Due to the continued mistreatment of the slave populations in the South and the 1807 act to prohibit the importation of slaves to the U.S., starting in the post-Revolutionary era, many slaves began to escape by running to Spanish Florida, near the colony of St. Augustine.
While there, slaves were adopted into the Native culture by the Seminole people. Seminole Negros (as they called themselves) created villages, adopted Seminole customs, and were given the ability to grow their own crops and dictate their own lives, futures, culture, and language.
Most Black Seminoles lived separately from the Indians in their own villages, although the two groups intermarried to some extent, and some Black Seminoles adopted Indian customs. Both groups wore similar dress, ate similar foods, and lived in similar houses. Both groups worked the land communally and shared the harvest. The Black Seminoles, however, practiced a religion that was a blend of African and Christian rituals, to which traditional Seminole Indian dances were added, and their language was an English Creole similar to Gullah and sometimes called Afro-Seminole Creole. Some of their leaders who were fluent speakers of Creek were readily admitted to Seminole society, but most remained separate.
When slavery finally ended in the United States, Black Seminoles were tempted to leave Mexico. In 1870 the U.S. government offered them money and land to return to the United States and work as scouts for the army. Many did return and serve as scouts, but the government never made good on its promise of land. Small communities of descendants of the Black Seminoles continue to live in Texas, Oklahoma, and Mexico.
"We found these negroes in possession of large fields of the finest land, producing large crops of corn, beans, melons, pumpkins, and other esculent vegetables. ... I saw, while riding along the borders of the ponds, fine rice growing; and in the village large corn-cribs were filled, while the houses were larger and more comfortable than those of the Indians themselves."
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