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A Genealogical Quest in the Triracial South

K. Paul Johnson, author of Pell Mellers: Race and Memory in a Carolina Pocosin, will speak about his search to learn the truth of his mysterious heritage on Sunday, October 19 at 2:30 at Tazewell County Public Library.

Pell Mellers share similar social circumstances with Melungeons, Redbones, and other triracial isolate groups.  Johnson explores these similarities in his book and provides an overview of the research into their origins in this very interesting account. 

Johnson retired in May as director of the Halifax County - South Boston Regional Library in Southside Virginia.  He first learned of his "free mulatto" ancestry through Internet searches at the library. Pell Mellers describes the relatives he met and the discoveries he made while investigating ancestors from a Unionist enclave in eastern North Carolina. 

The Pell Mell region in North Carolina is the birthplace of the term “buffaloes”, used during the Civil War to describe Union sympathizers regardless of race.  It followed black cowboys out west after the war and soon came to describe black soldiers.  Miracle at St. Anna, a novel based on real events which occurred in Tuscany during World War II, focuses on four buffalo soldiers and their encounter with a small boy haunted by a terrible experience.  This novel by James McBride, himself the son of mixed race parents memorialized in The Color of Water, has been made into a movie directed by Spike Lee, and is showing in theatres now.

Johnson is the author of three previous books published by State University of New York Press, most recently Edgar Cayce in Context (1998.)  He lives in Danville.

Following the program, Johnson will be available to autograph copies of his book.  Refreshments will be served.  The public is invited to attend.

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