Melungeon History Explored: Union of Melungeon Heritage Association to Meet This Weekend in Martinsville | Local News

An event hosted by the Melungeon Heritage Association this week will include an author signing event on Friday at 2 p.m. at the Parish House as well as a series of lectures taking place on Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m., at the Virginia Museum of NaturalHistory. .

“The beginnings of the Melungeon people and other people of mixed ancestry are in the 1600s, 1700s with these early intersections between Europeans, Africans and Native Americans,” said Heather Andolina, president of the Melungeon Heritage Association. “It’s definitely a lesser-known story in America, and I think that’s partly because it was about non-white people.”

The Melungeon people originated at the very beginning of colonization in America, said writer Darlene Nixon. The mix of Europeans, Africans and natives began to face discrimination and isolate themselves to protect themselves from threats.

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“A lot of these communities were in very isolated places, for example, the Appalachian Mountains, Andolina added. .”

Andolina said one of the ways to tell if someone is of Melungeon ancestry is through surnames. “You can see where these groups of people, through their surnames, migrated and they continued to migrate through Virginia, North Carolina, even from South Carolina, eventually into the Appalachian region,” she added.

The characteristics of the Melungeon peoples varied due to their mixed descent, Nixon said, ranging from dark to blond hair, lighter to darker skin, and a wide variety of eye colors. Many people don’t find out they have Melungeon ancestry until adulthood, she said.

The term “Melungeon” is said to come from the French word for “mixte”, which is “mixture”. The term is loosely associated with Appalachia, Andolina, “southeastern Kentucky, northeastern Tennessee, parts of North Carolina and of course parts of West Virginia,” she said.

The Melungeon Heritage Association is a “nonprofit organization that documents and preserves the history and cultural heritage of peoples of mixed ancestry in the southern and eastern United States,” Andolina said. “Our organization is primarily focused on the Melungeon people, but we are expanding to other peoples of mixed ancestry in the southeast because the Melungeon people are related…to other mixed ancestries” such as the Lumbees, the Red Bones and the Brass Ankles.

The main purpose of the event in Martinsville is to “bring together people who have this unique ancestry, whether it’s Melungeon or just mixed ancestry in general…We bring in authors, historians, researchers, people who…make it educational,” Andolina said. .

Nixon is one of the authors who will be at the author event at the Parish House on Friday. Her book is titled “Our Side of the Mountain: A Pocahontas to Melungeon Revolution” and tells the story of what her mother remembers about growing up Melungeon.

Writing has always been her passion, Nixon said, and through a conversation with her mother and grandmother, she was able to put together a compelling story telling their stories following daily life as her mother goes. remember.

Some of the cultural distinctions of Melungeons are living off the land, being superstitious, not bathing every day but washing their feet every night and how and why they raise animals, she said.

Nixon added that the cultural habits she listed will vary depending on who is being interviewed, likely having similarities but deepening differences on the region they are discussing.

“The idea is to tell a bit of the story of these people coming to Martinsville and why you might want to go there and learn a bit more about it,” Nixon said. “We want to benefit our authors and shine a light on Melungeon heritage… That we exist and are people who are proud of our culture and heritage.”

Andrew B. Reiter