Rebellion Site introduction     
spacerHomespacer spacerOverviewspacer spacerTrail Narrativespacer spacerHighlightsspacer spacerMapsspacer spacerResourcesspacer spacerImagesspacer spacer
spacer Overview > Site introduction
spacer Link to the picture tour

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.[1]

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.[2]

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

Sample page from trail narrative

The Trail narrative offers 370 story panels in five segments.


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 images.[3]

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 pictures, maps, timelines, 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.

Original content

Wherever you end up on the site, you are likely to learn a few things that even the country's leading historians have overlooked.

Detail from engraving of Massacre of the Whites by Indians and Blacks in Florida, 1836

Slave rebellion links

Slave rebellion intro

Slave Uprising: Six story panels on the peak of the uprising in 1836

Essay: The Largest Slave Rebellion in U.S. history

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 Seminoles led the country's largest slave rebellion, which took place in Florida at the outbreak of the Second Seminole War (1835-1842).[4]

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.[5]

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 ideologies or 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.

Where to go next:

Back to Top

Site intro
Slave rebellion intro
Toolkit on the rebellion
Story Synopsis
Why learn their story?
Purpose of this site
Project info
Sponsors & funding
Navigation help