Ethnic Groups of Mississippi

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This entry was originally written by Kathleen Stanton Hutchison for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
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the Mississippi Family History Research series.
History of Mississippi
Mississippi Vital Records
Census Records for Mississippi
Background Sources for Mississippi
Mississippi Maps
Mississippi Land Records
Mississippi Probate Records
Mississippi Court Records
Mississippi Tax Records
Mississippi Cemetery Records
Mississippi Church Records
Mississippi Military Records
Mississippi Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Mississippi Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Mississippi Immigration
Mississippi Naturalization
Ethnic Groups of Mississippi
Mississippi Provincial Records
Mississippi County Resources
Map of Mississippi

African American

Materials previously described in this chapter may be used in African-American genealogical research. In addition, there are other resources for the study of both free and slave African-American families in Mississippi’s history. See Vernon L. Wharton, The Negro in Mississippi, 1865–1890 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1947) for a classic study of that time period. There are the more specialized collections that are associated with African-American history or genealogy, and then there are areas in scattered collections that reveal a variety of useful information. An extensive compilation of manuscript, photograph, and sound collections found in the state archives is found in Anne L. Webster, African Americans: A Mississippi Sourcebook (Carrolton, Miss.: Pioneer Publishing Co., 2001).

A voluminous collection also housed at the National Archives contains the papers pertaining to the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (RG 105), commonly referred to as the Freedman’s Bureau Collection. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has a microfilm copy of these records and has created the only existing index for Mississippi labor contracts found within the collection. This bureau supervised issues relating to refugees, freedmen, and abandoned property. The labor contracts have been digitally indexed by plantation, planter’s name, freedman’s name, and county. The researcher should be aware of the fact that there were approximately 300,000 freed slaves, but the index provides only 36,000 names. Not all freedmen entered into labor contracts. Another segment of the Freedman’s Bureau includes the custody papers of the abandoned property owned by Confederates. Signed loyalty oaths or presidential pardons are held here if the property was restored to an individual.

The researcher should also consider slave enumerations in the federal censuses, the slave schedules of 1850 and 1860, and later censuses when each person in the household was named and “race” indicated. In addition, county records of all kinds reveal some African-American genealogical information interspersed in tax rolls and marriage, probate (some records specifically noting names and ages of slaves in the estate), and court records. The distinction of race, however, was not always marked in some of these records.

Other information may be gathered from school censuses, plantation journals, church records, cemetery records, and even newspapers. For a recently published guide to African-American press materials, see Julius E. Thompson, The Black Press in Mississippi, 1865–1985: A Directory (West Cornwall, Conn.: Locust Hill Press, 1988). With an intended historical purpose, this work directly renders a listing of newspapers, magazines, and newsletters printed by African Americans in Mississippi from 1865 to 1985.

One collection that focuses on the African-American population is the Slave Impressments—Confederacy. These records are located at the National Archives (RG 109) and are hard to access since they are not indexed, microfilmed, or published. For the years 1864 through 1865, this material gives a physical description, identification of the owner, the slave’s value, and the date and name of person to whom the slave was sent for work detail.

The WPA ex-slave narrative project has particular genealogical interest. Mississippi was one of several states where the WPA conducted interviews with these freedmen. These interviews have been published (see page 15) and are available at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Apart from these narratives, the manuscript collection at the department also contains oral histories of historical as well as genealogical value. Another collection found in the state archives library, with a limited finding aid, is the Alfred Stone Papers, which encompass a large compilation of published materials pertaining to African-American history.

The Newsfilm Collection draws together a more recent historical period of unedited news footage for the years 1954 to 1971. The significance of this collection is found in the documentation of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi including events like the arrival of the Freedom Riders, the Capitol Street Boycott, lunch counter sit-ins, demonstrations, James Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Mississippi, and the desegregation of schools. The Coleman Library at Tougaloo College near Jackson maintains a significant collection focusing on the history of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Private papers of some Civil Rights leaders are found here along with papers from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee.

Another repository of special interest is the University of Mississippi Blues Archives, which houses an extensive collection of historical materials pertaining to the blues. In addition to the recordings there is extensive biographical information on blues musicians including interviews, posters, and photographs.

Native American

Mississippi records relating to Native Americans did not give actual names until the nineteenth century. For a good explanation of the structure of kinship, see Charles M. Hudson, Southeastern Indians (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1976), 185-96. Census records such as the “Armstrong Roll of 1831” (see Census Records for Mississippi) is a good place to begin, along with the papers kept by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (see page 16). The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has some of the Bureau of Indian Affairs records on microfilm. There is also a select collection of genealogical sources located at the Choctaw reservation. Inquiries may be directed to Tribal Historian, Mississippi Band of the Choctaw, Box 6010, Philadelphia, MS 39350.

Treaties are another genealogical source to be considered. See Charles J. Kappler, comp., Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, 1779–1803, vol. 2. (1904; reprint, New York: Interland Publishing Co., 1972). A valuable source with listings of Choctaw names is found in the master’s thesis by Samuel James Wells, “Choctaw Mixed Bloods and the Advent of Renewal” (University of Southern Mississippi, 1987). A copy of the printed form or microfilm may be found at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Early native trading post records are found in the papers of Panton, Leslie, and Company, a multi-reel microfilm edition covering 1738–1853, which is available at the archives.

A bibliography of works published on the Choctaw is Clara Sue Kidwell and Charles Roberts, The Choctaw: A Critical Bibliography (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1960). See also Sharon Sholars Brown, “The Jena Choctaw: A Case Study in the Documentation of Indian Tribal Identity,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 75 (September 1987): 180-93, and Arthur H. DeRosier, The Removal of the Choctaw Indians (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1970).

Many records relating to Native Americans were created by early colonial Americans as found in the Provincial Records (RG 24-26—see Mississippi Provincial Records, below), in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. However, evidence found in the records provides mostly background understanding of native and colonist relations.