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MECC Announces Donations, Creation of Center for Melungeon Research
Posted Date: 6/30/2014

MHA photoBig Stone Gap, VA -- Mountain Empire Community College is pleased to announce three major donations that will establish the college as a major center for the collection of Melungeon research materials.

The Melungeon Heritage Association (MHA) announced plans to donate copies of all of the organization’s publications, videos and audios of presenters recorded during the last 17 years of Melungeon Union Gatherings, as well as all organizational paperwork collected since the organization’s formation. In addition, the college will receive the organization’s collection of memorabilia from past Melungeon Unions.

MHA was organized in January of 1998 as a natural outgrowth of the First Union held in 1997 in Wise County, Virginia. The quest of people to come together to explore, document and celebrate this often hidden heritage was the overwhelming message received at First Union. The Melungeon Heritage Association is dedicated to documenting and preserving the history and cultural legacy of mixed ancestry peoples of the southern and eastern United States.

S. J. Arthur, current president, has been a member of the Melungeon Heritage Association from the beginning of the organization. She is donating her personal collection which includes research documentation and memorabilia from previous Melungeon Unions.

In addition, MECC Library Services Director Michael Gilley announced that Brent Kennedy and his wife Robyn would be working with him to go through their collection of Melungeon research materials to donate to the college. Dr. N. Brent Kennedy and Robyn Vaughan Kennedy co-authored the popular book, “The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People, An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing in America”.

“These donations provide significant collections that will enable the college to serve as a research facility for this unique and valuable aspect of Appalachian heritage. The College plans to create the Center for Melungeon Research within the Wampler Library and Archives, allowing open access to the public,” said Gilley. “Individuals who have research materials that document the history and culture of the Melungeons and other mixed ancestry groups can now share their work with others and preserve this legacy for the future.”

Arthur added, “The Center for Melungeon Research fulfills a long range vision of the Melungeon Heritage Association to have a facility for the collection, preservation, and protection of these unique documents as well as individual stories documenting the oppression and now the celebration of this heritage. MHA is grateful to MECC for recognizing the historical and cultural value of this collection and looks forward to working with the staff to expand and highlight this research.”
The college is seeking to expand its collection of books, dissertations, audiovisual materials, newspaper and magazine articles, and unpublished documents on the history and culture of the Melungeons. Those interested in donating to the Melungeon Research Center at the Mountain Empire Community College’s Wampler Library may contact Gilley at (276) 523-2400 ext. 304 or by email at

Photo left to right: K. Paul Johnson, MHA Treasurer; Scott Withrow, MHA Vice President; Mike Gilley, MECC Director of Library Services; S. J. Arthur, President; Wayne Winkler, Past President