A Joint Statement from the Vardy Community Historical Society (VCHS) and the Melungeon Heritage Association (MHA )
We the members of VCHS, in conjunction with the members of MHA, jointly issue the following statement of principles:
(1). That we have and will continue to work both independently and together to preserve the heritage, culture and artifacts of the Melungeon and Melungeon-related populations and their descendants.
(2). That we recognize the likely kinship of many of these populations that have spread throughout the Southeast and their likely shared origins at some point in the past.
(3) That we do not condone nor subscribe to any theory or position that separates any group of human beings from any other group. The Melungeons and indeed, all related populations should not be viewed as “little races” or “singular species,” but instead as what they are: human beings with cultural, genetic, and spiritual connections to one another. We believe establishing this broader kinship does not dilute our uniqueness as human beings, but enhances it as we seek to be a model for better racial and ethnic relations.
(4) We recognize and respect that each individual population, and indeed, each family, will possess its own unique heritage and family traditions, and that no two “Melungeon” families are exactly the same. A tolerance for these differences – and the oral traditions that accompany them – should not only be present but encouraged.
(5) We strongly discourage any efforts or activities that attempt to exclude others from the discovery and celebration of their heritage. The Melungeons as a people do not “belong” to anyone or any specific organization, group of families, e-mail lists, or websites. There is no “litmus” test, genetics test, or genealogical “test” that serves as an entrance ticket to being a “Melungeon.” All that we can say with certainty is that some of our early pioneer ancestors and relatives were labeled “Melungeons” by their neighbors and others. However, and importantly, we know with equal certainty that many of their brothers and sisters migrated elsewhere and avoided the stigma of being known as a Melungeon. Therefore, common sense tells us that we have cousins living all over this nation, some of whom know of their “Melungeon” heritage and many of whom probably do not.
(6) We strongly encourage all those with Melungeon heritage and all those who find the Melungeon story inspirational to join with us in celebrating our proud heritage and in working to bring people together. There is a great need in this strife torn world for increased understanding and
harmony, certainly between nations but also between races, ethnic groups,cultures, and most certainly between those who call themselves Melungeon.
R. C. Mullins, President, VCHS
Wayne Winkler, President, MHA
As president of the Melungeon Heritage Association, I thank those members and others who made 20th union successful and enjoyable. Thanks also to those institutions and organizations in the Big Stone Gap and Vardy communities whose collaboration with MHA led to an excellent three days of speakers and discussion. Much thanks to Julie Williams Dixon for heroutstanding Friday night presentation/exhibit, “People and Their People.” (see above for a sample of the work)
Attendance at the four Union events totaled 153 (25 on Thursday at MECC, 40 on Friday at Vardy, 45 Friday evening at the Southwest Virginia Historical Museum and State Park, and 43 Saturday at MECC.) Approximately 90 members and friends traveled to be with us from Kentucky, Illinois, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. – Scott Withrow
Julie will be the keynote speaker this year in her native Wise County, Virginia. Her photography project “People and Their People” will be displayed on Friday night of 20th Union at the Southwest Virginia Historical Museum in Big Stone Gap, and at Mountain Empire Community College on Saturday. Here is a video clip she made at last year’s 19th Union.
Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and Vardy, Tennessee
Thursday, June 23
Pre-conference Genealogy Workshop-Mountain Empire Community College. The following speakers have been contracted to do a genealogy workshop on Thursday, June 23, prior to 20th Union. The speakers are sponsored by Wampler Library, Mountain Empire Community College at no charge to members of the Wise County Historical Society (WCHS) or theMelungeon Heritage Association (MHA). Contact Mike Gilley at firstname.lastname@example.org to register (registration is encouraged).
9:00 a. m.-12:00 noon…Paula D. Royster: African American Research for the Novice.
Ms.Royster is a Humanities and Culture doctoral student at Union Institute and University where she is working on a creative dissertation on the Ottoman Empire’s role in the Arab-Oriental Slave Trade.
1:30 – 2:50 PM……….. Philip Edwards: “Family of Tree Makers”: Computer-Automated Genealogy in 2016.
Philip Edwards is a Hybrid Academic Librarian and Information Technology Specialist at Wampler Library of Mountain Empire Community College (MECC) in Big Stone Gap.
3:10 – 4:30 PM……….. Lynda Davis-Logan: DNA for Family History Studies (DNA terminology, various companies for DNA)
Lynda is a retired teacher who has studied genealogy for 50 years. She attended 13th Union in 2011 at Chief Logan Conference Center, Logan, West Virginia, where she was motivated to begin a study of DNA.
Friday, June 24
Those wanting to carpool/caravan to Vardy, meet at the Holiday Inn parking lot at 1051 Park Ave NW, Norton, VA 2427 at 10 a.m. (Norton is approximately 12 miles north of Big Stone Gap). For those driving on their own from Big Stone Gap or elsewhere, use the following address as a GPS point in Vardy, Tennessee: 3865 Vardy Blackwater, Sneedville, TN 37869-6432. A hand-drawn map (not to scale) with directions from Big Stone Gap to Vardy is included. Vardy Community is one valley over and north of Sneedville, Tennessee in the Ridge and Valley Province of Tennessee-Virginia. Meet at the Vardy Museum/former Vardy Presbyterian Church.
10:30 a. m. …………….Leave Holiday Inn parking lot, Norton, Virginia for carpooling/caravanning to Vardy, Tennessee. Drive on your own from other locations if you wish.
11:45 a. m………………Arrive Vardy (approximate time)
11:45 a.m. -12:30 p. m….Lunch at Vardy (sandwich lunch provided, bring a lunch if you require
gluten-free or an otherwise special diet)
12:30-2:30 p. m……….. Tour Vardy Historical Museum/District
6:00 p. m……………… .Reception (light fare food and refreshments), Victorian Parlor,
Southwest Virginia Historical State Park, 10 E 1st St N, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219. Exhibit of Julie Williams Dixon’sphotographic prints, “People and Their People.” Afterwards, the exhibit will be moved to our Saturday meeting site (Goodloe Center), Mountain Empire Community College.
7:00 p.m………………. .Julie Williams Dixon. Following the reception, Julie will talk briefly about her photography exhibit, “People and Their People,” and also facilitate a group discussion focused on the value of photography in historical genealogical study. Again, she welcomes participants to bring family portraits to share with the group. (Again at Southwest Virginia Historical State Park, 10 E 1st St N, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219)
Saturday, June 25
We will meet in the Goodloe Center, adjacent to Phillips –Taylor Hall, Mountain Empire Community College, 3441 Mountain Empire Rd, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219. Directions to the Goodloe Center: Mountain Empire Community College is located off US Highway 23 just south of Business 23 exits for Big Stone Gap. Traveling south from Norton, turn right onto the campus. Turn immediately to the left on the Campus Loop Road. Travel to the top of the hill and park in parking lot E on your left. Traveling north towards Norton, turn left onto the campus just before Business 23 exits for Big Stone Gap. Turn immediately to the left on the Campus Loop Road. Travel to the top of the hill and park in parking lot E on your left. All activities are in the Goodloe Center across the road from parking lot E. Handicapped parking is available behind the Goodloe Center (See the campus map). Signs will be posted. Williams Dixon’s photographic prints, “People and Their People,” will be displayed in the Goodloe Center.
9:00 a. m………………Announcements: Mike Gilley, Scott Withrow
9:30 a.m-10:15 a. m…..Wayne Winkler: Melungeon Keynote Talk
10:15-10:30 a.m…….… Break
10:30 a. m.-11:15 ………Stephanie Musick: Tazewell County Schools in the 1930s
11:15-11:30 a. m…...… Announcements
11:30 a. m. -1:00 p. m…Lunch on your own
1:00-1:45 p. m……….. .Laura Tugman: Ongoing Melungeon Research
1:45-2:30 p.m. ………. .S. J. Arthur, Wayne Winkler (Paul Johnson-Introductions): History of
the Melungeon Heritage Association
2:30- 3:00 p. m. ……….Break/Executive Committee meeting/prepare for final
2:45 or 3:00-4:00 p. m...Final announcements/raffle
This feature story from the Asheville newspaper, featuring interviews with DruAnna Williams Overbay and Dr. Kathy Lyday was picked up nationally by USA Today the weekend of 19th Union:
From Dylan Chesser in the Johnson City Press, a story dated May 25, opening paragraph excerpted below: A group of people historically estranged because their ancestry did not fit into accepted United States ethnic categories is trying to spread awareness of their history and reconnect with their roots.
Read more: Melungeon Heritage Association plans gathering in North Carolina | … http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/article/126794/melungeon-heritage-a…
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The first local publicity for 19th Union has appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times this week. The opening sentences are:
The dark-skinned mountaineers whose origins are shrouded in mystery will be returning to Asheville next month.
The Melungeon Heritage Association will hold its 19th annual meeting at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa June 26 and 27.
The Melungeons are a group of mixed ethnic ancestry first documented in northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. Similar groups of “mysterious” people, or at least remnants of these groups, are found all along the Atlantic seaboard. Anthropologists called them “racial islands” or “tri-racial isolates.”
See the rest of the article at: