Black Seminoles: The Early African Freedom Seekers in Florida

Written by Jae Jones

Just who were the “Black Seminoles?” Well, the name “Black Seminoles” was given by modern historians for descendants of free blacks and some runaway slaves, such as the Maroons and the Gullahs, who had escaped from coastal South Carolina and Georgia rice plantations into the Spanish Florida wilderness as early as the 17th century.

By the early 19th century, the people of African descent had formed their own communities near the Seminoles Native Americans. The two groups formed a multi-ethnic and bi-racial alliance.

Florida had been a refuge for runaway slave for close to seventy years by the time of the American Revolution.   However, an increase of freedom-seeking blacks arrived in Florida during the war, which took place from 1775-1783. The new wave of runaway slaves received tools from the Seminoles for building houses and planting crops.

Black Seminoles lived apart from their masters in a sort of vassalage, in which they could enjoy great personal freedom, own property and livestock, and were only indebted to their “masters” for a share of their yearly productions and military allegiance. Communities of Black Seminoles were established on the outskirts of major Seminoles towns. The Black Seminoles culture took shape after 1800 and was a dynamic mixture of African, Native American, Spanish, and slave traditions.

When American naturalist William Bartram visited the group in 1773, the Seminoles had their own tribal name that connoted the tribe’s breakaway status from the Creeks, which was derived from “cimarron,” the Spanish word for runaway. Cimarron was also the source of the English word “maroon,” which was used to describe the runaway slave communities of Florida, the Caribbean, and other parts of The New World.

Today’s modern Black Seminoles are known as “Seminoles Freedmen” in Oklahoma, “Seminoles Scouts” in Texas, “Black Indians” in the Bahamas, and “Mascogos” in Mexico.


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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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