A Student of History

March 15, 2007

The most successful slave revolt in US history

Filed under: The strange place called the South — John Maass @ 7:35 am

There is a fascinating article on-line at Reason magazine on a Florida slave revolt that has been consistently overlooked by historians.  Here is a sample:

John Horse’s story feels like an answer to every Hollywood studio’s wish list: a mix of Spartacus, Braveheart, Amistad, and Glory, with just a pinch of Dances With Wolves. A sweeping tale of a decades-long struggle against oppression, the movie would show how Horse and the Black Seminoles created the largest haven for runaway slaves in the American South, led the biggest slave revolt in U.S. history, won the only emancipation of rebellious North American slaves before the Civil War, and formed the largest mass exodus of slaves in U.S. history. In the 1830s Horse’s people journeyed from the Florida Everglades to what is now Oklahoma and then across the border to Mexico, where they ultimately secured title to their own land.

What is perhaps most amazing about this story is how it has been overlooked so consistently, not just by filmmakers and popular audiences but by almost every historian of slavery. Now a nonprofessional historian–J.B. Bird, an administrator at the University of Texas–has written and produced an engrossing multimedia Web documentary, Rebellion: John Horse and the Black Seminoles, the First Black Rebels to Beat American Slavery. (To see it for yourself, go to johnhorse.com.) In the process, Bird has illustrated not just an important part of the American past but also one of the ways cyberspace is changing how history is studied and taught.

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