Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mapping Slavery in Indian Territory

I am happy to share something that education has never before reflected. I am happy to introduce the first map reflecting the places in Indian Territory black men, women and children were enslaved.

Actual Interactive Map Can Be Accessed HERE.

For over 150 years, countless maps have omitted the presence of slavery in Indian Territory and never have maps been shown to reflect the geographic distribution of slaves within the Five Civilized Tribes. Those tribes specifically are the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole Nations. Because slavery is not widely studied west of Arkansas, maps have never reflected this history.

Until now.

When I see historic maps that reflect slavery in North America, I cannot help but stare at the blank spake right above Texas when I see those maps. But, having ancestors who come from what is now Oklahoma, and knowing that they were enslaved in Indian Territory, I stare at that space, because I know that there were people enslaved in that place, and among them were my own ancestors living in the Choctaw Nation. However, in most texts, the maps always reflect the lands just north of Texas as being a land where slavery was not present. I cannot help but see those historical maps and stare that the big hole in the middle. The "big hole" is the space right above Texas.

Map Showing the Distribution of the Slave Population

of the Southern States of the United States Compiled from the Census of 1860
Washington September, 1861
Map accessed from Mapping the Nation

The map above is the "MASTER" of slavery maps. It was created in 1861 by the US Coastal Survey and was compiled from census data. It is also the map that was presented to President Lincoln to illustrated the prevalence of slavery in the southern states. (A zoom-able version of this map can be found HERE.)

There are other maps such as the one below that fall into the category of "historical geography" that were used to share a policy and where the effects of that policy prevailed. But again, in that map one sees Arkansas, then a vertical line skirting around Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and into Texas. The map was used to show the "curse of slavery". But the "curse" did extend west, directly into Indian Territory.

Accessed from Mapping the Nation
Map by John F. Smith, in the Library of Congress "Historical Geography" Map, 1888

Now it can be said that the number of enslaved people in Indian Territory was not as high as it was in states like Mississippi, or Alabama. And one might be able to say that the old maps are not wholly inaccurate since there may have been less than 10 percent of the total population was enslaved in Indian Territory. However--that percentage, also cannot be proven, because only free whites and free blacks were recorded in Indian Territory in the 1860 population census. And the Indian population was not tabulated at all in the regular population census at that time. But--there was a census made of the enslaved population--and the slave holders--the Indian slaveholders were listed along with the people whom they enslaved. And the communities were they lived are shown. They were included as part of the Arkansas Slave schedules.

The Arkansas Slave schedule is found on National Archive microfilm population M653 Roll 54. All of the Arkansas counties are listed on the reel of microfilm. Following Yell county, the list of enslaved people in Indian Territory begins.

There are 865 images on that reel of microfilm. On that record, there were slave holders such as Cherokee Chief John Ross, or Choctaw leader Robert Jones who owned hundreds of Black people as slaves.

Yet countless maps omit the presence of slavery in Indian Territory and never have maps been shown reflecting the geographic distribution of slaves within the Five Civilized Tribes. Those tribes specifically are the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole Nations. Maps have never reflected this in textbooks. Until now.

For the most part, it is not generally taught that slavery even occurred in Indian Territory. That oversight has made the omission of slavery in the Territory easy to overlook in the American historical narrative. However, slavery did occur in the territory, and it was real, it was painful, and there were runaways, slave uprisings, and efforts among the enslaved to become free from bondage. Therefore, the more I studied maps and records, the more I saw a need to see a map reflecting the land of my own ancestors--the enslaved people of Indian Territory.

Finally thanks to the technology of Google Maps, and using the 1860 slave schedule, a new map reflecting slavery in Indian Territory has been made.

The New Map This new map has made a part of the interactive map on the website, "Mapping the Freedmen's Bureau." By using Google maps, the markers are placed to coincide with the communities that were clearly defined in the 1860 slave schedule. The markers are also placed accurately with the appropriate geographic coordinates. By using Google Maps the markers reflect the actual community where the enslaved families were held. In the years after freedom, many people remained in the same communities especially during the first  years of freedom, so this map also represents these families in both slavery and freedom. And there was an extremely large contraband camp at Fort Gibson, and that encampment site is also marked on the map.

Some Indian tribal Freedmen were even captured in the collection of records from the Freedmen's Bureau. Many lived close to the Arkansas border and used the services of the Bureau in nearby Arkansas. The Fort Smith Bureau reflected Cherokee citizens appealing to the Freedmen's Bureau for help.

Contents of the map
For this map, the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw nations are more thoroughly reflected. That is because there was a more thorough assessment of the slave holders of the nation. In the Creek Nation, the slave holders and their slaves were recorded, but the different tribal towns were not indicated on the slave schedule, as the slave schedule would simple describe the residence as "Creek Nation, West of Arkansas." As a result a single marker was placed marking Okmulgee the capital of the Creek Nation. Similarly, for the Seminole nation. Seminole leaders such as John Jumper,  Billy Bowlegs and others were also slave holders, but the enumerator did not go into Seminole country, and thus a single marker is placed over Wewoka, the capital of the Seminole Nation. When and should a better site with a link appear, additional markers will be added for those two communities.

When Using the Map
The map provides a direct link to the Internet Archive where one will find the 1860 slave schedule reflecting the people enslaved in Indian Territory communities. (This includes a direct link to the Creek Nation pages as well.) By hovering the mouse or cursor over a marker, a small pop-up window will appear, and that window will contain a link to the exact pages on the Internet Archive that contain the images of the slave schedule reflecting Indian Territory. By clicking on that pop up, the user will find the direct link in the text about the site description.

About the Slave Record
It is noted that the 1860 slave schedule contains the name of the slave holder and the number, gender, and complexion of the enslaved population kept in bondage. The slave schedule can be used in a community study, or an analysis of the age, gender breakdown, and status-whether runaway or still physically held. Though names of the enslaved were not recorded, the record still provides useful data, when compiling the family narrative particularly whether they were part of a large estate, or a small family held by one person.

In the Cherokee Nation the districts represented are:
Going Snake
Cooweescoowee (Kooweeskoowee)

In the Choctaw Nation, the districts represented are:
Red River
Sugar Loaf

In the Chickasaw Nation, the districts represented are:

In the Creek Nation, the area represented is:

In the Seminole Nation, the area represented is:

This is the first time that slavery has been "mapped" for Indian Territory, and hopefully in the future, a more thorough representation of the heartbreaking institution of slavery will be shown. Thanks to Google maps, this story can now more accurately be told, and reflected.

Monday, January 2, 2017

If Only We Could See Their Names - Part 1

When searching for enslaved ancestors, the first major frustration comes for the first time researcher, when he or she encounters the slave schedule in the 1860 and 1850 census for the first time. The shock to the researcher is that the "slave census" does not contain the names of the slaves. Only the name of the slave holder is recorded. That is also the first time that one encounters the reality of slaver and its horror---the ancestors were not considered to be people worthy of names. They were simply property and their presence as enslaved people only meant that they would be counted, just as cattle, horses, and other livestock.

And usually upon that discovery, the researcher heaves a very heavy sigh, exclaiming, "if only we knew their names."

And so it goes. But several years ago, while in Chicago attending a conference, I met Belzora Cheatham who was anxious to share a find! One line of her family is from Bowie County Texas and she had just found them on the 1850 slave schedule. With their names!

The document was one of those amazing errors in the census that many whose ancestors were enslaved, wish we could find. The error was a wonderful one---the enumerator wrote the names of the enslaved people--all of them!

I have thought of Ms. Cheatham many times over the years and several years ago, I looked at the records myself, and wrote a piece about them. I recently looked at that small collection of records from District 8 of Bowie County, and decided to write another article, because of its significance.

We recently celebrated the indexing of the Freedmen's Bureau records and how important we can now look at the years between 1865 and 1870 and learn about our ancestors in the early days of freedom. But this slave schedule is equally significant--although it reflects a tiny community---this is 15 years before freedom, and this provides a rare glimpse at people still enslaved, and their names can be called.

So many of us find the slave schedules for the first time, and then sigh in frustration noting that only the names of the slave holders are recorded. For those who survived enslavement and who lived to see freedom--it would be 20 years before their names would be in print again on a census. And for some--who did live to be free, this is the only piece of evidence that they ever lived.

A few years ago I wrote a small article about this collection, but I only included a few images. But upon reflection of the fact that for some--their names would never appear in a census as free people, and in light of our focus on celebrating everyone, enslaved and free, I have decided to include this larger article and share all 23 of the pages. So therefore, I am submitting this two-part piece reflecting the names of the enslaved population, sharing the images themselves. The district was not a large one, and therefore they deserve to be seen, by all.

The images reflect District 8, of Bowie County, Texas. There are only 23 pages reflected in this slave schedule, and all will be shared on this blog. The first 12 are shared below. (Part 2 will reflect the remaining pages.)

1850 Slave Schedule
Bowie County, Texas, District 8 1850 U.S. Federal Census - Slave Schedules [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.
Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Seventh Census of the United States, 1850. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1850. M432

It is clear upon looking at the images that some severe water damage occurred on the pages of the census book. This is most unfortunate, as in many of the pages,the names have simply vanished with the dampness, dissolving the lettering.

As one moves through the pages some of the water damage appears to lessen. And in some places on the page the names of the enslaved people can be read through the water stains. 

Though the water stains are still there, hopefully others new to the process will still look at the names of these people who lived during a trying time. My hope is that most did survive and live to breathe the air of freedom.

End of Part 1