The Spanish Armada gives us Irish the genes needed to have a current of Black Irish. Many years ago, I asked my students at Duval High School how many were of Irish ancestry. Most raised their hands that they were. I then explained the possibility that they had Black ancestors who were North African sailors who abandon ship and waded ashore when the Spanish Armada wrecked on the Irish coast after being defeated by a storm and the British Navy.

My students calculated that in 1492 they had approximately two million ancestors. That was the population of England at that time and one more generation back my students would have four million ancestors which must have been the population of all of Europe. By 1300 we each have a possible 8 Billion ancestors, more people than are on earth now. I don’t know how we get back to just two ancestors. So we must have doubled up and shared a bunch of ancestors. We all came from the same people, we are all cousins and we are the one human race. Just 200 generations back White Americans have an ancestor in Egypt. And then there was the Spanish Armada.

There is hope, there is change—I know of two white boys in very white Lincoln County named for Michael Jordan.

Of course none of the racial labels fit. We are all Colored people. No one is White, a sheet of paper is white. And no one is Black, charcoal is black. And no one is one color, I see more than one color as I look at my hands.

Our great granddaughter at 5 seems to have no racism, she goes to a day care that is diverse in students and teachers. She has said more than once that she is going to marry Marcus, who is an African–American boy in her class. She doesn’t see his color and I don’t think it matters to her that he is four inches shorter.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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