The 18th Melungeon Union will be held June 27th and 28th in Vardy, Tennessee and Big Stone Gap, Virginia. The Vardy Community Historical Society invites MHA members and the public to a celebration on Friday, June 27th at its historical museum in the former Vardy church, and the nearby restored Mullins cabin. Festivities will begin at 10 am. On Saturday, June 28th, the Melungeon Heritage Association will sponsor a day of programs at Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap, including five author presentations and a members meeting.
One highlight of the Vardy presentations will be a showing of the 2013 documentary THE MELUNGEONS OF VARDY VALLEY directed by Ian Cheney and co-produced by Marilyn Cheney and Todd Beckham. Beckham will be present to speak on the making of the film, which follows the quest of Troy Williams to understand his Melungeon heritage through DNA testing, with mixed reactions from family members. With an original soundtrack, black-and-white watercolor graphics and HD cinematography from the ridges and hollows of north-east Tennessee, the film is an intimate portrait of community, ancestry, and family.
A full day of activities begins Saturday morning at 9 am at the Goodloe Center, Mountain Empire Community College (see map at link and directions below). Five scholarly presentations will address Melungeon history and identity from a variety of perspectives. Laura Tugman,Ph.D. will discuss her doctoral dissertation for Fielding Graduate University, “Seeking Roots in Shifting Ground: Ethnic Identity Development and the Melungeons of Appalachia.” Nancy Gray Schoonmaker, Ph.D, will tell the intriguing story of “Abijah Alley of Long Hollow,” subject of a chapter in a forthcoming collection Con Artists, Enthusiasts, and True Believers. Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman, Ph.D.will explain DNA testing and Melungeon ancestry. Arwin Smallwood, Ph.D., now head of the history department at North Carolina A&T University, will describe ongoing reseach on mixed ancestry communities of North Carolina. Tammy Stachowicz, Ph.D. will discuss her 2013 dissertation for Antioch University on the Melungeon movement.
There is no charge for the Vardy activities, but we encourage donations of $5 to support the work of VCHS. Box lunches will be available for $5, but need to be reserved a week in advance. (No need to pay in advance but inform us in advance if you wish to have a box lunch, at email@example.com.) A “meet the authors” reception will he held at Goodloe Center, MECC, from 6 to 7:30 Friday evening, registration required but free of charge and open to the public. Books about Melungeons and related topics will be for sale, and many authors will be present, further details to be announced soon.
Registration for the Saturday conference is $10, waived for all college and high school students, and also for faculty and staff of MECC. Preregistration is encouraged but not required. Members may join by mail, sending a membership form to MHA at P.O. Box 3604, Martinsville, VA 24115 with a check or money order for $12 dues. They may also pay dues through Paypal (see BUY NOW button) and email their membership forms to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special $79.90 rate for 18th Union conferees is available at the Holiday Inn, Norton, VA and we encourage those needing overnight accommodations to reserve their rooms as soon as possible. When calling the Holiday Inn reservations number 1-877-410-6667 at the above link, mention MHA and the Melungeon gathering to get the group rate. Address: 1051 Park Ave NW, Norton, VA 24273 Phone:(276) 679-6655.
Mountain Empire Community College is located on U.S. Highway 23 South in Wise County, in the southwestern tip of Virginia between Kentucky and Tennessee. MECC’s address is 3441 Mountain Empire Road, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219.
COMING FROM THE NORTH
MECC is located on the right just past the second Big Stone Gap, Virginia exit (there are only two Big Stone Gap exits), on southbound US Highway 23.
COMING FROM THE SOUTH
MECC is located roughly 12.5 miles north of Duffield, Virginia, situated on the left as you drive north on US Highway 23.
A registration form for 18th Union is attached, followed by an MHA membership application, for those interested in attending.