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Among the Seminoles, were the leader Osceola, who had an African wife,

among his several wives. Also the Negro Abraham, quickly through his language

skills became an interpreter, speaking both Muskogee and English.



Removal to the West


By the 1820's rigid slave laws had been written into the constitution of the various nations, and restrictions against marriage with persons of African descent were common place. In 1820, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit was signed, by a faction of leaders, agreeing to locate to lands in the west and give lands in the East to the emerging America. Beginning in the winter of 1831, with the Choctaws, a painful relocation of the Native people took place. The Cherokees followed suit, in the most devastating removal, known as the Trail of Tears. The loss of life was extremely high, wiping out more than a third of the population. The sounds of the mournful cries were heard as loved ones died painful deaths during the journey westward, Cries were heard throughout the entire trail from the Carolinas, to Indian Territory -- thus the Trail of Tears. Alongside these suffereing people was another group feeling as much pain -- with even fewer comforts -- the African slaves.

Life in the Territory and the Black Cherokee Slave Revolt

Many of the wealthy mixed blood tribal members arrived first, and immediately put their slaves to work. The primary crop was cotton, and the rivers, the Arkansas, and the Mississippi, regularly took their cotton crop to market in Memphis. Enhanced by the free labor of their slaves, the wealthy tribal m embers became wealthier.

The slaves, believed to be experiencing a milder form of enslavement, made their own statement about their condition in 1842. During a spring morning in the middle of the night, slaves of Cherokee leader Joseph "Rich Joe" Vann locked their Indian masters and family members inside their homes. They took every horse, and all of the weapons they could find. Their intention was to flee to Mexico. Having traveled in a northward direction off of the Vann property, before going south, they lost precious time in their escape. When the Indian slave owners awoke to find no horses, word was sent via runners and messengers to send a reinforcement of horses from Ft. Smith, Arkansas.

The blacks had taken women and children, with them, and it was not soon that they began to suffer for want of food and water. Within 3 days, the Cherokees began to catch up with the slaves. In a ravine when cornered, they were able to resist captivity for almost two days, fighting vigorously for their lives. However, with no water and food, and suffering children, they were overpowered and recaptured. The return to enslavement would come as a "relief" to some, for there would be food and water, again. To others, particularly the slave revolt leaders, the reward was death. Those men not executed, were confined to work of Joe Vann's boats, and have little contact with family thereafter. Several years, later, many of those same slaves would die with "Rich Joe". His elaborate boat the Lucy Walker, exploded after he had engaged in a wager to race his boat from Memphis to New Orleans.

The Seminole Exception

The Creek Nation in Alabama, and part of Georgia, while evolving through the many Scottish traders who married into their nation, also suffered disagreement within their own nation. There was a faction of Creeks who began to have conflicts known as the Red Sticks. Several hundred Red Sticks, after a significant clash with the Upper Creeks, fled into northern Florida, to take refuge. While there they found another group of African slaves, who had fled from plantations in the Carolinas and Georgia. Through cooperation, they assisted each other when being pursued. The Africans were particularly adept at learning the language of these runaways from the Creek Nation, and through cooperation they became allies in their struggle to be free persons. For a period of years, they lived near each other, African villages, next to Creek or Seminole villages, as they were now called. 

The word Seminole, was taken from the Spanish word cirmarron, meaning one who wandered or ran away. The word, cirmarron, within a short time, became cimanol, and later evolving into semanol or the now used word, Seminole.


Among the Seminoles, were the leader Osceola, who had an African wife, among his several wives. Also the Negro Abraham, quickly through his language skills became an interpreter, speaking both Muskogee and English. Kojo (Cudjoe) was another strong figure critical to interpreting for both US and native people. John Caesar was another black who became known for his excellent fighting skills, when attacked. Various bands gathered around these leaders, which would evolve into bands later in Indian Territory. 

The Seminoles were among the last to relocate to Indian Territory. Abraham helped to negotiate the removal of the Seminoles -- both Black and Native to Indian Territory. Several attempts from white slave owners were to seize the blacks, but as a group, they refused to leave unless all were allowed to go as a nation.

From the left: John Jumper, Abraham, Billy Bowlegs (Institute of Texan Cultures, Excerpt 72-173

A Treaty had already been signed in 1832 among the runaway Seminoles, making both black and Creek-Seminoles, citizens of the same nation. Three of the principal signers of the treaty were Abraham, Cudjoe, and Osceola.

The Second Runaway

After removal of the Seminoles, both black and red, to Indian Territory, peace did not come to the blacks. Although most were given freedom papers in Florida, many were kidnapped by slave hunters from the Creek nation and sold. As a result, many of the Seminole natives were forced to "purchase" their black citizens back if they wanted them. Many conflicts occurred over the next several years, until it was decided among about 200 to leave the territory, again for Mexico. Thus in 1848, the second exodus began. However, this was both red and black Seminoles leaving together. They were lead by the Indian Wild Cat, and the African John Horse. A journey of several months occurred with many attacks by the Indian nations in Texas. However, they prevailed, and they succeeded. They crossed the Rio Grande, in the dead of night, and made it to the other side. Safety was not guaranteed, and they kept going southward, settling in two villages. Like Florida, the old pattern prevailed, the African village was near the Indian village. The African village was the settlement known as Nacimiento. They would remain in this town until after the Civil War.

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American Creation

Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of the Republic

By Joseph J. Ellis

This subtle, brilliant examination of the period between the War of Independence and the Louisiana Purchase puts Pulitzer-winner Ellis (Founding Brothers) among the finest of America's narrative historians. Six stories, each centering on a significant creative achievement or failure, combine to portray often flawed men and their efforts to lay the republic's foundation. Set against the extraordinary establishment of the most liberal nation-state in the history of Western Civilization... in the most extensive and richly endowed plot of ground on the planet are the terrible costs of victory, including the perpetuation of slavery and the cruel oppression of Native Americans. Ellis blames the founders' failures on their decision to opt for an evolutionary revolution, not a risky severance with tradition (as would happen, murderously, in France, which necessitated compromises, like retaining slavery). Despite the injustices and brutalities that resulted, Ellis argues, this deferral strategy was a profound insight rooted in a realistic appraisal of how enduring social change best happens. Ellis's lucid, illuminating and ironic prose will make this a holiday season hit. Publishers Weekly /  American Creation (Joseph Ellis interview)

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 5 March 2012




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