Friday, February 29, 2008

A Jewish Dialect Lives in Bavaria

Schopfloch is a small village in Bavaria with little more tha 2000 people, located in the northern part of the Black Forest. What distinguishes it is its dialect which contains numerous words of Hebrew origin. It uses , for instance, mayim and yayin as words for water and wine, of course using German orthography. The speakers of this dialect are not descended from Jews, but the neighbours of Jews who developed the dialect in the course of doing business with teir Jewish neighbours. Undoubtedly, the higher percentage of Jews in thi remote location created the circumstances under which the linguistic variant could develop and flourish.
The phenomenon of Hebraicisms in German dialects and slang is not unique to Schopfloch. I heard the word "Malocher", (which is a cognate form of malocha, meaning work ) used to describe a person who does heavy physical labour. The word "Kies", also from Hebrew has made it into the lexicon of German slang.
Jews lived for centuries in Germany. Indeed, Germany was the birthplace of Yiddish. There is ample work for any linguist who wishes to study the influence of Hebrew and a Jewish presence on colloquial forms of spoken German. Dialects fade from the world stage with saddening regularity. Hopefully,no time will be lost in the study of this interesting variant of German.
Copyright 2008 By Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content

Partial Glossary of words in Schopfloch Dialect

The following is glossary of words in the Schopfloch dialect, some of which overlap with underworld jargon used in the general geographical area encompassing Schopfloch. I have put noted words of Hebrew derivation.
Lachoudisch - a corrupted form of lashon kodesh or holy tongue, the name given the Schopfloch dialect.
Majim- Hebrew mayim - water
Jajin - yayin - wine
bei jom = By Day. From the Hebrew "Yom" (day)
bei leile = By Night. From the Hebrew "Laila" (night)
ballmischpet = Examining Magistrate. From the Hebrew Ba'al Mishpat (Master of Law)
assern = To testify against someone, to "betray" them. osser in Hebrew means forbidden or bound
Schoufett mayor - in Hebrew judge
tume - church Hebrew word for impure
sinem- police - Hebrew for "hated"
gallach - priest Hebrew for "shaven one"
acheln = To Eat. From the Hebrew root a-ch-l (food/eat).
alle gehn = To Be Arrested, To Vanish into Thin Air. possibly from Hebrew aliyah meaning to go up
betuke = To Be Discreet or Imperceptible.
behejme Hebrew and Lachoudisch for "animal"
A few years ago , I was readily able to find a glossary of this dialect on the internet. It was with difficulty that I was able to patch these few words together. Sphere: Related Content

DIALECT OF LOST JEWS LINGERS IN A BAVARIAN TOWN

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February 10, 1984

By JAMES M. MARKHAM
Shortly after he became Mayor of this little Bavarian town in 1978, Hans- Rainer Hofmann was sitting in a tavern, where he overheard some elderly people whispering something unintelligible: ''Der Schoufett hockt im Juschbess und kippt sein Ranze voll.''

A native of nearby Ansbach, the Mayor sensed uneasily that the older people were gossiping about him.

But only after he had taught himself Lachoudisch, a local variety of German containing many Yiddish and Hebrew words, did he realize that they had been saying: ''The Mayor is sitting in the bar filling his belly with booze.''

In mastering Lachoudisch, Mayor Hofmann was going against the grain of history. Since the last Jews were deported from Schopfloch in 1939, Lachoudisch has been dying out. Today not even a score of Schopfloch's 2,500 residents can speak this dialect, which appears to be about as old as the first Jewish settlement here in the early 16th century.

A Dialect for the Village

In those days, many of the Jews were cattle dealers. Traveling to Bavarian villages and towns, they found it convenient to keep trade secrets in a language of their own. Other Schopflocher traders picked it up, and eventually the village had a kind of underground dialect.

Lachoudisch is replete with words that bespeak the Jews' wary relationship to Christian authority. The word for ''church'' in Lachoudisch is ''tum'' - from the Hebrew word for ''religiously unclean.'' The word ''police'' is ''sinem''- from the Hebrew for ''hated.'' A priest is a ''gallach'' or, in Hebrew, ''one who shaves.''

By 1835, 332 of Schopfloch's 1,390 people were Jews, but later in the 19th century many Jewish families moved to nearby cities like Nuremberg and Stuttgart or joined the tide of Germans emigrating to America. In 1933, the year Hitler came to power, there were only 37 Jews in the village.

Older people in Schopfloch like to remember the early 1930's as an autumnal moment of harmony between the Jews and Gentiles. Fritz Grimm, who is 62, recalls as a boy scampering to the big Jewish houses on the street near the railroad station to open letters for the pious, for whom such activity was forbidden on the Sabbath.

''We got five pfennig a letter,'' said Mr. Grimm, a retired butcher and a Lachoudisch speaker. ''In those days, that was real money.''

But, after the Nazis took power, new laws decreed that Jews and Gentiles end contacts. Even so, Mr. Grimm says that his father, a butcher, secretly killed his animals in a kosher fashion to keep up a clandestine Jewish trade, since many of his Gentile customers were too poor to pay cash. Synagogue Torched in 1938

''The atmosphere between the Jews and Christians was good,'' said Karl Philipp, a schoolteacher who came to the village in 1933. ''But many of the Jews didn't seem to grasp what was happening outside. I remember Norbert Jericho asking me if he could join the Hitler Youth.''

The first Jews were deported from Schopfloch in 1936, taken during the night to the railroad station by Nazi paramilitary thugs. And on Nov. 9, 1938, the infamous Crystal Night, Nazis set fire to Schopfloch's synagogue.

The flames were quickly extinguished, to prevent them from spreading to adjacent houses. But the persecution of the remaining Jews intensified. Mr. Philipp recalls one man who was paraded through the streets with his hands manacled and wearing a sandwich board that read ''I am a Jewish pig'' because he had spoken to a Christian girl.

''I remember Samuel Herz saying that he would give up half his wealth if he could die in Schopfloch,'' said Mr. Philipp, who has written a small history of the village. Mr. Herz did not get his wish. Except for a handful who escaped to Palestine, Argentina and America, the Jews of Schopfloch were deported and put to death at Flossenb"urg or other Nazi camps. No Memorial for the Jews

The people of Schopfloch seem to have dealt with this past the way many Germans have, by not thinking about it too much. At the town hall, there is a framed memorial to the sons of Schop floch who fell in World War II. There is no memorial to Samuel Herz and the others.

Older people like Mr. Grimm still refer to the big houses once owned by the Jews - distinctive because of their roofs beveled at the tops - by their former owners' names. A young couple is renovating the interior of the half-timbered building on Bahnhofstrasse that was the Hebrew school. A gap between two buildings across the street shows where the synagogue once stood. With support from the small Jewish population of Munich, Mayor Hofmann oversees the maintenance of the sprawling Jewish cemetery in Schop floch, which lies on a gentle slope amid a stand of thin trees. During the war, members of the Hitler Youth overturned some gravestones, but they were righted after 1945.

At carnival time in Schopfloch, children sing a ditty called ''Lachoudisch Is Really Not So Hard'' in which the Hebrew and Yiddish words are momentarily revived. But the Mayor's effort to organize a club that would keep alive and propagate the dialect has failed, largely because so few people still speak Lachoudisch. Those Who Know Are Dying Off

''Those who know a lot,'' said Friedrich Ruck, a 48-year-old butcher who learned the dialect from his father, ''you can count on the fingers of two hands. It is 10 years too late. The people born in 1900, who really knew the dialect, are dying off.''

Three years ago, Zvi Lidar, a correspondent for Israeli television, did a documentary on Schopfloch that created something of a sensation at home. (Mr. Lidar had learned about the village from an Israeli diplomat who happened to spend a night in a local inn, and was astonished when a waitress understood his children's needs when they spoke in Hebrew.)

Since then, a number of curious Israelis have visited Schopfloch. But only rarely have Jews who once lived here come back.

Last July, Julius Ansbacher - who changed his name to James Anson when he and his wife fled to New York in 1939 - returned to his birthplace. Mr. Anson's brother, his brother's wife and their daughter were deported from Schopfloch in 1936 and died in the gas chambers. He himself had left the town for eastern Germany before Hitler came to power.

''First you feel you are back where you grew up - like your homeland,'' said the 88-year-old Mr. Anson, who lives in Brookline, Mass. ''People were very nice. On the other hand, there was a sad feeling, because the synagogue wasn't there anymore. And we knew that the people had to have once been mean and enemy-like.''

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company Home Privacy Policy Search Corrections XML Help Contact Us Work for Us Back to Top Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Remembering Paul Robeson


An odd legacy of segregation in our country is the career of Paul Robeson.Undoubtedly a genius, Robeson graduated with highest honours in law from Rutgers University, majoring in law. A white with his credentials would have had a promising career in law, but in the twenties, an African American in the practice of law faced formidable barriers to professional acceptance.
The career path chosen instead by Robeson was acting and music rather than law.It is hard to imagine how he might have enriched the practice of law had that been an unimpeeded path, but the wealth of his recordings and films are a gift to posterity that has left our generation much the richer.
An underlying theme of his musical career was bringing the folk music of other languages to audiences around the world.It did not escape his notice that when abroad, he enjoyed a legal equality enhanced by his artistic stature. Although never a member of the Communist Party, he had close friendships with members of the party. He was welcomed and acclaimed in the Soviet Union, defending many of their policies, and even singing the Soviet anthem in concert, which at the time mentioned Stalin by name.
During the McCarthy era, this was an major liability his career suffered major setbacks when he refused to testify against communist friends in front of the House Un American Activities Committee.
I visualise the American political scene as a baseball field, in which the extreme left and the extreme right champion ideas not yet accepted in the political mainstream. Robeson had the misfortune to live in a time when the ball of racial equality was still out in left field. Lesser men were probably less adept at converting their social anger into something of public benefit, but Robeson was far above the crowd. Unfortunately, the personal acceptance he enjoyed in the USSR blinded him to its many injustices.
Examining the life of Paul Robeson is a lesson to me to watch the political outfield for ideas that need to be brought into the political mainstream. Society's march forward has always been a struggle for perfection waged by imperfect individuals. Like a bonsai tree that is sculpted into a tiny and peculiar beauty by pruning and trimming, I look at the emotional scars left on the generations of Jim Crow as having a haunting beauty.
The rich and complex life of Paul Robeson deserves study and remembrance. Our study of his and our nation's history should be considered a dialogue with the past about the future.
copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe
Please click on the title to this post to view and listen to Paul Robeson. Additionally, you can cut and paste the following link in the address window of your browser to view the Soviet Anthem Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcqLlCg9Kzk Sphere: Related Content

Looking Back At Paul Robeson( from Africanamericans.com)

Paul Robeson


(b. April 9, 1898, Princeton, N. J.; d. January 23, 1976, Philadelphia, Pa.).

American dramatic actor, singer of spirituals, civil rights activist, and political radical.

Paul Robeson was one of the most gifted men of this century. His resonant bass and commanding presence made him a world-renowned singer and actor and proved equally valuable when he spoke out against bigotry and injustice. By the 1930s Robeson was active in a wide range of causes, but his radicalism led to a long period of political harassment that culminated in his blacklisting during the McCarthy Era. Although he resumed public performances in the late 1950s, this return to active life was brief. In the 1960s, serious health problems sidelined him for good.

Family Background and Education

Robeson's father, William Drew Robeson, was a North Carolina slave who escaped to freedom at age 15, graduated from college, and entered the ministry. Robeson's mother was Maria Louisa Bustill, a teacher and member of one of Philadelphia's leading black families. The youngest of five children,
Robeson was only six years old when his mother died. His father set high expectations for his children and sent them to high school in the neighboring town of Somerville, New Jersey, because Princeton's segregated system offered no secondary education for blacks.

In 1915, Robeson won a scholarship to Rutgers College, where he excelled academically, becoming a junior-year Phi Beta Kappa, a champion debater, and class valedictorian. He was equally triumphant on the athletic field, where his imposing 6 ft, 2 in (1.89 m), 190-lb frame served him well. Twice named an All-American in football, Robeson also lettered in baseball, basketball, and track. He graduated in 1919. Two years later, while a student at Columbia University Law School, he married Eslanda Goode. Paul and Essie Robeson's relationship would be a rocky one, but her assertiveness and gift for organization proved vital to his career. Their only son, Paul Robeson, Jr, was born in 1927. In 1923, after earning his law degree and joining an otherwise all-white firm, Robeson decided to leave the legal profession. He
had found his true calling as a performing artist.

Stage, Concert and Film Career

While in law school Robeson had occasionally taken parts in amateur theatrical productions, leading in 1922 to his first professional roles - a lead in the short-lived Broadway play Taboo and as a replacement cast member in Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle's pioneering all-black musical, Shuffle Along. Robeson's career-making opportunity came when he was asked to join the Provincetown Players, an influential Greenwich Village theater company which included the playwright Eugene O'Neill among its three associate directors. In 1924, Robeson appeared in a revival of O'Neill's The Emperor Jones and premiered in the playwright's All God's Chillun Got Wings. In reviewing the latter, the American Mercury drama critic George Jean Nathan praised Robeson as "one of the most thoroughly eloquent, impressive, and convincing actors that I have looked at and listened to in almost twenty years of professional theatergoing." Soon Robeson was offered other roles, most notably a 1930 London production of Othello opposite Peggy Ashcroft; a 1932 Broadway revival of Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern's musical, Showboat, which featured Robeson's dramatic rendition of "Ol' Man River"; and a long-running, critically acclaimed 1943 production of Othello on Broadway.

Equally significant were Robeson's musical contributions. Robeson and his longtime pianist and arranger Lawrence Brown played a pivotal role in bringing spirituals into the classical music repertory. Robeson's 1925 recital at the Greenwich Village Theater was the first in which a black soloist sang an entire program of spirituals. The concert garnered superlative reviews, propelling Robeson into a new career as a concert
singer and inspiring similar recitals by other black artists. Robeson also signed a recording contract with the Victor Talking Machine Company which released his first recorded spirituals later that same year. Although Robeson would sing a wide range of material - including sentimental popular tunes, work songs, political ballads, and folk music from many different lands - he made his mark as an interpreter of spirituals.

During the 1930s Robeson also emerged as a film star. His first role was in the black director Oscar Micheaux'sBody and Soul (1925), but he was most active on the screen between 1933 and 1942, a period in which he was prominently featured in Hollywood versions of The Emperor Jones (1933) and
Show Boat (1936), Tales of Manhattan (1942), and several British films. Robeson, however, was dissatisfied with his work in motion pictures. He came to believe that - with the exception of Song of Freedom(1936) and The Proud Valley (1940) - his characters reflected current racial stereotypes, or what Robeson derided as "Stepin Fetchit" comics and savages with leopard skin and spear." Working in films like Sanders of the River (1935), which sang the praises of British imperialism, became particularly distasteful as Robeson discovered his African heritage.

Paul Robeson Sings 'Old Man River'

His Discovery of Africa

During the 1930s, Robeson made London his primary residence, and "it was there," he recalled, "that I 'discovered' Africa." In 1933, he undertook the study of several African languages at the University of London. He also took part in activities sponsored by the West African Students Union and became
acquainted with future African leaders Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria. Robeson began to stress the positive aspects of African life. African culture, he argued, was more spiritual and more grounded in community than that of Europe or white America. Long before the Black Power Movement, he stressed the need to be "proud of being black .... For no one respects a man who does not respect himself."

Unlike many American blacks, who saw their role as one of helping to "uplift" and modernize the African people, Robeson thought it imperative that the American-born regain their own African roots. He rejected the assimilationism then prevalent among the black elite, insisting that "in every black man flows the rhythm of Africa." Indeed, he wrote, "I came to consider that I was an African." Yet Robeson clearly saw this "return to Africa" as a spiritual, rather than a literal journey. He rejected separatism no less than assimilationism and never abandoned his vision of an integrated society. Instead he fashioned a world view that anchored cultural diversity in universal values, among which the most important was a faith in
human solidarity that lay at the heart of his encounter with socialism.

Socialism and Political Activism

During the 1930s, Robeson began reading about socialism and taking part in political discussions with various activists and scholars, including C.L.R. James, the radical Caribbean theorist; William L. Patterson, a black Communist and American trade unionist; and the American anarchist Emma Goldman. In 1934, Robeson made the first of many visits to the Soviet Union. He was impressed by the seeming lack of racial prejudice in the USSR and by the Soviet Constitution, which guaranteed citizens equality, "irrespective of their nationality or race." About the same time Robeson became active in various radical causes. In England, he took part in labor and peace rallies, Save China assemblies, and meetings to protest British colonialism in Jamaica. He spoke at a London rally for India's Jawaharlal Nehru, performed at benefit concerts for the Spanish Republic, and in 1938 traveled there to sing for Republican troops.

In 1939, Paul and Essie Robeson returned to the United States, where he continued to be politically active. Robeson sang the egalitarian "Ballad for Americans" over national radio late that year and recorded a best-selling version of the song for Victor. He supported the United Auto Workers and other unions of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO); he served on the board of the new Negro Playwrights' Company; and he became chairman of the Council on African Affairs, an American-based organization that provided information on African struggles for freedom and lobbied African concerns.
During the Second World War, Robeson committed his prodigious energies in support of the Allied war effort and in protests against the poll tax, the segregation of America's armed forces, and the segregated venues for some of his own concerts. After the war, Robeson, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Bartley
Crum, a liberal white lawyer called for a national conference to secure a federal antilynching law. Robeson also protested the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act and campaigned for the Progressive Party in the 1948 election. Robeson highlighted the black struggle for equality in all his campaign speeches, even those he delivered - at considerable risk - in the Deep South.

Difficulties During the Cold War Era

However, as the United States entered the cold war, Robeson found himself increasingly isolated. Although he was not in fact a member of the Communist Party, he had close ties to many in the party's leadership, and he staunchly defended the Soviet Union despite the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact and Khrushchev's 1956 revelations about Stalin's purges. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) placed Robeson under surveillance as early as 1941 and compiled a massive dossier on his activities. Yet it seems clear that he was targeted as much for his militancy on civil rights issues as for his alleged
Communism. The real turning point for Robeson came in 1949 when the Associated Press, in reporting his criticisms of the U.S. at a Paris peace conference, quoted him as saying:

It is unthinkable that American Negroes would go to war on behalf of those who have oppressed us for generations against a country [the Soviet Union] which in one generation has raised our people to the full dignity of mankind.

Most Americans were outraged. The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) announced that it would hold hearings to investigate Robeson and the loyalty of black Americans. White liberals and the black establishment, offended by his growing stridency and fearful of the taint of Communism,
distanced themselves from him. Even one-time friends, such as Walter White, executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Max Yergan, former executive director of the Council on African Affairs, denounced his remarks.

Later that year, a mob of young white men disrupted an outdoor Robeson concert near Peekskill, New York, attacking concertgoers and sending a dozen to the hospital. Robeson himself narrowly escaped injury. A rescheduled concert, guarded by members of several left-wing CIO unions, came off without incident, but at its conclusion the audience found itself facing a gauntlet of enraged, rock-throwing locals. State and local police did little to restrain the attackers; indeed many joined the mob. But a grand jury
investigation wrote off the violence as having been provoked by Robeson's previous unpatriotic remarks.

Ultimately, Robeson was silenced, but doing so required the combined efforts of the black establishment - including leaders of the fledgling Civil Rights Movement- white liberals, the entertainment industry, and the government. In 1950, the State Department rescinded Robeson's passport, preventing him from performing or traveling abroad. At home he found himself blacklisted by Broadway and Hollywood, by concert halls and record companies, radio, and television. His only opportunities to perform were at small affairs organized by a dwindling core of radicals and at a few black churches like Harlem's Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church whose pastor was Robeson's brother, Rev. Benjamin C. Robeson. Denied a public voice, Robeson struggled mightily to vindicate himself and win back his freedom of travel. In his 1956 testimony before HUAC, Robeson offered a powerful indictment of
America's continuing racial injustice, but he steadfastly refused to condemn the Soviet Union, to provide the names of American Communists, or to answer whether he was a Party member, a question which he viewed as a violation of his Constitutional rights. In 1957, after a seven-year delay, the State Department finally granted him a hearing on the revocation of his passport. The result was a six-hour grilling, but no change in the government's policy.

The Final Years

Robeson fought his lonely battle at great personal cost. In 1955, he began to show the first clear signs of the emotional difficulties - probably bipolar disorder, a condition once known as manic-depression - that would eventually halt his public activities. It is ironic that he should pay so dearly for his alleged Communism. In truth, what lay at the heart of Robeson's political convictions was not Marxism so much as an empathy for African culture and an identification with common people, the poor, and the oppressed.

By the end of the decade, the worst years of the cold war had passed, and Robeson's troubles began to ease. In 1958, he gave his first commercial concerts in several years, appearing in Chicago, Portland, and several California cities. He published Here I Stand, a trenchant autobiography written with Lloyd Brown. And a Supreme Court decision once again permitted him to travel abroad. The next few years were busy ones, with American concerts and recording sessions for Vanguard; concert tours of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand; visits to the Soviet Union; and in 1959 another London production of Othello. But on March 27, 1961, Robeson suffered a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide. For the rest of his life, he would struggle with severe depression, and his public appearances would be extremely rare. Robeson dropped out of public awareness and was largely ignored by the leadership of the Civil Rights Movement, except for the militant young leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). At a gala celebration for his 67th birthday, Robeson was deeply moved when keynote speaker John Lewis, then the chairman of SNCC, proclaimed, "We of SNCC are Paul Robeson's spiritual children. We too have rejected gradualism and moderation." Yet there was more to Robeson than this. Beneath his militancy - and intertwined with it - was a profound compassion and a deep bond with Africa best seen in a passage he wrote in 1936:

I am a singer and an actor. I am primarily an artist. Had I been born in Africa, I would have belonged, I hope, to that family which sings and chants the glories and legends of the tribe. I would have liked in my mature years to have been a wise elder, for I worship wisdom and knowledge of the ways of men. Sphere: Related Content

About music

When listening to international music, I like to find selections that showcase the unique beauty of the local language. At first I opt for fusion music , which combines American musical forms with local types of music. With time I go for more completely indigenous forms of music. I stop at music which promotes violence, degrading relationships or idolatry. Music is to me like herbal medicine. It deserves to be taken seriously, but it can have seriously injurious effects on a person's mental or spiritual state, or conversely be very uplifting and constructive.
I believe a person should view their music as an instrument in achieving their spiritual and emotional goals. There are times in my life that I withdraw from music completely, to create a stillness in which the fragments of experience coalesce into a meaningful whole. There are times on the Jewish calender when one does not listen to music, as a part of our mourning the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash. During such times there is the deeper joy that one's mourning connects one to a people, to a collective consciousness. In the darkest days of bereavement, I am consoled by the knowledge that my sadness exists because of the life and love that preceeded it.
Since I am addressing a wide audience, I present a wide variety of music, that fits with my vision of what is "menschenwurdig" and what is supportive of the Seven Noahide Laws.

Copyright 2008 Magdeburger Joe
Please click on the title to this link to view Avraham Fried performing Tsoma Lcha Nafshi whic translates as "My soul thirsts for you." Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ludwig Wittgenstein 1889 -1951

Ludwig Wittgenstein was an Austrian Philosopher most famous for his examination of the effect of language in distorting as well as facilitating our understanding of philosophical questions. The parts of his work that are accessible to laymen have been a refreshing discovery to me. I am happy to share the following quotations from Ludwig Wittgenstein.
A new word is like a fresh seed sown on the ground of the discussion.
A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that's unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.
A picture is a fact.
A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.
An inner process stands in need of outward criteria.
For a truly religious man nothing is tragic.
I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.
I sit astride life like a bad rider on a horse. I only owe it to the horse's good nature that I am not thrown off at this very moment.
If a lion could talk, we could not understand him.
If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done.
Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language.
Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Melungeons" and America's Collective Consciousness

As a child, I heard a lot about the English colonists. Although Spain , the Netherlands and France once ruled different parts of North America, the main focus of the history books I learned from school focused on the British.
A group of which I became aware of a few years ago is the Melungeons, an ethnic group scattered accross the south whose roots are shrouded in mystery. Turkish, Portuguese Moorish and Arab are all cited as possible sources of the Melungeons, whose very name is of debated origins. DNA has pointed to various sources of their ancestry. Additionally, they have intermarried with native Americans, whites and African Americans. The term Melungeon has often been used in a disparaging manner. Fortunately the pride other ethnic groups have taken in their origins has influenced the Melungeons. It is my hope that research about this group will contribute to a more nuanced vision of what life was like in colonial America, and in turn how we see ourselves as a nation today.
Please click on the title to this post to visit the Melungeon website. I include below the BBC link that brought this group to my attention.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/384502.stm Sphere: Related Content

The Melungeons (from melungeons.com)

For more than a century, the Melungeons have been the focus of anthropologists, social scientists, and (especially) feature writers for newspapers and magazines. The most common adjective used to describe the Melungeons is “mysterious;” no one seems to know where the Melungeons originated. More significantly, the Melungeons did not fit into any of the racial categories which define an individual or group within American society, they were considered by their neighbors neither white, black, nor Indian.

The Melungeons are a group of mixed ethnic ancestry, found primarily in northeastern Tennessee, southwestern Virginia, southeastern Kentucky. Similar groups of “mysterious” people, or at least remnants of these groups, are found all along the Atlantic seaboard. While these other groups have no known connection to the Melungeons, they have suffered similar problems due to the difficulty of placing them within an established racial category. Anthropologists called them “racial islands” or “tri-racial isolates.”

Several surnames are associated with the Melungeons, including Collins, Gibson, Goins, Mullins, Bowlin. The Melungeons have historically been associated with Newman’s Ridge in Hancock County, Tennessee. Newspapers and magazines have found the Melungeons a fascinating topic since the 1840s, but the Melungeons have resented most of the publicity they have received over the years. Most of the articles on the Melungeons speculated on the legends, folklore, and theories surrounding their ancestry.

Some of these legends and theories have suggested descent from Spanish or Portuguese explorers, from the “Lost Colonists” of Roanoke Island, from shipwrecked sailors or pirates of various nationalities, from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel, or from ancient Phoenicians or Carthaginians. More recent theories have proposed that the Melungeons descended from Mediterranean or Middle Eastern ancestors.

None of these theories originated with the Melungeons themselves. Early accounts reflect the Melungeons’ self-description as “Indians.” Some Melungeons reportedly described themselves a “Portuguese,” or, as many pronounced it, “Portyghee.” Most of their white neighbors considered the Melungeons a mixture of black and Indian, or white, black, and Indian.

There is no consistent definition of the word “Melungeon.” Some anthropologists have limited the term to a few families located near Newman’s Ridge, while others have expanded “Melungeon” to include other mixed-race groups in the southeastern United States. At one time, the word was used as a racial epithet against a mulatto, at another time as a political epithet for east Tennessee Republicans. The common usage of the term had an element of socio-economic status attached to it; families who were financially successful were not necessarily considered Melungeon, no matter who their ancestors were.

By the early 1960's, newspaper articles predicted the disappearance of the Melungeons; out-migration and intermarriage with whites had nearly rendered the Melungeons indistinguishable from their white neighbors. However, by the end of that decade, Melungeons in Hancock County were acknowledging and celebrating their heritage with an outdoor drama. By the mid-1990s, a “virtual community” of Melungeons had developed on the Internet.

One question which has been examined by nearly every writer on this subject is the origin of the name “Melungeon.”1

The most commonly accepted theory is that the word derived from the French mPlange, meaning mixture. A French colony in southwestern Virginia in the late 1700s may have dubbed these people with the plural form of mPlange, which is mPlangeon or mPlangeons, which could conceivably have been corrupted to “Melungeon. Another proposed theory for the origin of “Melungeon” is the Afro-Portuguese term melungo, supposedly meaning “shipmate.” Yet another is the Greek term melan, meaning “black.”

Author Brent Kennedy, in arguing a Turkish origin for the Melungeons, maintains that “Melungeon” derives from the Arabic melun jinn and the Turkish melun can, both pronounced similarly to “Melungeon” and both translating to “cursed soul” or “one who has been abandoned by God.” Kennedy maintains that the Melungeons identified themselves by that name.2

Historian C. S. Everett suggests another possible origin for the term: melongena, originally an Italian term related to the more modern melanzane (pronounced meh lun’ zhen eh) which means “eggplant.” The eggplant has a dark skin, and the term was used to describe sub-Saharan Africans.3

Karlton Douglas and Joanne Pezzullo suggest that the word “Melungeon” originated as the old English term “malengin” (singular) or “malengine” (plural). An old copy of Webster’s Dictionary defines “malengine” as “Evil machination; guile; deceit.”4 Douglas and Pezzullo write, “It is well known the people of Appalachia, and Melungeons in particular, used words that were becoming archaic, and not much in use beyond Appalachia.”5

Nearly everyone who has written about the Melungeons agrees that they fiercely resented the name. Even in the mid-20th century, to call a Hancock Countian a Melungeon was to insult him. The stigma attached to the name “Melungeon” leads most researchers to the conclusion that the name was imposed upon the people, that it was not a name they ever used for themselves.

Most Melungeons in Hancock County look very much like their “white” neighbors, many of whom are quite swarthy from a lifetime of outdoor work. In 1963, Brewton Berry wrote, “[N]either in their culture nor their economy are they distinguishable from other mountain folk. Among those bearing the telltale surnames are individuals of dark complexion and straight black hair ... But the physical features of most of them suggest no other ancestry than white.”6

Some historic descriptions of Melungeons include


They are tall, straight, well- formed people, of a dark copper color ... but wooly heads and other similar appendages of our negro.7

They are of swarthy complexion, with prominent cheek bones, jet black hair, generally straight but at times having a slight tendency to curl, and the men have heavy black beards...Their frames are well built and some of the men are fine specimens of physical manhood. They are seldom fat.8

While some of them are swarthy and have high Indian cheekbones, the mountain whites, too, often display these same characteristics. Also, many of the Melungeons have light hair, blue eyes, and fair skin.9

The color of the skin of a full-blooded, pure Melungeon is a much richer brown than an Indian’s skin. It is not the color of a part Indian and part white, for their skin is lighter. The full-blooded, pure Melungeon had more the color of skin of a person from India and Egypt.10

In 1946, William Gilbert presented the first comprehensive survey of tri-racial groups in the U.S. He estimated that there were at least 50,000 persons who were “complex mixtures in varying degrees of white, Indian, and Negro blood.”11

Gilbert listed ten major tri-racial groups with several related groups. These included:

1. Brass Ankles and allied groups in South Carolina, including Red Bones, Red Legs, Turks, Marlboro Blues, and others.

2. Cajans and Creoles of Alabama and Mississippi

3. Croatans of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia

4. Guineas of West Virginia and Maryland. (Other names included “West Hill Indians, “ ”Cecil Indians,” and “Guinea niggers.”)

5. Issues of Amherst and Rockingham Counties, Virginia.

6. Jackson Whites of New York and New Jersey.

7. Melungeons of the Southern Appalachians.

8. Moors and Nanticokes of Delaware and New Jersey.

9. Red Bones of Louisiana.

10.Wesorts of southern Maryland.12

In addition to their uncertain ethnic background, Gilbert noted that “These small local groups seem to develop especially where environmental circumstances such as forbidding swamps or inaccessible and barren mountain country favor their growth.”13

Gilbert estimated in 1946 that there were 50,000 inhabitants of these “racial islands.” He saw little evidence that these groups were being absorbed by either the white or black communities, and noted, “Their native breeding grounds furnish a seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of population which periodically swarms into cities and industrial areas.” Gilbert did not fear that further investigation of these tri-racials could “prejudice their social prospects since the vast majority cannot possibly hope to pass as ‘white’ under the present social system.” 14

Legend has it that the Melungeons were in the Hancock County area prior to the arrival of the white settlers. The best evidence, however, places the first Melungeon families in the area at about the same time the first white settlers arrived. As in most other aspects of Melungeon history, legend competes with documented fact for popular attention.

Lewis Jarvis was an attorney in Sneedville, the Hancock County seat. He was born in Scott County, Virginia, in 1829 and spent most of his life near Melungeons. In 1903 Jarvis gave an interview which placed the arrival of the Melungeons simultaneously with the white settlers.

These people, not any of them, were here at the time the first white hunting party came from Virginia and North Carolina in the year 1761...Vardy Collins, Shepherd Gibson, Benjamin Collins, Solomon Collins, Paul Bunch and the Goodmans, chiefs and the rest of them settled here about the year 1804, possibly about the year 1795, but all these men above named, who are called Melungeons, obtained land grants and muniments of title to the land they settled on and they were the very first and came here simultaneous with the white people not earlier than 1795. They had lost their language and spoke the English very well. They originally were the friendly Indians who came with the whites as they moved west.15

Jarvis traced the migration of these families, white and Indian, from Cumberland County and the New River area of Virginia. Some of the family members stopped at various points along the Blue Ridge Mountains, while others came to Stony Creek in Scott County, Virginia. “The white emigrants and friendly Indians erected a fort on the bank of the river and called it “Fort Blackmore’... From here they came on to Newman’s Ridge...They all came here simultaneously with the whites from the State of Virginia between the years 1795 and 1812 ...”16

The Melungeons did not arrive penniless after being driven from better land in Virginia and North Carolina. They purchased their land, sometimes for cash gleaned from the sale of property in their former states of residence, sometimes for credit. Many Melungeons had relatively substantial holdings prior to moving to Tennessee and acquired more property after moving.

Not all the Melungeons moved to the vicinity of Newman’s Ridge, and not all of those who did move to that area moved at the same time.One important early Melungeon settlement is the Stony Creek area, near Fort Blackmore in present-day Scott County, Virginia. The Stony Creek Baptist Church records include several people with Melungeon surnames who joined the church between 1801 and 1804. The church minutes for September 26, 1813, provide the first written record of the word “Melungeon,”or at least a variant spelling.

Then came forward Sister Kitchen and complained to the church against Susanna Stallard for saying she harbored them Melungins. Sister Sook said she was hurt with her for believing her child and not believing her, and she won't talk to her to get satisfaction, and both is "pigedish" ["prejudiced"?], one against the other. Sister Sook lays it down and the church forgives her.17

The Tennessee Constitution of 1834 prohibited voting by non-whites. The Melungeons may have considered themselves white, but that opinion was not shared by all of their neighbors. On January 25, 1846, eight Melungeons were charged with illegally voting in an election held the previous August. After two defendants were acquitted, the state declined to prosecute the others. In 1849, a magazine entitled Littel’s Living Age took note of the Melungeons.

... [T]here is a watering-place, known hereabouts as 'Black-water Springs.' It is situated in a narrow gorge, scarcely half a mile wide, between Powell's Mountain and the Copper Ridge ... Now this gorge and the tops and sides of the adjoining mountains are inhabited by a singular species of the human animal called MELUNGENS.

The legend of their history, which they carefully preserve, is this. A great many years ago, these mountains were settled by a society of Portuguese Adventurers, men and women--who came from the long-shore parts of Virginia, that they might be freed from the restraints and drawbacks imposed on them by any form of government. These people made themselves friendly with the Indians and freed, as they were from every kind of social government, they uprooted all conventional forms of society and lived in a delightful Utopia of their own creation, trampling on the marriage relation, despising all forms of religion, and subsisting upon corn (the only possible product of the soil) and wild game of the woods. These intermixed with the Indians, and subsequently their descendants (after the advances of the whites into this part of the state) with the negros and the whites, thus forming the present race of Melungens.18


During the Civil War, the loyalties of the Melungeons paralleled those of the neighboring whites; the majority fought for the Union, but a significant minority sided with the Confederacy.

After the war, the Melungeons were accused of bushwhacking and raiding white settlements, but these incidents likely exaggerated over the years.

In the summer of 1890, a young writer from Nashville made the journey of over 300 miles to Newman’s Ridge in Hancock County. The writer was a woman with the masculine-sounding name of Will Allen Dromgoole. She worked as an engrossing clerk in the Tennessee Senate and wrote poetry and feature stories. “In the course of her Senate duties, Dromgoole very likely heard the term “Melungeon” used as a political and/or regional epithet. After reading about the Melungeons in a newspaper article, she began asking questions about them, and traveled to Newman’s Ridge. She eventually wrote two articles for the nationally-distributed Arena magazine.

When John Sevier attempted to organize the State of Franklin, there was living in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee a colony of dark-skinned, reddish-brown complexioned people, supposed to be of Moorish descent, who affiliated with neither whites nor blacks, and who called themselves Malungeons, and claimed to be of Portuguese descent. They lived to themselves exclusively, and were looked on as neither negroes nor Indians.19

Dromgoole described how she learned of the Melungeons from a Tennessee legislator.

“Senator,” I said, “what is a Malungeon?”

“A dirty Indian sneak,” said he. “Go over yonder and ask Senator _____; they live in his district.” I went at once.

“Senator, what is a Malungeon?” I asked again.

“A Portuguese nigger,” was the reply. “Representative T____ can tell you all about them, they live in his county.”

From “district” to “county” was quick traveling. And into the House of Representatives I went, fast upon the lost trail of the forgotten Malungeons.

“Mr. ____,” said I, “please tell me what is a Malungeon?”

“A Malungeon,: said he, “isn’t a nigger, and he isn’t an Indian, and he isn’t a white man. God only knows what he is. I should call him a Democrat, only he always votes the Republican ticket.”20

Dromgoole’s articles were the foundation for most of what was written about the Melungeons for the next 100 years. Most writers have used her as a source, whether credited or not, and many have used her observations in lieu of traveling to Newman’s Ridge to collect their own.

As a new century dawned, Melungeons and other tri-racial groups were becoming better known, and experienced increased contact with outsiders. Some of those outsiders meant to help, and provided educational opportunities, health care, and sometimes even a sense of ethnic and cultural identity. Others had less beneficial intentions.

The Northern Presbyterian Church established the Presbyterian Church of Vardy in 1899. This mission eventually grew into the Vardy School, which provided educational opportunities for Melungeons until the 1970s. ”They taught vocational education there at that time,” according to W.C. “Claude” Collins, a Vardy alumnus. “I guess they were the first vocational school in Tennessee. They taught home economics and manual training and all these different things to the upper grades.”21

The head of Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics, Walter Ashby Plecker, believed “there is a danger of the ultimate disappearance of the white race in Virginia, and the country, and the substitution therefor of another brown skin, as has occurred in every other country where the two races have lived together.”22

Plecker and lobbied hard for the passage of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924. This law, in effect, recognized only two racial categories: “white” and “colored.” Any people of mixed racial ancestry were to be considered “colored,” including the Melungeons.

In January of 1943, Plecker sent a circular to all public health and county officials in Virginia, listing, county by county, the surnames of all families suspected of having African ancestry. The cover letter stated that they were “mongrels” and were now trying to register as white. The names listed in the southwestern Virginia counties included Collins, Gibson, Moore, Goins, Bunch, Freeman, Bolin, Mullins, and others described as “Chiefly Tennessee Melungeons.”23

Plecker served as Virginia’s Registrar of Vital Statistics until his retirement in 1946. However, Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act would not be officially repealed until the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down in its 1971 Loving v. Virginia ruling.24

Many of today’s tri-racial descendants see Plecker as a villain who arbitrarily persecuted their parents and grandparents. However, in the view of Plecker and most Virginians (if not most Americans), these individuals were not white, and only whites were entitled to the full range of rights and privileges guaranteed to all American citizens. Race-mixing was unacceptable to the majority of white Americans. Plecker took the logical steps to prevent further mixing and to segregate those with mixed ancestry, and there was never any serious (white) opposition to his policies.

During the late 1930s and 1940s, the Melungeons were featured in several newspaper and magazine articles. Few of these pieces added any significant new information about the Melungeons; instead, most presented folk tales and increasingly fantastic theories of origin. While journalists found the Melungeons a source for interesting feature articles, scientists began the first serious academic research of the Melungeons and other tri-racials.

In 1950, Edward Price of the University of California at Berkeley completed his doctoral dissertation on eastern “mixed-blood populations.” As a professor of geography at the University of Cincinatti, he concentrated on the Melungeons for a 1951 article in the Geographical Review. Price acknowledged that folklore made up much of what people “knew” about Melungeons.

The persistent folk tale ... insists that the Melungeons are unusual racially; it defines them as a dark-skinned mixed-blood group of uncertain origin whose center is on Newman’s Ridge in Hancock County. An oriental appearance is attributed to them, but they are most commonly thought to be at least partly of Portuguese descent. The peculiarity of the mixture, however, is its supposed inability to blend color in crosses with whites; the Melungeon appearance may be lost for a generation or two, only to show up again in full strength.25

Price observes that most of the Melungeons were “indistinguishable from other white farmers; many of them would not even be called brunet.”

Many of the dark-skinned group belong to families all or some of whose other members lack such a trait. Thus, though an unusual strain is indicated, the Melungeons evidently do not exists as a physically separate community; nor is their social separation official, for they attend white schools rather than the school for the few Negroes of the area...The recognition of Melungeons in this area is tacit; no strong lines are drawn. Parents may warn their daughters against entanglement with people of this strain. Some members of the community may regret to see a lax society allow a Melungeon to rise to a position of influence, but to others this is a matter of small concern. Though the separation of the Melungeons is not sharp, and though there is considerable intermarriage, it will probably take more than one generation to wipe out such a deep-seated caste distinction in this quiescent rural society.26

Price estimated the number of Melungeons in the county at 1,000. Melungeon populations were also noted in Bristol and Kingsport, Tennessee, Dungannon (Scott County), Virginia, and Wise County, Virginia. In addition, a group of Melungeons was cited in the eastern Kentucky counties of Letcher and Knott; while not identified locally as Melungeons, many of this group of a few hundred had the names Collins, Gibson, and Sexton. 27

In 1957, Calvin Beale coined the term “triracial isolates” to describe “a class more numerous than the Indians remaining in the East, more obscure than those in the West, less assured than the white man or negro who regards his link of Indian descent as a touch of the heroic or romantic.”A demographer for the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Beale published “American Triracial Isolates” in the December 1957 issue of Eugenics Quarterly.

...[T]hey seem to have formed through miscegenation between Indians, whites, and Negroes -- slave or free -- in the Colonial and early Federal periods. In places the offspring of such unions -- many of which were illegitimate under the law -- tended to marry among themselves. Within a generation or so this practice created a distinctly new racial element in society, living apart from other races. The forces tending to perpetuate such groups, and the strength of these forces, differed from place to place. Some groups subsequently dispersed or were assimilated during the 19th century. Some waxed in numbers; others waned. Most have persisted to the present day.28

For nearly all the tri-racial groups, particularly those in the southern states, segregation was a daily reminder of their social status. There were exceptions; despite a few squabbles over whether Melungeons and whites should attend the same schools, most Melungeons were considered white. Legal acceptance is one thing, however; social acceptance is quite another. Even where tri-racials were considered black, the local customs and mores often differentiated between the two groups, granting the tri-racials a marginally higher status than blacks -- but certainly lower than that of whites.

Author Brewton Berry cited instances of discrimination against tri-racials in hospital wards, libraries, jails, even in 4-H clubs and Home Demonstration Club meetings. A Red Cross official told Berry, “We conduct all kinds of classes -- nutrition, first aid, and all kinds of things ... No, we haven’t done anything among the Melungeons. You see, we conduct classes only where they are asked for, and the Melungeons haven’t asked us for any.”29

By the 1960s, the stigma of being a Melungeon was disappearing – but so were the Melungeons themselves. In March of 1966, Rogersville attorney Henry Price spoke to the Spring Meeting of the American Studies Association of Kentucky and Tennessee in Cookeville, Tennessee. An amateur historian and Melungeon researcher, Price’s topic was “Melungeons: The Vanishing Colony of Newman’s Ridge.” He concluded:

The pure Melungeon (if there is or was such a thing) is rare today. Only among the older folk – deep in the ridge – does one see what must have been the original skin color characteristics, experience the wary, ‘don’t tread on me’ atmosphere; hear the lament that young people are leaving the ridge in ever increasing numbers ... The future for this remnant of the clan is not bright. Unlike their origin, the destiny of the Melungeons of Newman’s Ridge is certain. The day must surely come when the Melungeon is no more – a vanished people – gone without a trace except perhaps for the dark-eyed raven haired little girl or the olive skinned thin faced little boy who may appear among the posterity of East Tennessee.”30

In the mid-1960s, an idea designed to bring tourism and economic opportunity to Hancock County began to engender pride in the once-hated name “Melungeon.” The Hancock County Drama Association produced an outdoor drama entitled Walk Toward the Sunset. The play was written by Kermit Hunter, who had written more than forty scripts for outdoor dramas, including the successful Unto These Hills, performed on the Eastern Cherokee Reservation in the Smoky Mountains. Hunter also authored a drama performed by the Cherokee nation at Talehquah, Oklahoma, entitled The Trail of Tears, and had helped to found the Institute for Outdoor Drama at the University of North Carolina in 1963.31

Anthony Cavender claimed in a 1981 article in the Tennessee Anthropologist that, because the Melungeons had become a “hot topic,” Sneedville’s “elite” (merchants, educators, and prosperous farmers) determined to exploit the widespread interest in the topic that had “put the county on the map.” The elite,” as Cavender wrote, “conceived of a way to maximize the commercialization of the strong and growing interest in Melungeons.”32 Corrine Bowlin, the president of the newly-formed Hancock County Drama Association, and Claude Collins, who served as secretary, proudly acknowledged their Melungeon backgrounds.

As the project drew closer to becoming a reality, the attitudes of many locals began to change. While many Hancock Countians had expressed skepticism about the drama and its topic, others grew enthusiastic. John Lee Welton, who directed the drama, noticed that several locals “who had never said that they were Melungeons [began] to come up and sort of nudge me on the shoulder and say, ‘You know, I’m a Melungeon. We were quite proud that at least that change had come about.”33

Walk Toward the Sunset opened on July 3, 1969 The first season closed with a total attendance of over 10,000. The second season of Walk Toward the Sunset opened on July 2, 1970, with improved lighting and seating. A few minor changes were made in the play itself, and word-of-mouth advertising attracted visitors from as far away as Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, and elsewhere.34

In the spring of 1971, Collins, as secretary of the Drama Association, spoke with a reporter about some of the problems facing the production. “Our biggest problem is our lack of motels and restaurants. We can’t keep people here when they come to see the play, and that keeps the drama from having as big an impact on the county’s economy as it should have.” Through ticket sales and donations, the Drama Association hoped to raise $30,000, which would wipe out the previous year’s deficit of $2,600 and leave the production a profit besides. Collins hoped to see the production become profitable enough to pay the local actors and workers; only the production staff and principal actors were paid, and Hancock Countians were volunteers. “We have young people who are so interested in the play that they walk across Newman’s [Ridge] each night to take part in it. It just doesn’t seem right that we can’t afford to pay them something.” Collins saw the drama as a potential means of keeping young people in Hancock County, as well as a reason to develop motels, restaurants, and other tourist-oriented businesses in the county.35

Production of Walk Toward the Sunset was cancelled for the summer of 1972 due to financial problems. Director John Lee Welton had left the production to pursue his doctoral degree; during the 1971 season, the play had been directed by members of the drama department at the University of Tennessee.36

Dr. Welton returned to direct the drama in the summer of 1973, but the energy crisis caused the production to be cancelled again for the summer of 1974. Gas shortages were causing panic across the country, and Sneedville was a poor place to be stuck without fuel, considering that there were no motels and only one restaurant in the county.37

Walk Toward The Sunset closed permanently after the 1976 season, due to lack of attendance. While ultimately unsuccessful, the play brought a sense of pride to the Melungeons. Author Jean Paterson Bible called Walk Toward the Sunset “a happy rendition of the Melungeon swan song. It is a fitting memorial to a vanishing race.”38

In 1969, University of North Carolina anthropologists William Pollitzer and William Brown published the results of a genetic survey conducted in Hancock County. In 1965, Pollitzer and Brown made a health study of 72 individuals, identified as Melungeons by a local doctor. The following year, Pollitzer and Brown included 105 more Hancock Countians in their study.

In a later article, Pollitzer concluded that, based on comparisons of blood types, the Melungeons were “about ninety percent White, almost ten percent Indian, and relatively very little Negro in their origin. The analysis is not capable of differentiating between English versus Portuguese as the White component.” Pollitzer did not specify what he meant by “relatively very little.” By comparison, the Lumbees were determined to be “about forty percent White, forty-seven percent Negro, and thirteen percent Indian.” Pollitzer concluded that the Melungeons were an ethnic group of the verge of dissolution through intermarriage with whites.39

In the late 1980's, James Guthrie re-analyzed the data collected by Pollitzer and Brown. Using techniques not available to the original study, Guthrie reached similar conclusions, but raised more questions relating to the age-old Melungeon controversy: the question of possible African ancestry. In the 1960's, Pollitzer and Brown were unable to tell whether the European component of the Melungeon makeup was English or Portuguese. Guthrie couldn’t determine definitively either, but concluded that an African component was present in the genetic background of the Melungeons either way. “If it is assumed that the Melungeons are basically English,” Guthrie wrote, “a considerable Black component is required” to account for the Melungeons’ genetic makeup. That “Black component” would almost certainly have been added after the English arrived in North America. However, Guthrie stated that his finding were consistent with the Melungeons’ tradition of Portuguese ancestry, and cited the “early incorporation of a Black component into Mediterranean populations.” In other words, the mixture of African and European genes would have occurred much earlier, probably during the Moorish occupation of the Iberian peninsula.40

Guthrie cited similarities in the Melungeons’ genetic makeup to populations in Italy, Malta, Portugal, Cyprus, France, Spain, and the Canary Islands. He speculated that the Melungeons were primarily of Portuguese origin, with about five percent each of “Black and Cherokee.”

In the late 1980s, Brent Kennedy, a native of Wise, Virginia, began investigating his own ancestry. “I had known that [my family] had a different heritage,” said Kennedy in 1997. “The purely physical characteristics of my family told me that. My mother, my brother, my aunts and uncles all had a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern look, but it didn’t make sense because the family said ‘No, we’re English and Scots-Irish.’And frankly, the genealogy said that. The census records said that.”41

Kennedy tried to interest scholars and scientists in examining the ethnic background of the Melungeons, but to no avail. In 1992 he organized a group of researchers into the Melungeon Research Committee. This group included researchers from various institutions, including historian Eloy Gallegos, Arlee Gowen of the Gowen Research Foundation, Robert Elston of Louisiana State University, Khalid Awan of the University of Virginia, Jeffrey Chapman, Charles Faulkner, Benita Howell, Richard Jantz, and Jack Williams, all from the University of Tennessee, and Chester DePratter from the University of South Carolina. Some of these researchers have since left the Committee and disagree to varying degrees with the conclusions Kennedy eventually put in a book, entitled The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People; An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing in America.42

I contend that the remnants of Joao (“Juan”) Pardo’s forts, joined by Portuguese refugees from Santa Elena, and possibly a few stray Dominicans and Jesuits, exiled Moorish French Huguenots, and escaped Acadians, along with [Sir Francis] Drake’s and perhaps other freed Turkish, Moorish, and Iberian captives, survived on these shores, combined forces over the ensuing years, moved to the hinterlands, intermarried with various Carolina and Virginia Native Americans, and eventually became the reclusive Melungeons.43

A relative told Mary Goodyear about Kennedy’s book, and she began researching the Melungeons in the belief that she would find a connection to her own family. “I wanted to know who [the Melungeons] were,” says the Shauk, Ohio, native. “People weren’t talking about it. I asked many people and nobody had an answer who they were, or if they really existed or if they were a figment of somebody’s imagination. I searched the Internet, encyclopedias, dictionaries, everything – you couldn’t even find the word.” Believing that others shared her interest in the subject, Goodyear began coordinating a Melungeon e-mail list in the fall of 1996.44

On weekends, Mary Goodyear’s mail list had as many as 650 messages from people seeking genealogical information or general information about the Melungeons. The Wall Street Journal printed an article about the renewed interest in the Melungeons and the role played by the Internet in feeding that interest. With so many people talking to each other, Goodyear felt that they were almost like family, and proposed a get-together in Wise, Virginia, home of Clinch Valley College where Brent Kennedy worked. Someone suggested this would be like a family reunion, but Goodyear pointed out they’d never gotten together before, therefore it couldn’t be a re-union. Thus the name “First Union” was given to the gathering; organizers expected about 50 people to show up. 45

Instead, more than 600 people showed up in tiny Wise, Virginia on July 25, 1997. Later Unions were organized by t he Melungeon Heritage Association, chartered in the summer of 1998.

The mission statement posted on the MHA website outlines the purpose of the organization:

The Melungeon Heritage Association is a non-profit organization.

OUR Purpose is to document and preserve the heritage and cultural legacy of mixed-ancestry peoples in or associated with the southern Appalachians. While our focus will be on those of Melungeon heritage, we will not restrict ourselves to honoring only this group. We firmly believe in the dignity of all such mixed ancestry groups of southern Appalachia and commit to preserving this rich heritage of racial harmony and diversity that years of legalized racism almost annihilated from our history and memory....

OUR goals include:

1.To set up a "clearinghouse" of Melungeon related information and an archives of Melungeon related materials

2.To facilitate future Melungeon gatherings and events.

3.To make research and information about the Melungeons and other similar groups available to the general public.

4.To become a central exchange registry for mixed - ancestry groups in the southern Appalachians whereby we can exchange relevant information and documents. 46

Alumni of the Vardy Mission School in Hancock County formed the Vardy Community Historical Society in 1998. The online mission statement of VCHS reads:

The mission of the Vardy Community Historical Society, Inc. is to record and report on the lives, times, and culture of the people living in the Vardy Valley along Blackwater Creek in East Tennessee; to document the Presbyterians’ contributions to the health, education and religious needs of the resident families from 1862 to 1974; to restore and maintain certain properties of historical interest built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries; and to participate with individuals, groups, and educational institutions with like interest in the origins, migration, and lives of people living in Vardy and elsewhere known as Melungeons.47

In the spring of 2000, Dr. Kevin Jones of the Univeristy of Virginia’s College at Wise began a DNA study of the Melungeons. Taking DNA samples from Melungeons, Jones compared these samples to the thousands available through GenBank and the Mitochondrial DNA Concordance, databases containing DNA sequence information Looking at the maternal lines of the Melungeons who were tested, Jones found considerable variation in ethnicity among the samples. About five percent indicated African ancestry, about five percent indicated Native American ancestry, about seven percent matched Middle Eastern or Mediterranean peoples, and most were of a rather indistince, or “generic” European type

Some of the sequences closely match sequences found among the Siddi population of northern India. During medieval times, European slave traders took East Africans to India as slaves. Many of these slaves took advantage of the complicated kingdom boundaries and dense forests of northern India to set themselves free. Those that converted to local religions, including Islam, Hinduism, and Roman Catholicism, and adopted local ways became known as Siddis. Many became sailors and established kingdoms along the western coast of India and eventually spread throughout India. The Siddis are ancestors of the modern-day Romany, or Gypsy, people.48

Though the number of sequences consistent with Turkish or northern Indian ancestry were few, their distribution indicates the strong possibility that some of the Melungeons’ ancestry came from those regions. “I think one of the problems here is that we tend to think of ‘Turkish’ in terms of the dimensions of modern Turkey, not of the original scale of people of Turkish origin who, in essence, were spread throughout the European world. Perhaps the best I can say is that some of those sequences are a little more ‘exotic’ than Anglo-Irish sequences, and some of those could reflect, perhaps, populations that were associated with or moved through Turkey.”49

Many of the male haplotypes studied are quite common in Europe, and could have originated in a variety of places. But some of those haplotypes only match an Anatolian Turk; another type was definitely Arabic. Jones stressed that the Melungeons were not at all identical in their genetic makeups, and that the genetic mixture was different in each subject.

Such testing is not perfect, of course, and does not tell researchers everything about an individual’s inheritance One drawback to this DNA testing is that the tests show only one ancestor. “We’re looking for patterns that exist in the population as a whole,” according to Jones. “Now, obviously, each individual sample contributes to that, but I think that for an individual you can say relatively little. Looking at the patterns that occur throughout the population becomes important. And that means the number of samples that are looked at is also significant, and we’ve tried to do as many as is reasonably possible.”50

In short, the DNA study indicates today’s Melungeons are primarily of European descent, with some Native American and African-American ancestry. Some Melungeons have genetic sequences matching the Siddis of northern India, others reflect a Turkish or Syrian ancestry. Some of those who consider themselves “Melungeon” possess all of those “exotic” genes; others have some of them – and others reflect only the “generic” European genes. The Melungeons are by no means uniform in their genetic backgrounds; they are a mixed-ethnic population with varying degrees of mixture within that population.

The surprising revelation in Jones’ study is that some of these Turkish- and northern Indian- like sequences have been passed through the Melungeons’ maternal lines, indicating that their overseas ancestors included not only male sailors and explorers, but females as well. What Darlene Wilson called the “offshore male other” in the genetic makeup of the Melungeons was, in reality, often a female. While the legends of shipwrecked sailors and pirates marrying Indian women may still have some validity, we know that some women made the voyage to America.

These are the people who have been largely left out of America’s English-oriented history books. How they arrived in America, how they banded together in family groups and eventually migrated to the mountains of southern Appalachia, is a question for future historians and genealogists. The European/Middle Eastern ancestors of the Melungeons arrived in America with the intention of establishing their families in a new land. Through intermarriage with Indians and African-Americans, they managed to do so; their descendants are at the forefront of the effort to find out who they were and how they eventually became the people known as Melungeons.


Sphere: Related Content

Smurf Video in Czech

Occasionally when I was abroad, I would hear American music sung in local languages. Sometimes it was a fairly direct translation. Other times it was lyrics that had nothing to do with the original. In either case, the music was a bridge to unfamiliar surroundings that at times made me feel at home as much as it reminded me of my distance from home. I always favored music that showcases the beauty of the local language. This video of the smurfs singing in Czech is just the kind of thing I used to enjoy as a homesick traveler. Please click on the title link to this post to enjoy this lively video. Additionally, I offer the link below for your viewing and listening pleasure.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=bNthTcoLoC8 Sphere: Related Content

Monday, February 25, 2008

When I'm An Old Lady (submitted by Mazal Z)

When I'm an old lady, I'll live with each kid,



And bring so much happiness...just as they did.
I want to pay back all the joy they've provided.
Returning each deed! Oh, they'll be so excited!
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids)

I'll write on the wall with reds, whites and blues,
And I'll bounce on the furniture...wearing my shoes.
I'll drink from the carton and then leave it out.
I'll stuff all the toilets and oh, how they'll shout!
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids)

When they're on the phone and just out of reach,
I'll get into things like sugar and bleach.
Oh, they'll snap their fingers and then shake their head,

(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids)

When they cook dinner and call me to eat,
I'll not eat my green beans or salad or meat,
I'll gag on my okra, spill milk on the table,
And when they get angry..I'll run...if I'm able!
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids)

I'll sit close to the TV, through the channels I'll click,
I'll cross both eyes just to see if they stick.
I'll take off my socks and throw one away,
And play in the mud 'til the end of the day!
(When I'm an old lady and live with my kids)

And later in bed, I'll lay back and sigh,
I'll thank God in prayer and then close my eyes.
My kids will look down with a smile slowly creeping,
And say with a groan,



"She's so sweet when she's sleeping!" Sphere: Related Content

Fruits and Vegetables (forwarded by Mazal Z)

You are what you eat, so eat well. Every whole food has a pattern that resembles a body organ or physiological function and this pattern acts as a signal or sign as to the benefit the food provides the eater. Here is just a short list of examples.


A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye...and science shows that carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.
http://webmail.aol.com/34032/aol/en-us/Mail/get-attachment.aspx?uid=1.18720474&folder=New+Mail&partId=6

A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart is red and has four chambers. All of the research shows tomatoes are indeed pure heart and blood food.


Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows that grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.


A Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds are on the nut just like the neo-cortex. We now know that walnuts help develop over 3 dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.


Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human kidneys.


Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and more look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. If you don't have enough sodium in your diet the body pulls it from the bones, making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.


Eggplant, Avocadoes and Pears target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female - they look just like these organs. Today's research shows that when a woman eats 1 avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight and prevents cervical cancers. And how profound is this? . It takes exactly 9 months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods (modern science has only studied and named about 141 of them).


Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the motility of male sperm and increase the numbers of sperm as well to overcom e male sterility.


Sweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.


Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries.


Grapefruits, Oranges, and other citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts.


Onions look like body cells. Today's research shows that onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes. Sphere: Related Content

Arthur Koestler Quotations

Every creative act involves...a new innocence of perception, liberated from the cataract of accepted belief.
Creative activity could be described as a type of learning process where teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.
The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards.
The inner censor of the mind of the true believer completes the work of the public censor; his self-discipline is as tyrannical as the obedience imposed by the regime; he terrorizes his own conscience into submission; he carries his private Iron Curtain inside his skull, to protect his illusions against the intrusion of reality.

I think most historians will agree that the part played by impulses of selfish, individual aggression in the holocausts of history was small; first and foremost, the slaughter was meant as an offering to the gods, to king and country, or the future happiness of mankind. The crimes of Caligula shrink to insignificance compared to the havoc wrought by Torquemada. The number of victims of robbers, highwaymen, rapists, gangsters and other criminals at any period of history is negligible compared to the massive numbers of those cheerfully slain in the name of the true religion, just policy, or correct ideology

The prerequisite of originality is the art of forgetting, at the proper moment, what we know.
The individual is not a killer, but the group is, and by identifying with it the individual is transformed into a killer. Sphere: Related Content

Concerning Arthur Koestler

In democratic countries, an infatuation with communism is a somewhat common adolescent malady, one with which I was afflicted for several years in my teens. I will forever be grateful to the United States for being a safe place in which to explore my misguided ideology. In many countries, I would have been imprisoned or simply disappeared, but America, like my own father had the confidence to wait serenely as the history of a failed ideology penetrated my consciousness.
Ultimately, the Cambodian genocide and communist Vietnam's persecution of ethnic Chinese in 1975 claimed my belief in Marxism as an additional casualty, paving my path to Judaism and its repudiation of class warfare.
In my teens, my mother had urged me to read "The God That Failed." It was a compilation of biographical sketches of famous individuals who had once been communists. It detailed their process of infatuation and disillusionment with Marxism. It was compiled by Arthur Koestler, most famous for "Darkness at Noon" which was a novel about Stalin's show trials. His most infamous book, "The Thirteenth Tribe"' was very controversial because of its claim that Ashkenazic Jews are descended from Khazars and not of a semitic bloodline. DNA research has joined contradictory scholarly evidence in refuting Koestler's theories.
Despite this flaw in his contributions to modern thought, his works on communism from the viewpoint of a true believer have been priceless. Since recovering from the adolescent malady of infatuation with communism, I have realised that like measles and chicken pox, it leaves the individual once afflicted with an immunity to the discredited ideology. Now, in the ism tainted air of political discourse, new ideas overtake me like a weak virus that leaves me with a low grade fever until their contradictions become apparent.
As skeptical as Koestler was of any creed or belief system, I find that allegiance to my faith raises the possibility of discerning the fragments of truth that all men possess , leaving behind falsehood and revisiting later the unanswered questions.
What Koestler discovered in his generation, I rediscovered in mine. I have reached the weary realisation that a new generation is afflicted with the same historical amnesia that blighted my understanding. My parents generation saw the rise of the gulag and planet Auschwitz. My generation has seen Rwanda and Cambodia. What will emerge from the elective blindness of this generation?

Copyright 2008 Magdeburger Joe Sphere: Related Content