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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Melungeons: The Resurrection of A Proud People An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing In America » User review

The improbable story of a lost race of people who still walk among us today.

  • Aug 4, 2010

According to the website Tennessee Online "They are considered one of the world's greatest anthropological mysteries--a tribe of "natives" twice discovered in the Appalachian mountains prior to early settlement of the region, but, other than their Mediterranean skin tones, bore strikingly European features and conducted themselves in a fashion strange to the American Indian tribes which surrounded them.  As far as anyone knew, there had never been any conflict between this group of people and the sometimes territorial tribes."   So just who were these strange looking people and what in the world were they doing there?  Conventional wisdom and the history books tell us that it was Caucasians who discovered America.  But substantial and convincing new evidence would indicate otherwise and what has been discovered over the past quarter century certainly turns the generally accepted history of the origins of this nation upside down.

Author N. Brent Kennedy had always wondered about the odd-looking, dark-skinned people he had encountered while growing up.  And when in 1988 he was diagnosed with the debilitating condition known as "sarcoidosis" he learned that this was a disease that afflicted primarily people of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean origins.  As his last name would surely indicate Kennedy always thought he was primarily of Scotch-Irish origins. Something was amiss here and the more research he did the more he realized that his family was actually linked to a group of people known as the Melungeons. Never heard of them?  Neither had I.  In his fascinating book "The Melungeons: The Resurrection of A Proud People An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing In America" N. Brent Kennedy introduces us to this multi-racial group of people and pieces together as best he can their long and checkered history.  You will discover that the Melungeons are actually a "tri-racial" people thought to be of mixed European, sub-Saharan African and Native American ancestry.  Melungeon people can be found primarily in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and in Eastern Kentucky.  How and when these people arrived in these locations is the subject of a great deal of speculation and is the one of the primary topics Kennedy covers in his book. This is a positively fascinating read.

In the first several chapters of "The Melungeons: The Resurrection of A Proud People" Kennedy traces his own family roots. This can be a bit dry at times but is absolutely necessary as Kennedy pieces together the puzzle that is the Melungeons.  I thought the second half of the book was much more interesting as the author presents important evidence that explains when and how many of these people arrived on this continent and why they migrated to the places that they did.  It seems that although the Melungeons were declared "free persons of color" in the late 1700’s they were frequently driven off their lands and denied education, voting rights and due process under the law.  Melungeons were truly treated as second-class citizens which would seem to explain why so many of them went out of their way to mask who they truly were and where they came from.

N. Brent Kennedy published "The Melungeons: The Resurrection of A Proud People An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing In America" back in 1997. Kennedy was very careful to point out that his book was hardly the final word on the Melungeon question and that the research was ongoing.  He was instrumental in the creation of the Melungeon Research Committee which brought together a group of researchers from varied disclplines to tackle the Melungeon mystery.   The author has definitely managed to pique my curiosity on this subject and I am highly motivated to seek out more information. In my view this was an extraordinarily worthwhile project and I can highly recommend this book to both history buffs and general readers alike.


The improbable story of a lost race of people who still walk among us today. The improbable story of a lost race of people who still walk among us today. The improbable story of a lost race of people who still walk among us today. The improbable story of a lost race of people who still walk among us today.

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October 03, 2010
Just when you think you know your history, Kennedy brings this up. This is a great review of a fascinating story. I look forward to checking this out.
August 05, 2010
Compare the legend of Prince Madoc and the supposed Welsh remnants or medieval explorers of America turned "Mandan" Indians. Did this book bring up this story? Thanks for a review that reminded me of a dim recollection of this sort-of parallel...
August 05, 2010
Don't believe I read about them here. But I must tell you this book was a real eye-opener!
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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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As early as 1654, English and French explorers in the southern Appalachians reported seeing dark-skinned, brown- and blue-eyed, and European-featured people speaking broken Elizabethan English, living in cabins, tilling the land, smelting silver, practicing Christianity, and most perplexing of all, claiming to be "Portyghee." Declared "free persons of color" in the late 1700s by the English and Scotch-Irish immigrants, the Melungeons, as they were known, were driven off their lands and denied voting rights, education, and the right to judicial process. The law was enforced mercilessly and sometimes violently in the resoundingly successful effort to totally disenfranchise these earliest American settlers.

These Melungeons were a remarkable people caught up in a nightmare not of their own making. Perhaps history can finally amend itself and belatedly recognize the incredible achievement of these brave and lonely people, who were among the earliest American pioneers, and bring at long last an end to the Inquisition. The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People by N. Brent Kennedy and Robyn Vaughan Kennedy is their story.

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ISBN-10: 0865545162
ISBN-13: 978-0865545168
Author: N. Brent Kennedy
Genre: Social Sciences
Publisher: Mercer University Press
Date Published: January 1997
Format: Paperback
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