Melungeons of Appalachia


Friday Fare to Appalachia

Since at least the 1800’s, there has been a mixed blood strain of people living in pockets of Appalachia called Melungeons. The groups of Melungeons are/were located near Carmel, OH and Magoffin County, KY. Down through the years, there have been other groups in Tennessee and other states in Appalachia. They were thought to be white (some mix of European immigrant stock), African, and Native American. The actual racial descent of these people is actually a mystery and now, in the modern day, there is a Melungeon DNA project to try to determine just where this group of people came from.

The Melungeons seemed to be located primarily in Hancock County, Tennessee with another pocket in Magoffin and Floyd Counties, Ky. The group would occasionally migrate to Carmel, Ohio, possibly to find work in the swampy onion fields in the area. In Magoffin County, Ky, there was very little work for them. They lived in an area where farming was difficult due to the mountains and very narrow valleys.

The Melungeons faced extreme discrimination wherever they went. There were and are very few people of mixed race descent in most of the Appalachian region. It is a region primarily composed of white people of northern European descent. People with  a darker skin are very much noticed. The Melungeons also had particularly surnames that identified them. Some of those names were Gibson or Gipson, Nichols, and Colllins, among others. One side of my family came from Magoffin County, Ky. I can remember my grandmother cautioning us “not to be like the Gipsons.” We did not know who or what “the Gipsons” were. We only knew that they were a family whose behavior was considered somehow “dirty” and we were not supposed to emulate it. This is the type of discrimination these people faced.

In order to fit in with the general population, the Melungeons self-identified as white mixed with Native American. Some self-identified as white mixed with Portuguese or Turkish. In reality, their background is still a mystery which the Melungeon DNA Project is trying to work out. Current results from the Melungeon DNA Project show results that their background is white descent mixed with African descent with very little, if any, Native American descent. Specifically, the females were primarily of white, Northern EUropean descent and males were mixed African and white descent.

The current state of many of the Melungeons is that they have intermarried and moved out of their home areas and intermingled with the majority groups in society. Many people in and out of Appalachia are curious about the Melungeons and whether or not they could have Melungeon blood and are using services like to try to locate any possible Melungeon ancestors. #Melungeon #amwriting #amblogging #Appalachia #writing





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