RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A conference in Swannanoa this week may help unravel the mystery of the Melungeons, an Appalachian people much discussed and often feared by generations of white settlers.
Researchers will present DNA results showing that the Melungeons' dark hair and European features likely came from Arabic and Jewish immigrants.
Melungeons have been traced back for more than four centuries in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
Melungeon Heritage Association President S.J. Arthur says the three-day conference draws people who want to learn more about Appalachia's multi-ethnic heritage.
Seminar topics for the 15th Union include Jewish, Muslim, and gypsy ancestry; the Civil War experiences of mixed-ancestry families; and "The Invisible Line," a book by Daniel Sharfstein exploring the fates of three families that switched racial identity after the Civil War.