News and background stories on maroon communities in the Americas.
Below is information retrieved from:‘The Black Seminoles’ Long March to Freedom’ by CCNY Libraries.
For an extensive list of articles on Black Seminoles, see JohnHorse.com
The Black Seminoles, now called Seminole Maroons by ethnologists, are a group of people who live in Oklahoma, Texas, the Bahamas, and Coahuila, Mexico. Their ancestors were runaways from the plantations of South Carolina and Georgia beginning in the late seventeenth century who sought refuge in Spanish-controlled Florida. They lived among the Seminole Indians and were closely associated with them, but they maintained a separate identity and preserved their culture and traditions.
Following the First and Second Seminole Wars (1817 -1818 and 1835 1842) some escaped to the Bahamas and others were removed with their Native American allies to the Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). Ten years later some of them moved to Mexico where their descendants, known as Indios Mascogos still live. After the Civil War, a group of them moved to Texas, where in the 1870s and 1880s, they served with the U.S. Army on the Texas frontier as the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts.
Their quest involved contact with Native Americans, Spanish, British and American soldiers, settlers, traders and government officials. They suffered and survived deprivation, exploitation and destitution. Today their descendants celebrate the persistence and perseverance of their ancestors.
Even though the Black Seminoles never numbered more than several hundred at any given time, they have a special place in the history of Blacks in America. Their contribution is one which illuminates how personal and group determination overcame barriers of discrimination, poverty and deprivation. What emerged from their wanderings was a sense of identity, self-awareness and confidence which permitted them to keep moving in pursuit of a place to call their own, in pursuit of freedom. Out of the nightmare that was slavery, this is a heroic story of a people who persevered and managed to survive constant setbacks and repeated removals in an effort to achieve self-determination, justice and liberty.
Like the name ‘Maroon’, the name ‘Seminole’ is derived from the Spanish word cimarrón, meaning “fugitives” or “wild ones.” Cimarrón was most often used in the Americas to refer to Africans who escaped from slavery. However, in early years the term was also applied to enslaved Native Americans who had escaped into Florida and who eventually came to identify themselves as cimanól or “Seminole.” In contemporary academics the terms Seminole, Black Seminole, Seminole Scouts (Texas), and Seminole Freedmen (in Oklahoma) are all used to refer to communities of African Americans whose ancestors joined with Native American Seminole communities but who maintained a separate identity and language within the larger Seminole communities.
Photo above: Sgt. Ben July, Seminole-Negro Indian Scout, shown in late 1890s in front of jacal hut, Seminole camp near Fort Clark. The famed scouts were a critical factor in campaigns against Indians. The women and children shown with Sgt. July may be his family. The thatch-roofed structures made of vertical posts were known as ‘jacals’ and were a common and practical type of construction in South Texas. Photo courtesy Fort Clark Historical Society.
Read full article at ‘The Black Seminoles’ Long March to Freedom’ by CCNY Libraries.