The Fiddler on Pantico Run: An African Warrior, His White Descendants, A Search for Family

By Joe Mozingo

A prize-winning journalist’s quest to discover the hidden heritage of his outstanding American kinfolk, half black and half white—all descended from an African slave who gained his freedom within the Jamestown courtroom in 1672, one of many country’s first loose black men.

“My dad’s kin used to be a mystery,” writes prize-winning journalist Joe Mozingo. starting to be up, he knew that his mother’s ancestors have been from France and Sweden, yet he heard in basic terms suspiciously imprecise tales approximately the place his father’s relatives was once from—Italy, Portugal, the Basque state. Then at some point, a school professor informed him his identify could have come from sub-Saharan Africa, which made no experience in any respect: Mozingo was once a blueeyed white guy from the suburbs of Southern California. His family members greeted the scoop as a lark—his uncle took to calling them “Bantu warriors”—but Mozingo trigger on a trip to discover the reality of his roots.

He quickly came upon that each one Mozingos in the US, together with his father’s line, seemed to have descended from a black guy named Edward Mozingo who was once delivered to the Jamestown colony as a slave in 1644 and gained his freedom twenty-eight years later. He turned a tenant farmer starting to be tobacco by way of a creek known as Pantico Run, married a white girl, and fathered one of many country’s earliest mixed-race family members lineages.

But Mozingo had such a lot of extra inquiries to solution. How had it been attainable for Edward to maintain his African identify? whilst had a few of his descendants crossed over the colour line, and whilst had the reminiscence in their connection to Edward been obscured? The journalist plunged deep into the scattered historic documents, traveled the rustic assembly different Mozingos—white, black, and in between—and journeyed to Africa to profit what he may perhaps approximately Edward’s existence there, retracing outdated slave routes he can have traversed.

The Fiddler on Pantico Run is the superbly written account of Mozingo’s quest to find his family’s misplaced prior. a charming narrative of either own discovery and historic revelation that takes many turns, the booklet strains one relations line from the ravages of the slave exchange on each side of the Atlantic, to the horrors of the Jamestown colony, to the mixed-race society of colonial Virginia and during the brutal imposition of racial legislation, whilst those that may go for white distanced themselves from their slave historical past, but nonetheless struggled to upward thrust above poverty. The author’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather Spencer lived as a dirt-poor white guy, correct down the line from James Madison, then moved west to the frontier, attempting to trap a section of America’s take place future. Mozingos fought on either side of the Civil warfare, a few have been abolitionists, a few by no means crossed the colour line, a few joined the KKK. this day nearly all of Mozingos are white and run the gamut from unapologetic racists to a turning out to be quantity whose interracial marriages are bringing the relatives complete circle to its mixed-race genesis.

Tugging on the buried thread of his origins, Joe Mozingo has unearthed a saga that encompasses the complete sweep of the yank tale and lays naked the country’s tortured and paradoxical event with race and the ways that designations in line with colour are either illusory and existence changing. The Fiddler on Pantico Run is either the tale of 1 man’s look for a feeling of mooring, discovering a spot in a continuum of ancestors, and a lyrically written exploration of lineage, id, and race in the US.

***

From The Fiddler on Pantico Run

As I listened to the dry rasp of the elephant grass, I gazed out over the dominion of Kom. A slim gorge threaded throughout the lush terrain less than, commencing right into a smoky blue chasm within the distance, the Valley of Too Many Bends. . . . This belt of fertile savannah in western Cameroon rested at a negative crossroads, without wooded area to conceal in whilst the marauders arrived. The kings can have been secure of their fortified isolation, yet their humans weren't. They have been taken first by way of Arab invaders within the Sudan within the north, after which by way of the southern peoples who stumbled on that people have been the commodity Europeans so much wanted. . . .

Those who survived have been passed from tribe to tribe, via too many opposed overseas territories to dream of escaping and returning domestic. after which off they went, into the ocean.

High on a ridge, 300 miles by means of highway from the Atlantic, I sat on the headwaters of that outward flow, imagining the folks flowing away just like the rivers lower than. I pictured a boy, observing down into that blue mountain cradle, the grass dry-swishing within the breeze, the drums arising within the evening. A boy without notice pulled into the present and scrambling to arrive the financial institution. A boy not able to visualize the sea and sickly white males in enormous wood ships and the swampy, malarial cost known as Jamestown the place he will be bought to a planter within the 12 months in their lord 1644.

This is the start, I acknowledged to myself. the start of my family’s tale, the purpose simply and then my forebears obscured the truth—and approximately buried it eternally.

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Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice said,” she emailed. She was once confident Spencer used to be a craftsman operating for George Taylor as a loose guy, and the truth that Francis pointed out Spencer’s spouse definitely urged that my ancestor was once unfastened. “Then bang! The 1789 and 1790 entries which appear to be describing one other scenario altogether. ” She vowed to enquire. an individual WHO DABBLES in family tree at some point soon reveals himself exciting whimsical fantasies approximately his ancestors and attempting to chase them down. I didn’t see how Spencer might have been a slave, yet I allowed myself to movement with it for a couple of days, to the purpose that I in brief confident myself he was once an illegitimate son of James Madison’s father with a slave.

She stated her identify used to be a version of ours. “I went to a kin reunion in North Carolina and that i met this girl named Melicent Remy, who’d performed all this study at the relations identify. you want to check with Melicent. She acknowledged all of us descend from a guy named Edward Mozingo, who was once dwelling in Virginia within the 1600s. He was once black. ” “Hmm,” I acknowledged, within the excessive arching tone within which it's possible you'll say, “I’ll be damned. ” My language abilities had deteriorated sharply in the course of my tile years, and that i had built anxiousness approximately talking not only in public, yet in any situation the place being intelligible used to be quite anticipated.

Following Spencer’s loss of life in 1831, so much of his descendants decamped from Raven Creek and moved to the frontier of Indiana. the tip of the conflict of 1812 and the defeat of a confederacy of Indians lower than Tecumseh cleared the best way for pioneers to maneuver into the expanses of wooded area northwest of Kentucky. Spencer’s outdated neighbor, President Madison, signed the legislation ratifying the Indiana territory as a brand new country in 1816 and verified a federal land place of work in Vincennes at the Ohio River. years later St. Mary’s Treaty unfolded the untracked desert of crucial Indiana at $2 an acre.

Is assumed to be linked to the Spaniard’s, that means, ‘one who was once younger in visual appeal. ’” within the free-for-all of the net, those absurdities carried as a lot credibility as any record on the Library of Virginia. I watched each person speaking and giggling and griping, the kids taking part in open air, throwing water balloons at Bud, who feigned outrage and muttered “you little sons of bitches” yet smiled a natural happiness once they weren’t taking a look. i assumed of the scene as Spencer’s epitaph, for larger or worse.

This vaulting house continuously gave me a flutter of anticipation. The historical past and family tree part was once tucked into the very backside of the crevice. I permit the escalator convey me at its personal sluggish velocity. It felt ceremonial, as though I have been shrinking right into a fathomless ravine, relocating again in time. The stacks have been a cave either actual and mental. The average mild light away. The silence was once airtight. Homeless humans slouched in living room chairs. imprecise books that should have long gone many years unopened smelled like bitter glue and moldy wooden: Marriage Bonds of Henrico County, Virginia, 1782–1783; headstone Inscriptions: a list of Cemeteries of Wayne County, North Carolina; Passage to the US, 1851–1869: The files of Richard Elliott, Passenger Agent, Detroit, Michigan.

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