One People, All Colors
"Melungeons in the 21st Century" is the theme of 17th Union, the first to be celebrated in Wytheville. The historic community is conveniently located midway between Roanoke and Bristol on I-81, and near West Virginia and North Carolina via I-77. The Meeting Center is a conference venue offering many amenities in a location near restaurants and hotels.
The new documentary film The Melungeons: The Story of Vardy Valley, directed by Ian Cheney and co-produced by Todd Beckham and Marilyn Cheney, will be featured as one highlight of 17th Union. Speaker details and lodging information will be announced in May when registration forms are distributed to members and posted on this site.
In addition to the documentary's director and co-producer, several people featured in the film will be there to discuss it and answer questions. Troy Williams, DruAnna Williams Overbay, and Claude Collins are natives of the community who appear in the film describing their childhoods in the Vardy area, and later learning more about and celebrating Melungeon heritage as adults.
Other sessions will deal with different aspects of what it means to be a Melungeon today, and how history has shaped the group. Speakers will include MHA President S.J. Arthur, Dr. Elizabeth Hirschman (Rutgers University), Dr. Kathy Lyday (Elon University), Dr. Terry W. Mullins (Concord University), Johnnie Gibson Rhea, Dr. Arwin Smallwood (University of Memphis), Stacy Webb of the Redbone Heritage Foundation, and author Wayne Winkler.
The registration form for 17th Union and MHA membership form, attached below, can be printed and mailed together for pre-registration before the deadline of June 19. Preregistration is not required but we encourage participants to make their room reservations in advance.
The conference rate for 17th Union participants at the Wytheville Ramada Inn is $62.This is a significantly discounted group rate for us, so be sure you mention that you are part of this group event when you call for reservations. The motel has a restaurant, lounge, outdoor pool and fitness center. Phone number is 276-228-6000.