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Black Slaves, Indian Masters

Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Black Slaves, Indian Masters
    Book Description:

    From the late eighteenth century through the end of the Civil War, Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians bought, sold, and owned Africans and African Americans as slaves, a fact that persisted after the tribes' removal from the Deep South to Indian Territory. The tribes formulated racial and gender ideologies that justified this practice and marginalized free black people in the Indian nations well after the Civil War and slavery had ended. Through the end of the nineteenth century, ongoing conflicts among Choctaw, Chickasaw, and U.S. lawmakers left untold numbers of former slaves and their descendants in the two Indian nations without citizenship in either the Indian nations or the United States. In this groundbreaking study, Barbara Krauthamer rewrites the history of southern slavery, emancipation, race, and citizenship to reveal the centrality of Native American slaveholders and the black people they enslaved.Krauthamer's examination of slavery and emancipation highlights the ways Indian women's gender roles changed with the arrival of slavery and changed again after emancipation and reveals complex dynamics of race that shaped the lives of black people and Indians both before and after removal.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0801-3
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    In the summer of 1937, nearly seventy-one years after her emancipation from slavery, Kiziah Love welcomed a field-worker from the Oklahoma office of the Federal Writers’ Project into her home. Love was one of approximately 7,000 black people who had been enslaved and emancipated by a Native American master.¹ Benjamin Franklin Colbert, a Choctaw slaveholder and cotton planter, owned Kiziah Love, her mother, and at least twenty-four other black people as slaves in Indian Territory, the place we now know as Oklahoma. Ninety-three years old, blind and bedridden, Love assured her guest that her memory remained sharp and that she...

  5. 1 Black Slaves, Indian Masters Race, Gender, and Power in the Deep South
    (pp. 17-45)

    In the early nineteenth century, Choctaw and Chickasaw men and women embraced the idea of acquiring black people as property, equating blackness with lifelong, hereditary, and degraded servitude. First in Mississippi and then after their removal in the 1830s to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), wealthy and middling Choctaws borrowed, bartered, and paid cash on the barrel to buy enslaved black people from nearby white slave owners, professional slave traders, and each other. Through the antebellum period, growing numbers of Choctaws and Chickasaws calculated their personal wealth by counting the slaves they had purchased.¹

    The practice of owning people of African...

  6. 2 Enslaved People, Missionaries, and Slaveholders Christianity, Colonialism, and Struggles over Slavery
    (pp. 46-76)

    Enslaved people sold from the southern states to masters in Indian country brought with them the faith, skills, and practices central to the distinctive African American religious traditions taking root and flowering in other southern locations from the late eighteenth century through the early decades of the nineteenth century. Scholars of slavery and the African Diaspora no longer debate whether newly arrived African slaves and their American-born offspring retained memories and knowledge of their lives prior to the Middle Passage and enslavement. Rather, we now pay careful attention to the myriad ways in which Africans of diverse ethnic backgrounds came...

  7. 3 Slave Resistance, Sectional Crisis, and Political Factionalism in Antebellum Indian Territory
    (pp. 77-100)

    Enslaved people in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations had no illusions about what it meant to be owned and exploited as chattel, and they engaged in a wide range of resistance strategies to ease the burdens of enslavement. Whether they settled on everyday acts of defiance or more dramatic moments of violence and insurrection, enslaved people understood the complicated ways that the institution of slavery shaped political, social, and economic life in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. So, too, did they grasp the ways slavery in Indian Territory was inextricably linked to slavery in the United States. Enslaved people’s wide-ranging...

  8. 4 The Treaty of 1866 Emancipation and the Conflicts over Black People’s Citizenship Rights and Indian Nations’ Sovereignty
    (pp. 101-118)

    For the enslaved men and women in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, the end of the Civil War offered little reason for jubilation. Unlike their Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole counterparts, Choctaw and Chickasaw lawmakers did not abolish slavery either during or at the close of the war. The Union victory in the states did not automatically precipitate the abolition of slavery in the politically autonomous Indian nations, nor did it immediately restore treaty relations between the United States and Indian allies of the Confederacy. Months after the war’s end and slavery’s demise in the United States, Choctaw and Chickasaw lawmakers...

  9. 5 Freedmen’s Political Organizing and the Ongoing Struggles over Citizenship, Sovereignty, and Squatters
    (pp. 119-138)

    Though emancipation came late in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, black people received the news of their liberation with joyous relief. The elderly Kiziah Love, a Choctaw freedwoman, recalled that when she learned of her freedom, she clapped her hands and thanked God that she was “free at last!” But the thrill of liberation was tainted with a heavy dose of uncertainty and apprehension.

    From 1866 to 1868, black people waited to learn whether they would be granted citizenship in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations or the United States under the terms of the 1866 treaty. Neither party adhered to...

  10. 6 A New Home in the West Allotment, Race, and Citizenship
    (pp. 139-152)

    For nearly half a century after emancipation, black people in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations lived without a clearly defined status in either the nations or the United States. Questions and conflicts over black people’s citizenship and their attendant rights in the Indian nations persisted through the second half of the nineteenth century. Choctaw and Chickasaw leaders periodically entertained the prospect of recognizing former slaves and their descendants as citizens of their respective nations. Federal lawmakers, likewise, routinely discussed measures that proposed to resolve black people’s uncertain standing in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. Yet it was only when the...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 153-154)

    Writing in 1980, Ralph Ellison mused on the nature of historical memory. In a passage evocative of W. E. B. Du Bois’s conception of black Americans’ “double-consciousness,” Ellison wrote: “We possess two basic versions of American history: one which is written and as neatly stylized as ancient myth, and the other unwritten and as chaotic and full of contradictions, changes of pace, and surprises as life itself.”¹

    Ellison, a native son of Oklahoma, sought to impress upon his readers the necessity of retrieving the unwritten past, by which he meant the history of black people in America, and acknowledging its...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 155-180)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 181-198)
  14. Index
    (pp. 199-211)