The Melungeons blog

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Was Elvis a Melungeon?

Was Elvis a Melungeon?

Elvis was born far from the hills of southwestern Virginia in Tupelo, Miss. But researcher Brent Kennedy, a college administrator in Wise, theorizes that the King, as well as Abraham Lincoln and Ava Gardner, might trace their ancestors to the mysterious Melungeons. These dark-skinned, blue-eyed people were first documented in Virginia�s Blue Ridge in the late 1700s. Over the years, various myths about their origin arose. Some believed they were either survivors from the Lost Colony of Roanoke or Portuguese shipwrecks. Others suggested they were descendents of one of the lost tribes of Israel or of early Carthaginian or Phoenician seamen.

Kennedy�s controversial 1994 book, The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People, is credited with reviving interest in this �little race.� He offered a theory, still debated today, that the mixed-race group can trace its lineage to Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 16th century and perhaps their Turkish sailors and slaves. The Mediterranean and Middle Eastern settlers later intermarried with Native Americans and freed slaves. Prior to Kennedy, sociologists and anthropologists had referred to Melungeons as �tri-racial isolates,� with Scotch-Irish, Native American and African-American origins.

Kennedy, who is a native of Wise, became interested in Melungeons when he was diagnosed with a rare disease that was most common among African Americans, people of Mediterranean descent and New England�s Portuguese immigrants. He had always been told his heritage was Scotch-Irish, despite physical evidence--swarthy family complexions--to the contrary.

Not only is Melungeon racial heritage clouded in mystery, but even the term has obscure roots. In the 17th century, the French encountered Mediterranean-skinned peopl"


  • At 5:53 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    This has been posted on the internet for years now, as well as newspapers, etc, but the evidence is never given. I've looked into the genealogies of both Elvis and Abe Lincoln and have found nothing to indicate Melungeon ancestry. Elvis does have native American ancestry but that does not make him Melungeon. To say this diminishes his true ancestry, which is just as intersting as if he was of Melungeon ancestry. Abraham Lincoln has been speculated to be a Melungeon ancestor merely because his mother's surname has appeared on someone's list of "common" Melungeon names. The name HANKS is NOT a common Melungeon surname. It's possible that families with this surname have been associated with people of Melungeon ancestry but where is the evidence that Lincoln's particular family was? Misinformation like the "Elvis was a Melungeon" myth is the reason why the study of these people is so muddled and contraversial. There's nothing wrong with theories, but this is constantly being put forth with no evidence whatsoever. If a person has an interest in this subject, I strongly urge them to DO THEIR OWN RESEARCH, not rely on the word of a few vocal "researchers" who will only trust the words of a few people who have the same opinions. There are a number of good books on this subject, many of them contradicting other studies. I suggest a person read all of them, and search through records of the relavant counties and areas. There are many pertinent records, despite what is written.

  • At 5:18 AM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    No but he was a huge racist

  • At 3:08 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    That's bologna. Read the book "Killing Lincoln" to find out what kind of man he really was. Better yet, do some in depth research for yourself. Lincoln was anything BUT a racist.

  • At 10:04 PM EDT , Anonymous Gary said...

    Elvis was said to have dyed his fair hair black (see the Goldman biography)

  • At 10:09 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Elvis was said to have dyed his fair hair black since youth
    (see the Goldman biography)

  • At 9:47 AM EDT , Blogger Megan said...

    In light of the recent article on the DNA testing of the Melugeon people that has confirmed their ancestry with West Africans and European descent...well. They are black people. I am not surprised. I do wonder if my mother's people were "Melugeon" and on my grandmother's fraternal side. They were all very "light skinned" with grey or blue eyes. My cousin has two boys who are light brown with blue eyes. My grandmother on my mother side passed for white when it was convenient for her, but despised white people because of the prejudice and Jim Crow laws. I remember my Aunt, who could also pass for white, would tell me to never let a white person in your house and NEVER marry one. Of course back then a white person could enter your home and just take whatever they wanted, or accuse you of stealing and have you arrested...thus my Great Aunts always kept their windows shuttered. As a child it took me years to understand that they were black people who had light skin...very light skin. They never denied who they were, they were too fierce for that...but the family suffered deeply from the racism in this country. Also, I think the poster above was calling Elvis a racist, not Abe Lincoln. BAck in the 50s a lot of white people were outwardly racist because the laws protected that thinking. So it shouldn't be a surprise that Elvis was racist. Anyway, thanks for this blog. Interesting indeed.


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