July 31, 1923
Is Different From All Other Races
Sinister and Mysterious Race of the Melungeons May Have Sprung From Phoenicians
Nashville, Tenn.--------In the mountains of East Tennessee live a distinct race of people, a race as different from all others on the Western Hemisphere as the negro is different from the American Indian. Moreover this species of the human family is found nowhere else in America. It is the sinister race of the Melungeons, a mysterious race, few in numbers, whose origin is open to speculation, historians say. For many years they were thought to be Indians or a mixture of Indians and white people, whence probably originated their name, Melungeon, which means a mixture, according to the view held by those who have studied them. The history of this peculiar race as traced by the State Department of History, reveals their primitive life in the following way: So far as is known the Melungeons were found first in Hancock County, Tennessee, on Newman's Ridge, soon after the revolutionary War. Now they are settled in several counties although most numerous in Hancock County. They are about the same color as the mulattoes but their hair is straight and they have intermarried with the Caucasian race to a limited extent. Judge Lewis Shepherd, who has made a close study of the Melungeons, extending over a period of years, says that in a case of law in which he represented a Melungeon girl the question arose as to whether the Melungeons had negro blood in their veins. He said:
Descendants of Phoenicians
"It was shown by tradition and the people 'from the time whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary', that they were descendants of the ancient Phoenicians, who built the city of Carthage and produced the great general, Hannibal. They moved from Carthage and after a time settled in Morocco, whence they crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, and settled in the southern part of Portugal, whence came the celebrated Venetian general, Othello, who was immortalized in Shakespeare's great play, the "Moor of Venice." They were not tainted with negro blood, for the women of Carthage sacrificed their long raven-colored hair to be plaited and twisted into cables for the ships engaged in the Punic Wars. "A colony of these Moors crossed the Atlantic before the Revolutionary War and settled on the coast of South Carolina. They multiplied rapidly and by this industry and energy they accumulated considerable property. The South Carolina people, however, would not receive them on terms of equality. They refused to recognize them specially and would not allow the children to go to school with them. "In fact they believed they were free negroes and treated them as such. By the laws of South Carolina a per capita tax was levied against free negroes and the tax authorities continuously harassed them by efforts to collect the tax. Under this rigid proscription of the proud people of South Carolina their condition became intolerable and so they migrated in a body and settled after a long and wandering journey through the wilderness in Hancock County, Tenn."
Writes of Strange Race
In 1890 or 1891 Miss Will Allen Dromgoole wrote of this strange race, the Melungeons, as spells the word in the Arena as follows; "When John Sevier organized the State of Franklin, there was living in the mountains of East Tennessee a colony of dark-skined reddish-brown complexioned people, supposed to be of Moorish decent, who affiliated with neither whites nor blacks, and who called themselves Malungeons, and who claimed to be of Portuguese descent. They lived to themselves exclusively and were looked upon as neither negroes nor Indians. All the negroes ever brought to America were slaves; the Malungeons were never slaves; and until 1834 enjoyed all the rights of citizenship. Even in the convention which disfranchised them, they were referred to as free persons of color or, 'Malungeons.' " And again she said; "The Constitutional Convention (of 1834) left these most pitiable of all outcasts; denied their oath in court and deprived of the testimony of their own color, left utterly helpless in all legal contests, they naturally when the state set the bound of their outcast upon them, took to the hills the isolated peaks of the uninhabited mountains the corners of the earth, as it were, where, huddled together, they became a law unto themselves, a race indeed separate and distinct from the sevearal races inhabiting the State of Tennessee.
Also Found in Rhea
Melungons are also found in Rhea county, where they are quiet and orderly. They are to a considerable extent illiterate and mostly engaged in farming. While most of the authorities believe that the word, Melungeon, is derived from the French, Melange, a mixture others think that it was oringinally Malangeon, the first part Malan, being derived from the Greek word, Malan, meaning black. Other spell ------Melangins and Melungns, with the accent on the second syllable and the g hard, as in give. 1