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In a message dated 2/9/00 12:48:35 AM Eastern Standard Time, Kirsten E. Wood wrote: I would like to discuss this issue with my classes, and I'm > hoping some fellow listers can enlighten me about the nature and quality > of the evidence supporting the claim of her African/African-American > parentage. > This question comes up repeatedly. Rather than write it over again, let me dust off an old email exchange: Deborah Samson >Subj: message for Linda Grant DePauw >Date: 96-04-27 17:03:39 EDT >From: firstname.lastname@example.org (blanpied) >To: MinervaCen@aol.com > >Greetings. > >As the result of a query I posted on an internet news group dedicated to >the American revolution, one "Caroline in PA" (<Carodec@aol.com>) >suggested I contact you for possible clarification. > >I am interested in knowing if Deborah Sampson Gannett (1760-1827) was an >African-American. Pictures and many references represent her as white, but >at least two books list her as an African-American (_Black Women Makers of >History_ by George Jackson and _Colored Patriots of the American >Revolution_ by W. Nell). > >Any clarification you can offer would be greatly appreciated. > >Eloise Blanpied >email@example.com The story that Deborah was African-American keeps resurfacing for some reason, but there is no shred of truth in it. Benjamin Quarles, the pioneering historian of The Negro in the American Revolution, which was published in 1961, stated flatly that "The female combatant and former school teacher Deborah Sampson [sic] . . . was not a Negro." The story first appeared as the result of a misreading of a passage in the book by William C. Nell entitled Colored Patriots of the American Revolution, published in 1855. Nell mentions two black Revolutionary War veterans who were remembered by a man named Lemuel Burr, the grandson of one of them. According to Nell, Burr "often speaks of their reminiscences of Deborah Sampson." This is all Nell wrote; he does not suggest that Deborah herself was black, but apparently some readers jumped to the conclusion that black veterans would not have "reminiscences" about any but other black veterans. Deborah was well known -- indeed notorious -- in her day; she went on lecture tours and her life was the subject of a book called The Female Review. Many of the men who served in her unit no doubt told their "reminiscences" of the woman soldier to their grandchildren. The picture of Samson that is generally reproduced comes from The Female Review. It shows a white woman with long loose curls. It was drawn from life and since it was sold to people who had seen Samson in her stage appearances, it cannot have been too inaccurate. Indeed, a striking feature, her large chin, appears in the faces of some of her living descendants. The genealogy of Deborah Samson (which, by the way, is the correct spelling) is quite clear. On both sides she was descended from Mayflower families. There is no possibility of an extramarital affair between Deborah's mother and a black man. First of all in the Puritan town of Plympton, MA, a town of only 1,300 inhabitants, such an affair could not have remained secret. Adultery and/or rape would have had consequences. Second, black skin color is a dominant genetic trait and so would have appeared in at least one of Deborah Samson Gannett's three children by Benjamin Gannet Jr. Linda Grant De Pauw President The MINERVA Center, Inc. 20 Granada Road Pasadena, MD 21122-2708 (410) 437-5379 firstname.lastname@example.org Professor Emeritus of History The George Washington University Washington, DC 20052