Were all the Black Seminoles descendants of fugitive slaves?
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Historical evidence suggests that most people who joined the Black Seminole community were either fugitives or descendants of fugitives from English and American slavery. There is no way now, however, to ascertain clearly the roots of the community. Partly as a result, interesting legends, myths, and historical possibilities abound.
According to some Black Seminole oral traditions, none of the original members of the community were ever enslaved. According to these traditions, the community descended either from free blacks who escaped the early exploring parties, Africans who escaped slave ships on the shores of the New World, or even Africans who reached the New World before Columbus.
Some of these scenarios may seem more probable than others. Moreover, the notion that none of the original members of the community were ever enslaved seems unlikely given the consistent, steady stream of Anglo-American complaints from 1688 to the 1830s about fugitives to Florida. More likely is the claim that some maroons could trace their Florida roots back to the sixteenth-century, when their ancestors escaped from early Spanish expeditions or fled to the region from points north.
Any connection between the Black Seminoles of Florida and other maroon communities of North America is pure speculation. There is no historical evidence connecting the Seminole maroons to other maroon communities in American history, aside from the linguistic ties to the general Gullah region, which can be explained by the shared heritage, both in America and Africa, of the Gullah and the fugitives who reached Florida.
Nonetheless, on the general topic of maroon communities in America, the historical possibilities are tantalizing, since a number of blacks were known to have escaped from early exploring parties and shipwrecks up and down the east coast, from Florida to Virginia. Two prominent examples were the 100 slaves who escaped from the first attempted colony in the present-day U.S., that of Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón (1526), and the 90-odd
cimarrons who aided Sir Francis Drake in Florida and were then deposited at the colony of Roanoke (1586). The fate of these Africans, who may have survived either in isolation or in alliance with other communities, constitutes a fascinating but unknowable chapter in American colonial history.
Warrior, Rivers 190-91, Katz 22-25.
Part 1, Early Years: l