Beneath the Underdog:
Race, Religion, and the Trail of Tears
By Patrick Minges
Union Theological Seminary in the City of
© Copyright 1994, 1998, All Rights Reserved
Used With Permission
In the fields and homes
of the colonial plantations of the
United States in the late eighteenth century, the first intimate relations
between African-American and Native-American peoples were forged in their
collective oppression at the hands of the peculiar institution.
The institution of the African slavery, as it developed in the New World,
was based upon the lessons learned in the enslavement of traditional peoples
of the Americas. In spite of a later tendency in the Southern United States
to differentiate the African slave from the Indian, African slavery was
in actuality imposed on top of a preexisting system of Indian slavery.
In North America, the two never diverged as distinct institutions.
Vast numbers of indigenous peoples toiled to their death in the fields
and mines of the European colonists from the very earliest points of contact.
Many of the early explorations of the New World were quite simply slaving
expeditions. The colonial predisposition to cite Indian depredations as
justification for Indian wars were often quite simply rhetorical exercises
to cover the seizure and enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the America.
A Cherokee from Oklahoma remembered his fathers tale of the Spanish slave
trade, “At an early state the Spanish engaged in the slave trade on this
continent and in so doing kidnapped hundreds of thousands of the Indians
from the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts to work their mines in the West Indies.”
With the arrival of twenty negars aboard a Dutch man-of-war in Virginia
in 1619, the face of American slavery began to change from the tawny
Indian to the blackamoor African between 1650 and 1750. Though the issue
is complex, the unsuitability of the Native American for the the colonials
labor intensive agricultural practices, their susceptibility to European
diseases, the proximity of avenues of escape for Native Americans, and
the lucrative nature of the African slave trade led to a transition to
an African based institution of slavery.
During this period, however, the colonial wars against the Pequots,
the Tuscaroras, the Yamasees, and numerous other Nations led to the enslavement
and relocation of tens of thousands of Native Americans. By the late years
of the seventeenth century, caravans of Indian slaves were making their
way from the Carolina backcountry to forts on the coast just as they were
doing on the African continent. Once in places such as Charleston or Savannah,
the captives were loaded on ships for the middle passage to the West
Indies or other colonies such as New Amsterdam or New England. 
Many of the Indian slaves were kept at home and worked on the plantations
of the Carolinas; by 1708, the number of Indian slaves in the Carolinas
was nearly half that of African slaves. 
By the beginnings of the eighteenth century, the Cherokee people had
become objects of the slave trade to the extent that a tribal delegation
was sent to the Royal Governor of South Carolina to protect the Cherokee
from Congaree, Catawba, and Savannah slave-catchers. 
In 1705, the Cherokee accused the colonial governor of granting “commissions”
to slave-catchers to “set upon, assault, kill, destroy, and take captive”
Cherokee citizens to be “sold into slavery for his and their profit.” 
The Cherokee slave trade was so serious that it had, by this time, eclipsed
the trade for furs and skins and become the primary source of commerce
between the English and the people of South Carolina. 
During this transitional period, Africans and Native Americans shared
the common experience of enslavement. In addition to working together in
the fields, they lived together in communal living quarters, produced collective
recipes for food and herbal remedies, shared myths and legends, and ultimately
became lovers. The intermarriage of Africans and Native Americans was facilitated
by the disproportionality of African male slaves to females (3 to 1) and
the decimation of Native American males by disease, enslavement, and prolonged
wars with the colonists.  As Native American
societies in the Southeast were primarily matrilineal, African males who
married Native American women often became members of the wifes clan and
citizens of the respective nation.
As relationships grew, the lines of distinction began to blur. The evolution
of red-black people began to pursue its own course; many of the people
who came to be known as slaves, free people of color, Africans, or Indians
were most often the product of integrating cultures. 
In areas such as Southeastern Virginia, The Low Country of the Carolinas,
and Silver Bluff, S.C., communities of Afro-Indians began to spring up.
The depth and complexity of this intermixture is revealed in a 1740 slave
code from South Carolina:
all negroes and Indians, (free Indians in amity with this government,
and negroes, mulattoes, and mustezoes, who are now free, excepted) mulattoes
or mustezoes who are now, or shall hereafter be in this province, and all
their issue and offspring... shall be and they are hereby declared to be,
and remain hereafter absolute slaves. 
It is important to note at this point that according to most researchers
and observers, the concept of racism as an identifying component in interaction
did not exist among the traditional nations of the early Americas. William
McLoughlin has stressed the importance of clan relationships and the larger
national identities of Native Americans; race was not considered a critical
element in perception or hostility.  In
her pivotal work Slavery and the Evolution of Cherokee Society 1540-1866,
Perdue sums up the research in stating that the Cherokee regarded Africans
simply as other human beings [for] since the concept of race did not
exist among Indians and since the Cherokees nearly always encountered Africans
in the company of Europeans, one supposes that the Cherokees equated the
two and failed to distinguish sharply between the races. 
Kenneth Wiggins Porter, an African American historian, concurs: [we have]
no evidence that the northern Indian made any distinction between Negro
and white on the basis of skin color, at least, not in the early period
and when uninfluenced by white settlers. 
In the middle to latter part of the eighteenth century, white colonists
began to recognize that, especially in areas of the South where Africans
and Indians outnumbered whites 4 to 1, a great need existed to make Indians
& Negros a checque upon each other least by their Vastly Superior
Numbers, we should be crushed by one or the other. 
Various mechanisms began to be developed throughout the colonies which
served to differentiate between African and Native Americans: slave codes
began to distinguish between Africans and Native Americans, miscegenation
laws were passed which forbade the intermarriage between the two, African
slaves were used against Indian uprisings, Native Americans were used
to quell slave revolts, and bounties were offered to Native Americans for
runaway slaves. The policy of fostering hatred between the races became
an enduring element in the relationships among the varied peoples of the
South; it was codified by the Virginia Supreme Court in 1814 when it made
provisions related to the natural rights of white persons and Native Americans,
but entirely disapproving, thereof, so far as the same relates to native
Africans and their descendants. 
Following the Revolutionary War and with the settlement of hostilities
with the Native Americans, the newly established national government inaugurated
its program to promote civilization among the friendly Indian tribes
which furnished them with useful domestic animals, and implements of husbandry.
A critical element in the civilization program was the shift from a subsistence
based agricultural system to a plantation based large-scale farming system.
However, this dramatic shift in the culture of the peoples of the Southeast
could not be accommodated without first altering the entire social, political,
and religious structures of traditional societies. 
Towards this end, the missionaries of the Christian churches proved quite
From the very beginning of United States policy toward the Indians,
missionaries (as well as government agents) played a critical role in the
civilization/christianization of the indigenous inhabitants of North America.
George Washingtons Indian policy stated that missionaries of excellent
moral character should be appointed to reside in their nation who should
be well supplied with all the implements of husbandry and the necessary
stock for a model farm.  It went further
to state It is particularly important that something of this nature should
be attempted with the Southern nations of Indians, whose confined situation
might render them proper subjects for the experiment. 
With the establishment of the first model farms and missions among the
Five Civilized Tribes of the Southeastern United States, a key element
in this civilization process was the implementation of African slaves as
laborers in the building and operation of the model farms and missions.
Farms grew into plantations, buildings grew into towns. As the program
of civilization pursued its goals, slavery spread among the nations of
the Southeast. Individuals who held positions of power and land began to
grow wealthy and to buy black slaves to extend their fields and tend to
their livestock. Intermarriage among the Nations and the whites who served
among them increased: mixed-blood natives who spoke English began to adopt
the social and cultural patterns of the missionaries and white farmers
who surrounded them, including slavery. Gradually the nations developed
a landed elite and a small group of shopkeepers and entrepreneurs formed
a bourgeois element that became dominant in national affairs. It was among
this group of the rich and powerful, the assimilated peoples of the Five
Civilized Tribes, that slavery became most accepted.
Though the missionaries did not themselves own slaves except with a
view towards emancipation and only used slaves rented or borrowed from
Native American slave owners, they were reticent to preach against the
evil of slavery among their practitioners in the Five Civilized Tribes.
Many of their most loyal supporters were slave owners. They and the local
governments and federal agents would oppose the missionaries should they
choose to espouse the cause of abolition. Many missionaries believed that
the most important goal was to first convert the heathen, then attempt
to deal with the sin of slavery. 
In fact, some government agents attributed the progress made by the
Five Civilized Tribes to the growth of the practice of slavery among them;
one such agent stated I am clearly of the opinion that the rapid advancement
of the Cherokees is owing in part to the fact of their being slave holders.
In addition, their governing boards in the North did not want to jeopardize
contributions from wealthy persons who disliked abolition. 
The missionaries, and especially those of the American Board, established
a basic position of neutrality between two fires and as the Bible did
not explicitly condemn slavery, they accepted all to our communion who
give evidence that they love the Lord Jesus Christ. 
However, several dynamic phenomena were to draw many of the missionaries
away from their positions of neutrality and cast the Five Civilized Tribes
into a cauldron which would have devastating affects upon the Nations for
the next hundred years. The first was a decisive split which occurred within
the Nations, themselves, as to those who pursued the path of assimilation,
commonly referred to as progressives, and those who clung to traditional
values, the conservatives. Especially in the light of a pan-Indian religious
awakening inspired by Tecumseh/Tenskwatawa of the early nineteenth century,
many of the full blooded members of the Southeastern Nations rebelled against
assimilation by reasserting the traditional methods of living. This left
little room for colonial institutions, including slavery, among large populations
of the of full-blooded members of the Southeastern Nations.
In addition, there were splits among the various nations according to
the level of assimilation to white culture and intermarriage between Europeans
and the peoples of the First Nations. Within the so-called Five Civilized
Tribes, nations such as the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and especially the Cherokee
intermarried with the white missionaries, government agents, and local
settlers while the Muscogean people of the deep south did not. A joke developed
among the Southeastern nations which highlighted this aspect of Southern
society: A Creek said to a Cherokee... You Cherokees are so mixed with
whites we cannot tell you from the whites. The Cherokee... replied: You
Creeks are so mixed with the Negroes we cannot tell you from the Negroes.
From the middle part of the eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth
century, Africans had been fleeing slavery South along the same routes
that their native forebears had used in earlier times. As Congressman Joshua
Giddings described it a hundred years later, The efforts of the Carolinians
to enslave the Indians, brought with them the natural and appropriate penalties.
The Indians began to make their escape from slavery to the Indian Country.
Their example was soon followed by the African Slaves, who also fled to
the Indian Country, and, in order to secure themselves from pursuit continued
their journey.  The Muskogees, and especially
their relatives the Seminoles (a corruption of the Spanish word cimarron
meaning runaway or maroon)  of Southern
Florida, accepted these African-American runaways and incorporated them
into their nations because the Africans were well-skilled in languages,
agriculture, technical skills, and warfare. Just as the underground railroad
provided freedom in the north in later years, this other underground railroad
ran south to freedom on the border. 
Among the Muskogees and the Seminoles, the Africans were granted much
greater freedom, even though they were referred to as slaves. 
Africans among the Muskogees could own property, travel freely from town
to town, and marry into the family of their owner. Often, the children
of a Muskogees African American slaves were free, and African American
Muskogees became traditional leaders among several local indigenous communities.
Among the Seminoles, there was even greater freedom. The blacks lived
set apart to themselves, managing their own stocks and crops, paying only
tributes to their owners. The Africans could own property, moved about
with freedom, and were allowed to arm themselves. 
According to contemporary sources, the Seminoles would almost sooner sell
his child as his slave.  In addition, there
exists a law among Seminoles, forbidding individuals from selling their
negroes to white people. 
The Africans were more than just the laborers and technicians for the
Muskogee and Seminole, they became their diplomats, their warriors, and
their religious leaders. In many areas throughout the South, the Muskogee
were continually exposed to an apocalyptic religious tradition that promoted
resistance to white oppression.  A prophetic
Christianity spread among African-Americans, witnessed by Francis LeJau
as early as 1710, in areas such as Goose Creek, S.C. and Silver Bluff,
S.C. Jesse Galphin, himself, was an Indian trader with the Muskogee. 
On the frontier, there were constant rumblings of insurrections by black
Christians and there was great fear of blacks and Indians coming up from
Florida to attack planters, to rob and plunder us, and to rescue enslaved
Africans.  Calvin Martin, in his work Sacred
Revolt, believes that African-American prophetic Christianity may have
contributed to the emergence of the Redstick prophetic movement, for at
the heart of African American Christianity was a spiritually inspired critical
view of Anglo-American civilization. 
One leader in the Redstick rebellion was the Prophet Abraham (Souanakke
Tustenukke), a West African slave who fled south to Florida and served
as both war leader and interpreter for the maroon community at Fort Negro,
Florida. Throughout the Southeastern United States, there existed independent
and integrated Afro-Indian communities led by African and mixed-blood religio/political
leaders such as Jim-Boy, Black Factor, Garcon, Mulatto King, Chief Bowlegs,
and the Choctaw (Seminole) Chief.  Henry
Wiggins Porter described the peculiar presence of Africans in Florida as
...not only were there chiefs of mixed Indian and Negro Blood
among the Seminoles, and free negroes acting as principal counselors and
war-captains, but... the position of the very slaves was so influential
that the Seminole nation might present to students of political science
an interesting and perhaps almost unique example of a very close approach
to a doulocracy, or government by slaves.
The presence of such refuges and spiritual centers so close to colonial
plantations, especially in the light of slave rebellions in Haiti and the
colonies, proved to be a great threat to the institution of slavery. General
Andrew Jackson, believing the settlements to be established by villains
for the purpose of rapine and plunder, destroyed them in the First and
Second Creek War. As Joshua Giddings noted, there was but one effort in
Jacksons war, the bloody Seminole War (sic) of 1816-17 and 18 arose from
the efforts of our government to sustain the interests of slavery; or that
our troops were employed to murder women and children because their ancestors
had once been held bondage, and to seize and carry back to toil and suffering
those who had escaped death.  During these
wars, those stolen negroes, not killed or returned to the English colonies,
fled deeper into the South. 
It is important to note at this point that Africans and mixed bloods
were not just religious leaders among the exile communities of Muskogees
and Seminoles, the same also existed within the communities of the Cherokee,
Choctaw, and Chickasaw. Most of the early records of the missionaries note
that their earliest converts were the enslaved African-Americans within
Native American communities.  Even as late
as 1818, the missionaries referred to their Sabbath schools as our Black
Schools, because of the presence of Africans as both students and teachers.
As few missionaries spoke the native languages, the Africans played an
intermediary role as teacher, and of necessity, preacher. 
One of the most fascinating accounts of the presence of the African presence
in the early Native American church comes from Cornelia Pelham, a visitor
to a mission in the Choctaw Nation:
About two thirds of the members of the church are of African
descent; these mostly understand English; and on that account are more
accessible than the Chickasaws. The last mentioned class manifest an increasing
attention to the means of grace, and since the commencement of the present
year, more of the full Indians have been constant in their attendance upon
religious meetings, than at any time since the mission was established.
The black people manifest the most ardent desire for religious instruction,
and often travel a great many miles to obtain it... Two or three years
ago, a black man who belonged to the mission church, opened his little
cabin for prayer, on the evening of every Wednesday, which was usually
attended by half a dozen colored persons. This spring, the number suddenly
increased, till more than fifty assembled at once, many of whom were full
Indians. The meetings, were conducted wholly by Christian slaves, in the
Chickasaw language. One of their number can read fluently in the Bible,
and many of the others can sing hymns which they have committed to memory
from hearing them sung and recited. 
Similar experiences are recorded among the Cherokees in the early nineteenth
century including the case of two slaves who were teaching their Cherokee
mistress to read in the Bible. In August 1818, a full blooded Cherokee
seeking admission to the Chickamauga Mission was found able to spell correctly
in words of 4 & 5 letters. He had been taught solely by black people
who had received their instruction in our Sunday School. 
Within the cultural nexus of the integrated community of the early American
frontier, a unique synthesis grew in which African and Native American
people shared a common religious experience. Not only did Africans share
with Native Americans, the process of sharing cultural traditions went
both ways. From the slave narratives, we learn of the role that Native
American religious traditions played in African American society:
Dat busk was justa little busk. Dey wasnt enough men around
to have a good one. But I seen lots of big ones. Ones where dey all had
de different kinds of banga. Dey call all de dances some kind of banga.
De chicken dance is de Tolosabanga, and de Istifanibanga is de one whar
dey make lak dey is skeletons and raw heads coming to git you. De Hadjobanga
is de crazy dance, and dat is a funny one. Dey all dance crazy and make
up funny songs to go wid de dance. Everybody think up funny songs to sing
and everybody whoop and laugh all de time. 
When I wuz a boy, dere wuz lotsa Indians livin about six miles frum
the plantation on which I wuz a slave. De Indians allus held a big dance
ever few months, an all de niggers would try to attend. On one ob dese
ostenttious occasions about 50 of us niggers conceived de idea of goin,
without gettin permits frum de master. As soon as it gets dark, we quietly
slips outen de quarters, one by one, so as not to disturb de guards. Arrivin
at de dance, we jined in the festivities wid a will. Late dat nite one
ob de boys wuz goin down to de spring fo de get a drink ob water when he
notice somethin movin in de bushes. Gettin up closah, he look agin when-lawd
hab mersy! Patty rollers! 
Slaves were welcome at the Native American dances and festivals and mixed
and mingled and danced together with the Indians, and the Muskogees welcomed
new dances including those from their African counterparts. 
Native Americans also played roles in the development of the African
Churches, both in the invisible institution as well as the black church
Another dispensation of Providence has much strengthened our
hands, and increased our means of information; Henry Francis, lately a
slave to the widow of the late Colonel Leroy Hammond, of Augusta, has been
purchased by a few humane gentemen of this place, and liberated to exercise
the handsome ministerial gifts he possesses amongst us. He is a strong
man about forty-nine years of age, whose mother was white and whose father
was an Indian. Brother Francis has been in the ministry fifteen years,
and will probably become the pastor of a branch of my large church... it
will take the rank and title of the 3rd Baptist Church of Savannah. 
A close neighborly feeling  existed between
the peoples of the Five Civilized Tribes and the Africans within their
Nations. Even as slave owners, the Native Americans were particularly noted
for their kindness and refusal to implement even their own national laws
with respect to slavery.  According to one
Southern visitor to the Indian nation, The Indian masters treated their
slaves with great liberality and upon terms approaching perfect equality,
with the exception that the owner of the slave generally does more work
than the slave himself.  The slaves themselves
noted the differences:
We all live around on them little farms, and we didnt have
to be under any overseer like the Cherokee Negroes had lots of times. We
didnt have to work if there wasnt no work to do... Old Chief treated
all the Negroes like they was just hired hands, and I was a big girl before
I knowed very much about belonging to him. 
Even within a particular nation there was great variation; New Thompson
noted the only negroes that have to work hard were the ones who belonged
to the half-breeds. As the Indian didnt do work he didnt expect his slaves
to do much work. 
Within the conservative elements of the Five Civilized Tribes, more
than just a close neighborly feeling existed. Cudjo, the slave of Cherokee
Chief Yonaguska of North Carolina, described their relationship as, He
never allowed himself to be called `master, for he said Cudjo was his
brother, and not his slave.  In the late
1820s, the abolition movement spread among the Cherokees of North Carolina;
the Cherokee American Colonization Society was formed in 1828 and Cherokee
David Walker spoke for many full-blood Cherokees in 1825 when he said,
There are some Africans among us; ... they are generally well treated
and they much prefer living in the nation as a residence in the United
States... The presumption is that the Cherokees will, at no distant date,
cooperate with the humane efforts of those who are liberating and sending
this prescribed race to the land of their fathers. 
Caught between Benjamin Lundy, (whose abolitionist newspaper The
Genius of Universal Emancipation had once employed William Garrison)
in the West and the Manumission Society of North Carolina in the East,
there is little doubt that the full-bloods were exposed to abolitionist
rhetoric.  In 1824, the Baptist minister
Evan Jones, a noted opponent of slavery, had come to work as a missionary
among the full bloods in the valley towns of N.C. 
Among the Muskogee and Seminoles of the deep South, the abolitionist
movement had been spread by the British in the latter half of the eighteenth
and early nineteenth century. The British had offered freedom to Africa-American
slaves during both the 1776 and 1812 wars, believing that the terror of
revolution in the southern states can be increased to good effect. Among
those ex-slaves of Southern Florida who had existed in free communities
like Fort Negro, the abolitionist message struck a particular note. 
In 1828, the Cherokee people took what it considered its final steps
towards civilization by the establishment of a constitution, a bicameral
legislature, a judicial system, and an electoral process which elected
John Ross as principal chief.  However,
in the same year, the people of the United States elected Andrew Jackson,
noted Indian fighter and slave holder, to the Presidency of the United
States. In his first message to Congress, Andrew Jackson set forth his
plan for the removal of all of the Southeastern Indian nations to lands
west of the Mississippi River. Eleven days after Jacksons message to Congress,
the state of Georgia (bolstered by their man in the White House) nullified
all Cherokee laws, prohibited the Cherokee government from meeting, and
ordered the arrest of anyone opposing emigration westward. 
In the minds of most of the inhabitants of the Southeast, the issues
of slavery and removal were indissoluably linked. 
Among the reasons for removal of the Muskogee, and especially the Seminoles,
was the presence of another class of citizens of the nation, the African-Americans.
Moreover, the presence of “abolitionist” missionaries was a tremendous
threat to the institution of chattel slavery.
Indicative of the nature of the problem was the attitude of Sophia Sawyer,
when asked in 1832 by the Georgia Guard to remove to African boys from
her classroom, replied, ... until the Supreme Court of the United States
declares the Cherokee nation to be a part of the State of Georgia I will
obey Cherokee laws, which are just laws, not Georgia laws. 
The relationship between slavery and removal was not one that was lost
upon the Cherokees, though their understanding of the situation was propelled
by a different focus. Following a sermon by Evan Jones on providence in
one of the Valley Towns of North Carolina, a discussion ensued regarding
what sins could have turned Gods face away from the Cherokee Nation. God
cannot be pleased with slavery, said one of the Cherokees. There followed
some discussion respecting the expediency of setting slaves at liberty.
When one of those present noted that freeing the slaves might cause more
harm than good, a Native Baptist preacher replied, I never heard tell
of any hurt coming from doing right. 
In 1835, the movement to free the African slaves of the Cherokee nation
was put into motion by several influential men of the nation. Arrangements
were being made to emancipate the slaves and receive them as Cherokee citizens.
The following December, the treaty party of the largely assimilated slave-owning
Cherokees, signed the Treaty of New Echota relinquishing all lands east
of the Mississippi and agreed to migrate to Oklahoma. According to Missionary
Elizur Butler, the Treaty of New Echota effectively prevented the abolition
of slavery within the Cherokee Nation. Though the signers of this treaty
were ultimately punished for treason, the impact of this treaty would be
disastrous upon Cherokee and African alike for many years. 
On the eve of the forced displacement of the Five Civilized tribes,
the African-American presence among the Cherokees was estimated by an 1835
Census at approximately 10-15% of the Nation. However, taking into account
that free blacks and people of mixed ancestry were probably not considered,
we can assume the number to be much higher, especially among the Muskogee
and Seminole. In spite of tales used to support emigration, 
the natives were reluctant to leave their ancestral homelands.
In the spring of 1838, the process of forced removal began for the Cherokee
at the hands of the U.S. military. An African-American member of the community
described the process of removal:
The weeks that followed General Scotts order to remove the
Cherokees were filled with horror and suffering for the unfortunate Cherokees
and their slaves. The women and children were driven from their homes,
sometimes with blows and close on the heels of the retreating Indians came
greedy whites to pillage the Indians homes, drive off their cattle, horses,
and pigs, and they even rifled the graves for any jewelry, or other ornaments
that might have been buried with the dead.
The Cherokees, after having been driven from their homes, were divided
into detachments of nearly equal size and late in October, 1838, the first
detachment started, the others following one by one. The aged, sick and
young children rode in the wagons, which carried provisions and bedding,
while others went on foot. The trip was made in the dead of winter and
many died from exposure from sleet and snow, and all who lived to make
this trip, or had parents who made it, will long remember it, as a bitter
Resistance among the Cherokees and the slaves was high, many had to be
bound before being brought out.  A Georgia
volunteer was later to remark on the cruelty imposed upon the Indians,
I fought through the civil war and have seen men shot to pieces and slaughtered
by thousands, but the Cherokee removal was the cruelest work I ever knew.
The Indians, slaves, and white members of the Cherokee nation were rounded
up into concentration camps  where they
were kept as pigs in a sty.  Starvation
and disease was so rampant among those forcibly marched to the West that
missionary Daniel Buttrick said we are almost becoming familiar with death.
A month later he was to say that the government might more mercifully have
put to death everyone under a year or over sixty; rather it had chosen
a most expensive and painful way of exterminating these poor people.
Without a doubt, the Trail of Tears fell hardest upon those 1000 African
Americans were forced to march, many without shoes, through the dead of
winter into Oklahoma.  The route to Oklahoma
was blazed by African-Americans, My grandparents were helped and protected
by very faithful Negro slaves who... went ahead of the wagons and killed
any wild beast who came along.  In spite
of the fact that they were given the responsibility to guard (with axes
and guns) the caravans at night, few of the slaves made their escape.
The newspaper reports of the time detailed a peaceful and deathless
trek of the Cherokees,  but missionary
Elizur Butler estimated conservatively that over 4600 Indians and African-Americans
died on that nine-month march. More recent estimates put the number of
deaths at nearly 8,000 people who died as a direct result of the Cherokee
Trail of Tears.  An estimate of the number
of African-Americans who died on the Cherokee Trail of Tears could be as
much as 1/4 to 1/3 of those who made the trek west. If we can assume similar
numbers of deaths among the Choctaw slaves as the Cherokee, perhaps 100
of the Choctaw slaves died in route. Many Choctaws stayed in Alabama and
formed a community of resistance with African slaves similar to Fort Negro
which proved to be a thorn in the side for later governments. 
Among the Muskogee and Seminoles where not only were relationships with
Africans quite deep but where Africans played prominent roles in their
society, the question of removal was very serious. The Africans among these
nations knew that they were the property of men from whom they, or their
ancestors, had fled. The burden of proof lay upon them and that their losing
to the United States government meant that they would become the property
of whoever claimed them.  In 1836, simultaneous
wars were initiated by the United States government to remove the Muskogee
and their relatives the Seminoles from their lands in the deep South. The
process was not to be completed until nearly ten years, twenty million
dollars, and fifteen hundred soldiers lives later. The removal of the Muskogees,
Seminoles, and their African counterparts was the costliest war in American
history until the Civil War.
Let us make no mistake about the nature of this endeavor. As General
Jessup, the leader of the campaign stated it in 1836, This, you may be
assured, is a negro, not an Indian war: and if it be not speedily put down,
the South will feel the effects of it on their slave population before
the end of the next season.  Joshua Giddings
saw the war in a similar light; the Second Seminole War on our part had
not been commenced for the attainment of any high or noble purpose....
Our national influence and military power had been put forth to reenslave
our fellow men: to transform immortal beings into chattels; and to make
them to property of slave holders; to oppose the rights of human nature;
and the legitimate fruits of this policy were gathered in a plentiful harvest
of crime, bloodshed, and individual suffering. 
The Indians were led in their resistance by the same Afro-Indian leaders
who had fled deep into Florida to escape from slavery; Jim-Boy, Gopher
John, The Negro Abraham, Cudjo, Wild Cat, and many others led the Indians
in their struggle for resistance. Those leaders of the Muskogee and Seminole
such as Opothoyehala, Micanopy, and Osceola had deep ties to the African-American
communities in their presence.  In the Spring
of 1837, General Jessup reasserted his position, Throughout my operations
I found the Negroes the most active and determined warriors; and during
the conference with the Indian chiefs I ascertained that they exercised
almost controlling influence over them. 
To solve the problem, General Jessup set about to divide and conquer;
he offered to free the slaves who would separate from the Indians and allow
them to move to the west en mass. He wrote to John Horse of the
Seminoles, to whom, and to their people, I promised freedom and protection
on their separating from the Indians and surrendering. 
Black emancipation and removal had become the policy of the United States
Army. Jessup refused to return the African slaves to their owners in the
South, they would be sent to the West as part of the Seminole Nation. 
Though many Africans surrendered and the Seminoles followed suit, the struggle
to remove the last of the exiles from Florida went on for many years.
The Africans, Seminoles, and Creeks set about on the path to the Western
territory, where the conflict over the status of the Africans was uncertain
and the relationship between the Seminoles and the Muskogees seemed undecided.
One thing was certain and decided; the losses among the Creeks and the
Seminoles in their Trail of Tears were immense. The Creeks and the Seminoles
were said to have suffered fifty percent mortality rate. For the Creeks,
many of these deaths followed removal, probably one-third died from bulious
fevers.  Among the Seminole, the deaths
were not from disease, but from the terrible war of attrition that has
been required to force them to move. 
As they were proceeding west upon the trail watered by their own tears
and sanctified by the many gravestones of their children and elders, many
of the Muskogee Indians began to sing the spiritual We are going home.
The words We are going home to our homes and land; there is one who is
above and ever watches over us rang true to those nurtured in a Christian
religion birthed in the cauldron of oppression. It also rang true to those
traditionalists among the Muskogee who believed that they emerged from
caves in the west and came east to settle in the Southeast. 
In the collective experience of African-Americans and Native-Americans
who struggled to understand why a just deity allowed such injustice, a
religious expression was born which reflected the essential nature of the
experiences of both peoples. It gave them the strength to resist and it
gave them the strength to endure.
When the Cherokees were moving west along the more famous Trail of
Tears, the missionaries who had been with them through the struggle in
the homelands, the concentration camps, and the agony of the journey were
with many of the Cherokee at their deaths. Many of the contingencies were
led by the ministers of the American Board and their followers. The records
of the Trail of Tears show that along the way, the churches themselves
were allowed to congregate and express their faith in God. Reverend Jesse
Bushyhead, himself a controversial Baptist slave owner, expressed his thanks
that were able to continue, amidst the toil and sufferings of the journey,
their accustomed religious services. 
Equally well, we can rest assured that whenever faces gathered around
the campfire, there were Africans there to serve as spiritual guides into
a different kind of wilderness. When there were dances to celebrate, deaths
to mourn, or festivals to mark the passing of the seasons, there were Africans
present. In addition, we must never forget that on the trail where we
cried, there were also African tears. This we can never forget.
 This is, of course, an issue of some debate
for there are many theories regarding pre-colonial contact between Africans
and Native Americans. For a brief overview, see Leo Wiener, Africa and
the Discovery of America (Philadephia, 1920); Jack Forbes, Africans
and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black
Peoples (Urbana:University of Illinois Press, 1993); Ivan Van Sertima,
Came Before Columbus (New York:Random House, 1976); Michael Bradley,
Voyage (Toronto : Summerhill Press, 1987).
 George Washington Williams, History
of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880: Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers,
and as Citizens (New York: The Knickerbocker Press, 1882), 123-180.
 David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery
in Western Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1966), 176.
 See Almon Lauber, Indian Slavery in
Colonial Times within the Present Limits of the United States (New
York: Doctoral Dissertation, Columbia University, 1933); Barbara Olexer,
Enslavement of the American Indian (Monroe, N.Y.: Library Research
Associates,1982); J. Leitch Wright, The Only Land They Knew:The Tragic
Story of the American Indian in the Old South (New York: Free Press,
1981); Jack Forbes, Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race
and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples (Urbana:University of Illinois
Press,1993); Patrick Minges, Evangelism and Enslavement (Unpublished
 Grant Foreman, “Indian Territory in 1878”
of Oklahoma IV (1926), 264.
 Booker T. Washington, The Story of the
Negro: The Rise of the Race from Slavery Vol. 1 (New York: Doubleday
and Co., 1909), 129.
 Gary Nash, Red,White and Black: The
Peoples of Early America (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1974),
 H.T. Malone, Cherokees of the Old South:A
People in Transition (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1956), 20.
 James Mooney, Myths of the Cherokees
(Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington, D.C.:
Government Printing Office, 1900), 32.
 J.Leitch Wright, The Only Land They
Knew:The Tragic Story of the American Indian in the Old South (New
York:Free Press, 1981), 258.
 For excellent surveys and discussions
of this phenomenon, see Kenneth W. Porter, Relations Between Negroes
and Indians Within the Present United States,(Washington, D.C.: The
Association for Negro Life and History, 1931); J. Leitch Wright, The
Only Land They Knew:The Tragic Story of the American Indian in the Old
South (New York:Free Press, 1981); Jack Forbes, Africans and Native
Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples
University of Illinois Press., 1993); Laurence Foster, Negro-Indian
Relations in the Southeast (Philadelphia, n.p. 1935)
 John Curdman Hurd, The Law of Freedom
and Bondage in the United States (Boston, 1858-1862), 303.
 William McLoughlin, The Cherokee Ghost
Dance: Essays on the Southeastern Indians (Georgia: Mercer University
Press, 1984), 266.
 Theda Perdue, Slavery and the Evolution
of Cherokee Society 1540-1866 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press,
 Kenneth W. Porter, Relations Between
Negroes and Indians Within the Present United States (Washington, D.C.:
The Association for Negro Life and History, 1931), 16.
 Quoted in William S. Willis, Jr., "Divide
and Rule: Red, White, and Black in the Southeast," Journal of Negro
History 48 (1963): 165.
 Quoted in David Brion Davis, The Problem
of Slavery in Western Culture.(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1966),
 "Trade and Intercourse Act, March 30,
1802" in Francis Paul Prucha, Documents of United States Indian Policy
Edition (Lincoln:Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1990), 19.
 Perdue, p. 50
 American State Papers:Indian Affairs,
Vols. I and II, Documents, Legislative and Executive of the Congress of
the United States, ed. Walter Lowrie, Walter S. Franklin, and Matthew
St. Clair Clarke (Washington, D.C.: Gales and Seaton, 1832, 1834): Vol.
 Perdue, 54; William G. Mcloughlin, Cherokees
and Missionaries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984), 139.
 Robert T. Lewit, The Conflict of Evangelical
and Humanitarian Ideals: A Case Study (Cambridge: MA Dissertation,
Harvard University, 1959) 35-53.
 Lewit, 97.
 William McLoughlin, “Red Indians, Black
Slavery, and White Racism: Americas Slaveholding Indians” American
Quarterly 26 (1974): 368.
 William McLoughlin, " Red Indians, Black
Slavery, and White Racism: Americas Slaveholding Indians", 371.
 Perdue, 121.
 Quoted in Martin, Joel. Sacred Revolt:The
Muskogees Struggle for a New World. (Boston:Beacon Press, 1991) p.
 Joshua Giddings, The exiles of Florida:
or, The crimes committed by our government against the Maroons, who fled
from South Carolina and other slave states, seeking protection under Spanish
laws (Columbus, Ohio: Follett, Foster and Company, 1858), 4.
 Kevin Mulroy, Freedom on the Border
Texas Tech University Press, 1993), 7.
 Mulroy, 25.
 It is important to note that many of
the Muskogee and Seminole referred to their African brethren as their "slaves"
to protect them from white slaveholders who sought their return. In addition,
there was some social status acquired by owning slaves, even though the
Muskogee and Seminole had little need for slave labor because they did
not adopt plantation style agriculture as did the northern nations of the
Five Civilized Tribes.
 Joel Martin, Sacred Revolt:The Muskogees
Struggle for a New World (Boston:Beacon Press, 1991), 73.
 Mulroy, 19.
 Wiley Thompson to Lewis Cass, April 27,1835.
National Archives Microfilm Publications, Microcopy M234, Record Group
75, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Letters Received by the Office
of Indian Affairs, 1824-1831. in Henry Wiggins Porter Collection, Schomburg
Center for the Study of Black Culture, New York, N.Y.
 John L. Williams, The Territory of
Florida (Gainesville: University of Florida Press,1962), 239.
 Martin, 75; Wright, 265.
 See Francis Le Jau to John Chamberlayne,
St. James, Goose Creek 1709/10 quoted in Mulroy, 74.
 Peter H. Wood, Black Majority, (New
York: Knopf, 1974) 298-301.
 Martin, 73.
 J.Leitch Wright, Creeks and Seminoles,
University of Nebraska Press, 1986), 190.
 Joshua Giddings, Exiles in Florida,
 Foster, 24.
 McLoughlin, Cherokees and Missionaries,
48; Perdue, 89; McLoughlin, Champions of the Cherokees, 21; Wright,
and Seminoles, 223; Eighth Annual Report of the American Board of
Commissioners for Foreign Missions, (Boston,1818), 16; Ninth Annual
Report of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, (Boston,1819),
 ibid.; Brainerd Journal,April
20, 1817, February 12, 1818
 The positive attitude of the Cherokees
toward African-American missionaries could be related to the fact that
the first missionary among the Cherokee was a Black Methodist, John Marrant.
Marrants mission in 1740, in which he converted the "king" of the Cherokees,
is considered among he most successful missionary enterprise among the
Cherokee. According to Michael Roethler, "It is only natural that the Cherokees
should judge the value of Christainity by the character of the people who
professed it.... The Cherokees had no reason to suspect the religion of
this Negro preacher." (Roethler, 126)
 Sarah Tuttle, Letters from the Chickasaw
and Osage Missions (n.p., 1821), 9-10.
 Chickamagua Journal quoted in H.T. Malone,
of the Old South:A People in Transition (Athens: University of Georgia
Press, 1956), 142.
 Lucinda Davis in Works Progress Administration:Oklahoma
Writers Project. Slave Narratives. (Washington: U.S. Government
Printing Office, 1932) p. 58
 Preston Kyles in Works Progress Administration:
Arkansas Writers Project. Slave Narratives. (Washington: U.S. Government
Printing Office, 1932), 220.
 J. Leitch Wright, Creeks and Seminoles,
 Letter of Andrew Bryan to Reverend Doctor
Rippon in Milton Sernett, ed., Afro-American Religious History: A Documentary
Witness (Durham: Duke University Press, 1985), 49.
 Rawick, George. Interview with Irene
Blocker, p. 264
 Raleigh Wilson, Negro and Indian Relations
in the Five Civilized Tribes from 1865 to 1907 (Ph.D. Dissertation,
Iowa City: University of Iowa, 1949), 22.
 House Reports, No. 30, 39th Congress,
1st Session, Washington, 1867, Pt. IV, Vol. II, pp. 162
 Nellie Johnson in Works Progress Administration,
Oklahoma Writers Project, Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government
Printing Office, 1932) 157.
 Western History Collection, University
of Oklahoma, Indian Pioneer History, Vol. 108: 213.
 Cudjo quoted in Perdue, 106.
 American State Papers II, 651.
 Carl Degler, The Other South:Southern
Dissenters in the Nineteenth Century, (New York:Harper and Row,1974)
pp. 19-21. The presence of large numbers of Quakers in North Carolina and
Tennessee played a profound role in the development of anti-slavery sentiments.
Benjamin Lundy estimated in 1827 that there were 106 anti-slavery socities
in the South as compared with 24 in the Northern states.
 McLoughlin, Cherokees and Missionaries,
 Wright, Creeks and Seminoles,
 Angie Debo, A History of the Indians
of the United States (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press,1970) 113.
 Michael Roethler, "Negro Slavery among
the Cherokee Indians, 1540-1866" (Ph.D. Dissertation.,Fordham University,1964),
 McLoughlin, Cherokees and Missionaries,
 Wright, Creeks and Seminoles, 232.
 Wright, Creeks and Seminoles,
 A.B.F.M.Missionary Papers, Cherokees:
Vol. VIII, 1831-1837, March 14, 1832.
 Robert Walker, Torchlights to the
Cherokees, (New York: 1931), 298-299.
 Elizur Butler to David Green, March 5,
1845, A.B.C.F.M. Missionary Papers, Cherokees: Vol. IX, 1838-1845.
 "they told em they was hogs runnin around
already barbecued with a knife and fork in their back. Told em cotton growed
so tall you had to put little chaps up the stalk to get the top bolls,"
Lewis Johnson in Works Progress Administration, Arkansas Writers Project,
Slave Narratives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932),
 Eliza Whitmire in George Rawick, ed.
American Slave: A Composite Autobiography (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood
Press, 1972), 380-381.
 A.B.C.F.M. Missionary Papers , Cherokees:
Vol. IX, 1838-1845, Daniel Butricks Journal, February, 1838
 James Mooney, Myths of the Cherokee
and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees (Cherokee, N.C. Cherokee Heritage
Books, 1982), 124.
 Roethler, 150.
 A.B.C.F.M. Missionary Papers , Cherokees:
Vol. IX, 1838-1845, Daniel Butricks Journal, July 1838.
 A.B.C.F.M. Missionary Papers , Cherokees:
Vol. IX, 1838-1845, Daniel Butricks Journal, August 1838.
 Roethler, 150.
 Nathaniel Willis in Indian Pioneer
Papers, Vol. 50, 117.
 A.B.C.F.M. Missionary Papers , Cherokees:
Vol. IX, 1838-1845, Daniel Butricks Journal, March 1838.
 Russell Thornton, The Cherokees: A
Population History, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press,1990), 118.
 Annie Abel, The American Indian as
Slaveholder and Secessionist (Lincoln:University of Nebraska Press,1992),
 Henry W. Porter, Relations, 50-51.
 Executive Documents, 25th Congress, 2nd
Session, 1837-1838,vol iii, no. 78, 52.
 Joshua Giddings, Exiles in Florida,
 Wright states the cause of the Second
Seminole War was the seizure of Osceolas African wife by merchants who
sought to sell her back into slavery. Opothoyohela was to go on to lead
a Maroon community in their flight from the Creek Nation to Kansas during
the Civil War.
 Executive Documents, 25th Congress,
3nd Session, 1838, no. 225, 51.
 Jessup quoted in Mulroy, 38.
 Russell Thornton, American Indian
Holocaust And Survival (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press,1992),
 Mary Hill interview, Okfuskee Town, Okemah,
Okla., Apr. 19, 1937, Indian Pioneer Papers, 5:106-107.
 Wright, Creeks and Seminoles,
 Jesse Bushyhead, quoted in Grant Foreman,
Removal (Norman:University of Oklahoma, 1932), 310.