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Osceola and the Negroes


Osceola, if not the most important Indian leader in the Seminole War (1835-1842), is certainly the best known. His fame is largely due to the circumstances of his capture and death, but the Abolitionist movement of his own day also contributed. That Osceola was driven into hostility to the United States by the seizure and reduction to slavery of one of his wives, the daughter of an Indian chief and a runaway Negro woman, is one of the best-known and most generally accepted “facts” of his career. Actually, the story, so far as it concerns Osceola, is unsupported by trustworthy contemporary evidence. Apparently it was either sheer fabrication by an Abolitionist propagandist or else was inspired by a kidnapping which involved a woman unconnected with Osceola. The kidnapping into slavery of a part-Negro Seminole woman was entirely possible. Runaway slaves and their descendants, who legally were still slaves, were an important element in the Seminole tribe; slavers frequently seized Negroes and part-Negroes living among the Seminole and spirited them away into servitude. Old Econchattemicco (Red Ground King), an important Seminole chief, lost a part-Negro granddaughter in this way; it is possible, indeed, that it was her kidnapping which gave rise to the story of Osceola’s wife.