Monday, September 10, 2007

Black and Amish?

Thanks to my eagle-eyed and knowledgeable readers, it has come to my attention that this couple is most likely not Amish, but in fact Mennonnite. The Mennonites and the Amish share a common protestant history, but they are quite different in their current practices and core beliefs. You can visit to have all your Mennonite questions answered.

Thirdway Cafe also provides the following information about Black Mennonites:
" The Mennonite Brethren denomination was among the first known to begin work among people of African-American origin, in a mining community of Elk Park, N.C. in 1886. The Mennonite Church baptized its first black members in 1897 in Cocolamus, Pa."

End of correction

School's back in session and My American Meltingpot is back from summer vacation. Please keep tuning in to see what we're blogging about. This year we're going to try to post more frequently since there always seems to be something brewing in America's cultural stew. Things that make us mad. People who inspire us and of course those situations that just make us go this one.

Recently I went to the Philadelphia Zoo with my family. We were just strolling along, looking at monkeys and elephants and such when I noticed a large crowd of Amish folk taking in the sights as well. Of course I noticed them, because, well, big groups of Amish are noticeable at places like the zoo. Sure they were pushing strollers and pointing at the giant boa constrictors like the rest of us, but the outfits always make you look twice. Not that there's anything wrong with the Amish dress, I'm just saying you notice it.

Well, on this particular day, with this particular group of Amish, I noticed one couple because the husband was Black. Just regular old American looking Black. He was wearing black pants and a white shirt so at first I couldn't be sure if he was really with the group, but then I realized that his wife was the Amish woman in the floral-print dress next to him and the little biracial girl who held his hand was surely his daughter.

I had to hold myself back from running right up to him to ask if he was indeed Amish. I wanted to know how he came to be Amish. If there were more like him. Of course I did not ask these burning questions because I believe in people's right to enjoy an outing at the zoo without being attacked by curious strangers like myself.

So, I simply allowed myself to stare and wonder and smile at the sight. This is what I love to see, racial stereotypes being shattered by regular everyday people. Just by being out at the zoo, this couple made people stop and think and question. This is what I love about the human experience. This is what I love about My American Meltingpot.

Curiously, after a brief internet search I found very little information about Black Amish people. Technically, Amish is a religion so anybody "should" be able to join, but I'm not sure how the Amish handle "newcomers." Definitely something that makes you go hmmmm.


Photo by Vitamin Lee


tesia said...

I could be wrong, but I believe Amish women are not supposed to wear patterned fabrics (like floral prints) which makes me wonder if maybe this couple is actually Mennonite. The man is also not wearing the traditional Amish wide-brimmed hat.

But Amish or Mennonite, still a fascinating thought. Thanks for sharing!

Rick Mangi said...

I think you're right. The Amish are actually a very closed community and don't just let folks "join up". Google does turn up mention of a black boy who was adopted by the Amish who is now a young adult, but I would guess these people are Mennonites.

Sustenance Scout said...

Love that photo. And so glad I discovered your blog via Carleen Brice's Pajama Gardener. Your post on the Philly museum hit the nail on the head. I'm slowly gaining exposure to African-American art and just included a piece by Joseph Holston to illustrate my last post. I look forward to visiting often!

Me said...

Tesia and Rick,

Thanks for pointing out the Mennonite probability. You'll see I corrected my post. Love learning.

thanks for reading and I can't wait to check out your blog.


Anonymous said...

The Amish are also Mennonites. There are also different groups of Amish, like the church Amish and the home Amish. The home Amish are the ones that we think of when we think Amish, because they worship in homes; the church Amish worship in churches. Some groups of Amish are not as strict as others, and therefore drive cars, and don't live on farms. The reason you don't see black Amish is not because of racism, the Amish are pretty much a closed society even to whites who are not of that particular heritage. There are a lot of fake Amish running around these days, since Amish goods are big ticket items, but believe me you,the only god they are worshipping is saint George of the dollar. I am black, but I'm suspicious of other blacks who think that because they don't see a black face among a bunch of whites, then the whites must be racist. I'm also suspicious of anyone who thinks that Americans must melt their race away in order to be nonracial. If I wanted to be Amish, I would simply go to the church Amish and ask to attend their services. I like the house Amish because they live on beautiful farms and do things the old way. I wouldn't be a house Amish because I grew up on a farm in NC, and my father did things the old way, and I tell you it is no fun after a while. I also like electric lights and television.

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Raine said...

Old post, but you are correct in saying they are probably Mennonite (the capp is slightly different between the groups as well). There are also some Christians who are not members or either denomination who have also adopted that style of dress, but it is pretty rare.

I know of one black man who id "old order" Amish, in his 30s now, and was adopted and raised in the faith (and a South American man of similar background).

There is also a small group of predominately black Mennonite churches (6 or 7 churches I believe), in NW North Carolina, but the ones I've seen dress more modern and do not wear the cape dress and prayer covering (many modern Mennonites do not).

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Anonymous said...

I found your site while researching an old (very) cloth black faceless rag doll in traditional Amish dress that was fould in Clark County Missouri.
I found there was an Old Order Amish settlement there. I have never seen another "black Amish doll" and this one is old and genuine.

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FarmingandRanchinginRighteousness said...

A subgroup of Amish, the Beachy Amish are evangelizing to natives in Belize. This includes Indians and black people. In the U.S. they are evangelizing the Sioux Indians. Yes, Mennonites do wear small prints in their clothing while most Amish groups do not.

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Anonymous said...

PBS had a documentary on Amish more than 12 years ago.

There was memntion of Winter Amish who helped through the havest and stayed during winter and enslaved Humans of African descent who joined the Amish.

There was even mention of an Amish woman who had aleadership role. She had profound logic, compassion, and common sense.

She gave instructions to the community that when planting corn that 1/3 of the field was reserved for the community, 1/3 for crows, and the remaining 1/3 for thieves.

When she was asked about the rationale for crows and thieves. She replied "they have to eat too."