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.
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.
* * *
* * *
Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding
of the Republic
By Joseph J. Ellis
brilliant examination of the period
between the War of Independence and the
Louisiana Purchase puts Pulitzer-winner
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
Publishers Weekly /
American Creation (Joseph Ellis
* * *
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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(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
5 March 2012