The Unsolved Case of the Mysterious ‘Tri-Racial’ Dark Skinned Europeans.

They're Found All Over The... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Unsolved Case of the Mysterious 'Tri-Racial' Dark Skinned Europeans

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They Often Claimed Portuguese ... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Unsolved Case of the Mysterious 'Tri-Racial' Dark Skinned Europeans

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They Came About In Part Due To... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Unsolved Case of the Mysterious 'Tri-Racial' Dark Skinned Europeans

Photo: Will Allen Dromgoole/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

You might not know the history of the Melungeons, but their strange, fascinating tale is well worth learning. Who were the Melungeons? These both dark and light-skinned people live throughout Appalachia, and in the past, their very presence confounded their narrow-minded white neighbors. In fact, the term “Melungeon” probably derives from “melange,” a bygone slur for multiracial people. Were they the descendants of sailors? Or were they perhaps Roma?

The truth was less romantic than those invented narratives: Melungeons were originally the descendants of early European and African settlers, likely with some Native American ties as well. But those Melungeon facts took decades to sort out, due in part to the isolation of the group. Like the Blue Fugates, they were shunned by the rest of society – though their separation was brought about by racism. For years, they lived in fear of harassment and even enslavement due to their mixed race heritage. The Melungeons often assimilated into whatever aspect of their heritage they most identified with.

Melungeon families still exist today, though they’re no longer considered outcasts. More and more, Melungeon people are connecting to their unique origins. Theirs is a story of individuals who survived, despite the fact that social, cultural, and legal cards were stacked against them.

They’re Found All Over The Mid-Atlantic.

The term “Melungeon” first appeared in print during the 19th century, and referred to a tri-racial group of people living in Appalachia. The word likely comes from the French “melange,” meaning mixed, a phrase often used as a racial slur. “Melungeon” was also sometimes used to refer to boogeymen; people recall being told, “Don’t go out in the woods at night, the Melungeons will get you,” as children.

Besides Appalachia, Melungeons are also found in pockets all over the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, as well as points in the Western United States. They represent a mix of European, African, and American Indian heritages, and resemble people of any number of races.

They Often Claimed Portuguese Ancestry To Remain Free.

For years, Melungeons were thought to be Portuguese – and that story was likely spread by many Melungeons themselves. If their heritage was questioned, the claim of Portuguese ancestry helped explain their ethnic looks, while at the same time establishing them as Europeans.

However, stories like these were also life-saving, particularly before the abolishment of slavery in the United States. By claiming European heritage, Melungeons could remain free and avoid the social and legal troubles associated with being non-white.

They Came About In Part Due To Indentured Servitude.

How did all these multiracial people spring up in the early United States, a country marked by racism and prejudice? The causes lie in indentured servitude. True, many multiracial people can trace their heritage back to the raping of black slaves by white masters. But historians theorize that most Melungeons are descended from free people of color. DNA has proven it.

American slavery did not truly develop in the American Chesapeake region until the late 17th century. Prior to that, almost every person who came to the area from other parts of the world arrived as indentured servants, who agreed to work for a specific amount of time before (hopefully) living out their lives in freedom.

These servants were housed together, worked side by side, and socialized together, regardless of race. Indentured servants were not permitted to marry; however, that did not stop romances between servants, or the birth of mixed race children resulting from these romances – though the women were often punished.

The Slave Codes Drove Them Into Isolation.

Scholars continue to debate when, how, and why the social construct of race took hold in the colonial Chesapeake. To understand the state of flux occurring socially and legally at that time, consider the story of the very first official slave in the region: an indentured servant from Africa whose master was his fellow countryman back in Angola. The indentured servant, John Casor, followed the custom when his indenture was done in 1655 and went to court to demand his freedom. His master, a wealthy free man of color named Antonio Johnson, insisted to the judge that Casor agreed to serve him for the rest of his life. The judge ruled in favor of the wealthier man.

Once a few early cases of indentured-turned-slaves were on the legal books, planters and farmers all over the colonies began to see an opportunity to further enrich their coffers at the expense of black and mixed race servants, as well as free people of color. And then, in 1705, the Virginia General Assembly enacted the Slave Codes, which stated:

“All servants imported and brought into the Country… who were not Christians in their native Country… shall be accounted and be slaves. All Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves within this dominion… shall be held to be real estate. If any slave resist his master… correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction… the master shall be free of all punishment… as if such accident never happened.”

Mixed race people saw their property seized and began to receive threats. Seeing the writing on the wall, many of them fled, and the isolation began.

They Settled In Remote Areas is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Unsolved Case of the Mysterious 'Tri-Racial' Dark Skinned Europeans
Photo: @QuotesBryson/via Twitter

As the threat of enslavement loomed, multiracial people began heading west into the Blue Ridge Mountains. They settled in modern-day Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and North Carolina, areas that were then largely wilderness.

The threat to their freedom eased somewhat, but the future Melungeons continued to isolate themselves from other communities. Some married into Native American families, and soon the Melungeons weren’t identifiable as one particular ethnicity. Their skin could range from dark brown to very fair, their eyes might be blue or brown, and their hair could be straight or curly. But still, they were always identified as “other.”

They Suffered Under Jim Crow

They Suffered Under Jim Crow is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Unsolved Case of the Mysterious 'Tri-Racial' Dark Skinned Europeans
Photo: @TawniVixen/via Twitter

Many people have heard of the so-called “one-drop rule,” the notion that anyone with a trace of African blood must be considered black. The term came into use in the 19th century, and it heralded a new era of racist laws in the United States. Later, the Jim Crow Laws reinforced pervasive discrimination.

The national climate was not friendly towards multiracial people, and the Melungeons continued to isolate themselves. As soon as anyone discovered their heritage, the knowledge was revealed to the entire community, leaving Melungeon families vulnerable to abuse.

Their Heritage Was Often Lost.

Their Heritage Was Often Lost is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Unsolved Case of the Mysterious 'Tri-Racial' Dark Skinned Europeans
Photo: Simplesomnia/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

During the latter part of the 19th century and throughout the 20th century, Melungeons typically merged with whatever major ethnic group they most identified with. In many cases, that meant identifying as white to avoid racial discrimination. As a result, many Melungeon people lost touch with their heritage; today, many individuals descended from Melungeons are likely unaware of that fact.

DNA Testing Continues To Reveal Melungeon Ties.

DNA Testing Continues To Revea is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Unsolved Case of the Mysterious 'Tri-Racial' Dark Skinned Europeans
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By the turn of the 21st century, some people with Melungeon ancestry decided to try using DNA to determine their true origins. The Core Melungeon DNA Project was created in 2005 as a collaboration with Family Tree DNA, and the results were revealed in 2012.

The long-standing stories about Portuguese or Roma descent were proven wrong. The DNA indicated that the first generations of Melungeons were the offspring of Sub-Saharan African men and Northern and Central European women. But there’s no one “Melungeon gene“; today, the term refers to people of many different backgrounds.

This Upcoming Exhibition Highlights the Work of 116 Radical Latina & Latin American Artists.

As LA Weekly notes, the Guggenheim dedicated 86 percent of solo shows to men in 2014. And between 2007 to 2014, the Tate Modern in London only featured female artists’ works in solo exhibitions a quarter of the time. Radical Women – which Fajardo-Hill and Andrea Giunta curated together – exclusively focuses on Latinas and Latin American women who US museums don’t typically feature. “The reason for this is not a question of talent, but of a patriarchal matrix placed on the history of Latin American and Latina art,” Fajardo-Hill tells LA Weekly. “In other words, the system was even more biased than we knew it to be.”

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This Upcoming Exhibition Highlights the Work of 116 Radical Latina & Latin American Artists

These 24 Historic Photographs Show Alaska As You’ve Never Seen It Before.

The Settling of Alaska in Iconic Photographs

The Settling of Alaska in Iconic Photographs

The Settling of Alaska in Iconic Photographs


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This is a powerful exhibition — a must see for anyone planning a trip to London. The artist has done a series of stunning photographs of queer people in a South Africa but these works are powerful and intense self-portraits that will take your breath away.

Scrutinised, violated, undermined … three of Muholi’s self-portraits.

 Scrutinised, violated, undermined … three of Muholi’s self-portraits. Photograph: Zanele Muholi

Last year, Zanele Muholi found herself getting into what she describes wearily as an “unnecessary engagement” at a hotel check-in desk in New York. She had been invited to a conference, the room paid for by the organisers, but the hotel manager wouldn’t let her book in without a credit card or cash (she had neither on her). The tone of the exchange “led to something else” – she’s had it before in hotels: the feeling of suspicion, the idea she was trespassing or lost, rather than a guest. The following morning, in the hotel room she was finally allowed to stay in after much checking, Muholi channelled the experience into a self-portrait, her head covered by a mass of yarn. “I just felt so tangled and confined,” she says, “confused and angry.”

It hangs with dozens of others in a new UK show of the South African photographer’s work. Muholi created one self-portrait in 2012 but it wasn’t until 2014 that she went back to the project that would become Somnyama Ngonyama(translated as Hail the Dark Lioness), with the idea of doing 365 shots in all. “You live as a black person for 365 days, there are a lot of events and experiences that you go through in a year,” she says. “I wanted to map those important or specific moments.” Some were based on her own experiences, such as the hotel incident; others were from media reports of hate crimes and oppression.


Photographer Edward S. Curtis’ recordings of Native American traditions are only existing documentation for over 80 tribes.

Edward S. Curtis gave up school in the sixth grade and decided instead to build his own camera. From that moment on, this was to be his life’s passion and through it, the Wisconsin native became enthralled by Native American culture, dedicating his career to recording the lives of Native Americans. He spent many years writing down their oral history, along with his observations, making voice recordings of their music and stories, and taking thousands of photographs.

Curtis’ ethnographic recordings are the only available source for some of the native North American cultures. His work is an essential part of many universities and institutions’ collections and original prints of his photos have been sold at auctions, such as in 1972, when a whole set was sold for $20,000; and again in 1977, when another was sold for $60,500.

VIDEO: ‘On Our Land’ Doc Takes Us Into the Afro-Indigenous Garífuna Communities of Northern Honduras

The vibrant cultures of Central America are far too often overshadowed by their larger neighbors to the north and south, but what does that mean for a local ethnic group that’s even neglected within its own borders? For the Afro-Indigenous Garífunapeople of coastal Honduras, the struggle for recognition is also the struggle to preserve their unique culture into future generations.

The short documentary On Our Land: Being Garífuna in Honduras gives us an on-the-ground look at how this plays out in communities like Trujillo and Limón, where some of the country’s nearly 150,000 Garífuna speakers are concentrated. Through a series of interviews with community members, local politicians, and members of the Garífuna diaspora in the United States, the documentary explores urgent challenges of linguistic survival, institutional representation, and that are affecting the Garífuna.

As the documentary explains, the mixed Garífuna culture formed after a shipwreck left captured Africans stranded on islands of the lesser Antilles, where they intermarried with indigenous Arawak and Caribs. When the British took the islands of St. Vincent and Dominica in the 18th century, the expelled the so-called “Black Caribs” to the island of Roatan off the northern coast of Honduras.

Directed by Neil DixonErica Renee Harding, and James P. FrazierOn Our Land shows how the Garífuna have survived and thrived in the face of continued obstacles, all without losing the passion and joy that characterizes them as a people.

‘On Our Land’ Doc Takes Us Into the Afro-Indigenous Garífuna Communities of Northern Honduras