- Posted July 5, 2009 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Black in America: Your roots
Spirit of a Choctaw Freedwoman
Created by Angela Walton-Raji
An unwritten chapter of slavery in America. Black slaves with Indian masters.
This is a story of people taken westward during the Indian removals and their descendants known as Indian "Freedmen". Those who were enslaved knew Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) as their home since the 1830s and 40s. Many lost loved ones on the Trial of Tears and when "the fires were lit" they were there. But they are never mentioned nor reflected in history. BUT---they were there. And their descendants are there to this day.
The slaves of the Five Slaveholding Tribes saw many of their masters form an alliance put on gray uniforms and fight for the South in America's Civil War. Many saw their neighbors freed in 1865 in Arkansas and Texas, but another year would pass before they would be freed in 1866. Knowing only one place as home, they remained on the only land they knew.
The former slaves of the Five Slaveholding Tribes witnessed the arrival of outsiders into their land--the intruders. They saw the legalization of that intrusion with the Land Rush. And they finally became American citizens in 1907. As soon as statehood took hold they were thrown into second class status with Jim Crow laws making them stay oppressed. But by that time, 20,000 Freedmen were listed and have documented files connecting them to the land and to their history.
The historical maps still don't include them, (see the CNN map) but now, more than 100,000 Blacks in America, have a documented tie to the Five Slaveholding Tribes--Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek (Muscogee) and Seminole Nations. These tribes do not include the descendants of the Freedmen fully and many in the tribes will claim that the Freedmen were forced upon them.
Perhaps it should be said that the "Freedom" of the slaves was forced, because the slaves never forced their way onto the auction block.
The story of the Freedmen is one of survival, and a legacy worth preserving. It is a large chapter unaddressed in American history, and we are now telling our stories.