robeson) to do so in
this century. He was also selected for biographical and
bibliographical inclusion in Personalities of the South
Lew Barton considers Ruth Mincher to be "one of the good
angels of my life." On April 6, 1961, under the headline,
"A Lumbee Writes a Book of Poetry," Ruth Mincher wrote in
the Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina Daily Herald: "A new
book of poetry was released recently-_and everything about
it-T unusual, including the title, Rhythm: A Little Lumbee...
this poetry has a distinction all its own...
"Poetry means many things to many people. To Lew Barton,
it is a means of interpreting his experiences of life to those
who will understand. 'The world is a big, wonderful place and
filled with things worth communicating,t he said, 'Since early
childhood I have lived my life in a sense of wonder, not only
as a child wandering through a beautiful garden, but also as
12 LUM 180 A
one who has occasionally blundered upon thorns as well. If.I
were a painter,' he says, 'I would not only paint beautiful
things. In a sense ugliness, too, has its value, if only
to contrast with, and point up beauty.'
A There have been other"'good angels," people such as Terry
Sanford, Charles F. Carroll, William C. Friday, C.Q. Holeman,
H.A. Wood, Paul Green, Clifton P. Lyons, Luther H. Hodges, R.B.
Sharpe, Al Mont, C. Howell, Brit L. Greene, J.A. Sharpe, Jr.,
Harry Golden, Louis Marder, Ben McDonald, Ralph Long, Maria
Beale Fletcher, Andy Griffiths, Arthur Smith, Alice Sharra,
Jenny M. Wakeman, Helen Cutting, William B. Water, Jack C. Scott,
Al Wright, Gail Davenport, Celeste Bennet, Mary Ellen Diale,
Mary lee Goins, Venus Brook, Connie Brayboy, and Herbert G.
Oxendine, all of whose names appear on the dedication page of
The Uninhibited Poetry of Lew Barton (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1964).
On February 20, 1963, Bob Sansott described Lew Barton in
the Chapel Hill (North Carolina) Daily Tarheel as "A rare man
with a rare talent," the ability "to express himself and his
feelings in a simple, sparring manner," and said "His philosophy
of life shows a strong carryover from his people, and his sin-
cerity and warmth. His poetry can be found mainly in two books:
Rhythm: A Little Lumbee (Hollister, N.C., 1961) and Way Out In
Carolina (Chapel,Hill, N.C., 1963), though he has written three
books, a number of stories, and has contributed hundreds of articles
and stories on various and sundry topics to magazines and to
13 LUM 180 A
Material written by Lew Barton is difficult to acquire
today. Said Barton recently,"I dontt even have a personal
copy of The Most Ironic Story in American History left for my
own files." One man did have a copy, and was asking one hundred
dollars for it. The same thing has happened to Rhythm: A Little
Lumbee and Way Out In Carolina with the exception of several
copies in Bartonts files. Today Barton himself is making an
effort to acquire all installments have a serialized book, issue:
The Story of a Robeson Indian," published in the Lumberton, N.C.
Robesonian. He is also searching for copies of Religious poems
published in 1964 in tract form entitled, Sermons in Rhythm.
It is difficult for Barton to understand what has happened in
recent years. "For years," he says,"our house was cluttered by
the miscellaneous writings of Lew Barton. Then people were coming
at me for them from all directions. What is true of them today
that wasn't also true of them when they were published?"
His question can be answered in two words--multiplied demand.
Meanwhile, the Barton family in Pembroke, carries on the
literary tradition that seems somehow to have stuck, Bruce Barton,
oldest son of Lew Barton and editor of the Carolina Indian Voice
wrote sometime ago with regard to his newspaper operation:
"Nepotism? Heck, yesI"
I have included this article not out of a desire for personal
aggrandizement, but as a sort of check point in the progress of our
people, with whom I have been in close contact since early childhood.
As United States Indian Claims Commissioner Brantly Blue said to me
sometime ago,"Lew, you're the one person who has kept his finger on
14 LUM 180 A
the pulse of our people down through the years." As a matter of fact,
I am referred to on the literary map of North Carolina for 1972 as
"The voice of the Lumbee." For many years I stood alone pleading for
our people in the columns of the newspapers in this country. Now,
thank God, I no longer stand alone. There are a host of others who
are busily working for the best interests of our people. All of which
makes me very glad and very happy to be an American because only here
could the things which have happened to me and my people have happened
at all. I pray that this work, suggested by Dr. Samuel L. Proctor,
Director of the Indian Oral History Program of the Universty of Florida
at Gainesville, with whom I have been working for more than a year, will
go forward as a further bridge to understanding between our people and
all the people of this country--and indeed the world. On page 3 of
my book, Rhythm: A Little Lumbee, is this paragraph:
Always a champion of the American Indian, Barton is a
councilman for an international Indian club and director of
the Lumbee News Service. His motto is "Information, not agita-
tion," however, and the dream; he has always cherished is one
of promoting understanding among all Americans. A
At the risk of being repetitious I want to repeat what I just
said a little while ago because I mean this out of my heart: I have
included this story not for purposes of self aggrandizement, but as
a sort of check point to show the difference in the interest in the
Lumbee Indians and their history--then and now. For by whatever means
and reasons this interest came about, it is interest. Thank God! Our
people have emerged at last!
END OF PREFACE
END OF TAPE 1