Lost Black History
By Don Valentine
Native Americans and Black people have a history that has been tenuous and vibrant. Did you know that several prominent Natives owned Black slaves? This piece of Black history unfortunately is not presented in schools. In her book Black Slaves, Indian Masters, Barbara Krauthamer gives a poignant rendition of this history. From the late 1700’s through the end of the Civil War, the five civilized nations [Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles] bought, sold, and owned Black slaves.
The primary reason was to assimilate into the society of the White invaders. America is a country that values property like land,and human chattel. Owning slaves was the most expedient way to gain respect in the White world. In the late 1780’s the US established a “Civilization Program” to teach Natives to live and work like Whites.
Encyclopedia.com lists the most elite Native land/slave owners. Greenwood LeFlore (Choctaw), Levi Colbert (Chickasaw), Alexander McGillivray and William McIntosh (Creek), and the Vann, Ross, Ridge families (Cherokee), owned large plantations. Their integration let them buy homes that rivaled the wealthiest White plantation owners.
Our bond with the Native community was enigmatic, because most of the time we fought a common oppressor. Recall the proverb: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Whites enslaved Natives first and introduced Black slaves shortly there after. That built a mutual loathing of the slave masters.
The Governor of Hispaniola, first mentioned “African and Indian” interaction in a report circa 1503. In 1522 their fears came to reality with the first documented Black and Native aligned revolt. The African American Registry established the first slave revolt on the US continent, was in 1522 (North Carolina) and it began a united fighting coalition of
Blacks and Natives.
The AAR notes “White reaction to such communities was extreme despite their limited numbers. Europeans sought to keep the two peoples separated and, if possible, mutually hostile. They taught Africans to fight Natives and bribed Indians to hunt escaped Africans, promising lucrative rewards. Natives who captured escaped Africans received 35 deerskins in Virginia or three blankets and a musket in the Carolinas.” In a sly move, Whites introduced Black slavery into the “Five Civilized Nations” in the United States.
Whites gave these Native nations that moniker because they merged into White culture quicker than the other tribes. This assimilation included several components valued in the White economic arena. These elements included the adoption of horticulture, European cultural institutions, including widespread Christianity. In addition, a highly regarded mimicry was written constitutions, centralized governments, intermarriage with
White Americans, literacy, and even slave ownership. In the Caucasian perspective these elements made you closer to being an equal. Time has shown that to this day full equality among Natives and Blacks with White society is a fiction–a fools pursuit!
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