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NYT: The Cherokees Free Their Slaves 
Written by Melinda Miller and Rachel Smith Purvis

Following on the heels of the Emancipation Proclamation, in February 1863 the Cherokee Nation declared that all slaves within its limits were “forever free.” In 1983, the descendants of these slaves, known as the Cherokee Freedmen, were removed from tribal membership rolls and prohibited from voting in Cherokee elections. A series of protracted legal battles over Freedmen citizenship ensued and continue today.
Questions on the status of the Cherokees’ former slaves in tribal life originated in the complicated landscape of the Civil War in Indian Territory, a story of an internal civil war within the larger conflict. Although the Cherokee Nation had initially joined the Confederacy, Principal Chief John Ross and his supporters began discussions with Northern forces during the summer of 1862. These loyal Cherokees convened a meeting of the National Council at Cowskin Prairie and produced two distinct emancipation acts, documents that reverberate in today’s controversies over the legal standing of the Cherokee Freedmen.
Ross had originally rebuffed attempts to become engaged in the war, writing in June 1861: “I have already signified my purpose to take no part in it whatever.” But neutrality proved untenable, and the Cherokees signed a treaty of alliance with the Confederacy in October 1861. The nation raised two regiments; one was under the command of Ross’s nephew-in-law John Drew, while Stand Watie, Ross’s long-time political opponent, led the other.
By 1862, Ross had become disillusioned with the Confederate government. The first major military engagements in Indian Territory proved disastrous for both the Confederacy and the Cherokees. Retreating from Indian Territory, the Confederacy left the Cherokees open to Union advances and without supplies for Cherokee troops and destitute civilians. Although Ross believed the Confederacy was shirking its treaty promises, the Confederate colonel Douglas H. Cooper called upon Ross to fulfill his obligations by ordering all Cherokee men of fighting age to “take up arms to repel invasion.”
Union Capt. Harris S. Greeno was aware of Ross’s dissatisfaction with the Confederacy, and he ordered the arrest of Ross and his family at their plantation home, Rose Cottage, in present-day eastern Oklahoma. They were quickly paroled and escorted to Union territory, and they retreated to his wife’s family home in Philadelphia. Ross would spend the remainder of the war attempting to convince the Lincoln administration of the Cherokee’s loyalty and commitment to the Union cause.
With Ross absent from from Indian Territory, southern Cherokee leaders moved quickly to elect Stand Watie as principal chief and reaffirmed the Cherokee Nation’s treaty with the Confederacy. But in the winter of 1863, Col. William Phillips escorted Union Cherokees into the Cherokee Nation. There, they held a meeting of the National Council to affirm that they, and not Watie and his followers, were the true government of the Cherokee people. This 1863 loyal council opened by denouncing the Cherokee treaty with the Confederacy and insisting they were pressured into the alliance due to a lack of federal protection in Indian Territory. They then quickly moved to address the issue of slavery in the Cherokee Nation. Within the four-day period from Feb. 18 to Feb. 21, 1863, the Cherokee Council passed two separate emancipation acts.
The slavery issue was of such great importance they tackled it first: before they removed Stand Watie and other Confederates from office, before discussing how to deal with the utter devastation the Cherokee people faced in their war-torn country and before John Ross was appointed to represent the Cherokee Nation in discussions with the United States government.
The prominent place of slavery at these council meetings reflected a keen understanding of the nature of emancipation policy within the Lincoln administration. As the Cherokee Nation severed ties with the Confederacy and hoped to rejoin the Union, they were certainly aware of another government that had recently done exactly that: on Dec. 31, 1862, President Lincoln welcomed West Virginia into the Union, with its statehood conditional on its newly written constitution’s including an abolition clause.
The Emancipation Acts themselves further demonstrated the Cherokee Council’s acute awareness of President Lincoln’s policies. They first called for a Cherokee delegation to negotiate with the United States government to emancipate their slaves “upon the Principle of Compensation.” During the initial years of the Civil War, Lincoln had proposed ending slavery in the border states through a gradual dissolution of the peculiar institution, with compensation offered to slave owners for their financial losses. He again endorsed a plan for gradual and compensated emancipation in his annual address to Congress on Dec. 1, 1862. The Cherokee Council’s first Emancipation Act, passed on Feb. 18, was an attempt to take Lincoln up on this offer.
What is surprising, then, is how quickly the Cherokee council issued a second Emancipation Act that specified universal emancipation without compensation. On Feb. 20, the council declared: “Any person or Persons, who may have been held in Slavery are, hereby, declared to be forever free.” Why did Cherokee leaders change such a fundamental aspect of their emancipation plans?
Between Lincoln’s endorsement of compensated emancipation in his annual address and the Cherokees’ plan for compensated emancipation, a watershed had occurred. On Jan. 1, 1863, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This action forever altered the parameters of freedom in the United States, and Lincoln would cease his offers of compensated emancipation. The Cherokee Nation had missed its opportunity to receive payment for freeing slaves. Strengthening ties with the Union would require the Cherokees to adjust to Lincoln’s new emancipation policies.
The Cherokees, however, differed from Lincoln and his cabinet over one key issue. There was no serious discussion or consideration of freedmen’s citizenship in the Cherokee Nation. Instead, on Nov. 14, the Cherokee Council passed an act that explicitly denied citizenship to former slaves and required freed slaves remaining in the Nation to obtain work permits. The incorporation of the former slaves of Cherokee masters into the Cherokee citizenry would wait until the 1866 Treaty between the Cherokees and United States.
In the aftermath of freedom, the United States incorporated freed people into the body politic with constitutional amendments outlining their citizenship rights. In the 1866 treaty, federal officials also required Cherokee leaders to grant former slaves and their descendants “all the rights of native Cherokees.” This particular phrase is important, because it did not explicitly state what these rights were - and has been a source of tension between Cherokee leaders and the Cherokee Freedmen ever since.
Follow Disunion at twitter.com/NYTcivilwar or join us on Facebook.
Sources: Clarissa Confer, “The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War”; William McLoughlin, “After the Trail of Tears”; Melinda Miller, “Essays on Race and the Persistence of Economic Inequality; Cherokee Nation, 1863 Emancipation Acts and Treaty of 1866; James Oaks, “Freedom National”; Rachel Smith Purvis, “‘Maintaining intact our homogenousness’: Race, Citizenship, & Reconstructing Cherokee”; United States Government, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.
Melinda C. Miller, a visiting assistant professor of economics at Yale and an assistant professor of economics at the United States Naval Academy, studies the economic status of the Cherokee freedmen during the decades following the Civil War. Rachel Smith Purvis, a postdoctoral associate at Yale, is revising her manuscript on the Cherokee Nation during the Reconstruction era.

NYT: The Cherokees Free Their Slaves

Written by Melinda Miller and Rachel Smith Purvis

Following on the heels of the Emancipation Proclamation, in February 1863 the Cherokee Nation declared that all slaves within its limits were “forever free.” In 1983, the descendants of these slaves, known as the Cherokee Freedmen, were removed from tribal membership rolls and prohibited from voting in Cherokee elections. A series of protracted legal battles over Freedmen citizenship ensued and continue today.

Questions on the status of the Cherokees’ former slaves in tribal life originated in the complicated landscape of the Civil War in Indian Territory, a story of an internal civil war within the larger conflict. Although the Cherokee Nation had initially joined the Confederacy, Principal Chief John Ross and his supporters began discussions with Northern forces during the summer of 1862. These loyal Cherokees convened a meeting of the National Council at Cowskin Prairie and produced two distinct emancipation acts, documents that reverberate in today’s controversies over the legal standing of the Cherokee Freedmen.

Ross had originally rebuffed attempts to become engaged in the war, writing in June 1861: “I have already signified my purpose to take no part in it whatever.” But neutrality proved untenable, and the Cherokees signed a treaty of alliance with the Confederacy in October 1861. The nation raised two regiments; one was under the command of Ross’s nephew-in-law John Drew, while Stand Watie, Ross’s long-time political opponent, led the other.

By 1862, Ross had become disillusioned with the Confederate government. The first major military engagements in Indian Territory proved disastrous for both the Confederacy and the Cherokees. Retreating from Indian Territory, the Confederacy left the Cherokees open to Union advances and without supplies for Cherokee troops and destitute civilians. Although Ross believed the Confederacy was shirking its treaty promises, the Confederate colonel Douglas H. Cooper called upon Ross to fulfill his obligations by ordering all Cherokee men of fighting age to “take up arms to repel invasion.”

Union Capt. Harris S. Greeno was aware of Ross’s dissatisfaction with the Confederacy, and he ordered the arrest of Ross and his family at their plantation home, Rose Cottage, in present-day eastern Oklahoma. They were quickly paroled and escorted to Union territory, and they retreated to his wife’s family home in Philadelphia. Ross would spend the remainder of the war attempting to convince the Lincoln administration of the Cherokee’s loyalty and commitment to the Union cause.

With Ross absent from from Indian Territory, southern Cherokee leaders moved quickly to elect Stand Watie as principal chief and reaffirmed the Cherokee Nation’s treaty with the Confederacy. But in the winter of 1863, Col. William Phillips escorted Union Cherokees into the Cherokee Nation. There, they held a meeting of the National Council to affirm that they, and not Watie and his followers, were the true government of the Cherokee people. This 1863 loyal council opened by denouncing the Cherokee treaty with the Confederacy and insisting they were pressured into the alliance due to a lack of federal protection in Indian Territory. They then quickly moved to address the issue of slavery in the Cherokee Nation. Within the four-day period from Feb. 18 to Feb. 21, 1863, the Cherokee Council passed two separate emancipation acts.

The slavery issue was of such great importance they tackled it first: before they removed Stand Watie and other Confederates from office, before discussing how to deal with the utter devastation the Cherokee people faced in their war-torn country and before John Ross was appointed to represent the Cherokee Nation in discussions with the United States government.

The prominent place of slavery at these council meetings reflected a keen understanding of the nature of emancipation policy within the Lincoln administration. As the Cherokee Nation severed ties with the Confederacy and hoped to rejoin the Union, they were certainly aware of another government that had recently done exactly that: on Dec. 31, 1862, President Lincoln welcomed West Virginia into the Union, with its statehood conditional on its newly written constitution’s including an abolition clause.

The Emancipation Acts themselves further demonstrated the Cherokee Council’s acute awareness of President Lincoln’s policies. They first called for a Cherokee delegation to negotiate with the United States government to emancipate their slaves “upon the Principle of Compensation.” During the initial years of the Civil War, Lincoln had proposed ending slavery in the border states through a gradual dissolution of the peculiar institution, with compensation offered to slave owners for their financial losses. He again endorsed a plan for gradual and compensated emancipation in his annual address to Congress on Dec. 1, 1862. The Cherokee Council’s first Emancipation Act, passed on Feb. 18, was an attempt to take Lincoln up on this offer.

What is surprising, then, is how quickly the Cherokee council issued a second Emancipation Act that specified universal emancipation without compensation. On Feb. 20, the council declared: “Any person or Persons, who may have been held in Slavery are, hereby, declared to be forever free.” Why did Cherokee leaders change such a fundamental aspect of their emancipation plans?

Between Lincoln’s endorsement of compensated emancipation in his annual address and the Cherokees’ plan for compensated emancipation, a watershed had occurred. On Jan. 1, 1863, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This action forever altered the parameters of freedom in the United States, and Lincoln would cease his offers of compensated emancipation. The Cherokee Nation had missed its opportunity to receive payment for freeing slaves. Strengthening ties with the Union would require the Cherokees to adjust to Lincoln’s new emancipation policies.

The Cherokees, however, differed from Lincoln and his cabinet over one key issue. There was no serious discussion or consideration of freedmen’s citizenship in the Cherokee Nation. Instead, on Nov. 14, the Cherokee Council passed an act that explicitly denied citizenship to former slaves and required freed slaves remaining in the Nation to obtain work permits. The incorporation of the former slaves of Cherokee masters into the Cherokee citizenry would wait until the 1866 Treaty between the Cherokees and United States.

In the aftermath of freedom, the United States incorporated freed people into the body politic with constitutional amendments outlining their citizenship rights. In the 1866 treaty, federal officials also required Cherokee leaders to grant former slaves and their descendants “all the rights of native Cherokees.” This particular phrase is important, because it did not explicitly state what these rights were - and has been a source of tension between Cherokee leaders and the Cherokee Freedmen ever since.

Follow Disunion at twitter.com/NYTcivilwar or join us on Facebook.

Sources: Clarissa Confer, “The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War”; William McLoughlin, “After the Trail of Tears”; Melinda Miller, “Essays on Race and the Persistence of Economic Inequality; Cherokee Nation, 1863 Emancipation Acts and Treaty of 1866; James Oaks, “Freedom National”; Rachel Smith Purvis, “‘Maintaining intact our homogenousness’: Race, Citizenship, & Reconstructing Cherokee”; United States Government, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

Melinda C. Miller, a visiting assistant professor of economics at Yale and an assistant professor of economics at the United States Naval Academy, studies the economic status of the Cherokee freedmen during the decades following the Civil War. Rachel Smith Purvis, a postdoctoral associate at Yale, is revising her manuscript on the Cherokee Nation during the Reconstruction era.

Tribe Fights With Slaves’ Kin: Court Weighs Whether Cherokee Must Extend Rights to Its Freedmen’s Progeny

An old dispute about whether the descendants of slaves freed by the Cherokee Nation more than a century ago qualify as members of the tribe is heating up again in a federal court.

The Cherokee Nation abolished slavery in 1863, and three years later it signed a treaty with the U.S. granting tribal rights to the Cherokee’s freed slaves, or “Freedmen,” many of whom had migrated with the tribe decades earlier to present-day Oklahoma.

But the Oklahoma-based Cherokee tribe, which has more than 310,000 members, later narrowed its citizenship criteria, excluding many descendants of the Freedmen and rendering them ineligible for a broad range of tribal benefits, such as business loans, medical services, housing assistance and college scholarships.

About 25,000 Freedmen descendants have been wrongly excluded from Cherokee citizenship, said Marilyn Vann, president of an Oklahoma-based Freedmen’s advocacy group. While a sovereign nation, the Cherokee don’t extend citizenship to all those within a certain territory but rather limit membership to those who share a common ancestry.

After almost 10 years of legal battles, including in Cherokee tribal courts and federal court in Washington, D.C., the Freedmen’s citizenship status appears headed toward a resolution before Judge Terence Kern in Tulsa, Okla.

The Cherokee Nation filed a complaint this year, asking Judge Kern to rule that a 1866 treaty didn’t grant citizenship to Freedmen descendants. On July 2, the Interior Department filed a counterclaim against the tribe, saying Freedmen descendants should enjoy all rights of native Cherokee. A group of Freedmen descendants also filed a July 2 claim contending the Cherokee Nation had violated the U.S. Constitution by perpetuating the “badges and incidents” of slavery.

"Hopefully, we can move forward on this issue," Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee, said in a statement. "This matter has been held up in the court system for several years, and now that we have everyone at the table, we can get a definitive ruling."

The litigation will hinge partly on the legality of a 2007 vote in which Cherokee amended their constitution to grant citizenship only to those descended from at least one person listed as Indian on a government census of Cherokee taken more than 100 years ago. That definition excludes most Freedmen descendants, although more than 1,500 people who had an Indian ancestor qualify as citizens.

The Cherokee declined to be interviewed about the litigation. But in a summary of the Freedmen dispute posted on the Cherokee website, the tribe said its 2007 vote on citizenship wasn’t meant to discriminate against Freedmen descendants.

"The Cherokee people determined that the Cherokee Nation should return to what it had been since time immemorial—an Indian tribe made of Indians," according to the website.

Some experts in Indian rights say the Cherokee Nation has a sovereign right and duty to limit its membership, particularly as the tribe has become increasingly assimilated into American society and more people claim some affiliation with the tribe.

"The Cherokee people are sensitive because of efforts by non-Indians to claim to be Indians with nothing behind the claim," said G. William Rice, a professor at the University of Tulsa College of Law and member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. Mr. Rice noted the recent questions over whether Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts candidate for the U.S. Senate, exaggerated her possible Indian ancestry, an allegation Ms. Warren has denied. She has said that she has Native American ancestry, but she hasn’t been able to document that heritage.

Jon Velie, an Oklahoma lawyer who represents Freedmen descendants in the Tulsa case, said the Cherokee don’t have a right to discriminate against his clients because of their race. “The tribe is arguing, ‘We can do whatever we want,’ in the same way Southern states in the 1950s said, ‘Segregation is a states’ rights issue, and we can do whatever we want,’ ” he said.

Clint Carroll, a Cherokee citizen and professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Indian Studies, said a ruling in favor of the Freedmen would be a blow to the Cherokee’s tribal sovereignty. But if the tribe wins the right to define its citizenship as it sees fit, it would face the lingering perception that it had excluded people based on race.

"I can see both sides of the debate," he said. "We are at a fork in the road, and both paths lead to bad things."

Write to Nathan Koppel at nathan.koppel@wsj.com

A version of this article appeared July 17, 2012, on page A3 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Tribe Fights With Slaves’ Kin.

"Black Slaves, Red Masters" was produced by Sam Ford and originally aired on WJLA-TV Washington in February 1990. // Part II // Part III // Submitted by Mujerdorada

Choctaw Freedmen Roll documenting a portion of Buck and Matthew Franklin’s family. Courtesy National Archives at Fort Worth via the National Museum of American Indian’s IndiVisible exhibit View high resolution

Choctaw Freedmen Roll documenting a portion of Buck and Matthew Franklin’s family. Courtesy National Archives at Fort Worth via the National Museum of American Indian’s IndiVisible exhibit

Pain of ‘Trail of Tears’ shared by Blacks as well as Native Americans

CNN | Tiya Miles | 2/27/12

African American history, as it is often told, includes two monumental migration stories: the forced exodus of Africans to the Americas during the brutal Middle Passage of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the voluntary migration of Black residents who moved from southern farms and towns to northern cities in the early 1900s in search of “the warmth of other suns.”

A third African-American migration story—just as epic, just as grave—hovers outside the familiar frame of our historical consciousness. The iconic tragedy of Indian Removal: the Cherokee Trail of Tears that relocated thousands of Cherokees to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), was also a Black migration. Slaves of Cherokees walked this trail along with their Indian owners.

In 1838, the U.S. military and Georgia militia expelled Cherokees from their homeland with little regard for Cherokee dignity or life. Families were rousted out of their cabins and directed at gunpoint by soldiers. Forced to leave most of their possessions behind, they witnessed white Georgians taking ownership of their cabins, looting and burning once cherished objects. Cherokees were loaded into “stockades” until the appointed time of their departure, when they were divided into thirteen groups of nearly 1,000 people, each with two appointed leaders. The travelers set out on multiple routes to cross Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas at 10 miles a day with meager supplies.

At points along the way, the straggling bands were charged fees by white farmers to cross privately owned land. The few wagons available were used to carry the sick, infant, and elderly. Most walked through the fall and into the harsh winter months, suffering the continual deaths of loved ones to cold, disease, and accident. Among these sojourners were African Americans and Cherokees of African descent. They, like thousands of other Cherokees, arrived in Indian Country in 1839 broken, depleted, and destitute.

In addition to bearing the physical and emotional hardships of the trip, enslaved Blacks were enlisted to labor for Cherokees along the way; they hunted, chopped wood, nursed the sick, washed clothes, prepared the meals, guarded the camps at night, and hiked ahead to remove obstructions from the roads.

One Cherokee man, Nathaniel Willis, remembered in the 1930s that: “My grandparents were helped and protected by very faithful Negro slaves who … went ahead of the wagons and killed any wild beast who came along.” Nearly 4,000 Cherokees died during the eviction, as did an unaccounted for number of Blacks. As one former slave of Cherokees, Eliza Whitmire, said in the 1930s: “The weeks that followed General Scott’s order to remove the Cherokees were filled with horror and suffering for the unfortunate Cherokees and their slaves.”

Although Black presence on the Trail of Tears is a documented historical fact, many have willed it into forgetfulness.

Some African Americans avoid confronting the painful reality of Native American slave ownership, preferring instead to fondly imagine any Indian ancestor in the family tree and to picture all Indian communities in the South as safe havens for runaway slaves.

Some Cherokee citizens and Native people of other removed slaveholding tribes (Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles) have also denied this history, desiring to cordon off forced removal as an atrocious wrong that affected only Native Americans. By excluding Blacks (many of whom had Native “blood”) from a claim on this history, these deniers also seek to expel the descendants of Freedmen and women from the circle of tribal belonging. For it is the memory of this collective tragedy, perhaps more than any other, that binds together Cherokees who draw strength from having survived it.

As a researcher whose work focuses on African-American and Native American histories, I have encountered this resistance. A few years ago, I spoke on the subject of Blacks in the Cherokee removal at a conference of the National Trail of Tears Association. One member of the audience, a Cherokee instructor of Cherokee history, insisted that this was an historical event only for Cherokees, a story that rightfully belonged to them alone. This is a view shared by a former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, who reportedly implied in a published remark that descendants of Freedpeople do not deserve tribal rights because they did not suffer the collective trauma of removal. The Trail of Tears is a sacred story to the Cherokees, as in special and set apart. It carries a meaningful lesson across time and space—-about greed, injustice, and the perseverance of a people staring into a bleak and unknown future. However, a potent story shared with others is not necessarily diminished by the sharing; it might instead grow stronger in its ability to enlighten.

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(Source: local10.com)

30 Plays

MacArthur ‘Genius’ Tiya Miles does pioneering research on the relationship between Cherokee Indians and African-Americans. She speaks with host Michel Martin about shedding light on the unexplored history of Native American and African-American slavery in Michigan.

Download the free podcast or read the text transcript here.

Excerpt: Black Indians: Their Mixing Is To Be Prevented - British America

adailyriot:

… Since labor was in short supply in British America, the earliest colonist enslaved first Indians and then Africans. Since unending bondage did no exist in English law, the first form was called “indenture” and lasted for about seven years. “Indentured servants” of any color could be mistreated while in service, have theri personal life regulated, and their time extended by scheming masters.

Since all three races were abused under this system, they often rebelled and escaped. Reward notices of the time tell of red*, black, and white men and women fleeting their masters- sometimes together.

The first Africans introduced into Jamestown’s economy in 1619 became indentured servants, not slaves. Upon their release, they became part of the Virginia colony. Some became landowners, and one, Anthony Johnson, ruled an African community of twelve homesteads and two hundred acres in Virginia’s Northhampton County.

In the 1630s the rules of indenture began to change. It became legal to hold Africans and Indians for more than the usual seven years, even for life. The change began on he English-ruled island of Barbados when the governor announced “that Negroes and Indians… should sever for life, unless a contract was made to the contrary.” And beginning in 1636, only whites received contracts of indenture.

British America had taken a large step in dividing labor by race and reserving the worse for dark people. More and more white laborers were pouring into the thirteen British colonies, and masters did not want them making common cause with African or Native Americans. Masters had probably concluded their profitable labor system would work only as long as whites did not see their condition and fate as identical with nonwhites.

In 1636 a Massachusetts Indian became the first North American to be legally enslaved, sentenced to work until he died. A decade later Governor John Winthrop though of the idea of seizing Narragansett Indians to exchange for Africans. Around the same time British commissioners meeting in New Haven also decided that it was fair to make slaves of Indians and exchange them for Africans.

By 1661 slavery had become legal in the British colonies. Africans were preferred because of being thousands of miles from home. Indian slaves were able to flee to their armed brothers and sisters- and then come roaring back seeking revenge.

This idea of keeping slaves distant from their homes and families was crucial to having them under strict control. British merchants took Indians enslaved on the mainland and shipped them out to the West Indies. This was the only safe way to enslave Native Americans, for bondage was only secure when its victims felt they had no one to turn to, no friends nearby.

Reward notices in colonial newspapers now told of African slaves who “ran off with his Indian wife” or “had kin among the Indians” or  is “part-Indian and speaks their language good.”

In slave huts and beyond the British settlements along the coast, African and Native American women and men shared their sorrows and hopes, their luck and courage. They did not always know where to run to, bu they knew where to run from.

Judging reward notices, Africans picked up Indian languages soon as they reached a frontier region. Runaways in the woods always needed outside help.

The first full-scale battle between Native Americans and British colonist took place in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1622. Africans fared a lot better than their owners. According to historian James H. Johnstone “the Indians murdered every white but saved the Negroes.” This, noted Johnstone, became a common pattern during wars between colonist and Indians.

British colonial law not only lumped Native American and African people together, but handed both worse punishments than whites. A Virginia law set twenty-five lashes if he accused were a red* or black person. Virginia soon declared “Negro, Mulatto, and Indian slaves… to be real estate.”

Beginning slowly in 1670, rules of bondage began to change to permit Native Americans to leave. Virginia began matters that year by stating that Indians were enslaved for only twelve years, Africans for life.

This decision was based on a peculiar legal point that Africans were “imported into this colony by shipping” and Indians came “by land.” No mention was made of the fact that Indians did not come by land, but lived there before English settlers arrived, or that most Africans had been living in Virginia much longer than most British citizens.

Before Indians were erased out of the slave system, they had lived and married with African slaves, and produced in their offspring a new class of Americans held in chains. When the slave codes talked of “Indian slaves,” it probably meant those Black Indians. For example, although New York’s Assembly banned Indian bondage in 1679, in 1682 it forbad “Negro or Indian Slaves” from leaving their masters’ home or plantations without permission. The next year the Assembly denied “Negro or Indian Slaves” from meeting anywhere together in groups of four or more or being armed “with guns, Swords, Clubs, Staves or Any Other kind of weapon.”

Between 1619 and 1700 labor in North America had become divided by skin color. Liberty itself would remain divisible by sin color through the American Revolution and up to the Civil War and emancipation [and beyond].

This division kept working people in America from uniting against an unjust labor system. Masters deported Indian slaves to the West Indies so they could not flee to their homes and loved ones. They enlisted whites and local Indians to help them hunt their runaway African slaves. When local Native Americans refused this work, they reached out to Indians on distant islands who needed money or trade. Through this cleverness, slaveowners hoped to sleep soundly each night and awake each day to greater profits.

(via rematiration-deactivated2013111)

To prevent Africans and Native Americans from uniting, Europeans played skillfully on racial differences and ethnic rivalries. They kept the pot of animosity boiling. Whites turned Indians into slavehunters and slave owners, and Africans into “Indian-fighters”. Light-skinned Africans were pitted against dark-skinned, free against enslaved, Black Indians against “pure” Africans or “pure” Indians.
Those who have put history into books have emphasized differences between Africans and Native Americans. For example, they have stressed that Europeans encountered Indians as distinct individuals and members of proud nations, and Africans as nameless slaves. Little mention is made of the enslavement of Native Americans and nothing is said about the cultural similarities between the two dark peoples. In 1984, scholar Theda Perdue said: “By emphasizing the actual, exaggerated and imagined differences between Africans and Indians, whites successfully masked the cultural similarities of the two races as well as their mutual exploitation by whites.”

William Loren Katz, Black Indian: A Hidden Heritage (via adailyriot)

This right here hits home.

(via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity)

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chocol8luv:

“Johnson suggested that as non-white peoples being oppressed by Southern whites, they should empathize with black slaves. In reality, his suggestion would have greatly offended Cherokee leaders, whose claim to civilization had become about not being black. In an 1829 article in the Cherokee Phoenix, Elias Boudinot wrote that “Indians…are red, not black, and therefore cannot be treated with gross injustice like negro slaves.” Cherokee leaders used an emerging racial hierarchy to distinguish themselves from all blacks. In the end, Johnson did not directly condemn the ownership of slaves by Cherokees, but he criticized them for their willingness to support the institution through publication. He felt that they unwittingly assisted white slaveholders who wanted them removed to western lands.”

Cherokee Slaveholders and Radical Abolitionists: An Unlikely Alliance in Antebellum America” by: Natalie Joy

(via chocol8luv-deactivated20120308)

A Black/Indian Victory for Freedom

jalwhite:

 

William Loren Katz | December 19, 2011

Christmas Eve marks the anniversary of one of the least known battles for freedom and self-determination fought in North America. In 1837, in what had become the state of Florida less than a generation earlier, the freedom fighters were members of the Seminole Nation, an alliance of African slave runaways and Native American Seminoles.

They faced the strongest power in the Americas, the combined armed forces of the United States Army, Navy and Marines, whose goal was to crush the bi-racial alliance and return its African-American members to slavery.

The battle lines were drawn where they were, in part, because an early expedition by Ponce De Leon had claimed the Florida peninsula for the Spanish monarchy but Spain lacked the means to govern the large territory.

So, during the colonial era, escaped slaves from the Carolinas built a new home in ungoverned Florida. Since 1738, Africans had been establishing prosperous, self-governing communities, and around 1776, they welcomed Seminoles fleeing ethnic persecution by the Creek Nation.

The Africans taught their new friends the methods of rice cultivation they had learned in Sierra Leone and Senegambia. On this basis the two peoples of color built an agricultural-based society with a military force prepared to meet threats to their community, to their right of self-determination and to their liberty.

By the War of 1812, the Florida alliance was facing repeated attacks from American slave-hunter posses. There was also an occupation by an armed white militia force known as “Patriots,” who since 1811 enjoyed covert support from President James Madison. He hoped the Patriots would seize Florida for the United States.

Driving this campaign against Florida’s African and Seminole inhabitants were U.S. slaveholders who saw this successful bi-racial alliance as a clear and present danger to their southern plantation system. They had a point, since each week runaways crossed the border to find freedom in Seminole villages.

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