Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom

Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom

Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom

Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom

Synopsis

This beautifully written book tells the haunting saga of a quintessentially American family. It is the story of Shoe Boots, a famed Cherokee warrior and successful farmer, and Doll, an African slave he acquired in the late 1790s. Over the next thirty years, Shoe Boots and Doll lived together as master and slave and also as lifelong partners who, with their children and grandchildren, experienced key events in American history--including slavery, the Creek War, the founding of the Cherokee Nation and subsequent removal of Native Americans along the Trail of Tears, and the Civil War. This is the gripping story of their lives, in slavery and in freedom.

Meticulously crafted from historical and literary sources, Ties That Bind vividly portrays the members of the Shoeboots family. Doll emerges as an especially poignant character, whose life is mostly known through the records of things done to her--her purchase, her marriage, the loss of her children--but also through her moving petition to the federal government for the pension owed to her as Shoe Boots's widow. A sensitive rendition of the hard realities of black slavery within Native American nations, the book provides the fullest picture we have of the myriad complexities, ironies, and tensions among African Americans, Native Americans, and whites in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Excerpt

When I began work on this book several years ago, I wanted to tell a story. I imagined it would be about the intersecting lives of blacks and Indians in nineteenth-century America, about interracial and intercultural alliance, about shared meanings and joint resistance to slavery and colonialism. In the intervening years, however, I found, as veteran storytellers have known for longer than I have been alive, that the “story” is rarely what it seems on the surface and often encompasses many more stories. As I read secondarysource materials on Native American and African American histories in preparation for writing this book, the story that most arrested me was one about a slave woman: a black slave woman, owned by a Cherokee man who would later father her five children. Her name was Doll, his was Shoe Boots, and the tale of their life together was both complicated and painful.

The Shoeboots family story opened up an entire history that I, growing up in an African American family, majoring in Afro-American Studies in college, and studying Native American history in graduate school, had never heard. And yet this story seemed vital to gaining a full understanding of the American past, since it moved through and encompassed key moments, issues, and struggles both in African American and American Indian histories. The more details I uncovered about Doll and Shoe Boots’s life and family, the more committed I became to writing into the . . .

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