The History of Black Seminoles of Florida

    By VISIT FLORIDA staff

    In the 17th century, slaves escaping from Georgia and the Carolinas found a home among the Seminole people in Florida.

    Making their journey the first Underground Railroad, slaves from the Carolinas and Georgia as early as 1688 escaped to northern Florida, at that time under Spanish control, and were received by the Seminoles. An association originally limited to mutual material advantage grew into one of reciprocal respect and affection. Intermarriage inevitably occurred. Black Seminoles did not have individual owners, but they did have to provide tribute in crops or cattle in return for relative freedom and protection from re-enslavement. They usually lived in separate but nearby towns or villages, rather than with the Seminoles.

    Some became successful farmers and cattle herders, and a few served as interpreters and military leaders during the Seminole Wars and rose to prominence in Seminole society. No group would resist annexation more than the Black Seminoles. To lose a battle would mean they would simultaneously lose their independence, their homes and their freedom. Over a period of seven years, the U.S. Army sent 40,000 troops to fight about 2,000 Seminoles, approximately 500 of those Black Seminoles. After three wars and a truce, no peace treaty was ever signed. For this reason, the Seminoles are considered “the Unconquered People.”

    By 1857, most of the Seminoles had been forcibly resettled in the Indian Territories in Oklahoma. The 100 or so Seminoles who stayed fled into the Everglades and now make up the 3,000-plus Seminole Tribe of Florida. It all began in Florida, but their saga took them to Oklahoma, Texas, Mexico and the Bahamas. A cultural blend of African and Native American, these courageous men and women are the Black Seminoles, an almost forgotten part of Florida’s past. For more information, visit the Collier County Museum at colliermuseums.com.

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