As early as 1654, English and French explorers in the southern Appalachians reported seeing dark-skinned, brown and blue eyed, and European featured people speaking broken Elizabethan English, living in cabins, tilling the land, smelting silver, practicing Christianity, and, most perplexing of all claiming to be 'Portyghee'. Declared 'free persons of color' in the late 1700s by the English and Scotch-Irish immigrants, the Melungeons, as they were known, were driven off their lands and denied voting rights, education and the right to judicial process. The law was enforced mercilessly and sometimes violently in the resoundingly successful effort to disenfranchise these earliest American settlers.
These Melungeons were a remarkable people caught up in a nightmare not of their own making. Perhaps history can finally amend itself and belatedly recognize the incredible achievement of thse brave and lonely people, who were among hte earliest American pioneers, and bring at long last an end to the Inquisition.