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19th-century engraving of a Black Seminole warrior of the First Seminole War (1817–8)
|Regions with significant populations|
|Oklahoma, Florida, & Texas in the United States; the Bahamas; Mexico|
|English, Afro-Seminole Creole, Spanish|
|Protestantism and Roman Catholicism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Gullah (spoken in South Carolina Today)|
The Black Seminoles are black Indians associated with the Seminole people in Florida and Oklahoma. They are the descendants of free blacks and of escaped slaves (called maroons) who allied with Seminole groups in Spanish Florida. Historically, the Black Seminoles lived mostly in distinct bands near the Native American Seminole. Some were held as slaves of particular Seminole leaders; but they had more freedom than did slaves held by whites in the South and by other Native American tribes, including the right to bear arms.
Today, Black Seminole descendants live primarily in rural communities around the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. Its two Freedmen’s bands, the Caesar Bruner Band and the Dosar Barkus Band, are represented on the General Council of the Nation. Other centers are in Florida, Texas, the Bahamas, and northern Mexico.
Since the 1930s, the Seminole Freedmen have struggled with cycles of exclusion from the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma. In 1990, the tribe received the majority of a $46 million judgement trust by the United States, for seizure of lands in Florida in 1823, and the Freedmen have worked to gain a share of it. In 2004 the US Supreme Court ruled the Seminole Freedmen could not bring suit without the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, which refused to join it on the claim issue. In 2000 the Seminole Nation voted to restrict membership to those who could prove descent from a Seminole Indian on the Dawes Rollsof the early 20th century, which excluded about 1,200 Freedmen who were previously included as members. They argue that the Dawes Rolls were inaccurate and often classified persons with both Seminole and African ancestry as only Freedmen.