Interestingly enough, Baptist historians have also considered Joseph Willis as black---plain and simple. Case in point, today I was at the Clayton Library in Houston and came across a book entitled "A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography Vol. II" c1988 by the Louisiana Historical Association and on page 853 it lists Joseph Willis as a free black, etc. etc. It's source was the Negro Slavery in Louisiana: A History by Joe Taylor. I have also come across a history of black ministers on the Internet and it talks about Joseph being a famous black minister. As you say he is listed as mulatto or as the census states a free colored person. Either way, he was of mixed race. I think that can be agreed upon.
But I was going to contact you today anyway because as I was leaving I came across a typed-written pamphlet "published" in 1955 by Webster Talma Crawford entitled (and this is long) "Redbones in The Neutral Strip or No Man's Land Between the Calcasieu and Sabine Rivers in Louisiana and Texas Repectively and The Westport Fight Between Whites and Redbones For Possession of This Strip on Christmas Eve, 1881."
I photocopied the part about the Westport Fight because it mentioned an ancestor of mine. It was written by an oral history by a man named Frank Taylor who supposedly knew the Redbones and had seen parts of this fight.
But as to your email, I agree that it is and was a racial slur. No doubt. However, I also believe that it referred to a mixed-race of families that intermarried and lived within a close proximity of one another. People not considered part of this group of people were outsiders. As to the theory of the race being Phonecian, Moors, Mediterranean, Porteguese, etc. Who knows? Who cares? Who could possibly begin to prove it any way or the other.
Within my own family history, there have always been stories of Indian blood. I, for one, do believe that Joseph Willis was part Indian and part white. I believe that the will of his father Agerton proves that his son was born of a slave mother making him ineligible to inherit his father's land. Most researchers believe he was part Indian. Maybe he was part black. I don't care. I find it all very interesting. He was also supposedly a veteran of the American Revolution but no paper proves that either. Just family stories passed down. I want to believe that he was.
Good luck in finding further proof or whatever it is you're looking for. By the way, as I mentioned before, I came across a website about Redbones that said that it was once a slur, but is now considered a people proud of their heritage and considered a recognized Indian tribe in Louisiana. The "society" might have more information
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