Sir William Phips: “Unmistakably” a “Negro”

Lots of biographies of William Phips or Phipps, colonial governor of Massachusetts, can be found. Some are more credible than others. He is best known as governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay (1692-1694) and as the discoverer of sunken treasure (1687).

Why does a 1930 newspaper article refer to him as “a Negro,” claiming that “the fact that Sir William was a Negro is . . . set forth unmistakably.” The article is called “Negro Served as First Royal Governor of Massachusetts,” and it appeared in a Baltimore paper, The Afro-American, on the front page (columns 2-3) on 31 May 1930.

The article, which cites a booklet about the tercentenary, claims that this truth that was omitted from most biographies. This doesn’t appear to square with any other known information about this man and his family, and portraits hardly provide evidence of a black racial background. What is this about? Is there a story here?

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