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In Their Own Words

February 18, 1839

Fanny Kemble Journal Entry on Mulattos

Two days after moving from Butler Island to St. Simons Island, Fanny Kemble Butler noted a dramatic difference in the number of mulattos – even though the two islands were within ten miles of each other. Her husband, Pierce Butler, gave an explanation, which left her feeling uncomfortable:

“… I observed, among the numerous groups that we passed or met, a much larger proportion of mulattoes than at the rice island [Butler Island]; upon asking Mr. [a reference to here husband] why this was so, he said that there no white person could land without his or the overseer’s permission, whereas on St. Simons, which is large island containing several plantations belong to different owners, of course the number of whites, both residing on and visiting the place, was much greater, and the opportunity for intercourse between the blacks and whites much more frequent. While we were still on this subject, a horrid-looking filthy woman met us with a little child in her arms, a very light mulatto, whose extraordinary resemblance to driver Bran (one of the officials who had been duly presented to me on my arrival, and who was himself a mulatto) struck me directly. I pointed it out to Mr.[Butler], who merely answered: ‘Very likely his child.’

“‘And,’ said I, ’ did you never remark that driver Bran is the exact image of Mr. K [Butler’s overseer Roswell King]?’

“‘Very likely his brother,’ was the reply; all which rather unpleasant state of relationships seemed accepted as such a complete matter of course, that I felt rather uncomfortable, and said no more about who was like who, but came to certain conclusions in my own mind as to a young lad who had been among our morning visitors, and whose extremely light color and straight, handsome features and striking resemblance to Mr. K[ing] had suggested suspicions of a rather unpleasant nature to me, and whose sole acknowledged parent was a very black Negress of the name of Minda. I have no doubt at all, now, that he is another son of Mr. K[ing], Mr. [Butler]’s paragon overseer… .”

Source: John A. Scott, Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839 by Frances Anne Kemble (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984), p. 201.