Monday, April 11, 2016

Melungeons: Anatomy of a Myth

I was going through my files and cache of links this afternoon and found this article, I thought I'd pass it on.

" It was political correctness that provided the inspiration for the work of Brent Kennedy, a self-styled melungeon "scholar" whose book The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People: An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing in America was published in 1997.  In this elaborately-titled work Kennedy -- who himself claims Melungeon ancestry -- argues that the Melungeons constitute a distinct ethnic group whose existence has been obscured for generations due to institutional racism, cultural assimilation, and scholarly neglect.

One the surface, Kennedy's argument is quite compelling. There is only one problem:  he presents absolutely no tangible evidence to support his claims.  The Melungeons is presented as a multi-disciplinary scholarly analysis of a lost culture; yet the book does not contain a single primary source reference, and aside from Kennedy's polemical rantings about cultural genocide, offers no new interpretations of the melungeon legend. His account of Melungeon history is merely a rehash of all the old theories and speculations on the group's origin;  his clumsy attempt at a genetic analysis is stymied by a total absence of evidence; and his anthropological arguments are based upon a definition of his subject group that is far broader than any used by the academic community and equally loose interpretations of census data. Yet as Dr. Virginia Easley DeMarce suggested in her review of The Melungeons, Kennedy's greatest failure was as a genealogist. DeMarce points out numerous inconsistencies in his genealogical analysis, a substantial number of which were in his own family tree."

Read more here:  Melungeons: Anatomy of a Myth

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