WHAT IS A MELUNGEON?
Generally, persons of Mediterranean descent whose forbears inter-married with American Indian or African slaves, especailly during the 16th-18th centries, especially in Southeastern America.
A Melungeon (during 1500-1860) was someone who was free but not pure White in the area where the word was used - the Carolina, Virginia, eastern Tennessee, Kentucky, eventually extending as far west as east Texas. The person might actually be White, but of a darker strain like a Moor or Mediterranean. who had inter-married with Costal Indians orAfrican slaves.A few people may have been of other races, such as South Asian (Tzigane, Asian Indian, etc.).
Melungeon living in one of these areas tended to intermarry and continued to produce a more uniform mixed population. People who were members of a Black or Indian group would not be counted as Melungeon unless they joined or married into a Melungeon group.Anyone who can traces back to one of these groups before the Civil War is definitely Melungeon, and that is many thousands of this very diverse group.
Perhaps the most important element in the formation of the Melungeons was the descendants of Indian groups which were no longer racially mostly Indian. Indian groups were genetically swamped in many cases due to their susceptibility to diseases which were brought to America from Europe and Africa. This particularly worked by the survival of children who had better immunity due to non-Indian ancestry.During the Seventeenth Century, most of the Indian groups of Virginia and North Carolina either simply died out from the imported diseases or were genetically swamped by mixing with non-Indians coupled with this selection for better disease immunity. The Indians incorporated genetic input from many groups very early in Virginia. Probably the biggest single input was from free Mulattos actually joining the Indian groups. English and Mediterranean settlers, soldiers and seamen contributed a large input even earlier, and, with the Tidewater Algonquians, were a major factor.
The two earlist concentrations of Mediterranean Whites in this group were Spanish and Portuguese settlers left behind at the Santa Elena Colony in 1586 at Beaufort, S.C. and several hundred Moorish and Iberian prisoners set ashore at Roanoke Island in 1586 by Sir Francis Drake.
The Spanish begam colonizing the Southeasterm America long before the English got there, as far north as Tidewater Va. and Knoxville, Tenn. Marrano Jews (Jews pretending to be Catholic in order to escape persecution), Moriscos (Moorish Arabs and Berbers who joined the Catholic Church to avoid the Inquisition), Portuguese, and Catalans from Minorcawere all important elements in these colonists. The Spanish also had many slaves in their colonies, who were mostly Muslim prisoners captured from Moorish and Ottoman shipswhich must be the reason why the Indians of the Southeast went from wearing almost no clothing other than tattoos to wearing elaborate, woven clothing with bright colors, including sashes and turbans, seemingly in imitation of Ottoman and Moorish styles. When the Spanish withdrew from the Carolinas, Tennessee and Georgia under British pressure, they left behind many part Indian children and as well as Jews, Moors and Muslim slaves.
Sir Francis Drake stopped at Roanoke for some months on his way back from raiding Spanish colonies in the Caribbean. He had several hundred Muslim seamen with him who had been freed from the Spanish and were being returned to Morocco and the Ottoman Empire. These would include all manner of North African Berbers and Arabs as well asGreeks, Armenians, Albanians, Kurds, Turks, Egyptians, Circassians, Balkans, Syrians and Georgians, etc. During several months spent ashore in Virginia, they must have left progeny among the local Indian population. Some of them may have stayed and actually joined the Indians. Shipwrecked sailors may have been contributing to the population even earlier.Their ships from anywhere in the Americas usually followed the coast north to around Cape Hatteras to take advantage of the Trade Winds from there to the Azores and back to the Iberian peninsula
A later subgroup were indentured Irish, many being Black Irish (ship-wrecked sailors from the Spanish Armanda) who married Irish women and their descendants came to America and bred with Black slaves of English land owners whose children excaped into the wilds as free Mulattos.
The principal groups of Indians contributing to the Melungeons were the Siouans(Saponi or Eastern Blackfoot, Yuchi, Creek, Catawaba), the Algonquians of the Coastal region (Powhatan) and the Appalachian tribes, Southern Iroquoian (Cherokee and Tuskarora). The Indians of the Coastal and Piedmont regions were the mixed groups that formed the original mixed race groups that became the Melungeons. Appalachian Indians were less mixed with Black and White, and they did not become involved with the Melungeons until the Melungeons had already formed and moved from the Va - N.C. border to the Appalachia area. The Cherokee particularly inter-married with the Graysville Melungeons of the Tennessee River Valley.A mixed race group in S. C. were the Brass Ankles or the Red Bones. In addition to Black Dutch and Black Irish joining the Melungeons. Welsh, English, Scots-Irish, Jewish, Tzigane, Dutch, German and French are claimed by many. The unifying factor is a history of someone in the family who was too dark to be accepted as White without some doubts.
Melungeons today may identify themselves as Mestee (triracial or multiracial), White, Black and Indian.
The above information explains how someone with a Scots-Irish name like Kennedy shows up with flat, stright hair or a disease only found in someone of Mediterranean descent.
Research: There are numerous books and articles in a Google search under 'Melungeon.'
posted by email@example.com (Jim Woolbright, ATlantic BEach, Fla.