Black Indian Slave Narratives (2004)

The common narrative of slavery in America revolves around enslaved Africans being transported via cargo ships from West Africa to the American south and then sold to wealthy white landowners. While this narrative bears some truth, it ignores the variations of slavery experienced by non-Africans and it minimizes the extremely influential cultural pressures of the indigenous community that also ‘participated’ in slavery, both as owners and slaves.

This book sheds light on the stories of people enslaved or owned by Native Americans. It offers perspective on the cultural influences on both African American culture and southeast Native American cultures. As a point of reference, it is a comparator through which mainstream narratives of plantation slavery can be re-analyzed. The stories are short, only a couple pages each, and are largely written colloquially, making the meanings easy to decipher.

The life stories of the people interviewed for the book help to match context and empathy with the historical events. These lived experiences give a glimpse into the blending of Native and African identities, as well as the conditions of freedom and slavery, from early to the late 1800s through interviews that took place in the 1930s. The book also shows the complexities of the relationships between enslaved people and the people who owned them. Such interactions range in intimacy and autonomy, albeit through the lens of subjugation. In light of recent calls to revisit this relationship between indigenous and African-American people, this book offers poignant historical markers from which to discuss topics like reparations, land ownership, hierarchies of privilege, and recognition of tribal status.

The book is intimate in its subjects’ barefaced accounts of their intersectionality, in a time when that term did not yet exist. This is an important anthology of experiences for anyone thinking about allyship and diversity in the U.S. context.