Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South

Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South

Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South

Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South

Synopsis

From the late eighteenth century through the end of the Civil War, Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians bought, sold, and owned Africans and African Americans as slaves, a fact that persisted after the tribes' removal from the Deep South to Indian Territory. The tribes formulated racial and gender ideologies that justified this practice and marginalized free black people in the Indian nations well after the Civil War and slavery had ended. Through the end of the nineteenth century, ongoing conflicts among Choctaw, Chickasaw, and U.S. lawmakers left untold numbers of former slaves and their descendants in the two Indian nations without citizenship in either the Indian nations or the United States. In this groundbreaking study, Barbara Krauthamer rewrites the history of southern slavery, emancipation, race, and citizenship to reveal the centrality of Native American slaveholders and the black people they enslaved.
Krauthamer's examination of slavery and emancipation highlights the ways Indian women's gender roles changed with the arrival of slavery and changed again after emancipation and reveals complex dynamics of race that shaped the lives of black people and Indians both before and after removal.

Excerpt

In the summer of 1937, nearly seventy-one years after her emancipation from slavery Kiziah Love welcomed a field-worker from the Oklahoma office of the Federal Writers’ Project into her home. Love was one of approximately 7,000 black people who had been enslaved and emancipated by a Native American master. Benjamin Franklin Colbert, a Choctaw slaveholder and cotton planter, owned Kiziah Love, her mother, and at least twenty-four other black people as slaves in Indian Territory, the place we now know as Oklahoma. Ninetythree years old, blind and bedridden, Love assured her guest that her memory remained sharp and that she could recall a great deal about her life in slavery. Jessie R. Ervin, one of the eight writers assigned to the Oklahoma Slave Narrative Project, interviewed Love, using the standard list of questions given to interviewers and also adhering to the guidelines for rendering the subject’s account in so-called black dialect. After speaking with Love about her work, religion, health, and family life during slavery, Ervin concluded the interview with questions about emancipation. Love said that, yes, she “was glad to be free.” She continued, “What did I do and say? Well, I jest clapped my hands together and said, ‘Thank God Almighty, I’se free at last!’” Almost as an afterthought, Love added: “I live on the forty acres that the government give me.”

Kiziah Love’s recollections evoke a history of slavery and emancipation that is simultaneously familiar and unexpected. This book is a study of slavery, emancipation, and freedom in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian Nations that traces the intricate points of connections between the Indian nations and the United States. The history of slavery in the Indian nations is very much a part of southern history and U.S. history. To be sure, we cannot fully understand the meanings and consequences of slavery, emancipation, and citizenship in the Indian nations without paying attention to the complicated history of Indian sovereignty. Kiziah Love’s description of emancipation as a moment of jubilee and deliverance reflected the universal sentiment of black people across the United States and throughout the African Diaspora. But her passing mention of receiving the fabled “forty acres” of land from the government gives one pause by calling attention to the distinctiveness of black people’s history . . .

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