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R.W. Reising, "Literary Depictions of Henry Berry Lowry: Mythic, Romantic, and Tragic" (1992)


R.W. Reising, "Literary Depictions of Henry Berry Lowry: Mythic, Romantic, and Tragic" (1992)


The article “Literary Depictions of Henry Berry Lowry: Mythic, Romantic, and Tragic” looks at how Henry Berry Lowry and the myth surrounding him came to be seen by authors, poets, and playwrights, primarily during the 20th century, as the modern depiction of Lowry was solidified. The author of the article cites several writers including Guy Owen and Jeff Fields, who either allude to Lowry covertly or in the open. The use of Lowry to embody the values of the Lumbee people in these literary venues shows how potent and cherished the legend of Lowry is to the people of southern North Carolina.

Another aspect that is brought up is the issue of Lowry’s racial orientation. While he, and the literary characters that he is associated with, interact with the three major ethnic group of Robeson County, Lowry himself is deemed a “free person of color”. There is no attempt made to change this view, and from the initial look it does not appear as if this was used to belittle either white or black communities. And in some cases there is a hinting of Lowry being from a mixed background of racial diversity. However, he himself is still considered a full member of the Lumbee community.

In one other issue brought up, is the social tension that forced Lowry into being the man that would come to inspire such legends. These plays try to show a progression, and in some cases, an origin story in order to link the man of legend to what would be his realistic beginning. The mixture of history and myth comes to almost deify Lowry who came to serve as a “savior” of his people during and after the years of the war.


Reising, R.W.


Reising, R.W. . "Literary Depictions of Henry Berry Lowry: Mythic, Romantic and Tragic". MELUS, Vol. 17, No. 1, Native American Fiction: Myth and Criticism, 1992.




Reising, R. W.



Original Format

Journal Article


Henry Berry Lowry is central to the culture of the Lumbee Indians, the largest body of Native Americans east of the Mississippi River. In virtually all studies of the tribe, the outlaw who mysteriously disappeared in 1872 garnerse laboratem ention. To arguet hatt he man known as "Henry Bear" embodies and projects the values of his people, their aspirations as well as their achievements, is not to be hyperbolic. Over a hundred years ago he emerged as their hope and their hero, and today he remains a symbol of their commitments and ideals. The future, too, assures him of expanding impact, for as the Lumbees continue to enrich both the Native American world and mainstream society, their indebtedness to the leader who initiated and inspired their successes promises to be cited ever more frequently and eloquently....

As insightful as Umberger's depiction is, it will probably not be either the last or the most penetrating to be inspired by the Lumbee "'criminal' culture-hero" (Babcock 148). Any examination of the imaginative literature featuring "Henry Bear," like any knowledge of the increasingly significant, confident, and vocal role that his people are assuming in the contemporary world, suggests thath e will continue to engage writers of literature. So ingratiating and malleable a blend of two bloodlines, as well as of history and myth, offers such writers numerous and rich avenues of development. Undoubtedly, he will prove especially valuable to writers with a social conscience, artists who ask of their craft what Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz once asked of his: "What is poetry which does not save nations or people?" (Maddocks 18-19). Because "Henry Bear" saved his nation and his people, he looms as a magnet to writers who see in oppression, of Indians or of any other group, anguish demanding the best of which human memory, imagination, and language are capable: the Hero and/or the Trickster.


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Reising, R.W., R.W. Reising, "Literary Depictions of Henry Berry Lowry: Mythic, Romantic, and Tragic" (1992), Civil War Era NC, accessed April 19, 2024,