A Social History of the American Negro eBook

Benjamin Griffith Brawley
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 546 pages of information about A Social History of the American Negro.

1. Creek, Seminole, and Negro to 1817:  The War of 1812

On August 7, 1786, the Continental Congress by a definite and far-reaching ordinance sought to regulate for the future the whole conduct of Indian affairs.  Two great districts were formed, one including the territory north of the Ohio and west of the Hudson, and the other including that south of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi; and for anything pertaining to the Indian in each of these two great tracts a superintendent was appointed.  As affecting the Negro the southern district was naturally of vastly more importance than the northern.  In the eastern portion of this, mainly in what are now Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and eastern Alabama, were the Cherokees and the great confederacy of the Creeks, while toward the west, in the present Mississippi and western Alabama, were the Chickasaws and the Choctaws.  Of Muskhogean stock, and originally a part of the Creeks, were the Seminoles ("runaways"), who about 1750, under the leadership of a great chieftain, Secoffee, separated from the main confederacy, which had its center in southwest Georgia just a little south of Columbus, and overran the peninsula of Florida.  In 1808 came another band under Micco Hadjo to the present site of Tallahassee.  The Mickasukie tribe was already on the ground in the vicinity of this town, and at first its members objected to the newcomers, who threatened to take their lands from them; but at length all abode peaceably together under the general name of Seminoles.  About 1810 these people had twenty towns, the chief ones being Mikasuki and Tallahassee.  From the very first they had received occasional additions from the Yemassee, who had been driven out of South Carolina, and of fugitive Negroes.

By the close of the eighteenth century all along the frontier the Indian had begun to feel keenly the pressure of the white man, and in his struggle with the invader he recognized in the oppressed Negro a natural ally.  Those Negroes who by any chance became free were welcomed by the Indians, fugitives from bondage found refuge with them, and while Indian chiefs commonly owned slaves, the variety of servitude was very different from that under the white man.  The Negroes were comparatively free, and intermarriage was frequent; thus a mulatto woman who fled from bondage married a chief and became the mother of a daughter who in course of time became the wife of the famous Osceola.  This very close connection of the Negro with the family life of the Indian was the determining factor in the resistance of the Seminoles to the demands of the agents of the United States, and a reason, stronger even than his love for his old hunting-ground, for his objection to removal to new lands beyond the Mississippi.  Very frequently the Indian could not give up his Negroes without seeing his own wife and children led away into bondage; and thus to native courage and pride was added the instinct of a father for the preservation of his own.

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A Social History of the American Negro from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.