Black Dutch

I had a link I liked about the term Black Dutch. I went looking for it today, and found it in Wayback. The page is so old it recommends a Yahoo group for further discussion.

In 19th and 20th centuries America it was relatively common for people to identify themselves or other people as Black Dutch. The idea was that even though a person’s skin was dark enough to be noticeably different, they really were still White.

The Black Dutch were said to be Germans (Deutsch) or Dutch with dark hair and coloring. The analogy is to the Black Irish; Irish with black hair as opposed to Irish with red hair. (Remember, we’re dealing in stereotypes here.)

In reality, Black Dutch was often a euphemism for bi-racial (White and Indian) or tri-racial (White, Black, and Indian). It was also relatively common to explain people with dark skin as Portuguese, which served the same purpose of obscuring a mixed race background.

Grandma Miller told me her Horn ancestors were Black Dutch. “Grandma Miller” was Evelyn (Horn) Miller (1913-2010), of Lovelock, Nevada. Her grandmother Rachel (Roberson) Horn (1847-1932), of Tulsa, Oklahoma was probably Cherokee or part-Cherokee. (This is my conclusion. It’s been hotly debated my entire life.)

I wasn’t surprised. The Horns claim to have Indian ancestry. If that’s true, and it seems to be—the DNA shows the smallest trace of it—they would almost certainly have had some way of explaining it away. The odds were good their explanation would have been Black Dutch.

Nassau finds 8 different meanings for Black Dutch, including the relatively modern “Melungeon“. As a working definition I still prefer to gloss it as bi-racial or tri-racial but I like Nassau’s niceties. I’m hoping to find a case someday where one of the less common definitions comes into play.

  • Mike Nassau. “Black Dutch.” Black Dutch <blackdutch1.webs.com>, Apr. 6, 2006.
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