Who Are the Redbone People?

Redbone people are people of mixed ancestry that live primarily in the Southeastern United States. Little is known about the ethnic and racial make-up of Redbone people, but during the 1830s they were classified as Free People of Color, a classification that denied them citizenship and the right to vote.

While controversy still rages over exactly who and what the Redbone people are, historical records show that they have been around for quite some time. European Settlers first encountered the Melungeons as they expanded into the Carolinas. These copper-skinned people with dark hair and eyes not only spoke English, but also had English names. There are many other groups in addition to the Melungeons, including the Brass Ankles and Turks of South Carolina, and the Guineas of West Virginia.

Without having any clear pedigree, Redbone people were considered people of color during the 19th Century. After the South adopted racial purity laws, Redbone people were prevented from attaining full citizenship, and they were denied the right to vote. Some researchers today theorize that Redbone people are a mix of pre-Jamestown Spanish colonists, East Indian tribes, and Portuguese-Turkish people that were rescued from slavery in South America and brought to the Carolinas in the 1500s. Many living Redbone people simply describe themselves as Indian mixed blood, while others identify themselves primarily as African-Americans, while still others as white.