1943-Pleckers List, “Letter to County Officials Listing Mixed-Race Surnames”


1943 Plecker List “Letter Distributed to County Officials Listing Mixed-Race Surnames”


The head of Virginia’s Bureau of   Vital Statistics from 1912 to 1946, Walter Ashby Plecker, believed “there is   a danger of the ultimate disappearance of the white race in Virginia, and the   country, and the substitution therefore of another brown skin, as has   occurred in every other country where the two races have lived together.”   This “mongrelization,” in Plecker’s view, caused of the downfall of several   earlier civilizations. He was determined to prevent this in America, or at   least in Virginia.

While no modern anthropologist has been able to establish the existence of a   “pure” Caucasian, the official position of the Commonwealth of Virginia was   that its citizens, or at least those that mattered, were exactly that. For   those of mixed racial heritage, as Helen Rountree writes, “It was now very   difficult to be ‘white’ in Virginia and very easy to be ‘colored.’” Many of   Virginia’s Indians had long been thought to have, in Thomas Jefferson’s   words, “more negro than Indian blood in them.” By the 1920s, whites in   Virginia assumed that nearly all Indians in the state had at least some   degree of African ancestry. In the interest of racial purity, to prevent   these mixed-race people from mixing with “pure” whites, the Racial Integrity   Act of 1924 categorized all non-whites as “colored.

In January of 1943, Plecker sent a circular to all public health and county   officials in Virginia, listing, county by county, the surnames of all   families suspected of having African ancestry. The cover letter stated that   they were “mongrels” and were now trying to register as white. The names   listed in the southwestern Virginia counties included Collins, Gibson, Moore,   Goins, Bunch, Freeman, Bolin, Mullins, as well as other local area surnames.


Commonwealth of Virginia
Department of Health
Bureau of Vital Statistics

January 1943

Local Registrars, Physicians, Health
Officers, Nurses, School Superintendents
and Clerks of the Courts

Dear Co-workers:

Our December 1942 letter to local registrars, also mailed to the clerks, set   forth the determined effort to escape from the negro race of groups of   “free issues,” or descendants of the “free mulattoes” of   early days, so listed prior to 1865 in the United States census and various   types of State records, as distinguished from slave negroes.

Now that these people are playing up the advantages gained by being permitted   to give “Indian” as the race of the child’s parents on birth   certificates, we see the great mistake made in not stopping earlier the   organized propagation of this racial falsehood. They have been using the   advantage thus gained as an aid to intermarriage into the white race and to   attend white schoools, and now for some time, they have been refusing to   register with war draft boards as negroes, as required by the boards which   are faithfully performing their duties. Three of these negroes from Caroline   County were sentenced to prison on January 12 in the United States Court at   Richmond for refusing to obey the draft law unless permitted to classify   themselves as “Indians.”


Some of these mongrels, finding   that they have been able to sneak in their birth certificates unchallenged as   Inidans are now making a rush to register as white. Upon investigation we   find that a few local registrars have been permitting such certificates to   pass through their hands unquestioned and without warning our office of the   fraud. Those attempting this fraud should be warned that they are liable to a   penalty of one year in the penitentiary (Section 5099 of the Code). Several   clerks have likewise been actually granting them licenses to marry whites, or   at least to marry amongst themselves as Indian or white. The danger of this   error always confronts the clerk who does not inquire carefully as to the   residence of the woman when he does not have positive information. The law is   explicit that the license be issued by the clerk of the county or city in   which the woman resides.

To aid all of you in determining just which are the mixed families, we have   made a list of their surnames by counties and cities, as complete as possible   at this time. This list should be preserved by all, even by those in counties   and cities not included, as these people are moving around over the State and   changing race at the new place. A family has just been investigated which was   always recorded as negro around Glade Springs, Washington County, but which   changed to white and married as such in Roanoke County. This is going on   constantly and can be prevented only by care on the part of local registrars,   clerks, doctors, health workers, and school authorities.

Please report all known or suspicious cases to the Bureau of Vital   Statistics, giving names, ages, parents, and as much other information as   possible. All certificates of these people showing “Indian” or   “white” are now being rejected and returned to the physician or midwife,   but local registrars hereafter must not permit them to pass their hands   uncorrected or unchallenged and without a
note of warning to us. One hundred and fifty thousand other mulattoes in   Virginia are watching eagerly the attempt of their pseudo-Indian brethren,   ready to follow in a rush when the first have made a break in the dike.

Very truly yours,

W. A. Plecker, M.D. State Registrar of Vital Statistics


Moon, Powell, Kidd, Pumphrey

Amherst: (Migrants to Allegheney and Campbell)
Adcock (Adcox), Beverly (this family is now trying to evade the situation by   adopting the name of Burch or Birch, which was the name of the white mother   of the present adult generation), Branham, Duff, Floyd, Hamilton, Hartless,   Hicks, Johns, Lawless, Nuckles (Knuckles), Painter, Ramsey, Redcross,   Roberts, Southwards (Suthards, Southerds, Southers), Sorrells, Terry, Tyree,   Willis, Clark, Cash, Wood

McVey, Maxey, Branham, Burley (See Amherst County)

Rockbridge: (Migrants to Augusta)
Cash, Clark, Coleman, Duff, Floyd, Hartless, Hicks, Mason, Mayse (Mays),   Painters, Pultz, Ramsey, Southerds (Southers, Southards, Suthards), Sorrell,   Terry, Tyree, Wood, Johns

Charles City:
Collins, Dennis, Bradby, Howell, Langston, Stewart, Wynn, Custalow   (Custaloo), Dungoe, Holmes, Miles, Page, Allmond, Adams, Hawkes, Spurlock,   Doggett

New Kent:
Collins, Bradby, Stewart, Wynn, Adkins, Langston

Henrico and Richmond City:
See Charles City, New Kent, and King William

Byrd, Fortune, Nelson. (See Essex)

Essex and King and Queen:
Nelson, Fortune, Byrd, Cooper, Tate, Hammond, Brooks, Boughton, Prince,   Mitchell, Robinson

Elizabeth City & Newport News:
Stewart (descendants of Charles City families).

Epps (Eppes), Stewart (Stuart), Coleman, Johnson, Martin, Talley, Sheppard   (Shepard), Young.

Norfolk County & Portsmouth:
Sawyer, Bass, Weaver, Locklear (Locklair), King, Bright, Porter

Sorrells, Worlds (or Worrell), Atwells, Butridge, Okiff.

Shifflett, Shiflet

Prince William:
Tyson, Segar. (See Fauquier)

Hoffman (Huffman), Riley, Colvin, Phillips. (See Prince William)

Dorsey (Dawson)

Beverly, Barlow, Thomas, Hughes, Lethcoe, Worley

Roanoke County:
Beverly (See Washington)

Lee and Smyth:
Collins, Gibson, (Gipson), Moore, Goins, Ramsey, Delph, Bunch, Freeman, Mise,   Barlow, Bolden (Bolin), Mullins, Hawkins (Chiefly Tennessee Melungeons)

Dingus (See Lee County)

Keith, Castell, Stillwell, Meade, Proffitt. (See Lee and Tazewell)

Hammed, Duncan. (See Russell)

See Lee, Scott, Smyth, and Russell Counties.



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