Origins of the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts

Written by Katarina "Kato" Wittich and Edited by Sarah N. Johnson

Introduction

The first accounts of Black people among the Seminoles occur during the late 1700's. Since the end of the 1600’s enslaved Africans from the eastern seaboard had been escaping from plantations and making their way south to the haven provided by Spanish Florida, where they were guaranteed their freedom by King Charles of Spain. [1] Many of these refugees eventually joined the Seminole Indians in Florida, who were themselves a newly formed confederation of several different Native American tribes, primarily Creeks, who had been pushed south by the Euro-American expansion into their territories. [2]

 

It is not known exactly in what capacity the newcomers joined the Seminoles, although contemporary sources labeled them as “slaves” to the Seminoles. What is clear is that most of them lived in their own towns, kept their own livestock, had their own chiefs and fought as equals alongside the Seminole in battle. They appear to have adopted some Seminole customs but also kept their original African cultures along with the Afro- Baptist traditions that had been developed during enslavement in the south. 

Footnotes:

 

[1] Kevin Mulroy, Freedom on the Border (Texas Tech University Press, 1993), 8.

[2] Mulroy, Freedom on the Border, 11.

Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr., Africans and Seminoles  (University Press of Mississippi Press, 2002), 4-5.

Bruce Edward Twyman, Black Seminoles and North American Politics (Research Press, 1996) 82-84. 

 

While the first use of the term Seminole Negro does not occur until the early 1880’s, in 1796 conflict arose between the newly named Seminoles and the Creeks over who had authority over the Negroes among the Seminoles. The Creeks had signed a treaty with the U.S. promising to return the "runaway slaves” who had escaped to Florida and joined the Seminoles, and the Seminole’s refused to honor that treaty and would not give up their Black members. George Washington himself was involved in trying to return the runaways to slavery, and in his correspondence acknowledged that the Seminoles were unlikely to give them up.