Portland State University. Department of English
Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Creative Writing
1 online resource (2, vi, 116 pages)
Melungeons -- Genealogy -- Biography, Racially mixed people -- Blue Ridge Mountains -- Biography, Free blacks -- Blue Ridge Mountains -- Biography
The Melungeons are a group of indeterminable origin living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southeastern Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia. This thesis describes characteristics of these tri-racial isolates and gives theories as to their mysterious origins. Being darker skinned, the Melungeons were pushed into more mountainous regions by European colonists in the early 1700’s. While multiple hypotheses exist as to the origin of the Melungeon people, there is no single theory that is accepted by all scholars.
Dr. Brent Kennedy’s The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People, served as a catalyst for my Melungeon research. Kennedy is my cousin, and his book provided facts behind the family stories I recalled from childhood. It also linked me to other famous Melungeons such as Brandy Jack Mullins and Mahala Mullins. Although there are an abundance of stories and facts about my Melungeon heritage, there is also much history that has been lost.
This thesis traces my Melungeon roots, following the family stories of N.B. Kennedy, Brandy Jack Mullins, Mahala Mullins, and Kenneth Kennedy. In order to fully understand these people and their stories, I not only researched their history, but I also visited the areas where they lived and died. In this manner, I was able to gain a better understanding my own family as well as the history of the Melungeons.
A person’s past is pieced together through oral history, written records, fading pictures, and personal artifacts. Along with these methods, we as writers and researchers add a bit of our own thought and imagination to fill in the gaps of a person’s life. In this manner, personal mythology is created. This thesis ends with an example of one fictionalized story from my family surrounding the death of my uncle, Kenneth Kennedy.
Horton, Ron, "On Family and Fences: Tracing Melungeon Roots in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and Tennessee" (2010). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1974.