Aoki Center and UC Davis History Department colloquium on Free People of Color: Race, Law and Freedom in the 19th and 20th Century U.S.
A Different Forty Acres: Land, Kin, and Migration in the Black and Native West
This essay utilizes Dawes Roll testimonies to argue that by using land and migration as categories of analyses, we see how some Black and mixed-race Chickasaw freedpeople (women and men formerly enslaved by Chickasaw Indians) exercised their freedom after the Civil War not by leaving their former spaces of enslavement, but by choosing to remain in these locations. In laying claim to the land of the Five Tribes in Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma), people of African descent documented the ways they had come to identify with land and space through shared hardships and Black and Black Indian kinship connections. Thus, for these people, Reconstruction in the West centered more on the attainment of land and belonging than on the realization of formal citizenship rights.
Alaina E. Roberts is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on the intersection of African American and Native American history from the nineteenth century to the modern day with particular attention to identity, settler colonialism, and anti-Blackness. In addition to her first book, I’ve Been Here All the While: Black Freedom on Native Land (University of Pennsylvania Press, April 2021), her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Al-Jazeera, the Journal of the Civil War Era, and the Western Historical Quarterly.
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