Thursday, May 28, 2009

An 1889 Account of Melungeon Origins

February 5th of 1889 Swan Burnett read his piece “A Note on the Melungeons” before the Society of American Anthropologists. It also was printed in the Boston Traveler and appeared five days later in the Atlanta Constitution. Burnett’s article was published in October of 1889, Vol. 11, pp 347-349, "American Anthropologist Magazine." [To see it: Click Here.]

After appearing in the Atlanta Constitution in February a Mr. Laurence C. Johnson wrote to the editor on March 11, 1889 with the history of the ‘Melungeons’ as he knew it. This appeared prior to [Will Allen] Dromgoole [who first published on Melungeons in 1890]. Mr. Johnson was not selling newspapers, writing an article or selling a book. It appears he was simply responding to the article by Swan Burnett and telling an honest account of the Melungeons, as he knew it. I believe this story is an important one in the way that it is told.

~Joanne Pezzullo~

To read Mr. Johnson's letter: Click Here.

This is a tantalizing Melungeon origin account which is certainly of interest; however, so far as I know, it has never been corroborated and it is unclear how it can be reconciled with the known, documented movements of the core Melungeon families prior to their arrival in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee.

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