Combining interview footage with many of the leading Melungeon researchers, as well as direct descendants from the earliest known Melungeons, the film offers a rich and well-rounded look at this controversial subject. The filmmakers traveled up the ridges, and back into the ‘hollers,’ meeting the Melungeons on their own ground. Along with modern day Melungeons talking on the porch of a cabin, at their kitchen tables, or out front of local churches, the film intersperses intriguing archival photographs with haunting scenes of mists rising from the mountains and clouds passing over worn headstones.
Jack Goins, leading Melungeon researcher
Hi Julie I just wanted you to know I think you did a great job with the documentary. Thanks for the copy. My grandkids and great grandkids will enjoy it for years to come. Thanks for all your hard work.
List Members: (posted to VA-HIST listserve by Jim Glanville)
After nearly six years in the making, the documentary movie "MelungeonVoices" was premiered on June 30th and July 1st, 2007 at the Seventh Melungeon* Gathering in Big Stone Gap, Virginia.
The documentary tells the Melungeons' story in their own words using interviews, family photographs, and family records. It describes the long years of ostracism, marginalization, and outright discrimination they suffered˜ often at the hands of government agencies such as Virginia's Bureau of Vital Statistics and its registrar, Walter Plecker.
Featured prominently in the documentary is Melungeon author and activist Brent Kennedy, who retold Melungeon history as the prime example of a multi-ethnic population who put aside their racial and cultural differences, came together, and survived as one people. Kennedy's rallying cry was "One People, All Colors."
The Sunday evening showing, which this writer attended, drew sustained applause. The documentary concludes on a sad note, with a notice that Brent Kennedy suffered a debilitating stroke in Fall 2005. Nonetheless, Kennedy was in a wheel chair in the center of the front row for that showing, when, for the first time, he saw the finished production from start to finish.
This showing was particularly poignant because of the sharp contrast between the vigorous on-screen Kennedy, and the Kennedy in the audience,
The documentary was produced by Julie Williams Dixon, a 1981 graduate of the Department of Communications at Virginia Tech and videographed by Warren Gentry. Dixon is a principal in the Raleigh, NC-based scriptwriting and video production company Words and Pictures. Gentry is a principal in the Raleigh, NC-based Warren Gentry and Associates video production company.
As members of this listserv well know, race is a deeply embedded aspect of Virginia history and one that periodically obsesses our discussions.
"Melungeon Voices" offers an optimistic message about race in Virginia. In this writer's opinion it deserves the widest possible showing.
Jim Glanville Retired Chemist 201 Graves Avenue Blacksburg, VA 24060-5305
Carolyn Earle Billingsley, Ph.D.
I have viewed the entire video, with great intensity and watchfulness, and it meets the highest standards, aesthetically, historically, and genealogically.
This film educates the viewer as to who the Melungeons are and where they might have come from. It incorporates records from court documents and census; it frames the issue in world history and migration patterns.
The film is VERY well done and I, the most avid of Melungeon investigators, would be happy to show it to any audience in order to increase their understanding, not only of Melungeons, but of race in general . . . and the way it complicates the issues of ethnicity and race, of which every genealogist should be aware. NOBODY is pure ANYTHING! bottom line: my highest recommendation. It's awesomely, beautifully done.
Regards, Carolyn Earle Billingsley, Ph.D.
Wayne Winkler, author, "Walking Toward the Sunset: The Melungeons of Appalachia"
Melungeon Voices examines one of America's most enduring mysteries: the multi-ethnic Melungeons of southern Appalachia. The origins and history of the Melungeons have been the subject of debate and controversy for nearly two centuries. Filmmakers Julie Dixon and Warren Gentry present a wealth of information and a wide range of interpretations of that information. The result is an even-handed and factual account of an obscure but significant chapter of American history. Best of all, the title of the film is very descriptive of its content. The voices and faces of Melungeon descendents tell a story that traditional histories miss: the uncertainty of our origins combined with an unmistakable pride in the perseverance and accomplishments of our ancestors. Melungeon Voices is an outstanding introduction to a complex but fascinating subject. I am proud to have been involved in the making of this film.
Wayne Winkler Author, Walking Toward the Sunset: The Melungeons of Appalachia
Dave Gibson, Educational Video Producer and Melungeon descendent
I received the DVD and congratulations on doing a good job with a difficult subject. I have been researching the Melungeon issue for about a year and have heard many conflicting stories. This film does a great job of acquainting the viewer with the major issues involved in trying to track down who the Melungeons were. It gives a balanced and objective view on a controversial subject. Anyone with linkages to the Melungeons needs to see this film! ...
Marybeth Nightingale, a Goings descendant
I guess you can tell that the DVD came in the mail this morning and I have already watched it once. I don't know what to say except that it makes one pause and think. Brent Kennedy's words at the end are more true than any one of us knows. We are all one, not different. I am an avid genealogist whose ancestors in part came on the Mayflower. Now I can say I am a product of much more than that. Maybe I won't quite know for sure but I can imagine. Knowledge is power, not only does your film give me a sense of who I come from but increases my empathy or others.
Marybeth Nightingale, a Goings descendant
Pam Stephens, in Kentucky
I wanted to write and tell you how much my mother and me enjoyed your film" Melungeon Voices" This was the first time we've been to one if the meetings. The film you've put together was the highlight of the whole meeting.... My Mother just found out a few months ago that her family was Melungeons.... They lived on the Clinch River at Copper/ Cooper Ridge in Hawkins County and Roane. Your film was so easy to understand. She is 80 years old and she knows her heritage now and is so proud . . .