My brother Billy recently asked me about the race of David Boston, who is considered to be the founding father of Piney Woods. It is an interesting question.
Many people believe that he was a Native American. There is a lot of good supporting evidence for this; if you’re interested, you can get started exploring it online. Some people have a related theory that he was related to the Croatan or Tuscorora Indians, who some believe include the descendants of The Lost Colony of Roanoke.
Another possibility is that David Boston and/or his mother, Dake, descended from a white woman who had offspring with a black man, since that was a common source of free colored communities in the upper south. See below for an excerpt from a Wikipedia article (yes, Wikipedia is not always accurate, but this does echo other things I’ve read.)
By the 19th century, there were flourishing families of free coloreds who had been free for generations. In the United States many of the “old issue” free people of color (those free before the Civil War) were descended from African Americans born free during the colonial period in Virginia. Most of those were descendants of white servant women who entered into relationships with African men, indentured servant, slave or free. Their relationships demonstrated the fluid nature of the early working class, before institutionalized slavery hardened lines between ethnic groups. Many of their descendants later migrated to the frontiers of North and South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee, and west, as well as further south. Sometimes they formed isolated settlements in the frontier where they were relatively free of racial strictures common to the plantation areas. In many cases they were well received and respected on the frontier. Sometimes they identified as Indian or Portuguese, or their neighbors classified them that way, in an attempt to explain their physical characteristics that were different from northern Europeans.
All I know for sure is that David Boston was free and not white.
So, here’s a picture of David Boston’s daughter, Elizabeth “Betsy” Boston Brooks:
She looks a lot like the popular image of a Native American.
But genetics are tricky, and you really can not always tell what a person’s genetic background is from the way they look. My sister Liz, for example, is occasionally mistaken for an Asian Indian by other Indians.
But she is not Indian. She is of African, European, and possibly, as we’ve been discussing, Native American descent. So, although I will never likely be sure of David Boston’s ethnic and/or genetic background, I am happy to know that he existed, and was the father of a large and thriving group of 21st century Americans.