The Rebellion of the Black Seminoles
May 31, 2006 6:29 PM   Subscribe

Rebellion: John Horse and the Black Seminoles, First Black Rebels to Beat American Slavery. "Rebellion is a Web documentary that explores the inspiring, true, and largely unknown story of John Horse and the Black Seminoles, a community of free blacks and fugitive slaves who in 1838 became the first black rebels to defeat American slavery." This visually arresting site is a treasure trove of information about the Seminoles, early Florida history, and a largely unrecognized (and successful!) slave rebellion that may have been the largest in American history. The site includes interactive maps, arresting images, and a thorough history of the rebellion. Too bad the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma expelled all its black members in 1990.
posted by LarryC (13 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Wow. Coolio. Thanks.
posted by tkchrist at 6:31 PM on May 31, 2006

My favorite kind of site. Excellent, good find, and thanks.
posted by Miko at 7:01 PM on May 31, 2006

posted by Jikido at 8:37 PM on May 31, 2006

Best posts in days, if not weeks.
posted by caddis at 9:13 PM on May 31, 2006

please give me back my "s"
posted by caddis at 9:14 PM on May 31, 2006

I have not read much of the alliance between black slaves and indians. Upon consideration it makes perfect sense, and one wonders why it was not more widespread.

Lots of information here. Could an african/african american - indian joint force have affected european dominance in "the new world?"
posted by jono at 10:42 PM on May 31, 2006

As mentioned in the movie Lonestar. Possibly my favorite movie...I know you're not supposed to have a favorite, but this is at the top of my life.
posted by Edgewise at 10:54 PM on May 31, 2006

I strongly second the recommendation for Lone Star. Also, if you like this stuff you'll love y2karl's amazing Melungeon post from several years ago (and, hmm, I see I recommended Lone Star in that one too!).
posted by languagehat at 6:11 AM on June 1, 2006

Interesting, but I'm curious about its play up of "no mass repression, no heads on spikes, etc...etc." I could not find any mention of what happened to the majority of blacks who returned to their owners a year after escaping. This also took place after the Nat Turner Rebellion, so one would expect that perhaps many strict codes or laws may have already been placed in existence for the Florida slaves and they saw little need or room to add much more.

Anyhoots, for the question above, the Indians had a tough enough time simply cooperating together, much less forming an alliance with escaped slaves. Not to mention, prior to their expulsion from Georgia and the like, the Cherokee had adopted slavery and probably had an opinion of blacks not much different than whites at the time.
posted by Atreides at 6:17 AM on June 1, 2006

Also, some Indians learned to return black runaways for rewards in trade goods. Many southeastern Indians participated in the Indian slave trade, capturing native individuals from the interior and selling them to English traders in Charleston and other southern ports. The Indians slaves were mostly sold to the sugar islands in the Caribbean and worked to death in short order. And of course a few individuals in a few southeastern tribes adopted the practice of owning black slaves. So the black/Seminole alliance is far more the exception than the rule.
posted by LarryC at 7:06 AM on June 1, 2006

I have not read much of the alliance between black slaves and indians. Upon consideration it makes perfect sense, and one wonders why it was not more widespread.

It was, but in different forms. Black slaves often ran to the forests and reformed armed and independant communities, sometimes acculurating to Indian ways, and sometimes not. The Garifuna, or Black Carib of Belize and Hondsuras are an Afican-American community who speak a native American language they assimilated on the Isaland of Saint Vincent, from which they were later deported by the British to Belize. Here is a comparison of Garifuna and Black Seminole identities.

In Guyana and Surinam, the escaped slaves formed "Maroon" communities (as in Jamaica) such as that of the Djuka, that basically recreated an entirely African culture in a new world.

In New England and south towards the Piedmont regions, Free Blacks were often required to take residence away from white settlements, and often melded into Native communities. Many southern New England tribes (like the Paugussett, Poosepatuck, and Montauk) who have made claims for federal recognition are stymied by the fact that politicians processing their cases essentiall see a group of Black people standing before them. (In fact, the use of African derived family names such as Cuffee and Cujo is still current among the Shinnecock of Long Island.) Crispus Attucks, remembered as the Black man who was the first casualty of the American Revolution, was half Natick, his name means "Little Deer" in Eastern Algonquian (Atuh deer +is suffix for little.)

Depending on the region, these communities were classed as Indian or Mulatto, and discriumination often led them to retreat to less accessable areas, which is where we find such as groups the Melungeons and people once called "Tri-Racial-Isolates" many of whom now identify strongly as Native Americans.

The Seminole were essentially Creeks and Hitichiti who fled both internal Creek wars and conflicts with whites into florida while it was Spanish. Their relationship to the runaway blacks was defined in indian terms of slavery: Blacks were a part of patronage relationship with the Seminoles, rather than owned as chattel. Former slaves traded, translated, and farmed, forming a buffer between the reclusive Seminoles and whites. In return they formed independant towns. The first Seminole War was essentially fought when the US invaded Spanish Florida to clear the threat posed by these armed African-American "forts."

For slaves and freedmen in Oklahoma among the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chicaksaw, however, the experience of slavery seemed to follow the more familiar southern model.
posted by zaelic at 7:28 AM on June 1, 2006

I wonder how many mostly-white Indians have been expelled over this blood-quotient bullshit; "Trail of Tears" Cherokee chief John Ross himself was 7/8 Scottish and spoke very little Cherokee (and that badly). I should also point out that the people this thread's about have for several generations been functioning members of their tribes and Indian-based communities, not white folks with a little Indian blood and no real connection to the tribes and nations.

Besides, over the course of centuries many tribes would have disappeared if they hadn't adopted captives, orphans and "evacuees" from other peoples, so that today for example many Mohawks have very little "Mohawk blood", being predominantly of e.g. Huron and/or Algonquin descent. (I don't have the references to hand and don't have time today to find them, sorry.)

I too think this crap has more to do anti-black racism than anything else.
posted by davy at 7:38 AM on June 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

I too think this crap has more to do anti-black racism than anything else.

Yeah, I don't think there can be much doubt about that. Oppressed people taking it out on other oppressed people is one of the sad permanencies of history.
posted by languagehat at 7:57 AM on June 1, 2006

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