Glenn Chavis: Inquiry helps shed light on mixed-race heritage

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2014-11-26 21:05Z by Steven

Glenn Chavis: Inquiry helps shed light on mixed-race heritage

The News & Record
Greensboro, North Carolina

Glenn Chavis, Community Columnist

I recently received a call from a professor emeritus at Jackson State University who is working on a project dealing with a Tri-Racial Isolate group called Turks, who once made Sumter County, S.C., their home.

One day these Turks just disappeared from Sumter, he said, and he is trying to find out if any were buried in a graveyard at Bethesda Baptist Church in Sumter.

Even though I had nothing to offer, he did share plenty of information with me regarding Tri-Racial Isolates, which include Chavises.

This topic has always been of interest to me because the Shepherd/Chavis family started with black blood, then mixed with white blood and, after that, Indian blood. They were located mainly in the Franklin area.

Like most Tri-Isolates, some looked white, some black and others Indian. As a youngster visiting family in Franklin, I recall my ancestors living in their own little community. Denied by the Indian side, they were recognized by the white Shepherds…

…After visiting numerous websites dealing with Tri-Isolates, I found many definitions, interpretations and histories of these people. Regardless of slight differences, Tri-Isolates and Biracials existed hundreds of years ago, as well as today.

They usually stayed among themselves and worked the land as farmers.

Suddenly, I remembered that more than 30 years ago, a friend sent me a paper done by Edward Price of Los Angeles State College titled “A Geographic Analysis of White-Negro-Indian Racial Mixtures in Eastern United States.” It was published in the June 1953 edition of the Annals of the Association of American Geographers

Read the entire article here.

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Creoles and Melungeons: More Important Than Ever to America

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2014-09-12 19:42Z by Steven

Creoles and Melungeons: More Important Than Ever to America

Melungeon Heritage Association: One People, All Colors

Nick Douglas

The unique origins of Creoles and Melungeons parallel and complement each other. Their genesis is a uniquely American phenomenon.

Creoles, like Melungeons, are a race of black, white and Native American people. Most Creoles and Melungeons have a long history of freedom. For Melungeons, freedom dated back to pre-colonial America. In my family, the first Creoles were free people born in Sante Domingue and Haiti, who emigrated to New Orleans in the 1700s and 1800s.

Both Creoles and Melungeons claimed Native American heritage in oral history but had little documented proof. Creole oral history is infused with Choctaw, Seminole and Natchez relationships and kinships. Melungeon oral history is infused with Cherokee, Tuscarora, Lumbee and Croatan relationships and kinships. DNA testing is now confirming Native American heritage for many Melungeons and Creoles.

Many of the first families classified as Melungeons were started by indentured white women who had children with black indentured servants, free men of color or slaves. This fact complements Creole stories of white fathers in New Orleans having children with free women of color or slaves.

Melungeon history directly contradicts a Southern taboo on relationships between white women and men of color. Among New Orleans and Louisiana Creoles, white men claimed to be black or free people of color to be able to leave wealth and property to their Creole of color children. These early examples of Melungeons and Creoles show how extensive and intertwined the relationships between blacks, white and Native Americans were, before racial designation became of paramount importance in the U.S…

Read the entire article here.

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Researchers discuss origins of Melungeon heritage at annual event

Posted in Articles, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States, Videos, Virginia on 2014-07-14 05:41Z by Steven

Researchers discuss origins of Melungeon heritage at annual event (News 5)
Brisol, Virginia

Olivia Caridi

BIG STONE GAP, Va. – Wayne Winkler discovered he was a Melungeon at 12 years old. His grandmother is a Melungeon. His father is, too.

“I had never heard the word, so I asked my relatives what a Melungeon is. I asked what it was, and I’ve spent all this time since then trying to answer the question,” Winkler says.

For Winkler and others of mixed-ethnic groups, attending the 18th annual Melungeon Union on Saturday was a way to get some answers.

Melungeon’s were first documented in southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee in the 19th century. “They are basically a mixed-ethnic group of a combination of Native American, European American and African American,” Winkler says.

Researchers have attempted to document the meaning of Melungeon identity for years. Lisa Alther, an author, wrote books exploring the history. “I always heard growing up that we were Anglo-Saxon and Celtic here in the mountains, so the most fascinating thing for me is realizing that we are here in the mountains really a melting pot of the entire world,” Alther says…

Read the article and watch the video here.

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Seeking Roots in Shifting Ground–Dr. Laura Tugman’s topic for 18th Union, June 28

Posted in Anthropology, History, Live Events, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2014-06-04 18:03Z by Steven

Seeking Roots in Shifting Ground–Dr. Laura Tugman’s topic for 18th Union, June 28

Melungeon Heritage Association: One People, All Colors

18th Melungeon Union
Vardy, Tennessee and Big Stone Gap, Virginia
2014-06-27 through 2014-06-28

Dr. Laura Tugman will discuss her doctoral dissertation, entitled Seeking Roots in Shifting Ground: Ethnic Identity Development and the Melungeons of Southern Appalachia. Her research examined the experience of Melungeon ethnic identity development through ethnographic interviews with Melungeon individuals in Southern Appalachia. Her study concluded that the identity development process and group dynamics occurring within the Melungeons present challenges to the current multicultural psychology literature regarding ethnic identity development. As recently as the early 1990s, many believed that the Melungeons would soon be completely assimilated into mainstream white America. More recently, the formation of the Melungeon Heritage Association has renewed ethnic pride for many Melungeons who have either previously concealed their heritage—or were not even aware of it—due to a long-standing generational practice of concealing Melungeon heritage. Dr. Tugman examined the ethnic identity development process and life experiences of Melungeons, particularly the impact of social dynamics, both within and outside the group, on self-identification.

For more information, click here.

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A Study of Tri-Racial Isolates in Eastern United States

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2013-12-13 21:05Z by Steven

A Study of Tri-Racial Isolates in Eastern United States

Human Heredity
Volume 6, Number 3, 1956/1957
DOI: 10.1159/000150862
pages 410–412

C. J. Witkop
National Institute of Dental Research, National Institutes of Health, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.A.

There are known to exist in the eastern part of the United States some 28 well defined tri-racial isolates. These groups represent gene pools of various proportions of Caucasian, Negro, and American Indian races. These groups are known as mixed bloods in their own communities. They are not accepted into the white community and do not consider themselves Negroes. As a result, they maintain their racial integrity by in-marriage within a few family names. They all represent the remnants of eastern Indian tribes.

A preliminary survey of each group was made by a questionnaire letter to the county health officer in whose district these groups reside. On the basis of subsequent studies it has been shown that about 10% of the genetically determined conditions that actually exist in these groups are reported by this method. One of these groups was selected for a detailed genetic study.

Detailed Study

A detailed study of the medical, dental, mental health, and social aspects of one of these groups comprising 5 000 living members is in progress in southern Maryland. We are trying to determine all of the hereditary pathological traits present in the group. This group was selected for study for the following reasons:

1. This group marries for the most part within only 14 family surnames. 2. Records indicate that the group has in-married for nearly 250 years. 3. These people reside in a limited geographic area of 2 counties of…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Written records agree with Melungeon DNA results

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2013-11-04 04:57Z by Steven

Written records agree with Melungeon DNA results

Jack Goins’ Melungeon and Appalachian Research
October 2013

William E. Cole
University of Tennessee

Joe Stevenson Looney
University of Tennessee

Written records agree with Core Melungeon DNA Results. The Core Melungeon DNA Project was formed with Family Tree DNA on July 25, 2005. The goal of the project was to determine the origin of the Melungeons and to find matches in the data base. Our project results were submitted to a peer review board and published April 24, 2012 in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy and published by Associated Press reporter Travis Loller in May 2012, the results of the first generation are offspring of Sub-Saharan African men and white women of Northern and central European origin.

The majority of the male core groups were haplogroup E1b1a Sub-Saharan African and the maternal mtDNA group was European. The first mixed generation was the children from Sub-Saharan African men and white women of Northern and central European origin, the exact date of this mixing is unknown. Some from this first mixed generation eventually intermarried with white settlers in colonial Virginia and took their names. Part of this tri-racial clan may have remained in Colonial Virginia and others migrated to North Carolina who would eventually become known as Melungeons (Calloway Collins told Will Allen Dromgoole the Collins and Gibsons, had stolen those names from white settlers in Virginia where they were living as Indians, before migrating to North Carolina”). Calloway Collins was a great grandson of Benjamin whose origin was African and we also know all Africans took English surnames, even the ones who became slaves…

Read the entire article here.

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Analysis of a Tri-Racial Isolate

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2013-11-01 20:59Z by Steven

Analysis of a Tri-Racial Isolate

Human Biology
Volume 36, Number 4 (December 1964)
pages 362-373

William S. Pollitzer
Department of Anatomy
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Based on a paper presented at the meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Philadelphia, May 2, 1962

A relatively isolated population in the state of North Carolina, composed of persons who call themselves Indian but who appear to be of tri-racial origin, provides a model for the study of analysis by gene frequencies of a mixed population of White, Negro, and Indian ancestry.

A people considered Indian is known to have occupied this territory by the mid-eighteenth century; they spoke English, tilled the soil, and owned slaves. English, Scotch Highlanders, and French Huguenots migrated into the area in the eighteenth century also. Planters from neighboring states settled in this vicinity, often bringing slaves and a few free Negroes with them. The most common names of the free Negroes are the same as those of the present-day mixed population.

The origin of the Indian component of this hybrid population is open to speculation; three ideas have been advanced. The most colorful theory is that the people of the present isolate are the descendants of Raleigh’s famous “Lost Colony” who mixed with the Croatan Indians, an Algonquin-speaking tribe on the coast. Some similarity in the names of the colonists and the names in the present population, plus a few cultural traits, have been construed as evidence for this view. Another suggestion is that the Cherokee, a powerful Iroquois-speaking tribe who had general overlordship in the Western Carolinas, contributed the Indian genes to the hybrid group. Finally, the view has been advanced that the Siouan-speaking tribes who lived in the Piedmont Carolinas, e.g., the Catawba, were the Indian stock involved.

Considerable phenotypic variation is found within the isolate today, with extremes of skin color from light to dark and of hair form from very curly to straight- The morphology of the face also suggests broad racial backgrounds. It is therefore of interest to learn what the blood factors and hemoglobins tell of the composition of this population of multiple racial origins.

In 1958, in cooperation with Dr. Amoz Chernoff, blood samples were…

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Becoming Melungeon: Making an Ethnic Identity in the Appalachian South

Posted in Anthropology, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2013-08-22 02:49Z by Steven

Becoming Melungeon: Making an Ethnic Identity in the Appalachian South

University of Nebraska Press
232 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8032-7154-8

Melissa Schrift, Associate Professor of Anthropology
East Tennessee State University

Appalachian legend describes a mysterious, multiethnic population of exotic, dark-skinned rogues called Melungeons who rejected the outside world and lived in the remote, rugged mountains in the farthest corner of northeast Tennessee. The allegedly unknown origins of these Melungeons are part of what drove this legend and generated myriad exotic origin theories. Though nobody self-identified as Melungeon before the 1960s, by the 1990s “Melungeonness” had become a full-fledged cultural phenomenon, resulting in a zealous online community and annual meetings where self-identified Melungeons gathered to discuss shared genealogy and history. Although today Melungeons are commonly identified as the descendants of underclass whites, freed African Americans, and Native Americans, this ethnic identity is still largely a social construction based on local tradition, myth, and media.

In Becoming Melungeon, Melissa Schrift examines the ways in which the Melungeon ethnic identity has been socially constructed over time by various regional and national media, plays, and other forms of popular culture. Schrift explores how the social construction of this legend evolved into a fervent movement of a self-identified ethnicity in the 1990s. This illuminating and insightful work examines these shifting social constructions of race, ethnicity, and identity both in the local context of the Melungeons and more broadly in an attempt to understand the formation of ethnic groups and identity in the modern world.


  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Race, Identity, and the Melungeon Legend
  • Chapter 1: Inventing the Melungeons
  • Chapter 2: Melungeons and Media Representation
  • Chapter 3: Playing the First Melungeons
  • Chapter 4: Becoming Melungeon
  • Chapter 5: The Mediterranean Mystique
  • Chapter 6: The Melungeon Core
  • Closing Thoughts
  • Appendix 1: Melungeon Questionnaire
  • Appendix 2: Media Articles
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Index
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News Release: Lectures in Edenton and Raleigh this weekend

Posted in History, Live Events, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2013-05-17 02:31Z by Steven

News Release: Lectures in Edenton and Raleigh this weekend

Chowan Discovery Group

Marvin T. Jones, Executive Director

This weekend, the Winton Triangle’s history will be presented at special events in Edenton and Raleigh.  On the morning of Friday, May 17, the town of Edenton is observing its 300th anniversary. Marvin T. Jones, Executive Director of the Chowan Discovery Group, is one of two speakers lecturing on Edenton area history.
The next day, Saturday, May 18, Jones recounts the Winton Triangle role in the Civil War.  The venue is the United States Colored Troop Symposium at the North Carolina History Museum in Raleigh.  Jones will be speaking at 2:30pm.
The Winton Triangle is the 260 year-old landowning community of color that traverses the triangle formed by Winton, Ahoskie and Cofield.  In the past year, the Chowan Discovery Group ( has made presentations in New York City, Chicago, Greensboro, Durham and Washington, D.C. 

Among the venues were the Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference at DePaul University where Jones hosted two panels about Roanoke-Chowan and Appalachian mixed race peoples.  Other occasions were three Winton Triangle presentations at the African American Genealogical and Historical Society Conference in Greensboro.  Since the April 2012 erection and dedication of the Robert L. Vann Marker in Ahoskie, Marvin Jones has given three radio interviews about Vann and the Winton Triangle.  Internet links to these interviews are found on the Chowan Discovery website (“Presentations”).

For more information about the upcoming lectures, contact the Chowan Discovery Group at 202.726.4066 or

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Family and Community History of the Winton Triangle

Posted in Audio, Forthcoming Media, History, Interviews, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2013-04-23 00:24Z by Steven

Family and Community History of the Winton Triangle

Research at the National Archives & Beyond
BlogTalk Radio
2013-04-22, 21:00-22:00 EDT (2013-04-23, 01:00-02:00Z)

Bernice Bennett, Host

Marvin T. Jones, Executive Director
Chowan Discovery Group

From Family History to Community History—the Chowan Discovery Group Story with Marvin T. Jones, Executive Director of the Chowan Discovery Group (CDG).

The mission of the Chowan Discovery Group  is to research, document, preserve and present the 400+ year-old history of the landowning tri-racial people of color of the Winton Triangle, an area centered in Hertford County, North Carolina

Founded in 2007, the Chowan Discovery Group (  co-produced in 2009 its first major presentation, a stage production, scripted by Jones, called The Winton Triangle.  The book, Carolina Genesis: Beyond the Color Line, features Jones’ summary of the Triangle’s history.

In addition to writing articles, Jones has made numerous presentations about the Winton Triangle’s history on national and regional radio, at colleges and universities, museums and to civic groups. The North Carolina Office of Archives and History accepted four of his nominations for highway historical markers.

A native of Cofield, a village in the Winton Triangle, Marvin Jones began this project a decade ago by scanning the photograph collection of relatives and neighbors.  The Winton Triangle digital collection now has over 7,000 files of photographs, documents, maps, audio and video recordings.

Jones is the owner of Marvin T. Jones & Associates, a professional photography company in Washington, DC.  He has  published in well-known magazines and has worked in South America, the Caribbean and Africa.  Howard University and Roanoke-Chowan Community College hosted Jones’ exhibit on Somalia.

For more information, click here.

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