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St. Louis Republic, August 1, 1891. I’d love to know what sort of “documentary evidence” Gid had to prove his royal African lineage. Interesting though to note the overlap between blue gums and blue blood. Anyway, Gid seems like a clear cut instance of a supposed blue gum embracing the label for whatever advantages came with it. That he had green eyes–“putrid green,” in our reporter’s gallant formulation–suggests he was of mixed parentage or descent as well.

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  1. With some hesitation, I asked my ladyfriend, who grew up in a little town on the outskirts of a big town in North Carolina, if she’d ever heard about this whole “blue gum” thing. To my amazement, she gave me a pained look, and said, “What, if they bite you, you die? And they can put a root on people?” So I can attest that as late as the 1970s, this folk belief was still circulating among whites. She designated it a “redneck” belief, and was pretty sure none of her city-dwelling friends knew about it, though.

    • Amazing! I’ve been polling historians and Afro-Am scholars of my acquaintance, and none of them had ever heard tell of the BGN. I thought I’d found the racist trope that time forgot, but obviously it lives on in certain localities. Thanks, Melynda.

  2. I’m thinking that precious few racist tropes are ever lost: it’s like the conservation of matter, but for really bad ideas. Mince may dry up and blow away, maternal impressions fade away, but what do you want to bet that somewhere in the catastrophic narratives of the destruction of New Orleans is buried the story of a BGN who attacked a deputy sheriff. . . .

    • No, sometimes they fade away: When I was teaching U.S. history I used to show a lot of Thomas Nast cartoons to my undergrads, e.g. this one. None of them was ever able to identify the gentleman on the right as a stereotyped Irishman. Of course, a different set of rules applies to black America.


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