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About The Project

My name is Jessica Locklear and this project was created during my time as a graduate student at Temple University’s Center for Public History. This site is dedicated to the research of my master’s thesis, which focused on tracing the history of Lumbee people who moved from Robeson County, NC to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Abstract: This project documents the diasporic Lumbee community of Philadelphia that formed following the Second World War and developed throughout the late twentieth century. Faced with economic hardship, thousands of Lumbees migrated out of Robeson County and settled in urban centers including Baltimore, Detroit, and Philadelphia. While segregation barred Indians from industrial jobs in the southeast, Lumbees found employers in Philadelphia less concerned about their ethnic background. In the 1940s and 50s, many Lumbees were apprehensive about leaving their ancestors’ original places in North Carolina, fearing that they would lose the ties that bound them to their sense of self. Lumbees from North Carolina continued to migrate to Philadelphia in the 1960s and 70s, many settled and raised their children in the city. Using archival records and original oral history interviews, I argue that Lumbees were able to retain and reaffirm a distinct Indian identity through traditional kinship practices, transcending geographical bounds, and despite new challenges of urban life in 20th century Philadelphia. The retention of this identity is seen through the establishment of a Lumbee church, Lumbee involvement in Philadelphia’s urban Indian center, and participation in homecoming traditions. Lumbees were able to carve out a space in Philadelphia where they found belonging with one another, while making a deep and enduring impact on the city.

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