Here is the story of the Black Seminoles, a group of fugitive slaves who escaped bondage and created a community of free Blacks in Mexico.
In the early 1700s, when what we know as America began to take shape, some Gullah Geechee slaves were able to escape slavery more than 150 years before the start of the Civil War. These fugitive slaves fled south into the Florida peninsula from coastal South Carolina and Georgia. At the time Florida, which was owned by the Spanish, was nothing more than a swampy jungle.
The Spanish offered escaped slaves and renegade Indians a refugee from the onslaught of American tyranny. By the late 1700s, the Gullahs and some Native Americans established their own free settlements in Florida. The free communities maintained friendly relationships with one another until they all became loosely one tribe, a mixed population of native Indians and former Black slaves.
The Gullahs adopted the ways of the natives, while the Natives found joy in Gullah music and folklore. The Gullah also taught the Natives how to survive Florida’s harsh malaria-ridden swamps. Commingling for decades, the two groups raised several generations of free-born Black children. They would eventually be dubbed “Seminole Negroes” or the “Black Seminoles” by American settlers. The word Seminole derives from the Spanish word cimarron, meaning “wild” or “untamed.”
By the start of the 1800s, as word spread of a free settlement from Blacks and Native Americans, the Black Seminole settlements began to grow rapidly, which frightened America’s white elite. America would spend the next 20 years trying to destroy any resistance to the expansion of their white supremacy rule.
According to Yale research, in 1818, General Andrew Jackson (later President) led an American army into Florida to rid the state and the Black Seminoles and claim it for the United States.
Blacks and Native Americans fought side-by-side against Jackson’s troops but ultimately lost and were forced to flee into the more remote wilderness of central and southern Florida. This was known as the “Indian and Negro War,” or the First Seminole War.
The United States took control of Florida in 1821
In 1835, the Second Seminole War began, which led to the death of more than 1,500 American soldiers. The Black Seminoles fought American troops for six years fearing that if they lost they would be killed or sent back to slavery. The Black Seminoles were skilled at fighting in the swampy jungles. Some U.S. officials even claimed the Black Seminoles were, “contending against the whole military power of the United States.”
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