Historians believe that Africans and Native Americans first came into contact with each other in April 1502, when the first enslaved African arrived in Hispaniola. Thus began an intriguing relationship between two distinct groups that has lasted centuries.
The Seminoles were originally known as the Creeks. They became known as the Seminoles, which means “runaway” or “untamed”, when they broke away from the Creeks and sought refuge in Florida. Native American refugees from the northern wars, such as the Yuchi and Yamasee after the Yamasee War in South Carolina, migrated into Florida in the early 18th century. More arrived in the second half of the 18th century. The Lower Creeks, who were part of the Muscogee people, began to migrate from several of their towns into Florida to evade the dominance of the Upper Creeks and colonists (Wikipedia).
Around 1689, enslaved Africans began seeking refuge in Spanish Florida in earnest. They were encouraged to do so by the Spanish. The Spanish were hoping that this influx of runaway slaves and Native Americans would help to bolster their numbers after several other tribes of Native Americans had died after contracting European infectious diseases.
The enslaved Africans who were seeking freedom had fled from South Carolina Lowcountry. Those who reached Florida were given freedom under an edict from King Charles II. All they had to do was promise to defend the Spanish settlers at St. Augustine. Soon, the Spanish had organized these once-enslaved Africans into a militia. And in 1738, their settlement at Fort Mose was founded. It was the first legally sanctioned free black town in North America (Wikipedia).
Even though the British defeated the French in the Seven Years’ War in 1763, which meant that the British took over rule in Florida, many enslaved Africans continued to seek refuge in this area because it was lightly settled. The only difference was that now they made sure to settle near Native American (Seminole) settlements.
This trend grew and continued. By the time of the American Revolution (1775-1783), Florida had been a sanctuary for runaway slaves for nearly seventy years. Communities of Black Seminoles generally began where the Seminole communities ended. The war, which was a time of upheaval and unrest, encouraged more slaves to seek freedom in Florida.
By the time that the War of 1812 began, there were two distinct communities of Seminoles and Black Seminoles that came together to fight. They sided with the British against the United States. Going to war together strengthen and tied these two groups closer together.
Note: The blog appeared as an article in the 7/13/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.