Re: Who Are the Melungeons?

Martha Ann Stegar (
Mon, 31 Jul 1995 11:57:34 -0500

In article <3vaiui$95t@CUBoulder.Colorado.EDU>, (
) wrote:

> tell us about this book, and its findings!!

I've already returned the book to the person who leant it to me, but
basically, this is what I remember it said:

PROUD PEOPLE," Mercer University Press, Macon, GA, 1994.

The author (a Melungeon who lives in Atlanta, GA) basically combines most
of the legendary origins of the Melungeons and says they all might be true
in some instances. He has organized a Melungeon research group headed by
anthropologists at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He goes along
with the tradition that they are "Portygee," saying a group of Portuguese
sailors might well have been shipwrecked in the 1500's, as this was the Age
of Discovery led by Portuguese and Spanish explorers. Furthermore, it is
known that Juan Pardo established a Spanish settlement at Sta. Elena on the
Carolina coast and had his soldiers establish outposts in the hinterland,
pushing as far as the Tennessee Valley. When the British started expanding
down into the Carolinas and Georgia, they pushed the Spanish back to St.
Augustine. No one has ever been able to discover what happened to Pardo's
men when Santa Elena was abandoned in 1587, although it is known that ONE
of them married an Indian woman. Since no bones of any of the others have
been found, Kennedy says they might well have assimilated into Indian
families as well. In fact, the Lumbee Indians in the Lincolnton, N.C.,
area seem to be of mixed Indian/European heritage. And Kennedy says
material in the Archives at Seville, Spain, indicate that "Juan" Pardo was
really "Joao" Pardo, a Portuguese. Furthermore, when the Moors conquered
the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal), they intermarried with the
Iberians, leaving their heritage of North African and Berber blood.

Another tradition among the Melungeons is that they were descendants of the
English settlers of the Lost Colony on Roanoke Island, off the coast of
North Carolina. This happened in the late 1500's, before the first
successful English settlement, Jamestown, was founded in 1607. A year
after the English settlers were left on Roanoke Island (c. 1585), English
ships returned to find the settlers gone and only one crytic word carved on
a tree, "Croatan." Perhaps they were captured by Indians and intermarried
with them, thus creating a branch of the Melungeons?

When the English spread west from the coast in the 1600's, they found a
dark-skinned group of people with European features who spoke a "pidgin"
Elizabethan English living on land that had been promised to the English by
the English Crown. The people said they were "Portygee." The English
pushed them off their land and appropriated it for themselves. They were
deemed to be of mixed blood, and since their skins were so dark and the
Brits wanted to keep the land, they practiced extreme prejudice against
them. Ultimately, the Melungeons were considered to be a "tripartite"
race: European mixed with Indian mixed with Black slave blood. They were
denied ownership of land, the right to vote, and were barred from getting
an education. Consequently, they retreated to the tops of mountains in
southwest Virginia, east Tennesee, and nothwestern North Carolina, where
they lived apart in poverty and archaic living conditions, becoming very
clannish and avoiding strangers. The men hunted and fished, and the women
gathered herbs and berries and grew what vegetables they could. About the
only way open to them for getting ahead financially was to make a sell
"moonshine" whiskey.

As people occasionally inetrmarried with "whites" and children were born of
lighter hue, they eagerly "passed" as white and tried to assimilate into
the majority culture. Families lied about and suppressed their real
background, and whole generations of children grew up with no inkling of
who thier ancestors really were. Brent Kennedy found out by chance when he
developed a rare disease (some kind of sarcoidosis) found only in people of
Mediterranean and African (? not sure about this part) descent, as well as
Melungeons. He researched his family tree and gradually drew out the deep,
dark secret of ETHNIC CLEANSING in America.

Of course, a lot of this is speculation and synthesis of facts and rumors
on Kennedy's part, but it all makes sense to me.

Martha Ann Stegar
Atlanta, GA OR