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Slavery, Within and Without

Native peoples experienced slavery—and saw enslaved Africans—differently at different times and places. Early in the colonial period, Native Americans were sometimes enslaved alongside African Americans. They intermarried and lived through common struggles. Some even coordinated armed resistance to white encroachment.

Later, Native tribes sometimes took in and harbored runaway slaves, accepting them into their communities and blending in their cultural expressions. But members of some Native nations, particularly the southeastern tribes that emulated white society, themselves kept African American slaves.

Buck Franklin (1879–1960)

Buck Franklin (1879–1960), son of a Chickasaw freedman (emancipated slave)

Buck Franklin (shown here ca. 1899 with his older brother, Matthew) was named after his grandfather, who had been a slave of a Chickasaw family in Oklahoma. Buck Franklin became a lawyer, notably defending survivors of the Tulsa Riots in 1921 which had resulted in the murder of 300 African Americans.

Courtesy John Franklin

Choctaw freedmen roll

Choctaw freedmen roll

Buck Franklin’s father was a Chickasaw freedman, and his mother was one-quarter Choctaw. The Choctaw freedmen roll pertaining to the family is shown here.

Courtesy National Archives at Fort Worth