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Mon, 03.01.1700

The Melungeon community, an article

*The Melungeon community is affirmed on this date in 1700 and briefly written about on this date's Registry. 

A Melungeon was a free American thought not to be pure white, and the term originated during the Antebellum South.  The geographic areas where the word originated as northern North Carolina, southern and western Virginia, eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia, southern Ohio, western Louisiana, the eastern edge of Texas, the panhandle of Florida, and northern Alabama. The person might be white but of a darker breed, like a Greek or Portuguese. The person might be mixed white and Black, white and Native (Indigenous), or all three.   

As Researcher Donald Ball pointed out, the history of the Melungeons starts with the free Mulatto, the status of the Melungeons as Free People of Color resulted from their African ancestry and not from a small amount of Native, Portuguese, Moorish, or Ottoman ancestry, and the presence of large numbers of free Mulattos very early in the formative groups means that they are in the ancestry of all Melungeons. This American philosophy began with the enactment of article 9, paragraph 5 of the Articles of Confederation and the social value system it represented.  The Natives in the ancestry of the Melungeons were very mixed, with a lot of both Black and white in them; one cannot claim Indian ancestry from eastern or central Virginia and North Carolina without including the very large African element in these Indians.

Any Melungeon who tries to deny African ancestry is not only perpetuating the racism that removed the Melungeons from white society but is deluding himself.  The principal groups of Indians contributing to the Melungeons were the Siouans of the Virginian and North Carolina Piedmont (mainly the Saponi or Eastern African American foot), the Algonquians of the Coastal region of these states (Powhatan, Pamunkey, Nansemond, etc.), and the Appalachian tribes, Southern Iroquoian (Cherokee and Tuscarora) and the Yuchi (Yuchean language is related to the Siouan languages, but not considered close enough to be called Siouan). The Native Americans of the Coastal and Piedmont regions were the mixed groups that formed the original mixed-race groups that became the Melungeons and several remnant groups which still identify themselves as Indian.

Appalachian Native Americans were less mixed with Black and white. Still, they did not become involved with the Melungeons until they had already formed and moved from the Virginia - North Carolina border in Piedmont to the Appalachia area. The Cherokee particularly inter-married with the Graysville Melungeons of the Tennessee River Valley. The Saponi are probably the most important Native element in most groups of Melungeons. They were generally known as African American foot when they broke up and scattered. That is the name used for them by the Melungeons of Appalachia, the Cherokee, and in the African American community. There are many African American foot descendants in all three of these groups. 

In 2012, an extensive DHA study was released by the Journal of Genetic Genealogy.


Reference: Kennedy, N. Brent, The Melungeon’s: The Resurrection of
a Proud People, Mercer University Press, GA 1994. To
order call (800) 342-0841, ext 2880.

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