When enslaved Africans escaped slavery and found refuge in Florida, they took very little with them. One thing they did take was their language, Gullah, which we previously discussed.
As they cohabited with the Seminoles in Florida, their Gullah blended with the Seminole language and became Afro-Seminole Creole in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
As the Black Seminoles were forced to migrate from Florida to Oklahoma and then to Mexico, again, they took their language with them. In Mexico, Afro-Seminole underwent yet another transformation as many Spanish words were added to this ever-evolving language. When the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts began their service in Texas, they again brought their language with them.
Just think about how formidable and infallible this journey has been. The evolution of this language is a testament to the importance of communication and man’s ability to adopt to any situation. From the western coast of Africa all the way to Texas, one language crossed an ocean and numerous miles. It is now very different than it was originally, but many words from Africa are still a part of the language.
Sadly, as time passed, Afro-Seminole Creole and its speakers began to die. It was first identified in 1978 as a language by Ian Hancock, a linguist at the University of Texas, and speakers of Afro-Seminole Creole continue to live in Seminole County, Oklahoma, and Brackettville, Texas, in the United States and in Nacimiento de los Negros, Coahuila, in Mexico. There are only about 200 speakers of the language (Wikipedia).
Interestingly, there has been a resurgence of interest in Afro-Seminole Creole. I believe that it was in 2015 when many people began contacting me, asking if I knew how to speak it or if I knew anyone who knew how to speak it. That there is now interest in Afro-Seminole Creole makes my heart glad. See, when I was a little girl, we were reprimanded for speaking Afro-Seminole Creole, which, back then, we simply called Seminole. As a matter of fact, I remember one of my older brothers bringing home a note that encouraged my mom to only speak “proper English” in the home. At that time, we thought that assimilating was the only way that we would be able to make in society. We thought that our unique language was a hindrance, so we stopped speaking it, and we almost lost it. Luckily, we do still have a few families that remember it and continue to speak it. It is my goal to relearn this language and to make sure that anyone else who is interested also has a chance to learn.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 6/1/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.