Black Indian Slave Narratives

Black Indian Slave Narratives

John F. Blair, Publisher
200 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-89587-298-2

Patrick Minges

Few people realize that Native Americans were enslaved right alongside the African Americans in this country. Fewer still realize that many Native Americans owned African Americans and Native Americans from other tribes. Recently, historians have determined that of the 2,193 interviews with former slaves that were collected by the Federal Writers’ Project, 12 percent contain some reference to the interviewees’ being related to or descended from Native Americans. In addition, many of the interviewees make references to their Native American owners. In Black Indian Slave Narratives, Patrick Minges offers the most absorbing of these firsthand testimonies about African American and Native American relationships in the 19th century.

The selections include an interview with Felix Lindsey, who was born in Kentucky of Mvskoke/African heritage and who served as one of the buffalo soldiers who rounded up Geronimo. Chaney Mack, whose father was a “full-blood African” from Liberia and whose mother was a “pure-blood Indian,” gives an in-depth look at both sides of her cultural heritage, including her mother’s visions based on the “night the stars fell” over Alabama. There are stories of Native Americans taken by “nigger stealers,” who found themselves placed on slave-auction blocks alongside their African counterparts.

The narratives in this collection provide insight into the lives of people who lived in complex and dynamically interconnected cultures. The interviews also offer historical details of capture and enslavement, life in the Old South and the Old West, Indian removal, and slavery in the Indian territory.

I wasn’t as dark as I am now, but kind of red-like, and when Geronimo saw me he said, “You ain’t no nigger, you’re an Indian.”

“My father may have been an Indian, but I’m a nigger because that’s the race of my mother, and the race I chose,” I said.

—From Felix Lindsey’s narrative

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