The Picture tour
is another good place to start, with a summary of the story in 32 images.
First published June 5, 2005
Rebellion is a Web documentary that explores the inspiring, true, and largely unknown story of John Horse and the Black Seminoles,
a community of free blacks and fugitive slaves who in 1838 became the first black rebels to defeat American slavery.
The site covers their nineteenth-century odyssey from Florida to
Mexico. In the process it documents a recent discovery, that the
Black Seminoles led the largest slave rebellion in U.S. history,
which took place in Florida from 1835-1838. Amazingly, academic
historians have overlooked and misinterpreted this rebellion right
up to the present day. Rebellion is the first source to
definitively expose the oversight and show without doubt that the
Black Seminole-inspired slave rebellion was not only the largest in
American history, it was also the most successful.
Pursuing a free homeland across three frontiers and seven
decades, John Horse and the Black Seminoles were rebels who lived on the margins, but whose actions shaped the lives of millions. In Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, and Mexico (1812-1882), they risked their lives for freedom. Against great odds, they won.
In the process, by expanding the horizons of liberty, they
contributed to the lives of all Americans.
Their story will fascinate anyone who loves American
history as it really took place, not as it has been mythologized, politicized, or rewritten to suit contemporary ideas.
A documentary for the Web
The history of the Black Seminoles is available in several recent books,
but Rebellion presents a unique treatment,
depicting the story within the national context of the
struggle for black liberty, while presenting events in a
format specifically designed for the Web, augmented by the latest research, a wealth of original
materials, and hundreds of archival
The site was designed to offer the depth of an academic history, the interactivity of
the Web, and the visual content of a top-notch museum exhibit.
Rebellion offers more than 1400 pages of content
presented in a variety of formats to suit different tastes. Visitors can explore
essays, or the extensive trail
narrative, which combines hundreds of archival images with
a complete historical storyline. All of the materials can be
enjoyed in brief visits or over extended sittings, as your schedule and curiosity allow.
Wherever you end up on the site, you are likely to learn a few things that even the country's leading
historians have overlooked.
For example, for more than one hundred and fifty years
virtually all American historians, even our leading scholars of African-American
history, have overlooked the fact that from 1835-1838 the Black
led the country's largest slave
rebellion, which took place in
Florida at the outbreak of the Second Seminole War (1835-1842).
For four decades after the rebellion (1838-1882), the Black Seminoles waged an
epic quest for freedom from Florida to Mexico -- one of the most astonishing and moving odysseys in the chronicles of American liberty.
Ironically, the impetus for this adventure -- the Black Seminoles'
armistice with the U.S. Army in 1838 -- was of lasting national significance,
creating part of the legal precedent for President Lincoln's emancipation of the southern slaves in
1863. Through this connection, these rebels who lived on the margins
contributed to the lives of millions. Rebellion
is the first publication to describe this connection, online or in print.
The site also breaks new ground by seeking to tell the story
of the Black Seminoles within a national context, as part of the larger struggle for black freedom in nineteenth-century
America, documenting the tangible role that these black militants played in expanding the horizons of American liberty.
A great American story
While the story of the Black Seminoles reveals darker sides of
the American experience, it is also profoundly inspiring. For more
than forty years after their Florida rebellion, John Horse and his followers overcame tremendous obstacles in
their pursuit of liberty: slave raiders, corrupt politicians, federal armies
-- at times the full power and might of a nation bent on their destruction.
Several times John Horse could have cut deals protecting himself and his family, but he chose instead to pursue
a wider good. In an age when it appears to take a presidential decree to encourage Americans to help their neighbors, John Horse's example cannot help but remind us to cherish our freedoms
-- and to accept the responsibilities that come with them.
While Rebellion faithfully recounts the history of black
rebels against slavery, this is not a politically correct story based on contemporary
revisionist views. Readers seeking a melodrama of noble Indian
martyrs, evil white men, and victimized African Americans will be
disappointed, as will those who adhere to a pristine view of the
American past. Rather, here you will find the country's history
presented in its complexity and depth according to the best
available sources, not according to contemporary perspectives.
The story deals with key events in the American experience
-- the American Revolution, the expansion of slavery and the
frontier, the taming of the West -- and yet it presents these
events with a twist. John Horse and the Black Seminoles
experienced nineteenth-century America from the wrong side of
three frontiers. In the Southeast, the West, and the
Southwest, they felt the push of an expanding slave society --
and when they had to, they pushed back. For them, America's 'Manifest Destiny' was not a glorious dream but an ongoing nightmare. And yet in the end they
contributed to the lives of all Americans, helping
transform the society that had sought to enslave them.
Can you understand American history without reading about John Horse and the Black Seminoles?
Yes. Will your understanding be enriched
by their story? Absolutely.
And you will also discover a great American story.
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