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Cabin by the Lake


Born in Appalachia 

There is a lot of debate about where our ancestors came from before we were known as Melungeon, however Melungeon as a people and community was born in Appalachia through the need to rely on each other to survive the wild and mountainous region. Due to such a "mysterious" origin and an appearance described as racially ambiguous Melungeon people were denied many rights like the ability to marry, own land or property, vote, or testify in court.  This led to many families losing their homes and farms. Many melungeon families know histories of moonshining like the descendants of famous Tennessee Moonshiner Mahala Collins Mullins whos cabin serves as a historical site in Vardy Valley.  While bootlegging made up a large amount of Melungeon families incomes, many other families relied on farming and coal mining and even participated in historic events like the 1973 Harlan County Coal Strike and the Appalachian Coal Wars of the 1920s. In 1861 large amounts of Melungeon men left their families to fight in the civil war and by the 19th century with rights being awarded to "free people of color" Melungeon people were experiencing many of the same rights as their white counterparts. Men were now allowed to vote, testify in court, and own property or land. However in 1924 we saw our rights restricted again with the passing of the Racial Integirty Act enforcing segregation and the one drop rule, making our very existence illegal and inhibiting our ability to legally marry until it was finally abolished with Loving V. Virginia in 1967.  Historically we lived in isolation and preferred places up on mountain ridges like Newmans Ridge and Black Mountain to call home, with only a handful of families existing in these communities, endogamy was commonplace and often preferred. While marriage was common, divorce was not frowned upon and women and men were free to divorce and remarry, this often resulted in large families with many children.  Due to the discrimination faced by so many Melungeon families there was an increasing drive to shed the Melungeon label, many families moved across state lines, or out of Appalachia altogether, some even changing their names as to avoid being recognized.  Historically Melungeons are a very family oriented people with a large focus on helping kin and keeping family together, a lot of times seeing aunts, uncles, siblings, grandparents and even cousins help raise up a child after a parent is lost. This focus on family also played a large role in the naming process, with mothers entrusting their midwives to bestow a family name upon newly born infants. 

Recommended Reading:


Walking Toward The Sunset

-Wayne Winkler



-Melissa Schrift


The Melungeons

-N. Brent Kennedy


Lest We Forget

-Jim Callahan


North From The Mountains

John S. Kessler, 

Donald B.Ball


The Melungeons

-Eloy J. Gallegos

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