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Malinda Maynor Lowery

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, July, 2009-present. 
Area of Research: Native American history, Southern history, 19th and 20th century U.S. History 
Education: Ph.D., History, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, May, 2005.
Dissertation: "Native American Identity in the Segregated South: The Indians of Robeson County, North Carolina, 1872-1956." 
Major Publications: Lowery is the author of Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, March 2010. Malinda Maynor Lowery JPGLowery is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including among others:
"Telling Our Own Stories: Writing Lumbee History In the Shadow of the BAR," American Indian Quarterly 33 (Fall 2009): 499-522; "Indians, Southerners, and Americans: Race, Tribe, and Nation During Jim Crow," James A. Hutchins Lecture at UNC- Chapel Hill, 26 February 2009, Native South 2 (2009): 1-22; "Practicing Sovereignty: Lumbee Identity, Tribal Factionalism, and Federal Recognition, 1932-1934." Foundations of First Peoples' Sovereignty: History, Culture and Education. Edited by Ulrike Wiethaus. New York: Peter Lang, 2008. 57-95; "Finding Wisdom in Places: Lumbee Family History." Indigenous Diasporas: Unsettling Western Fixations. Edited by Graham Harvey and Charles D. Thompson. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Press, 2005. 153-68; "People and Place: Croatan Indians in Jim Crow Georgia, 1890-1920." American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 21 (Spring 2005): 37-64; "Making Christianity Sing: The Origins and Experience of Lumbee Indian and African-American Church Music." Confounding the Color Line: Indian-Black Relations in a Multidisciplinary Perspective. Edited by James Brooks. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002. 321-45; "Indians Got Rhythm, Too: Lumbee Indian and African-American Church Music." North Dakota Quarterly 67 (Summer/Fall 2000): 72-91; "The Cowboys Always Win: The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934." History in Dispute, Vol. III: American Social and Political Movements, 1900-1945: Pursuit of Progress. Edited by Robert J. Allison. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. 142-6. 
Filmography: Co-Producer, In the Light of Reverence - Video, 73 minutes (2001) National Broadcast: P.O.V., Public Broadcasting Service, August 14, 2001: Awarded Henry Hampton Award for Social Change Documentary; Best Documentary Feature, American Indian Film Festival; Eagle Award, Taos Talking Picture Film Festival; CINE Golden Eagle; Jury Award, MountainFilm
Producer/Director/Editor, Sounds of Faith - Video, 14 minutes (1997): Screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Smithsonian Institution, New York Native American Film Festival, American Indian Film Festival 
Producer/Director/Editor, Real Indian - 16mm, 7 minutes (1996): Awarded Best Short Documentary, South by Southwest Film Festival; Best Indian-Produced Short Documentary, Red Earth Film Festival. Screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Women in the Director’s Chair Film Festival, American Indian Film Festival 
Awards: Lowery is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Center for Public Service Engaged Faculty Fellowship, UNC-Chapel Hill, for over two years to incorporate community engagement into scholarship; 
Uelstchi Service-Learning Course Development Grant, UNC-Chapel Hill, for over three years for Lumbee History course;  
Junior Faculty Research Development Grant, UNC-Chapel Hill, Spring 2010;  
Lenovo Instructional Innovation Grant, Center for Faculty Excellence, UNC-Chapel Hill, Digitization of Southern Historical Association Documents, Fall 2009;  
Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Center for the Study of the American South, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2008-2009;  
Role Model of the Year, Native Americans at Harvard College, April, 2007;  
Stanford University Multicultural Alumni Hall of Fame Inductee, 2006;  
Clark Fund Research Award, Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences, 2006;  
Ford Foundation, Dissertation Fellowship, 2004-2005;  
Archie K. Davis Fellowship, Southern Oral History Program, University of North Carolina, January-May, 2004;  
Johnson Center for Undergraduate Excellence Intellectual Life Grant, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2002;  
Southern Research Circle Summer Stipend, Center for the Study of the American South, University of North Carolina, May 2001;  
Rockefeller Foundation, Film/Video/Multimedia Fellowship, 2001-2002;  
Royster Society Fellowship, The Graduate School, University of North Carolina, 2000-2005;  
Multicultural Producer Scholarship, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 1998-1999;  
Native Initiative Fellowship, Sundance Institute, 1998;  
Folklife Documentary Grant, North Carolina Arts Council, 1997; 
Younger Scholar Summer Research Award, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1994;  
Research Fellowship, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, 1993. 
Additional Info: 
Formerly Assistant Professor, Department of History, Harvard University. July, 2005-June, 2009; 
Adjunct Faculty, Department of History, North Carolina State University. January-May 2005; 
Adjunct Faculty, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University. January-May 2002;
Lecturer, Department of American Indian Studies, San Francisco State University. January 1997-December 1998. 
Lowery has a master's degree in Documentary Film Production from Stanford University and has produced three documentary films about Native American issues, including the award-winning "In the Light of Reverence" (2001), which showed on PBS in 2001 to over three million people. Her two previous films, "Real Indian" (1996) and "Sounds of Faith (1997)," both concern Lumbee identity and culture. 

Personal Anecdote

LUMBEE INDIANS IN THE JIM CROW SOUTH has been living with me for over fifteen years, since I first wrote my undergraduate thesis on Henry Berry Lowrie, an important Recomstruction-era figure in Lumbee history. After that I took a big break from history to become a documentary film producer, but film only intensified my desires to use academic history as a storytelling medium that transcends the boundaries between the academy and the community. When I went back to get my PhD, I remained involved in documentary film, became a part-time theater producer, and began to think visually about historical storytelling, both in terms of narrative as well as argument. Oral tradition and artistic production, of course, has always been a tremendous part of Lumbee culture, so I could not ignore that, especially since I was writing about a relatively recent time period and many people who remember the people and events are still living. There were also plenty of compelling photographs, taken by both insiders and outsiders, that prompted fundamental questions about the documentary record. As I revised my dissertation into a book, I felt comfortable taking a few risks with voice and images to explicate questions of interest to academic historians but also to animate the narrative and give readers an insider look at the Lumbees.

I am extremely grateful to all my mentors, in filmmaking, in graduate school, at UNC Press, and at the First Peoples/New Directions publishing initiative for encouraging me on this path. But I have to give my greatest thanks to my family. Like my sister says, "the woman who taught me to read is a dangerous woman!" My mother, an English professor who taught everything from freshman composition to advanced grammar to world lit, taught me to read and remains my first and best writing teacher. My father, political radical in his own way (he would say "because I didn't know any better"), has always nurtured my iconoclastic tendencies while giving me a hefty dose of "respect your elders" training. Finally, my husband is a brilliant Lumbee musician and artist who lacks a formal education. He is not only a moral compass in my responsibilities to my community, but he gives me vital inspiration every day. He once said something which has become a kind of mantra for me in explaining Native attitudes towards history. A student interviewing him asked, "how did you learn Lumbee history?" He simply said, "I lived it."

The relevance of history to contemporary life is immediately obvious in the Lumbee case, since the categories of knowledge scholars have used to describe us have often been inadequate at best, and damaging at worst. For example, our 122-year struggle for federal recognition, and the political factionalism it has engendered, has been one of the layers of our identity but it is not the only facet of it. Some believe (and many scholars promote this idea) that Lumbee recognition is a struggle for identity, as if we don't know or don't understand our identities as an Indigenous People. This argument stems from a recognition of the several times our People have been subject to legislation which alters our tribal name. My book argues that this legislation, and the whole debate about the definition of "Indian," was motivated by the prerogatives of white supremacy and Indians' ambivalent relationship to it. But scholars (and more importantly, policy makers) have not looked to this explanation of the name changes, instead selectively revising our history to then justify our exclusion from the ranks of tribes who have government- to-government relationships with the United States. The Lumbee struggle is not for identity, but for sovereignty.

Another question about Lumbee history consistently involves our "origins." This is the question I get most often from the general public, and it also sums up the doubt expressed by anti-Indian interests in Congress and people who comment on websites and create Wikipedia entries on us. The argument goes that we're not real Indians and don't deserve federal recognition because we can't prove descent from a "historic" tribe, or that we don't look "Indian." While my book doesn't delve into this research extensively, it is plain that the Lumbees descend from a kin network of extended families, some of whom have had long-standing attachments to our current homeland in Robeson County, and some of whom migrated there in the 18th century. It is the relationship of people and place, and the development and maintenance of a coherent political and social organization, that makes us real Indians. Of course some of our ancestors are non-Indian; nearly every member of every tribe has non-Indian ancestors; it was a fact of colonization. And if you look at the so-called "historic" tribes (i.e. the ones you've heard of: Cherokees, Creeks, Seminoles, Navajos, Sioux, etc.), each one of them has a time in which they were called something else than what they are called now. To pretend that there is some kind of universal definition of a "historic" tribe against which Lumbees should be measured is to deny that Indian people can legitimately change and that colonization itself happened. It's a notion that hurts all of us as Indigenous people, and one that we can refute--to powerful effect on international Indigenous affairs--if we are all on the same epistemological page.


By Malinda Maynor Lowery

  • "This American nation is home to other Indigenous nations which were formed around different values, strategies, and under different circumstances than the American nation. If we are to understand or define the Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation JPGAmerican people, we must also understand the Native peoples whose nations share the land. For Native history is linked in the most intimate ways with that of America-the land, the people, and the nation. They are linked by kinship, culture, and economy, but also by race, class, gender, and inequality. Whether the inequalities tied to citizenship in the American nation can be rectified depends largely on how we know ourselves and each other. Do we wrestle with categories of knowledge that are different from our own, and assign them equal standing with our own categories? Or do we decide that some categories are more real, truthful, or scientific than others?" -- Malinda Maynor Lowery in "Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation"
  • Our exalted names for our homeland (God's Country, the Holy Land) or our everyday names (Home-Home, or just Pembroke, Prospect, even "on the swamp") only reveal so much about that bedrock element of Indian identity-land. The land's voice is a mere whisper, though its quietness is like that of my grandmother Lucy. When my father's family barned tobacco and tied it, grandmother Lucy set the work pace and, as my father said, "controlled you with kindness-she'd bring you iced tea and pat you on the head but she did that to make sure you stayed on track, that you didn't hold anybody else up." My family speaks of the land as our guide, our resource, our life. It is where our identity begins and ends. -- Malinda Maynor Lowery in "Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation" 
  • About Malinda Maynor Lowery

  • "[A] richly detailed and very personal work. . . . A complex and layered story." -- Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources
  • "This is the first book to construct a full, layered sense of who the Lumbees are–and how they became who they are–as a Native American community. Lowery demonstrates that the core characteristics of kinship, reciprocity, and relationship to land have persisted in Lumbee identity, even as Lumbees–in dialogue with outsiders–enfolded new elements into their collective sense of self. Lowery’s cogent explanation of the choices Lumbees made to accept the racial logic of Jim Crow in order to strive for community independence is nuanced, sensitive, and convincing. Her book will be a major contribution to American Indian, southern, and African American historical studies." -- Tiya Miles, University of Michigan
  • "Lowery’s book is a wonderfully rich account of Lumbee history in the segregated South under Jim Crow and makes a valuable contribution to American Indian history and the history of the American South. A lively exploration of Lumbee identity in post-Civil War North Carolina, it figures identity as a complex and not always polite 'conversation' between insiders and outsiders that changes over time. Her argument is solidly grounded in archival research and also interweaves personal and family stories that enhance the narrative in beautiful ways. Her insights on race, identity, and recognition are subtle, nuanced, and powerful." -- Jean O'Brien, University of Minnesota