Socio-Economic Relations Between the Creek Nation and Blacks from 1790-1860: A Case Study
Robert L. Harris, Jr
Thesis DT 3.5 1977 L987
v, 89 leaves; 29 cm.
Prior to the American Revolution the relationship between the Creek Nation and Blacks was very peaceful. Due to their long intimate association, Blacks residing in the Creed Confederacy were considered Creek citizens. After the war, because of continuous white penetration into the Nation, Creek attitudes and manners varied in relation to Blacks. Consequently, historians on the subject have had mixed hypothesis concerning the socio-economic conditions and status of Blacks living in the Creek Country. Historians like H.R. Schoolcraft contend that Blacks were slaves, whereas Harry A. Kersey states that Blacks existed in a state of benign bondage. But Thomas S. Woodward remarks that Blacks and Creeks were equals.
Because of the complexity of this contact, the study involves three steps to arrive at some tentative conclusions. It considers miscegenation, cultural influences and military arrangements during both pre and post European intrusion, to determine race relations between both groups. It examines white cultural influences that affected Creek-Black relations and European economic demands that were responsible for changing Creek traditional systems. Finally, it analyzes the social and economic systems of the Creek Nation to determine the socio-economic relationship between the Creeks and Blacks, before and following the forced removal.
In assessing this intimate affair, an array of primary and secondary sources were used. Documented interviews; American diplomatic papers; Indian agent reports; missionaries, travelers and traders accounts, and a mass of archival material from the District of Columbia, Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas were among the primary sources employed in this study. Along with these primary materials, standard historical textbooks and journals were utilized as secondary sources to ascertain the background of the Confederacy before and following the removal West.
In evaluating these materials, this study maintains that before the removal to the Indian Territory, the descendants of Blacks who migrated from Mexico with the Creeks, those who were captured in wars and raids on plantations and settlements or received as runaways were considered citizens of the Creek Confederacy. Those Blacks who came into the Nation with their southern white masters were classified as slaves. But because of the continuous application of pressure by full-blood Creeks in both Upper and Lower Towns, Blacks held in this position of servitude had much more freedom from restraint, more independence and autonomy than their institutionally defined roles on white plantations.
Following the migration westward, the same physical characteristics that were existing in the East, continued to function in the West. Thus both free Blacks and Blacks held in servitude lived in a relatively easy life. The free Blacks continued to cultivate their livelihood as citizens of the Confederacy. Blacks in the servitude position, under the whims of mixed-bloods, did not encounter the institutionally defined roles and lifestyle found on southern plantations. In conclusion, there two categories of status for Blacks from 1790 to 1860; one, those who were classified as free Blacks were free and citizens of the Nation; two, those who were categorized as slaves were vassals operating in a loose vassalage system.