Excerpts from Malungu: The African Origin of the American Melungeons from Tim Hashaw

Mixed descendants of the first African-Americans entered all walks of life. Many are world famous. Among the offspring of colonial-era Angolan Americans; the mother of Abraham Lincoln Nancy Hanks, Tom Hanks, Ava Gardner, Elvis Presley, Heather Locklear, Rich Mullins, and comedian Steve Martin from Waco, Texas.

Many of the patriarchal surnames of these 17th century Angolan-Americans survive today because, more often than not, Angolan men married white women of English, Irish and Scottish ancestry. White men also married Angolan women but not as frequently. The un-even ratio of black men to black women caused the imbalance. Had there been more black women in America in the 17th century, there would have been less black and white intermarriage.

In Virginia and other colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries, and even into the 19th century, white women showed no repugnance to Africans of equal status. Lerone Bennett Jr. in “Before the Mayflower” quotes Edward Long, a contemporary witness who observed that, “…the lower class of women in England, are remarkably fond of the blacks, for reasons to brutal to mention.”

Genealogist Paul Heinegg found many early mixed marriages in colonial Virginia, between free African-Americans and white Europeans. Cases he gives:

“Francis Payne was married to a white woman named Amy by September 1656 when he gave her a mare by deed of jointure. [DW 1655-68, fol.19].

“Francis Skiper was married to Ann, an African American woman, before February 1667 when they sold land in Norfolk County.” [W&D E:1666-75; Orders 1666-75,73]

“Elizabeth Kay, a “Mulatto” woman whose father had been free, successfully sued for her freedom in Northumberland County in 1690, and married her white attorney, William Greensted”. [WMQ, 3rd ser, XXX, 467-74]

Sometimes white planters promoted mixed marriages of African men and white women for economic reasons; hoping to reap the servitude of the offspring as legal chattel.



  1. Babalawo Ifasina

    I am a descendant of the Melungeons.Still yrying to make dome connections, I suspect BOTH sides; however, since I had my mother’ s paternal lineage tested with AfricanAncestry.The results is UMBUNDU from Angola.On my father’s matermal side, I am related to the BALDWIN’s, there is a lineage of Melungeons with this surname, yet I haven’t made any connections.

      1. Babalawo Ifasina

        On My Father’s Maternal side,I have relatives(the Baldwins).My 3x great-grandmother said on the census that her parents were from Virginia,Yet,on my mother’s paternal side,DNA disclose that I am a descendant of the UMBUNDU of Angola.I have met many cousins of ALL nationalities through our Facebook page of the Melungeopns.

  2. C. Rae White

    This is very interesting information. It makes me wonder if my earliest Cotillier grandmother was Angolan, I suspect that she was likely a slave and not of mixed origins (free born). Our Cotillier family history states that she was a free born, christian Afro-Portuguese woman, but of course there is no real documentation to back it up. She is known as Anna of Portugal, which sounds like a cover-up to me. Although my Cotillier 2nd great grandfather looked like a Melungeon and was born in Virginia (his whole line hails from Jamestown Virginia and were called free black Frenchmen or Mulattoes), I’ve also discovered that the Cotillier surname doesn’t appear to be on the list of Melungeon surnames. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Babalawo S. Egunjobi Ifasina

      C. Rae White, Collier is a Melungeon name, and my 4xgreat grandma was one. Look for your ancestors under that name. Email me , or find me on Facebook for further leads.


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