Like many of the best forays into history, this research raises more questions than it answers., and certain answers may never be know for sure.
The central question is how a single person, Prince Minisee, come to be known in NY (to this day) as a Native American Medicine Man, and in Michigan as the patriarch of a well-known pioneering African American family.
Did Prince Minisee self-identify in NY as Native American, or did others create the identity for him, perhaps after he left, as a kind of re-casting of history?
If Prince had Native American ancestry, is the name “Minisee” (not a common name) related to the Minisink Native Americans, which became known as Munsee? Did he identify as Native American due to this ancestry?
Was he originally named Quacko, an African name (early NYC census records show several references to a Quacko Minisee) and thus there are genuine “roots” in the name “Prince Quack?”
Even today, society often prefers to place us in neatly organized “black-and-white” or unique descriptors, which we sometimes choose to embrace. It is not fully clear what happened here.
It was a pleasure to speak to the living descendants of Prince Minisee in Michigan who very kindly exchanged ideas and oral histories of the family.
I am working to compile and analyze historical references to pre-Civil War mixed-race relationships and communities at Beyond Red White and Black.
Bill Jeffway, NY, October 2016