Separate Peoples, One Land: The Minds of Cherokees, Blacks, and Whites on the Tennessee Frontier

Separate Peoples, One Land: The Minds of Cherokees, Blacks, and Whites on the Tennessee Frontier

Separate Peoples, One Land: The Minds of Cherokees, Blacks, and Whites on the Tennessee Frontier

Separate Peoples, One Land: The Minds of Cherokees, Blacks, and Whites on the Tennessee Frontier

Synopsis

Exploring the mental worlds of the major groups interacting in a borderland setting, Cynthia Cumfer offers a broad, multiracial intellectual and cultural history of the Tennessee frontier in the Revolutionary and early national periods, leading up to the era of rapid westward expansion and Cherokee removal. Attentive to the complexities of race, gender, class, and spirituality, Cumfer offers a rare glimpse into the cultural logic of Native American, African American, and Euro-American men and women as contact with one another powerfully transformed their ideas about themselves and the territory they came to share.

Excerpt

While I was engaged in this project, I was introduced to a chemist who inquired politely about the subject of my research. I gave him the ten-second version—that I was working on an intellectual history of Tennessee from 1768 through 1810. He looked surprised and said, “I didn’t know they had an intellectual history.” “Well,” I answered, “they were people. Everybody thinks.”

Over the past two decades, scholars have addressed in part the sentiments my chemist acquaintance expressed. Intellectual historians of the backcountry and of the early West have studied rebellions, republican political ideas and culture, and attitudes about race and ethnicity. Little else, though, is known about the minds of the trans-Appalachian black and white men and women in the early republic, yet the transmontane West was the site of the development of ideas about diplomatic relationships with indigenous peoples, property rights and allocations, and civilization that gained international currency. Although the Cherokees are an important exception, most scholars who are concerned with the cognitive worlds of Native Americans in the colonial and early national period study the northern Indians. Very few writers examine the mental worlds of each of the major groups that interacted in a borderland setting. In this book, I explore both the articulated ideas and the cultural logic of the Cherokee, black, and white peoples who met in the eastern and middle Tennessee regions from the time of permanent white settlement in 1768 until 1810. These groups came together because of two massive movements of people initiated by Europeans—settlers seeking land as part of the great land rush of 1650 to 1900 and slaves exported from Africa to cultivate the lands appropriated during colonization. I chose this time because I am interested in the ideas generated in frontier regions during and in the generation after the American Revolution. By 1810, the Cherokees had unified against further land cessions, heralding a realignment in Cherokee and settler relations, and the population explosion in the African American and Euro-American communities closed the frontier in most of eastern . . .

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