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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Melungeon Union to be held in Kingsport

Of course, who can mention the word “melungeon” without thinking of my cousin Brent Kennedy, who convinced me to participate in DNA testing to confirm my own melungeon heritage? 


To learn more about melungeons, go to


Many of you may know that Brent suffered from a stroke in February.  Professionally, you may know him from his time at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, head of the Wellmont Foundation, or from his many roles as a tireless community volunteer and trustee.


Here’s the most recent update (May 21):

For those of you who don't know already, our journey is continuing - we are heading home tomorrow!!!! Brent will be admitted to the SNF unit at Bristol Regional Medical Center in order to get him medically stable. Rehab will continue there which will be very important. We are still hoping and praying that we will succeed in getting the trache out but it is going to be challenging!!! He has developed a myoclonus in the larynx which we are told is not uncommon with brainstem injuries even at this stage of his recovery. Keeping him stimulated will be also very important and I'm hopeful that once we get settled, we will be able to have more friends and family visit Brent in his room. I am constantly reading your emails to Brent which I know he enjoys tremendously. You are all such a source of comfort to both of us - we have truly been blessed by God with so many good friends!!

Brent's brother flew into
Atlanta today and will be driving in the ambulance with Brent tomorrow. Ryan will be driving home with me - a repeat of the trip last February. I'm anxious to get home - actually I'm anxious about everything right now :-) but placing my faith in God's healing hands that all work out the way it is supposed to.

We are sending out love and best wishes to all of you. See you in
Kingsport!!!! Love, Robyn


Please continue to remember Brent, Robyn & Ryan in your prayers, and support the Melungeon Union of which he is so proud!







-----Original Message-----
From: Angela Andreae []


Wayne Winkler


Angela Andreae, Director of Communications, KCVB





The mysterious Appalachian people known as the Melungeons will meet in Kingsport, Tennessee in June for their bi-annual gathering.  Sixth Union will be held at the Kingsport Civic Auditorium Thursday – Saturday, June 8-10. This free event is co-sponsored by the Melungeon Heritage Association (MHA) and the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau, and will feature numerous researchers, authors, and genealogists who are shedding new light on these once-reviled people. Anyone interested in this unique aspect of Appalachian history is encouraged to attend.


Speakers at this event will include David Arnett, former U. S. Consul to Turkey. Arnett is of Melungeon descent, and there is evidence suggesting that at least some Melungeons have Turkish and Middle Eastern ancestry. Mr. Arnett will discuss the perception on Melungeons within Turkey.


Bestselling author Lisa Alther will also speak at Sixth Union. Alther, a Kingsport native and a Melungeon descendant, will read excerpts from her upcoming book Washed in the Blood: The Search for My Melungeon Ancestors.


Other researchers and authors include Wayne Winkler (Walking Toward the Sunset: The Melungeons of Appalachia), Elizabeth Hirschmann (Melungeons: The Last Lost Tribe In America),: DruAnna Overbay (Windows on the Past), Jack Goins (Melungeons and other Pioneer Families), Eloy Gallegos (Melungeons: Pioneers of the Southeastern United States), Mattie Ruth Johnson (My Melungeon Heritage), Anthony Cavender (Southern Appalachian Folk Medicine), Katherine Vande Brake (How They Shine: Melungeon Characters in the Fiction of Appalachia) and many others.


The Melungeons are a group of mixed ethnic ancestry first documented in northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia in the early 19th century. Similar groups of “mysterious” people, or at least remnants of these groups, are found all along the Atlantic seaboard. While these other groups have no definitely-established connection to the Melungeons, they have historically suffered similar problems due to the difficulty of placing them within an established racial category. Anthropologists called them “racial islands” or “tri-racial isolates.”


The Melungeons have historically been associated with the region along the Virginia-Tennessee border east of Cumberland Gap, with Newman’s Ridge in Hancock County, Tennessee, receiving most of the attention from journalists, although Melungeon communities were established as far away as Ohio and Arkansas. Newspapers and magazines have found the Melungeons a fascinating topic since the 1840s, but the Melungeons have resented most of the publicity they have received over the years. Most of the articles on the Melungeons were disparaging and speculated on the legends, folklore, and theories surrounding their ancestry.


Interest in the Melungeons began to grow in the mid-1990s with the publication of The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People by Brent Kennedy, a Melungeon descendent. Internet mail groups and website helped spread interest in the Melungeons, and the first Melungeon gathering was held in 1997 in Wise, Virginia. This gathering inspired the formation of the Melungeon Heritage Association, which sponsors bi-annual “Unions” as well as other events and educational programs.


Sixth Union will feature a wide range of speakers and topics; a list of presenters is available at the MHA website at The Union will also feature genealogy workshops and “family chats,” where people can share genealogical information with others in their family lines and discover more about their own ancestry and heritage. A social gathering is planned for the evening of Friday, June 9, providing an informal setting for attendees to get to know one another and to chat with the various presenters.


The Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau has arranged special rates at area motels and hotels for Sixth Union. You can find a list of these hotels and their rates, and information about Kingsport, including area attractions, at or 423.392.8820. If you have any questions about the Union, contact Wayne Winkler at or 423.439.6441.



Kingsport is located on the Tennessee-Virginia border at the crossroads of I-81 and I-26 near the geographic center of the Eastern U.S. This city of 50,000 in a metro of 308,000, was planned by renowned American planner John Nolen in his office at Harvard Square. Located in the lush green foothills of the Tennessee Valley, it is surrounded by the Southern Highlands and mountain lakes. Kingsport is home to Marriott’s and thousands of acres of unique, natural amenities at Bays Mountain and Warriors Path Parks. The natural geography provides a temperate, well-balanced climate with four seasons and a natural shelter from extreme weather. Population growth has also been well-balanced, ensuring you will not outgrow your decision to relocate. With no personal property taxes, special assessments, or state income taxes on salaries/wages, you’ll find that Kingsport has a very low cost of living coupled with an exceptionally high quality of life (see for yourself at The regional airport (TRI) has direct flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando and St. Pete/Clearwater with easy access, parking, and virtually no security lines. The public education system was planned by Columbia University and Newsweek has repeatedly recognized the local high school as one of the best in America. Year in and year out our graduates go on to the top colleges and universities (and without costly private school tuition fees). Harvard also recognized Kingsport in 2009 with the Innovations in American Government Award for its higher education initiative. What are you waiting for? It’s time to leave the high costs, traffic jams, and stress behind and discover this hidden gem.