Tar In The Blood

My father’s side of the family traveled to the New World on the the Mayflower.

My antecedents were Howlands.

A young indentured servant, John Howland, had been washed overboard mid-Atlantic and somehow had grabbed a trailing lanyard to haul himself to the safety of the Mayflower.

Centuries later my Irish Nana had sailed on a ship a deck above steerage in the Year of the Crow. She was 14.

In 1966 my parents had enrolled my name in the lists of The Sons of Colonial Wars and Mayflower Descendants. I attended a single gathering of both association. The walls glorified the wars against the First People. As an anti-status quo hippie never went back.

Family legend had that we were also akin to Hannibal Hamlin, Abraham Lincoln’s first vice president.

My grandmother’s last name was Hamlin. I recalled her saying that she was related to the great man and I have mentioned this to a few of my friends over the years.

Back in the 1990s my father compiled a family genealogy. The Vice President was mentioedn in the family tree, so I researched Hannibal Hamlin on the Internet.

Wikipedia accused my supposed ancestor of having been a mulatto, citing his dark complexion.

“Hamlin is what we call a Mulatto…they design to place over the South a man who has Negro blood in his veins.”

His Vice-Presidency added another incendiary flame to the secessionists and his political opponents in Maine further scandalized by untruths as to his heritage.

“That black Penobscot Indian.”

Of course no one was really white back then. Artists painted presidents as white when in truth they were men of color, because white women died in droves during childbirth. Faced with extinction white males impregnated black women to save the race, plus sex with white women was an obligation instead of a pleasure, however the darkest of the dark were thrown out of the big house same as Abraham banished his concubine Hagar and his son Ishmael into the desert.

As for me, I walked like the Mothers of Invention sang on FREAK OUT, “I’m not black,but there’s a lot of times I don’t feel white.”

It’s in my blood.

And everyone else’s too.

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