I've been reading Weslager's "Delaware's Forgotten Folk, The Story of the Moors and Nanticokes," the book that everyone said would help to put it all together for me. Well, I have to say it has. One of the things that helped was understanding the mess created by the school problem in early twentieth century mixed-blood communities in Delaware, problems that affected attitudes and divisions among people during my mother's and her peers' lifetimes. Also, of special interest to me was the notion that the so-called 'Moors,' the people my grandfather identified with, were one of the remnants of the Lenape (Delaware) native peoples, probably the ones living furthest south in that time of major movement of refugee people. My husband's people were also probably part-Lenape, and so that confirms something he and I have felt for a long time.
I've decided I don't feel comfortable calling myself part-native-american or part-african-american, more comfortable calling myself part-white or simply 'white' (with reservations, no pun intended). However, I do feel comfortable acknowledging that my family had a 'moor' lineage. My chinese daoist teacher, Jeffrey Yuen, talks a lot about our inherited constitutional factors, which relate both to our genes and to our past lives, and he refers to getting in touch with our lineage. That message has been very timely for me, since that seems to be exactly what is happening in my life.
Outside knowledge or information is somewhat helpful, but the main stream of the lineage comes from within myself, from my own memories of my family, my early environment in Philadelphia and south Jersey, my own experiences. Also, there is quite a bit of dream material that relates to our lineage, which of course I did not recognize until recently.
I've also really come to understand that my father, a sailor, was not exactly an 'immigrant' to this country. As a seaman, he traveled all around the world, and of all the possible places he chose the Delaware River area because he really just loved the indigenous people there. He chose my mother because he loved her and because she was one of those people he already loved. I think it came as a bit of a shock to him, a Dane by birth, that - possibly because of me - my mother was trying to distance herself from her people. Oh, the ironies of life! But - well, I don't know if you can understand this, but - it's been something of a healing for me to realize all of this.
There was something missing inside me, or some rift within me, that this knowledge has healed. It almost feels strange to share this in such a public forum, but I do so in the knowledge that sharing this may help someone else.
Somehow all of this has been buidling to some kind of completion - or so it has felt to me - just recently, so imagine my surprise when I went to the mitsawokett site (the official delaware moor site) yesterday and found that they have posted my family's pictures. I felt I might not have consclusive enough proof that my great-grandmother was the same Mary Carney born in Delaware somewhere between 1832 and 1835. But I knew that she and her son, my grandfather, saw themselves as 'moors,' and that her mother's name was Louisa. Likely that her father's name was John, as well, since that is what she named her first son who was born out of wedlock.
It does help to be able to put a name to my experience and to understand the kinds of conflicts that drove my mother in a color-conscious society such as Philadelphia's was in her day. But even more than that, it establishes a warm feeling inside me about myself and my mother's family, and my father's love for her. Out of that love I came.