1930 Letter from Walter Plecker to Lee County, VA Schools Trustee

1930 Plecker Letter

Plecker Letter to Trustee of Lee County, Va. Schools

Bureau of Vital Statistics
State Department of Health

August 5, 1930

Mr. J. P. Kelly
Trustee of Schools,
Pennington Gap,
Lee County, Virginia

Dear Sir,

Our office has had a great deal of trouble in reference to the persistence of a group of people living in that section known as “Melungeons,” whose families came from Newman’s Ridge, Tennessee. They are evidently of negro origin and are so recognized in Tennessee, but when they have come over into Virginia they have been trying to pass as white. In a few instances we learn that they have married a low type of white people which increases the problem.

We understand that some of these negroes have attempted to send their children to the Pennington Gap white school and that they were turned out by the School Board. Will you please give us a statement as to the names of the children that were refused admittance into the white schools and the names and addresses of their parents. If possible, we desire the full name of the father and the maiden name of the mother.

As these families originated out of Virginia, our old birth, death, and marriage records covering the period, 1853 through 1896, do not have them listed by color as are those whose families have lived in Virginia a number of generations. They are demanding of us that we register them as white, which we persistently refuse to do. If we can get a statement that the School Board refused them admittance into the white schools, we can use that as one of the grounds upon which we would refuse to classify them as white. That, of course, is a matter of history and does not involve any individual but the whole School Board, the responsibility thus being divided up, while few individuals who write to us as to their negro characteristics are willing to have their names used or to appear in court should it become necessary. This makes it very difficult for us to secure necessary information to properly classify them in our office. If the School Trustees will co-operate with our office and will refuse admittance into the white schools and give us information when such refusals are made, we can without great difficulty hold them n their place, but this co-operation is very essential.

I do not know who is the Clerk of the School Board or who would be the proper one to apply to but your name has been given to me.

Yours very truly,

Walter A. Plecker
State Registrar