I’ve posted in the past that my mother used to say on numerous occasions, “I would not be a Negro for anything in this world.” This always caused a sense of wonderment in me. I just read this statement and now see that she was not the only one who had that sentiment.:
“I will tie a stone around my neck and jump in the James River rather than be classed as a Negro,” Cook, of the Pamunkey Indians, said at a Senate hearing on February 3. The black press in Virginia took issue with Cook’s statements for their perceived insult to African Americans. In the Richmond Planet, John Mitchell Jr. responded sarcastically: “Certain it is that Negroes join with him in his effort to maintain the racial integrity of his tribe and they do not want any of its mongrel members thrown over to their side of the contention.” While the House passed the Price bill by a vote of 68 to 9 on January 30, the Senate rejected it on February 13, 26 to 13.
Two years later, though, the issue arose again. The Richmond Times-Dispatch had reported that white schools in Essex and King and Queen counties were being forced to educate young people who fit neither the legal definition of white nor “colored.” A new bill was introduced with language similar to Price’s, defining as “colored” “any person in whom there is ascertainable any negro blood.” It was again opposed by Virginia Indians. In a hearing on February 1, Cook told the assembly: “You have taken our land, taken our forests, taken our fishing grounds—and now with one last stroke of the pen you are trying to take our very name.”
The Senate responded by amending the bill to provide that “members of Indian tribes living on reservations allotted them by the Commonwealth of Virginia having one-fourth or more Indian blood and less than one-sixteenth of Negro blood shall be deemed tribal Indians so long as they are domiciled on said reservations.” Because they did not live on reservations, Indians in Amherst and Rockbridge counties henceforth would be classified as “colored,” according to the new law.
The amended Senate bill passed on February 13, 1930, by a vote of 36 to 0. The House passed it one week later, 81 to 3. Governor John Garland Pollard signed it into law on March 4.