The Melungeons blog

Monday, March 31, 2008

Kennedy Wins Civil Rights Award

April 1998 "Fitz Turner Award for Outstanding Contributions in Intergroup Relations"

"The award is named for Virginia educator and civil rights leader Fitz Turner (1922-1974). Turner was president of the predominantly black Virginia Teacher's Association, and was the first black professional staff member employed by the VEA. He is credited with helping to usher in an era of fairness, justice, and understanding as Virginia undertook integration of its public education system."

"In announcing the award, Commission Chair Sue Rafferty of Arlington cited Kennedy's ground-breaking work in publicly championing the South's hidden racial and ethnic diversity, and in stressing the kinship of all people. Rafferty acknowledged the controversial nature of Kennedy's work, which has at times exposed him to intense criticism, and cited his unwavering efforts as a key factor in the Commission's decision."

"Kennedy's theories on Melungeon origins propose that sixteenth-century Turkish, Portuguese, Spanish, Arab, and Jewish settlers, slaves, and prisoners intermarried with Native Americans, northern Europeans, and Africans to form the various populations of the so-called "Melungeons" throughout the Southeast. He further surmises that the descendants of these early "lost" colonists surrendered their identities in order to survive, melded in, and became generally lost to history. "Oral tradition, archival evidence, linguistics, and, perhaps most importantly, medicine and genetics, support this scenario," Kennedy said."