Ancestors and Enemies: Essays on Melungeons

Ancestors and Enemies: Essays on Melungeons

As the twentieth century was ending and the millennium approached, a new ethnic category was invented in the South. The Melungeons were born thrashing and squawling into the American consciousness. They were a tri-racial clan hidden away in the hills and hollers of Lower Appalachia with a genetic predisposition to six fingers and Mediterranean diseases and an unsavory reputation for moonshining, counterfeiting and secret cults. DNA studies showed they were probably descended from Portuguese colonists and had connections with Jews, Muslims, Africans, Native Americans and Romani (Gypsies). Were they the country’s oldest indigenous people? They soon got on the radar of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Recognition, which fought the nascent identity movement tooth and nail. This collection by two researchers involved in the explosive controversy tells the story of the Melungeon Movement in a coherent, chronological fashion for the first time. Fourteen original illlustrations, ranging from Granny Dollar, the last Cherokee Indian in Northeast Alabama, to Luis Gomez, builder of the oldest standing Jewish residence in the United States, add interest to the portrayal of this mysterious and exotic ethnic community.

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Paperback: 248 pages
Publisher: Panther’s Lodge; 3 edition (March 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615906893
ISBN-13: 978-0615906898
Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches


Phyllis E. Starnes was born in Fort Blackmore, in Scott County, Virginia. She is a genealogist and assistant principal investigator here at DNA Consultants. Her family belongs to the original Stony Creek Primitive Baptist Church, where “them Melungeons” made their first appearance in history (now Pine Grove). Donald N. Yates is a native of Cedartown, Georgia. He earned a Ph.D. in classical studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel. His latest book is Old Souls in a New World: The Secret History of the Cherokee Indians.

Entire New Worlds of Discovery

I just downloaded Ancestors & Enemies . . . Thank you so very much for publishing You Might be Melungeon if quips in your first chapter—my mother, my sister and myself have been howling over them. If conventional genealogical treatments can be described as a gentle, slow stroll of discovery through family trees, then works like Ancestors & Enemies catapult you through a veritable wormhole into entire new worlds of identity and self-discovery! I particularly like the Elizabeth Hirschman quote: “A whole new generation had gone to bed white and woke to find themselves brown.” Selah, Sister Hirschman!

—Kari Carpenter