Freedom on the Border: The Seminole Maroons in Florida, the Indian Territory, Coahuila, and Texas

Freedom on the Border: The Seminole Maroons in Florida, the Indian Territory, Coahuila, and Texas

Freedom on the Border: The Seminole Maroons in Florida, the Indian Territory, Coahuila, and Texas

Freedom on the Border: The Seminole Maroons in Florida, the Indian Territory, Coahuila, and Texas

Synopsis

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, black runaways braved an escape from slavery in an unprecedented alliance with Seminole Indians in Florida. This is the story of the maroons' ethnogenesis in Florida, their removal to the West, their role in the Texas Indian Wars, and the fate of their long quest for liberty and self-determination along both sides of the Rio Grande. Their tale is rich, colorful, and epic, stretching from the swamps of the Southeast to the desert Southwest. From a borderlands mosaic of slave hunters, corrupt Indian agents, Texas filibusters, Mexican revolutionaries, French invaders, Apache and Comanche raiders, frontier outlaws, lawmen, and Buffalo Soldiers, emerges a saga of enslavement, flight, exile, and ultimately freedom.

Excerpt

This is the story of a relentless search for freedom. A burning desire for liberty provided the motivating force that would drive a courageous group of displaced Africans from the plantations of the Old South via Florida and the Indian Territory to the rugged terrain of Coahuila and West Texas. At first, freedom meant simply an escape from bondage, but ultimately it would come to embody the larger notion of self-determination. For these people, the goal would prove elusive. As history unfolded, true liberty would acquire connotations of crossing international boundaries, fighting wars, living in exile, and establishing communities on hostile frontiers.

Ethnohistorians, linguists, and anthropologists have had difficulty in agreeing upon a name for this remarkable group. Seminole Negroes or Indian Negroes were the terms preferred by nineteenth century whites, but, over the years, they also have been referred to as Seminole blacks, Indian blacks, Seminole freedmen, Afro-Seminoles, Negro-Indians, black Indians, black Muscogulges, black Seminoles, and, most recently, black Seminole. Today, Texas group members call themselves Seminoles, in Coahuila they refer to themselves as Indies Mascogos, and in Oklahoma they call themselves Freedmens, each conferring exclusivity and stemming from their earlier relations with the Seminole Indians. The groups’ self perceptions are informative, but they certainly have not facilitated the adoption a single term to describe them.

Seminole blacks remains a useful term, constituent members being Africans or their descendants, whose association with Seminole Indians played a large part in their history and the construction of their identity. As Richard Price and William Sturtevant have suggested, however, Seminole maroons most accurately describes the group. Stated simply, these people were either fugitives from slavery or their descendants, and the communities they established closely match the classic definition of maroon societies formulated by Price. Their history and their relationship with the border can be understood best in that context. Technically speaking, in Florida, the Indian Territory, and Coahuila, some of the . . .

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