Renown in Exile
Ironically, at the same time that the Black Seminoles were resettling in Mexico farther than
ever from the reach of American slavery, they
won their greatest renown in the United States—with the publication in 1858 of Joshua
Reed Giddings’ The Exiles of Florida. Giddings had just retired from the U.S.
Congress after serving nine consecutive terms representing Ohio’s staunchly
antislavery Western Reserve. In the 1840s he had brought the Black Seminoles to
national attention through floor debates in Congress and a pamphlet exposing the
Second Seminole War’s connections to slavery. His speeches on the Black
Seminoles (whom he called “Exiles” after a phrase coined by Revolutionary War General Charles
Lee*) were notable for exhaustive references to government documents. This
spirit of research culminated in his 338-page volume tracking the Black
Seminoles from their origins before the American Revolution through the latest
reports of their status in the 1850s.
Giddings Exiles 4.
* Lee, George Washington’s second-in-command at the outset
of the Revolutionary War, said that during the revolution
American slaves “sought freedom among the ‘Exiles of