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Not a history to be proud of

There is often a dark side to genealogical records.

Something in a record or in a document we find that shines a light on something in ourselves, or our families, or our histories, that we are not proud of.

Those wonderful Mississippi school records highlighted yesterday?1

They have that dark side.

An ugly side that makes The Legal Genealogist‘s skin crawl.

An ugly side that should have us all looking mournfully at a past that isn’t all that far in the past.

An ugly side that we’re seeing too often even today.

Because as recently as 1927 some of the educable children in the school censuses of Mississippi weren’t simply called educable children.

Some of them were called worse.

Much worse.

On the 1927 school census of Lauderdale County, in a town called Meehan Junction, children were labeled as Colored.2


Doesn’t sit very well here in the 21st century, does it?

But that really wasn’t so bad.

In the Triplett School District in that same county, children were labeled as Darkies.3


Sounds like something out of the period of slavery, doesn’t it?

And even that wasn’t quite as bad as other children in that same school district in that same county, whose race was labeled Dark Blotches.4


Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

And even that — even that — wasn’t as bad as it got.

In that same county, in the town of Meridian, in the Tunnell School District, just 89 years ago, little children — children with bright faces and bright dreams, children as young as five years old — children were labeled… as Black Niggers.5


I have no words for those kinds of labels.

Even in genealogical records, they make my skin crawl.

As they shine that light on a dark side of the past… that isn’t all that far in the past.


  1. Judy G. Russell, “Educable children,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 10 Mar 2016 ( : accessed 11 Mar 2016).
  2. Lauderdale County, Mississippi, List of Educable Children, Meehan Junction (1927), Tallanatta West School District, p. 578; digital images, “Mississippi Enumeration of Educable Children, 1850-1892; 1908-1957,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 Mar 2016).
  3. Ibid., Triplett School District, p. 584.
  4. Ibid., Triplett School District, p. 585. And thanks to Shelley Murphy for pointing this out…
  5. Ibid., Tunnell School District, p. 586.
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