Wednesday, August 31, 2016

An American mystery ? a review....

I recently received an email from a Goins family researcher labeled "They are still in Denial" the email only contained a link:

So I clicked on the link, it opened an article titled "An American mystery, Down in the valley, up on the ridge", published on a site from their 'print edition', 'The Economist'. What mystery ? I had never heard of the 'Newspaper' before, so I looked up who they are  'The Economist' :

"The Economist is an English-language weekly newspaper owned by the Economist Group and edited in offices based in London.  Continuous publication began under founder James Wilson in September 1843. For historical reasons, The Economist refers to itself as a newspaper, but each print edition appears on small glossy paper like a news magazine. In 2006, its average weekly circulation was reported to be 1.5 million, about half of which were sold in the United States......

The Economist claims that it "is not a chronicle of economics." It takes an editorial stance of classical and economic liberalism which is supportive of free trade, globalization, free immigration and cultural liberalism  (such as supporting legal recognition for same-sex marriage or drug liberalization). The publication has described itself as  "a product of the Caledonian liberalism of Adam Smith and David Hume......

On the contents page of each newsmagazine, The Economist's mission statement is written in italics.
It states that The Economist was "First published in September 1843 to take part in 'a severe contest
between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.".......

The publication belongs to the Economist Group. It is 50% owned by the English branch of the Rothschild family and by the Agnelli family through its holding company Exor. The remaining 50% is held by private investors including  the editors and staff. The Rothschilds and the Agnellis are represented on the board of directors."

 I have no idea who wrote this article, as it appears to be written anonymously. Why that is I have no idea. I thought I'd write  a short review of this classic example of 'yellow journalism'. With that said, I was glad the writer went to the Newman Ridge/Blackwater area to write this article

If you have read this blog before, you would know that I believe there never were a people who identified or called themselves Melungeons, In fact the opposite it was a term that others called them, to the people who were called Melungeons it was an insult, could maybe even get you killed.

I'm a traditionalist in my work with my families history. I don't go for all the haywire unproven theories. The truth is in the history and genealogy of each family line, and this includes genetic genealogy. "genealogy without documentation is mythology” 

I descend from Valentine Collins and Ludicia (Dicey) Gibson. Who left the Newman Ridge/Blackwater area of East Tennessee and migrated to the hills of Eastern Kentucky in the early 1800's.

On with my review, this article is horrible, not historically accurate, and repeats myth after myth, that has been proven to be myth. It's more like a cheap gossip column.

"The story of the Melungeons is at once a footnote to the history of race in America and a timely parable of it. They bear witness to the horrors and legacy of segregation, but also to the overlooked complexity of the early colonial era. They suggest a once-and-future alternative to the country’s brutally rigid model of race relations"

Pure race baiting, Americans didn't write the race laws in colonial Virginia, the British did. Europeans brought racism to America, it wasn't created here. All the early racial slave laws and mixed marriage laws were written a 100 years before The United States of America was founded. They were British laws.

"Where did the Melungeons come from? And do they still exist?"

They didn't came from anyplace, they never did exist, it was a word a small group of mixed blood families were called by others. People who were called Melungins were 'Made in America'. They didn't come from some other place.

This article then goes on to rehash all the old myth's of Phoenicians, Moors, Portuguese, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake. shipwrecked pirates  Madoc, crypto Jews, the lost tribe of Israel and the biggest myth of all, pre-Columbian Turkish explorers (making them America’s first Muslims).

The truth is the people who were called Melungeon were a  mixed blood people who mixed in the early 1600's , the mixture being of Africans, Europeans, and Native Americans.  DNA doesn't lie.

This writer includes a Doris Ulmann photo that they they have re-captioned "Daughter of Appalachia". There is no proof what so ever this woman in this photo has anything to do with the people who were called Melungeons in East Tennessee. If fact it is unknown where the photo was taken and who she is by name

Ulmann published this photo named “Monday”, in the final issue of 'Pictoral Phototograpy in America' (an image of a woman at her laundry). With the stroke of a pen it's relabeled “Monday, Melungeon Woman, probably North Carolina” in 1996, in the 'In Focus Doris Ulmann, Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum'. I don't know if 'Monday' is this  woman's name or is it the day of the week the photo was taken ? Monday used to be known as laundry day.

“Please be aware that the information available is limited to notes made years after the images were taken, by Ulmann's trustees, and therefore much is inaccurate. Doris Ulmann left no inventory of her images and her own descriptions exist only for the images she published in magazine articles.”

So my question is, why did this writer include this photo in an article written about the people who were called Melungeons of East Tennessee ? Doris Ulmann was never in Hawkins or Hancock Counties.

And what about the map used where the Cumberland Gap is shown way off mark ? The Cumberland Gap certainly isn't south east of Tazewell, TN, It's father west and north from where shown, where Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia meet. Looks like someone needs to take a refresher course in Appalachian geography.

"Then again, a hard-core “ridge only” faction repudiates the valley-dwellers."

 I have no idea who this writer is, but this statement is ridiculous, the term 'Ridge Only' means the people from the Newman Ridge area, after all Vardy Collins lived in 'the valley'. The Ridge Only argument came in resent times. The phrase was coined by researcher Joanne Pezzullo. The people who lived up on 'the ridge' and the people 'in the valley', were all interrelated. 

" Still others reasonably note that, especially during the exodus of Appalachians after the first world war, many Melungeons moved away. Racism, and the chance to “pass” for white elsewhere, gave them an added impetus."

What ? that is nothing more than 'race baiting' .  The fact is most if not all where enumerated as 'white' on the 1920 US Census. Their leaving Appalachia to go other places usually had to do people looking for work and getting jobs to feed their families. It just wasn't the mixed bloods that made the trip up hillbilly highway to find work in industry up north.

"Scott Withrow, the MHA’s hospitable president, says he, too, never heard of the Melungeons as a child, discovering them only as an adult. He has traced an 18th-century North Carolinian ancestor named Collins, one of the core Melungeon surnames, who may have been related to the Collinses of Hancock County, though incomplete records mean Mr Withrow can’t be sure. He hasn’t done a DNA test—though what, really, would it prove? His tolerant organisation does not require a pedigree: “We don’t get into who’s more Melungeon than others.” The Melungeons, he says, inarguably, “are part of the fabric of Appalachia. The fabric of America.” "

" He hasn’t done a DNA test—though what, really, would it prove?"  What would it prove ? If he took an atDNA test such as FTDNA's Family finder test, he for sure would find out if he is kin to the Collins' of Hancock Co TN, that were called Melungeons, plain and simple."

" His tolerant organization does not require a pedigree: “We don’t get into who’s more Melungeon than others.” The Melungeons, he says, inarguably, “are part of the fabric of Appalachia. The fabric of America.” "

"Tolerant" ? Oh please, enough of this Politically correct rubbish. The MHA should require a family tree for each member, other wise how would they know who descends from the people who were called Melungeons ?

"We don’t get into who’s more Melungeon than others.” What a ridiculous thing to say, it has nothing to do with who is 'more' Melungeon than others, it has to do with who descends from from the people who were called Melungeon. Maybe Mr. Withrow should examine the name of the 'Melungeon Heritage Association'. 

"The Melungeons, he says, inarguably, “are part of the fabric of Appalachia. The fabric of America."

I couldn't agree more, as long as the true history is stated !

Be sure and read the comment section of  The Economist article, here are my two favorites;

" Who created this astoundingly erroneous map?! Cumberland Gap is at the point where Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky meet - not in the middle of East Tennessee! . . . what else is completely unreliable in this article?" another reader post this answer:

"Probably most of it is unreliable, given that everything that TE publishes has a progressive motive behind it. It will be a day worth celebrating when TE becomes a true academic publication that honors academic truth over liberal political bias."

My message to the writer of this article, nice try, but a very poor job, better luck next time.

That's my 2 cents....


  1. Very well written and an absolutely great critique. When I read,"what would a DNA test prove", I slapped my forehead. This is why the MHA cannot be the standard bearers, guardians, of our heritage.Keep on writing the truth Cousin and we'll just let them keep on writing the fairy tales.

  2. Thanks Patrick, I often wonder why some people shy away from the facts ?

  3. Hi Don,

    I was kind of surprised you hadn't heard of The Economist, and also surprised to see they'd run a Melungeon article. I took it with a different perspective -- as a survey of Melungeon myths and legends, without necessarily asserting any of them were true. With the exception of the map error (which I didn't catch -- I didn't even see "Cumberland Gap" mainly because I was scanning the Holston River strech between Rogersville and Kingsport, where my folk lived), the section "Among the Portyghee" does a fair job telling telling the straight truth even if it only identifies that story as "one purported solution." They left some important names out of the article (Jack Goins, Virginia DeMarce...) though...

  4. Why even mention myths unless you identify them as such. Not only the map, how about the Doris Ulmann photo, or naming Claude Collins 'Clark Collins'? This writer had an agenda.
    Anybody who writes an article without 'signing it', has something to hide. This comment in the comment section of the original article nails it on the head ""Probably most of it is unreliable, given that everything that TE publishes has a progressive motive behind it. It will be a day worth celebrating when TE becomes a true academic publication that honors academic truth over liberal political bias."". Jack Goins and Virginia DeMarce weren't mentioned because they are not PC enough, their research doesn't fit the writers agenda, or the writer never heard of them. Refer to Patrick Nichols comment above.

  5. I agree with some of your points, but not all. As Mark Bunch mentioned, the article lists the "legends and myths" only as background info, and doesn't seem to be pushing any of them as being any more true than the others. Why even mention myths? I'd say it's because the article was written for people who were completely unaware of them, not for those of us that have been studying our families for years. A member of one of the many Facebook groups dedicated to Melungeons noted that a Google trends search on the article showed that the largest number of people folllowing up the article with Google searches of "Melungeons" were by far from West Virginia, followed by Arkansas. I believe the article pretty much established that they were myths, not facts.
    I do agree about the Doris Ullman's always been a sore point with me that her photographs have been misrepresented over the years.
    As far as there being "a hidden agenda", I think that's a bit paranoid...why would someone mislabel a map, or give a wrong name on purpose? If the article was published from London, England, than mislabeling a map from the U.S. wouldn't be as "ketchable"

  6. That article was from the 'American Print' edition. Did a Brit write it ? I have no idea.
    I just Googled 'Cumberland Gap' to see how long it would take me to find an accurate map of the Cumberland Gap, took 17 seconds. Clark Collins ? This article was just 'copy paste' journalism. I didn't use the words 'hidden agenda' those words are yours, Kevin. I certainly am not paranoid.

    From the comment section of the article "Probably most of it is unreliable, given that everything that TE publishes has a progressive motive behind it. It will be a day worth celebrating when TE becomes a true academic publication that honors academic truth over liberal political bias."

  7. Thank you for your review, Donald! I do believe we are likely distant cousins. My ancestors were Gibsons and Collins' from Eastern Kentucky.

  8. You are welcome Stephanie. I have some DNA matches with Sizemore's who married Collins woman in Clay Co. KY. Sorry to say I have yet to find the documented connections.