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The Multiracial White Heritage: Interview With Forest Feltrop

Forest Feltrop, researcher of Melungeon ancestry

The United States is a nation plagued by racism where improbable racial laws have been into effect for centuries in order to secure the elitist position of the Euro group. Therefore, both black and white groups have taken advantage of this racial policies to manipulate or further their political agenda.

Despite the rigidity of this racial brutality, multiracial groups took form since time immemorial where the lines of ambiguity are blurred. Whether with the Louisiana creoles, or the Black Seminoles, the individuals there focused primarily on their shared culture, thus breaking with the violence of racial structures. Forest in a researcher who studies the movements of the African diaspora. A Melungeon, and a “hexadecaroon” by blood, he accepted to be interviewed and shed light on his particular Appalachian group.

1- Forest, thank you for your interview. I came upon your Hexadecaroon podcast by chance a few years ago, but I only found out who you were a few days ago. Can you introduce yourself? 

Hello I am Forest Feltrop, I am 30 years old, I currently work at an industrial plant in Springfield, Missouri, but aspire to own my own neo soul cafe in my birth city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (the birth place of neo soul music) someday. As a hobby I like to read research articles pertaining to geography, ancestry, African diasporic history as well researching the politics that help benefit Foundational Black Americans and I like to converse with other FBA’s and people of the diaspora to get a fresh perspective about the particular topic.

2- You racial makeup is rather rare. When people think of mixed-race identity, the biracial group often comes to mind while the mixed group is much more vast than this. What is your exact racial background?

I am a white man that has several different European ancestries, but recently I have stumbled across some research that may link me to the first African slave ship that landed in Charleston, South Carolina in 1526 when the Spanish enslaved the moors, and it wasn’t long after the Spanish colonizers and the moors landed on Charleston soil that the moors staged a revolt and beat the brakes off of the Spanish captors and after that they fled the camp and settled out into the wilderness to fend for their own and over the course of time these moors who I may have descended from found themselves in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains and have intermingled with a lot of the Scots-Irish settlers that have inhabited that region making their own ethnic group known as melungeons. The official answer to your question would be that, I identify as a melungeon but on an actual US census document, I would categorize myself as white.

Melungeon family

3- “Quadroons” often feel nonexistent in both white and black spaces. Their higher amount of white blood gives the false impression that their struggle or identity issues are less important. Actually, biracials in their experience are, most of the time, invalidated in both the black and white clans. How do you feel being white, yet claiming an African ancestry which goes back generations ago? 

Well having grown up in a predominantly white school and being a rare kinky haired white person, I have often been questioned about my identity. Whenever my peers were to ever touch my hair, it would leave me irked or the other students would play games in the gym room locker that consist of throwing the comb in my hair to see if it stays, etc. Some people have made slick little comments towards my hair like, “I’m glad I don’t have your type of hair”, or some people made it a point that I didn’t fit in with them because of my hair type, while others rocked with me because I was the closest thing to black friend they ever had and in their book that was considered cool. On the other hand most black people that I’ve encountered in my life I’ve been cool with and have accepted me as one of their own to a degree, and I’ve just recently started working with a like minded individual who reads Dr John Henrik Clarke books in his spare time just like myself. Of course it all depends on who I meet, I guess with my personal experience I’ve been more accepted in black circles than in white ones.

A Melungeon woman
The Osbourne family, Melungeons

4- Do you feel any difference with the Quadroons and octoroons ?

The only difference I see with those groups is the difference in black percentage, but in the modern day sense. They’re just as much a part of the African diasporic family as everybody else with modern traces of African DNA.

5- You are a white man, but also mixed-race. Most black people would lump you into the white group. However, you prove that each mixed-race experience differs from one individual to the other. How do you feel about your heritage?

I’m rather proud of my heritage. I like the feeling of being unique as that level of uniqueness could possibly make me go far in life. Rarely do you ever see a melungeon (especially a light colored kinky haired individual) wherever you go. And to my personal experience and the prejudice that I’ve experienced growing up, I hope to one day educate people about African DNA and show people just how unique and dope learning about the history of the African diaspora can be especially pertaining to being mixed.

A Melungeon woman from the past century

6- How do you navigate through blackness as a white man?

Now that I’m older and my knowledge base on the topic has expanded over time, I feel like I can approach specific situations more gracefully and feel more comfortable and confident in my own skin and hair.

7- Have you ever felt mocked for claiming your black lineage or not at all?

 Not really, although I did have the whiter side of my family (my maternal relatives) try to correct me for claiming mixed race by telling me that every single person on planet earth has descended from Africa at one time or another, but then I let them know that I was aware of that and that according to my personal DNA and my hair type that my African DNA was more modern than the quintessential white person and also let them know that the ice age and certain African people migrating to the Caucasus mountains and how white skin was a genetic deformity as a result of ice age was the reason why white skin exists and as a way to adapt to the more harsh climates, and it was at that moment that I left my relatives speechless.

Singer Fiona Apple is a descendant of Melungeons

8-How do you connect to the black side?

Intrinsically, I feel that certain quality traits like having a deeper than average voice, creative dance skills, and a unexplainable love and poetic gravitation towards neo-soul and jazz music are  some examples of how I connect to my black side.

9- Do you consider that a great difference exists between the MGM White group (hence white people with no direct black parent but who descend from groups of mixed-race whites) one can found in Brazil, Cuba, Colombia, Louisiana or the Dominican Republic and the people from your category?

Among most people like myself yes. I do feel that as a result of cultural separation many people like myself have gravitated towards a more quintessential white American type of cultural identity. Especially in the Appalachian mountains (Eastern Kentucky) where the majority of my fellow melugeon people can be found.

Forest Feltrop

10- People often invalidate your existence while your racial condition has a place in history. Actually, white thiefs such as Jessica Krug and Rachel Dolezal or Shaun King steal your racial condition rooted in trauma to infiltrate the black side. How does that make you feel?

I feel that the platform that they made for themselves is appalling, and people like that are considered to he $5 FBA’s (a play on the term $5 Indian which means you pay $5 to be labeled a Native American Indian to be put on the US census later, this was a common thing in the late 1800’s). I feel like people like them are too proud to admit that they have privilege and they’re using that privilege to redundantly pigeonhole themselves into a black experience that they have never culturally experienced themselves intrinsically. 

11- Are there many hexadecaroons around you? 

I think the last Hexadecaroon I was around was a young woman that I worked with 4 years ago and I haven’t seen her since. We’re a rare group in general, especially outside of the Appalachian mountains.

12- Do you believe in the creation of a multiracial white category which would belong to the mixed-race group?

To a degree the UK is already doing that on their census and I feel since the UK is doing that, then why can’t the US do the same? I feel it’s necessary, but terms like quadroon, Hexadecaroon, octoroon, etc have become irrelevant in this day an age, but for those of who truly know their lineage, then we might as well sign something like a petition to put more racial categories on the US census, but only time will tell.

13- Do you have any message to share through the website? 

My fellow inquisitive melungeons who feel out of place in this world, no matter where you go in life you may or may not fit in based on your background. Over the course of time through an extended amount of research and growth, you will find your tribe of people in due time. Just be patient, your time to shine will come when you least expect it. In the meantime just learn to embrace your heritage and become a voice for your people, if that’s what you truly want.

By Victoria “V.K.Y” Kabeya, All Rights Reserved 2023

[1] Zerkle Osbourne, Caroll, “Melungeons in Wizard Wells, Texas”, TexasEscapes.com, 2005 http://www.texasescapes.com/TexasPersonalities/Osburn-Saga-Melungeons-in-Wizard-Wells.htm

[2] Troesser, John “Melungeon Texans”, TexasEscapes.com, 2005 http://www.texasescapes.com/TexasPersonalities/Melungeon-Texans.htm#l

[3] Halpin, Brian, “The Melungeons”, Beforewewerewhite.com, 2021 https://beforewewerewhite.com/2021/06/17/the-melungeons/

[4] EVERETT, C. S. “Melungeon History and Myth.” Appalachian Journal 26, no. 4 (1999): 358–409.

[5] Morello, Carol “Beneath Myth, Melungeons Find Roots of Oppression“, The Washington Post, 2000 https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2000/05/30/beneath-myth-melungeons-find-roots-of-oppression/5dfc3393-d4b9-443c-9bb4-ef852ba8c3b3/

[6] Broughton, Kris “Why Were The Melungeons Surprised By Their African Roots?”, BigThink, 2012 https://bigthink.com/articles/why-were-the-melungeons-surprised-by-their-african-roots/

[7] Hashaw, Tim “MALUNGU: The African Origin of the American Melungeons”, Eclectica, 2001 https://www.eclectica.org/v5n3/hashaw.html

[8] Smith, Barbara Ellen. “De-Gradations of Whiteness: Appalachia and the Complexities of Race.” Journal of Appalachian Studies 10, no. 1/2 (2004): 38–57. 

[9] Blackburn, Piper “Black Appalachians find hope in national reckoning on race”, AP, 2020 https://apnews.com/article/race-and-ethnicity-louisville-kentucky-racial-injustice-whitesburg-21b24722b9c20a5a7e4cea3c9a5c03de

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