Author Topic: Tracing the Roots of South Carolina’s ‘Turks,’ Before They Melt Away  (Read 134 times)

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Offline Jetavan

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From the NYTimes:

The way Mr. Benenhaley’s relatives told it, the Turks are descended from Joseph Benenhaley, who had come to colonial America from the Ottoman Empire. The empire, centered in what is now Turkey, ruled most of the Arab world at that time. Some people have speculated that “Joseph Benenhaley” was Anglicized from an Arabic name, Yusuf ben Ali.

This patriarch was said to have helped Brig. Gen. Thomas Sumter, the county’s namesake, fight the British in the Revolutionary War, and to have received a tract of land from General Sumter afterward as a reward for loyal service. (It was a great-grandson of General Sumter who described Joseph Benenhaley decades later as a “Caucasian of ‘Arab’ descent.”)
Like many of his generation, Brian Benenhaley moved away from the Turks’ home turf when he came of age, in search of opportunities that a low-income farming area could not provide.

His skin tone is much lighter than his father’s was. Beyond the Sumter County line, no one takes him for a Turk — “just a white guy with a long last name,” he said, “who gets a dark tan in the summertime.”

The University of South Carolina Press has a new book out on the Turks of South Carolina: South Carolina's Turkish People: A History and Ethnology.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2018, 11:37:03 AM by Jetavan »
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Offline RaphaCam

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Wow, amazing! Here in Brazil people from the Ottoman Empire often got some kind of Turkish identity, too, although they're mostly Arabs and some Greek. Literally never heard of a Brazilian with actually Turkish descent.
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Offline Sampson

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I read this after you linked it and forgot to reply, but this was a really fascinating article. I've got to check out some of the other writing on this little group of people.