American Black Indians

Infobox Ethnic group
group = African-Native Americans

caption = Notable African-Native Americans: Bessie Coleman·James Earl Jones · Beyonce Knowles ·Rosa Parks · Lolo Jones · Oprah Winfrey
poptime =182,494 are registered(2000)
* However experts say as high as 90% of the African American population may be mixed with Native American descent. [cite web|url = | title = DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000 Data Set: Census 2000 Summary File 2 (SF 2) 100-Percent Data Geographic Area: United States Racial or Ethnic Grouping: Black or African American; American Indian and Alaska Native | work = Census 2000 Quicktables| publisher = US Census Bureau| accessdate = 2008-06-10] cite web|url=|title=More Blacks are Exploring the African-American/Native American Connection|author=Sherrel Wheeler Stewart |accessdate=2008-08-06 |date=2008 |]
popplace = United States (especially the Southern United States or in locations populated by Southern descendants).
langs = American English
related = African Americans·Native Americans in the United States·Freedmen·Other Native peoples of the Americas ·Zambos·Cafuzos·

Black Indians also known as African-Native Americanscite web |url=|title=THE AFRICAN-NATIVE AMERICAN HISTORY & GENEALOGY WEB PAGE|author=Angela Y. Walton-Raji|accessdate=2008-09-17 |date=2008 |publisher=Oklahoma's Black Indians] is a term generally used to describe Americans who have significant ancestry of both sub-Saharan African and Native American or Indigenous Americans. The term may also include African Americans who, for a long time, were embedded within Native American tribes and identities throughout the Americas.Fact|date=September 2008 Subsequently, although no longer having social, cultural or linguistic ties to Native peoples, many African Americans have Native American ancestry.cite web |url=,M1|title=More Than Black?:Multiracial|author=G. Reginald Daniel|accessdate=2008-09-19 |date=2008 |publisher= Temple University Press]


African slaves brought to the United States and their descendants have had a history of cultural exchange and notably intermarriage with Native Americans and other African slaves who possessed Native American ancestry (largely in the American South).cite web |url=|title=Researching Black Indian Genealogy of the Five Civilized Tribes |author=Angela Y. Walton-Raji|accessdate=2008-09-20 |date=2008 |publisher=Oklahoma's Black Indians] This cultural mixing is also believed to be the reason why certain phenotypes (physical characteristics) common within Native peoples also occur in the African-American population.cite web |url=|title=Black Native Americans Perform at Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage|author=Justina Ntabgoba|accessdate=2008-09-20 |date=2001 |publisher= The District Chronicles] These may include longer and/or less kinky hair texture than commonly appears in people of sub-Saharan African origin (sometimes called "Indian hair" by fellow blacks), slanted eyes, many times with an epicanthal fold also common among many Native people as well as Asians, eyes sometimes widely spaced apart, an aquiline nose or hooknose, and skin coloration that can range from light brown/tan to reddish.Fact|date=June 2008

Native American groups have had both positive and strained relationships with Africans and African Americans they encountered.Fact|date=June 2008 Some groups were more accepting of Africans than others and welcomed them as full members of their respective cultures and communities. Some Native Americans, especially as they became more assimilated into the dominant American culture (aided in large part by White intermarriage with Natives), came to treat African Americans with contempt, as did much of the White population.Fact|date=June 2008 There were disagreements among Native peoples concerning the role of African people in their communities. Some tribal factions (notably the Keetoowah Society of the Cherokee) were opposed to slavery. [cite web|url= |work=Infoplease|title=Preference for Racial or Ethnic Terminology |accessmonthday=February 8 |accessyear=2006] Dubious|date=May 2008 Other American Indians saw uses for slavery and did not oppose it for others; this was part of a wider split among Native people who were either for or against assimilation into the increasingly dominant European American culture of the early-to-mid 19th century. [cite web|url= |work=Infoplease|title=Preference for Racial or Ethnic Terminology |accessmonthday=February 8 |accessyear=2006] Dubious|date=May 2008

After the American Civil War, some African Americans participated in warfare against Native Americans, especially in the Western frontier states as members of military units such as the Buffalo Soldiers. On the other hand, many Native Americans and African-descended people fought alongside one another in armed struggles of resistance against U.S. expansion into Native territories, as well as resistance against slavery and racism.

There are efforts underway to promote greater cooperation and understanding among both contemporary African American and Native American tribal groups. Some intermarriage still occurs between these groups; some African Americans who descend from or who identify as Black Indians identify strongly with the Native cultural traditions with which they were raised.Fact|date=June 2008 Interracial relations between Native Americans and African Americans has sadly been apart of American history that has been neglected.cite web |url=|title=The Indian connection|author=Mary A. Dempsey|accessdate=2008-09-19 |date=1996 |publisher= American Visions]


The earliest record of African and Native American relations occurred in April, 1502, when the first African slaves were brought to Hispanola. Some escaped and somewhere inland on Santo Dominico life birthed the first circle of African-Native Americans. cite web |url=|title=Black Indians|author=William Loren Katz |accessdate=2008-08-11 |date=2008 | ] In addition, an example of African slaves' escaping from European colonists and being absorbed by American Indians occurred as far back as 1526. In June of that year, Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon established a Spanish colony near the mouth of the Pee Dee River in what is now eastern South Carolina. The Spanish settlement was named San Miquel de Guadalupe. Amongst the settlement were 100 enslaved Africans. In 1526, the first African slaves fled the colony and took refuge with local Native Americans ["Muslims in American History : A Forgotten Legacy" by Dr. Jerald F. Dirks. ISBN 1-59008-044-0 Page 204.]

In 1622 Native Americans overran the European colony of Jamestown. They killed the Europeans but brought the African slaves as captives back to their communities, gradually integrating them. cite web |url=|title=Africans and Indians: Only in America|author=William Loren Katz |accessdate=2008-09-20 |date=2008 |publisher=William Loren Katz ] It is a common misconception that people of African and Native American descent are descendents of only the five civilized tribes.cite web |url=|title=Tri-Racials: Black Indians of the Upper South|author=Angela Y. Walton-Raji |accessdate=2008-08-20 |date=2008 |publisher=Design © 1997] However, interracial relationships between African Americans and many other tribes occurred on the coastal states of the United States.cite web |url=|title=Tri-Racials: Black Indians of the Upper South|author=Angela Y. Walton-Raji |accessdate=2008-08-20 |date=2008 |publisher=Design © 1997]

Several colonial advertisements for runaway slaves made direct reference to the integration of African Americans into the Native American communities. For example "...ran off with his Indian wife... had kin among the Indians...part Indian and speaks their language good".Black Indians: a Hidden Heritage. by William Loren Katz, New York, N.Y. Aladdin Paperbacks, 1997. Page 103] In published Massachusetts vital Records prior to 1850 Marriages of "negroes" to "Indians" are noted.

In South Carolina, colonists became so concerned about the possible threat posed by the mixed African and Indian population that was arising as runaway Africans escaped to the Indians that they passed a new law in 1725. This law stipulated a fine of 200 pounds on anyone who brought a slave to the frontier regions of the colony. In 1751 the colony of South Carolina found it necessary to issue another law, warning that having Africans in proximity to Indians was deemed detrimental to the security of the colony.

In 1726 the British governor of colonial New York exacted a promise from the Iroquois Indians to return all runaway slaves who had joined up with them. This same promise was extracted from the Huron Indians in 1764 and from the Delaware Indians in 1765. Despite their promises, the tribes never returned any escaped slaves. They continued to provide a safe refuge for escaped slaves.

An 1835 census of the Cherokee showed that fully 10% were of African descent.

Native American slave ownership

Slavery existed among Native Americans before it was introduced by the Europeans, although it was unlike chattel slavery. In oral tradition, for instance, Cherokees saw slavery as the result of failure in warfare, and as a temporary status pending adoption or release. [Russell, Steve (2002). "Apples are the Color of Blood". "Critical Sociology" Vol. 28, 1, 2002, p70] As the US Constitution and the laws of several states permitted slavery, Native Americans were legally allowed to continue owning slaves, including those brought from Africa by Europeans. The Cherokee tribe had the most members who held black slaves, more than any Native American tribe. [Littlefield, Daniel F. Jr. "The Cherokee Freedmen: From Emancipation to American Citizenship", Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978 p68]

Records from the time period show several cases of brutal treatment of black slaves by their masters. Numerous African-descended people were held as slaves by members of Native groups. Some later recounted their lives for a WPA oral history project in the 1930s. [ [ Lucinda Davis ] ]

Cherokee Freedmen

After the Civil War in 1866, Cherokees were required to grant their slaves citizenship and membership in the tribe, as the United States freed slaves and granted them citizenship by amendments to the US Constitution. Many Cherokee Freedmen, as they were called, played active political roles in the nation. In the late 20th century, the tribe moved to take the descendants of Freedmen off the tribal rolls, except for those who had an ancestor on the Dawes Roll. A political struggle over this issue has ensued and the matter went to the tribe's Supreme Court.

By the tribal Supreme Court ruling of March 2006, the Cherokee Nation was required to reinstate as members about 1,000 African Americans (and descendants) whom they had dropped from the rolls in the mid-1970s. In response, leaders of the Cherokee Nation organized a referendum to vote on qualifications for citizenship in the tribe. The referendum established direct Cherokee ancestry as a requirement, unlike previous qualifications. Only such members were allowed to vote in the referendum. The measure passed in March 2007, thereby forcing out Cherokee Freedmen and their descendants unless they also had direct Cherokee ancestry. This has caused much controversy. [ [ BBC NEWS | Americas | Cherokees eject slave descendants ] ] . The argument is that the African American descendants hold no Native blood and therefore should not qualify for membership, and voting rights, in the Cherokee Nation. [ [ Tulsa World: News ] ]

An advocacy group representing African American members claims that they are entitled to membership as many are indeed part Cherokee by blood. This has not been immediately evident from the existing historical records (most notably the highly controversial Dawes Commission enrollment records, which tended to exclude those of African descent from being officially considered "Indian" for the purposes of tribal enrollment, even if they also clearly possessed Native ancestry and testified as such). [ [ DFSCTA Service 3 ] ] [ [ DFSCTA Service 2 ] ]

Before the Dawes Commission was established, "(t)he majority of the people with African blood living in the Cherokee nation prior to the Civil war lived there as slaves of Cherokee citizens or as free black non citizens, usually the descendants of Cherokee men and women with African blood...In 1863, the Cherokee government outlawed slavery through acts of the tribal council. In 1866, a treaty was signed with the US government in which the Cherokee government agreed to give citizenship to those people with African blood living in the Cherokee nations who were not already citizens. African Cherokee people participated as full citizens of that nation, holding office, voting, running businesses, etc. [ [ why ] ]

After the Dawes Commission, those African American "freedmen" of the Cherokee and the other Five Civilized Tribes were often treated as harshly as any other African American. Degrees of continued acceptance into tribal structures were low during the ensuing decades. Some tribes restricted membership to those with a documented Native ancestor on the Dawes Commission listings and many restricted officeholders to those of direct Native American ancestry. Because of the apparent deliberate exclusion of most people with African blood on these "blood rolls", it was difficult for Black Indians to establish official ties with those Native groups to which they genetically belonged. Many of the freedmen descendants believe that their continued exclusion from tribal membership, and the continued resistance to their efforts to gain recognition, is racially motivated. [ [ DFSCTA Service 3 ] ] [ [ - Racism and the Cherokee Nation ] ]


Tracing genealogy of African Americans and Native Americans is a very difficult process; due to African Americans that were slaves were forbidden to learn to read and write, and majority of Native Americans didn't speak English, nor read or wrote it.cite web |url=|title=The Indian connection|author=Mary A. Dempsey|accessdate=2008-09-19 |date=1996 |publisher= American Visions] Another factor adding to the difficulty of people of African American descent learning about their Native American heritage is elder family members withholding pertinent genealogical information.cite web |url=|title=The Indian connection|author=Mary A. Dempsey|accessdate=2008-09-19 |date=1996 |publisher= American Visions] However, knowing the family's geographic origins is a key factor in helping unravel Native American ancestry.cite web |url=|title=The Indian connection|author=Mary A. Dempsey|accessdate=2008-09-19 |date=1996 |publisher= American Visions] Many modern African Americans have taken an interest in genealogy and are learning about Native American heritage within their individual families. Some African Americans have knowledge of Native ancestry through oral history of the family and try to confirm these anecdotal stories of Native ancestry through genealogical research and DNA testing. Because of such findings, some have petitioned to be registered as members of Native American tribes and have met with some resistance.

However, in part because of continued recent intermarriage between African-Americans and Native Americans, and also due to increased awareness of Black Indians in general, it has been fairly easy for younger generations of mixed African/Native people to become more easily recognized in their respective ethnic groups. It is even debated that Black people have more noticeable Native heritage than many whites claim (a major factor in the Cherokee freedmen controversy).Fact|date=July 2008 Even among Native peoples themselves, some of these physical features have been confused with being Sub-Saharan African due to the negative influence of the one-drop rule. [ [ Brendan I. Koerner, "Blood Feud", "Wired" 13.09] , accessed 3 Jun 2008]

Notable African-Native Americans

* Monica "Monica" Arnold, is part Native Americancite web |url=|title=Monica Arnold|author=MSN |accessdate=2008-08-25 |date=2008 |publisher=people9]
* Bessie Coleman, part Cherokee [Atlanta Historical Museum, [ Texas Roots.] Accessed 2007-04-10.]
* Stacey Dash, is of West Indian and Aztec descent cite web|title=Stacey Dash: Full biography| | accessdate=2008-09-15|url=
* Rosario Dawson, is part Native American through her father. cite web |url=|title=Between The Rock and a hard place|accessdate=2007-03-20 |last=Barlow |first=Helen |publisher="The Age Online"]
* Ramona Douglass, is part Oglala []
*Gary Dourdan part Native Americancite web |url=|title=Gary Dourdan Experiences|author=Sara Faillaci |accessdate=2008-10-10 |date=2008 |publisher=Vanity Fair]
* Redd Foxx
* Vivica A. Fox, is part Native American cite web |url=|title=Vivica A. Fox "Cover/Three Can Play That Game" Interview with Kam Williams|author=Kam Williams|accessdate=2008-05-05 |date=2008 |publisher=Realtime News ]
* Meagan Good, is part Cherokee [ [ The Angie Martinez Show] ]
* Illinois Jacquet, Mother was Sioux and father Creole. [ [ Swing Music site] ]
* Jimi Hendrix, part Cherokee [Classic Bands, [ Jimi Hendrix.] Accessed 2008-01-05.]
* Langston Hughes, is part Native American cite web |url=|title=African-Native American Scholars|author= |accessdate=2008-07-30 |date=2008 |publisher=African-Native American Scholars]
* Janet Jackson, is part Native American cite web|url=|title=More Blacks are Exploring the African-American/Native American Connection|author=Sherrel Wheeler Stewart |accessdate=2008-08-06 |date=2008 |]
* Michael Jackson, is part Native Americancite web|url=|title=More Blacks are Exploring the African-American/Native American Connection|author=Sherrel Wheeler Stewart |accessdate=2008-08-06 |date=2008 |]
* Shar Jackson, is part Native Americancite web |url=|title=Shar Jackson|author=Ranjan Shandilya|accessdate=2008-09-05 |date=2008 |publisher=Buzzle ]
* James Earl Jones, part Cherokee and Choctaw ["Goliath", [ Unconventional wisdom: James Earl Jones speaks out.] Accessed 2008-01-05.] [HUD, [ American Indian Heritage Month.] Accessed 2008-01-05.]
* Lolo Jones, is part Native American cite web |url=|title=Athletes > Lolo Jones > Bio |author=MSN|accessdate=2008-08-18 |date=2008 |publisher=NBC Beijing Olympics 2008] ,
* Christopher Judge, part CherokeeFact|date=July 2008
* Eartha Kitt, part CherokeeFact|date=July 2008
* Beyonce Knowles, part Native American cite web |url=,2933,204978,00.html?sPage=fnc/entertainment/beyonce|title=Beyonce Knowles' Biography|author=Fox News |accessdate=2008-06-05 |date=2008 |publisher=Fox News ]
* Solange Knowles, is part Native American cite web |url=,2933,204978,00.html?sPage=fnc/entertainment/beyonce|title=Beyonce Knowles' Biography|author=Fox News |accessdate=2008-06-05 |date=2008 |publisher=Fox News ]
* Tina Knowles, is part Native Americancite web |url=,2933,204978,00.html?sPage=fnc/entertainment/beyonce|title=Beyonce Knowles' Biography|author=Fox News |accessdate=2008-06-05 |date=2008 |publisher=Fox News ]
* Edmonia Lewis, part Ojibwa [Edmonia Lewis, [ Edmonia Lewis.] Accessed 2008-01-05.]
* Amber Littlejohn, part Cherokee
* Laura Love, is part Native Americancite web |url=|title=Laura Love Biography - Survived Group Suicide Planned by Mother, Formed Own Label after Negative Review|author=James M. Manheim|accessdate=2008-08-29 |date=2008 |publisher=All Music Guide]
* Magoo (rapper), part of rap duo Timbaland and Magoo, is part Native American
* Chrisette Michele, is part Native American
* Rosa Parks, part Cherokee-Creek ["New York Times", [ Rosa Parks.] Accessed 2008-01-09.]
* Oscar Pettiford, Mother was Choctaw and father part Cherokee. [ [ NPR] ] [ [ Blue Melody: Tim Buckley Remembered By Lee Underwood] ]
*Phylicia Rashād, father was full-blooded Cherokee cite web|url= |title=Phylicia Birthday-01948-June-19 |accessdate=2007-12-27 ]
*Martha Redbone, Native American Music Award-winning Soul music of Shawnee & Choctaw ancestry [ [ Martha Redbone Interview] ]
* Della Reese, part Cherokee [HUD, [ American Indian Heritage Month.] Accessed 2008-01-05.]
* Jake Simmons, Jr.
* Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, is part Native American []
* Chris Tucker, part Native American cite web |url=|title=DNA rewrites history for African-Americans |author=Richard Willing |accessdate=2008-08-05 |date=2008 |publisher=USA Today ]
* Tina Turner, part Cherokee and Navajo [HUD, [ American Indian Heritage Month.] Accessed 2008-01-05.]
* Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, is part Native American ["Thoughts" accessed 2008-08-29, Author Tionne Watkins, Published 1999, Publisher HarperCollins Publishers]
* Amil "Amil" Whitehead, is part Cherokeecite web |url=|title=Amil: Biography|author=Diana Potts|accessdate=2008-10-01 |date=2008 |publisher=MSN ]
* Mykelti Williamson, part Blackfeet [HUD, [ American Indian Heritage Month.] Accessed 2008-01-05.]
* Oprah Winfrey, part Native American cite web |url=|title=DNA rewrites history for African-Americans |author=Richard Willing |accessdate=2008-08-05 |date=2008 |publisher=USA Today ]
*Keke Wyatt, part Cherokee cite web |url=|title=Giving it to ya' straight no chaser:Keke Wyatt|author=|accessdate=2008-03-12 |date=2007 |publisher=Sister2Sister Magazine ]


ee also

* List of topics related to Black and African people
* Shinnecock
* Pequot
* African American
* Afro-Cuban - many descended from the Ciboney people
* Black people
* Black Seminoles
* Cafuzo
* Carmel Indians
* Cherokee Freedmen
* Cherokee freedmen controversy
* Chestnut Ridge people
* Colored
* Dominican Republic Demographics
* Freedman
* Garifuna
* Haliwa-Saponi
* Indigenous peoples of the Americas
* Louisiana Creole people
* Lumbee
* Marabou (ethnicity)
* Maroon (people)
* Melungeon
* Miskito
* Mulatto
* Native Americans in the United States
* Native American name controversy
* Native American tribes
* One Drop Rule
* Plaçage
* Puerto Rican people
* Redbone (ethnicity)
* Social implication of race
* We-Sorts
* William Loren Katz
* Zambo

External links

* [ Aframerindian Slave Narratives]
* [ Freedmen Five Tribes]
* [ African Americans - Black Indians In American West History]
* [ The African-Native American]
* [ Black Indians, by Dr Arthur N Lewin]

Further reading

*Amir Nashid Ali Muhammad; "Muslims in America - Seven Centuries of History" ISBN 0-915957-75-2
*Sylviane A. Diouf; "Servants of Allah - African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas" ISBN 0-8147-1905-8
*Allan D. Austin; "African Muslims in Antebellum America" ISBN 0-415-91270-9
* --
*Tiya Miles; "Ties that Bind : the Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom" ISBN 0520241320
*J. Leitch Wright; "The Only Land They Knew : American Indians in the Old South" ISBN 0803298056
*Patrick Minges; "Black Indian Slave Narratives" ISBN 0895872986
*Jack D. Forbes; "Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples" ISBN 025206321X
*James F. Brooks; "Confounding the Color Line: The Indian - Black Experience in North America" ISBN 0803261942
*Claudio Saunt; "Black, White, and Indian: Race and the Unmaking of an American Family" ISBN 0195313100

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