(The following article was taken from: http://www.baconsrebellion.com/Issues05/01-31/Curious.htm)
Was Elvis a Melungeon?
Elvis was born far from the hills of southwestern Virginia in Tupelo, Miss.
But researcher Brent Kennedy, a college administrator in Wise, theorizes that the King, as well as Abraham Lincoln and Ava Gardner, might trace their ancestors to the mysterious Melungeons.
These dark-skinned, blue-eyed people were first documented in Virginia’s Blue Ridge in the late 1700s. Over the years, various myths about their origin arose.
Some believed they were either survivors from the Lost Colony of Roanoke or Portuguese shipwrecks. Others suggested they were descendents of one of the lost tribes of Israel or of early Carthaginian or Phoenician seamen.
Kennedy’s controversial 1994 book, The Melungeons:The Resurrection of a Proud People, is credited with reviving interest in this “little race.”
He offered a theory, still debated today, that the mixed-race group can trace its lineage to Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 16th century and perhaps their Turkish sailors and slaves.
The Mediterranean and Middle Eastern settlers later intermarried with Native Americans and freed slaves.
Prior to Kennedy, sociologists and anthropologists had referred to Melungeons as “tri-racial isolates,” with Scotch-Irish, Native American and African-American origins.
Kennedy, who is a native of Wise, became interested in Melungeons when he was diagnosed with a rare disease that was most common among African Americans, people of Mediterranean descent and New England’s Portuguese immigrants.
He had always been told his heritage was Scotch-Irish, despite physical evidence–swarthy family complexions–to the contrary.
Not only is Melungeon racial heritage clouded in mystery, but even the term has obscure roots.
In the 17th century, the French encountered Mediterranean-skinned people with straight black hair, fine European features and high cheekbones in the North Carolina hills.
They called themselves “Portyghee.” Thus, some scholars argue that “Melungeon” is a variation of the French “mélange” for “mixture” or “mixed-blood.”
Others believe the term derives from the Portuguese “melungo” or “shipmate” or has Turkish or Arabic roots meaning “cursed soul.”
What is universally agreed is that the dark-skinned Melungeons were discriminated against by their Anglo-Saxon neighbors.
Because they were thought to have intermarried with blacks, they were declared “free persons of color.”
Melungeons were denied such rights, as the right to vote; own their own land; educate or send their children to school; defend themselves in court; or intermarry with anyone other than a Melungeon.
The term itself became an insult.
As the Scotch-Irish immigrants moved down the Shenandoah Valley, they pushed the Melungeons farther and farther into the remote hills and valleys of the Appalachians.
As interest in Melungeons revives, however, more and more individuals are finding hidden clues in family trees. Estimates of those with Melungeon heritage range from 5,000 to 75,000.
At the first gathering of people of Melungeon descent in Wise in 1997, organizers expected 50 or so participants.
Instead, 500 attended.
They came to explore family stories of “Portuguese” blood; why an ancestor changed his surname from “Duck” to “John Adams;” or a family that referred to itself as “Black Dutch.”
Four years later, at the now-annual gathering, Kevin Jones, a University of Virginia College at Wise biologist, reported on a two-year study of Melungeon DNA.
Studying about 120 mictochondrial DNA samples of Melungeon people, five percent had Native American ancestry on the female side and five percent had African and African-American ancestry on the female side.
The remaining 90 percent was “Eurasian,” which can be traced to northern Europe, the Middle East, India and the Mediterranean.
He concluded that Melungeons have European, African and Native American ancestry, as early scholars believed, but also genetic commonalities with groups in Turkey and northern India.
But, he cautioned, being a Melungeon is not defined by genetics alone. A person might also believe they are Melungeon because of oral tradition, genealogy or family history.
“Melungeons are a self-defining population,” he explained.
Whether Melungeons are a race or a culture may never be resolved.
But in Cesme, Turkey, sister city to Wise, they are definitely remembered. Located on the Aegean where ancient sailors roamed, the city has renamed a nearby peak, “Melungeon Mountain.”
We think Elvis, Abe and Ava would be proud.
(End of article)
Recently a large group of Melungeons took DNA tests and the results showed that their ancestry was primarily a mixture of European women and African men.
Most likely during the early history of colonial America, when many Caucasian indentured servants got married to people of African descent.
Laws were later passed in the colonies, that forbade these type of inter-racial marriages.
These mixed couples and their children experienced discrimination from many Caucasian colonists.
Later the families of these mixed union established their own settlements and towns; in order to avoid discrimination.
Many Caucasian Americans today, are descendants of these mixed race union.
At least 1/3 of all Caucasian Americans who can say that any one of their ancestors were already living in the Americas, from the 17th century up until the present; have some African ancestry.
Look at the African American wife of Confederate president Jefferson Davis in the 19th century (photo in the article below).
She was obviously of African descent.
Many Caucasians then and even now, cannot tell a Caucasian looking person who is of African descent; from a Caucasian without any ‘recent African ancestors.’
I say recent African ancestors because, all Homo Sapiens on this Earth originated from the continent called Africa.
WALTER WHITE, THE BLONDE HAIR, BLUE EYES AFRICAN AMERICAN LEADER OF THE NAACP
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