Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Ties That Bind

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Ties That Bind

Article excerpt

Ties That Bind Untangling the history of the "Black Seminoles." The Seminole Freedmen: A History by Kevin Mulroy, $36.95, Hardcover, University of Oklahoma Press (November 2007), ISBN-10: 0806138653, ISBN-13: 978-0806138657, 446 pp.

As a transplanted Englishman, Dr. Kevin Mulroy might seem an unlikely candidate to peel back the layers of mystique and legend surrounding the "Black Seminoles."

To him, his role is a natural progression from his childhood curiosity about the American West, African-Americans and American Indians, now merged in one great story.

In Britain in the mid-1970s, Mulroy, now associate executive director for research collections and services at the University of Southern California, had the rare privilege of taking a course on Black and Indian relations. In it, he found the story of affiliations between Black runaways and the Seminole Indians "very appealing."

Learning then that little had been published on their experiences after the federal government transplanted them together from their homelands in Florida to Indian territory, Mulroy soon moved to Oklahoma to further his research.

"Academics and librarians in Oklahoma were a little surprised that somebody from England would be interested in this topic," he recalls. "This was back in the late 1970s, before the subject became better known. Everybody, however, proved extremely helpful and supportive.

"The freedmen that I met ... were glad to find that I was genuinely interested in their history," he adds. "Once we had established a trust and comfort level, my informants proved very forthright. Some of the Seminole Indians I met were a little more suspicious, probably because they thought I might be advocating for the rights of freedmen."

In 1984, he completed a doctoral thesis on "Relations Between Blacks and Seminoles After Removal," and later published Freedom on the Border: The Seminole Maroons in Florida, the Indian Territory, Coahuila, and Texas, (Texas Tech University Press, 1993), which focused on descendants who moved on to Texas and Mexico.

His latest book focuses on those who stayed in Oklahoma. It is intricately packed with facts and names, extensively documented with footnotes and bibliography, and accompanied by captivating photographs of historical figures.

The subject is timely, following the controversies over the freedmen descendants' tribal rights. The Seminole Nation voted to oust them in 2000, but they were later reinstated after the federal government imposed funding sanctions. …

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