Melungeon identity is one of the intriguing, unsolved mysteries of Appalachia. The term has been in use since the early 19th century. In general it has referred to dark-skinned, mixed race families of the central and southern Appalachians. Until recently, Melungeon was a derogatory name used by outsiders. In early census records, they were frequently described as “free people of color” and were subjected to social and legal discrimination. The dominant scholarly view is that their ancestries are combinations of Native American, African and European. Members of the group have claimed 16th century Portuguese origins for themselves. Since the 1990s, the Melungeon Heritage Association has won international recognition for their group and are redefining the term as a positive, respected identity referring to a mixed-heritage people of the southern mountains.
Below is the Digital Heritage Moment as broadcast on the radio:
- Affrilachians Creative Commons Image Obtained Through Flickr
The term Affrilachian, coined in the early 1990s by Kentucky poet Frank X Walker, has claimed a place in our understanding of the Appalachian pa...
- William Holland Thomas Essay by Timothy N. Osment
Few individuals have impacted western North Carolina as did native son William Thomas Holland. In fact, he was arguably the region’s most in...
- Thomas Legion
Timothy N. Osment
William Holland Thomas, state legislator and “white chief” of the Cherokee, was 56 years old when the Civil War began. From the beginning of the war, h...
- The Shelton Laurel Massacre Essay by Timothy N. Osment History M.A. WCU 2008
The Civil War took a tremendous toll on the South. Though somewhat isolated, the Appalachian region was no exception. More so than other areas of...
- Kirk’s Raiders Essay by Timothy N. Osment
In late 1862, a rag-tag group of Union sympathizers and Confederate deserters spent several days terrorizing the citizens of Madison County, NC. ...