THE BLACK FRONTIERSMEN: Adventures of Negroes Among American Indians by J. Norman Heard

THE BLACK FRONTIERSMEN: Adventures of Negroes Among American Indians

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Leading off with anthropologist Herskovits' 1928 discovery that one-fourth of 1,551 Negroes interviewed were of partial Indian ancestry, Mr. Heard proceeds, in the first chapter, with an interpretive summary of red-black relations from the first contacts to the last Indian roundup, taking note of local variations determined largely (the author avers) by white attitudes. Some of this bears on intermarriage, some of it attests to a Common front against white-exploitation (Seminole absorption of runaways being an outstanding example of both), but it doesn't add up to a cohesive history, especially since just as many examples are given of blacks protecting their white masters or themselves taking the initiative against the Indians. The other ten chapters offer profiles of blacks whose paths crossed the Indians' in diverse ways from explorer Estevanico slain by the Zunis (1539) to Henry Ossian Flipper, first Negro graduate of West Point (1877), who served briefly with the famed Buffalo soldiers. Included with mountain men Jim Beckwourth and Ed Rose is the equally legendary York, aide of Lewis and Clark; here credited also with a later exploit sometimes assigned to one of the other two; no-more is revealed about their relations with the Indians per se than in previous biographies. There's also Britton Hammon, whose odyssey became ""probably the first book ever published by an American Negro;"" John Marrant, ""probably the first Negro minister of the Gospel"" earlier saved from death ""by the power of his prayer over the Indians;"" another missionary, John Stewart; Pompey, who figured in the siege of Boonesboro; and Luis Pacheco, ""Traitor, Scapegoat or Patriot"" in the Second Seminole War. The accounts develop largely from primary sources accepted at face value (which means, in Estevanico's case, the self-serving Fray Marcos), the absence of a critical perspective making this only tentative history; neither does it go far to illumine its stated topic, And the individual biographies contribute only to the extent that the subjects are obscure.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1969
Publisher: John Day