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Black Seminole Freedom Fighters on the Florida Frontier

by Terry Weik

Burning of Pilaklikaha by General Eustis. (Courtesy of Library of Congress.)
As a result of archaeological research, I have learned that African and African-American freedom fighters persistently challenged racism and slavery in the Americas from the beginning. Wherever and whenever slavery occurred, Maroons were there, fighting for a break from their toils or for the freedom to build their own communities. At times, they went on the offensive and helped their enslaved peers escape from plantations. Maroons in places such as Jamaica and Surinam were so successful that thousands of their descendants still own their lands and celebrate their heritage today. Black Seminole Maroons pursued a path to freedom that began and ended deep in "Indian Territory." While in Florida, Maroons became Black Seminole by joining forces with the Seminole Indians and held off the advances of slavers, land-hungry settlers and soldiers from the United States.

At a Florida Black Seminole Maroon settlement called Abraham's Old Town, archaeological research has unearthed artifacts and dusted off documents that illustrate the lives of these extraordinary people who share a dual African and Native American heritage. Some basic questions have driven my research on Abraham's Old Town. First, who were these Maroons? Did they establish new settlements that were independent of enslaved peoples, Native Americans, and colonists? Why did the Black Seminole Maroons succeed, while most enslaved African rebels were quickly suppressed? I sought to explore how this group of people so diverse in languages, cultural beliefs, and political interests managed to reconcile their differences and build a society from scratch.

  • Sidebar 5: Fort Mose, St. Augustine, Florida - Lu Ann De Cunzo
  • Terrance Weik is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of South Carolina.

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