We Lost a Great Friend to the Turkish People: Brent Kennedy

There are two questions about which everybody is curious.

When was the first time Turks migrated to the US, and how many Turks are living there now?

There have been numerous stories written, especially on the whereabouts of this migration. However scarce in number, though, we have encountered Americans who claim to be of Turkic origin. The Melungeons are one such group.

Brent Kennedy, the honorary leader of the Melungeon people, who believe that they are the descendants of the Ottoman Levantines, unveiled that he had a suspicion after doctors told him that he had Familial Mediterranean Fever, which is not endemic to the Americas;  he discovered that he was of Turkic ancestry after a DNA test. 

According to several history professors, the ancestry of the Melungeon community, which claims to have a population of approximately two million people in the US, extends back to around ten thousand Levantine seamen from the Ottoman navy who were taken captive during the 1571 Battle of Lepanto. Some of these shipmen were used as galley slaves by the Spanish and the English, and then they were left to their own fate in America. In fact, it is even claimed that Abraham Lincoln and Elvis Presley may be from Melungeon lineage as well.

Melungeons who initially tried to survive by settling on the shores of Virginia withdrew toward the Appalachian Mountains near present-day Tennessee due to cultural differences with the residents of the region and have mixed in with the native tribes in that region whose language belonged to the Athabascan family.

Kennedy, the honorary leader of the Melungeons, reported that their DNA closely matched that of Anatolian Turks, wrote two books to strengthen the bonds between the two nations during his life, and developed close relations with the Turkish people living in the US. Also, Wise in Virginia, where Kennedy lived, and Cesme in Turkey, became sister towns.

It was announced that Prof. Brent Kennedy, the leader of the Melungeon community believed to be the descendant of Ottoman Levantine soldiers and the director of the UVA-Wise college in Virginia, passed away due to his pre-existing health conditions.

Turk of America published a special issue regarding Melungeons and it was recognized by Melungeon and Turkish-American Communities.

Rest in Peace!