The Freedmen are slaves that were given their freedom when the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole tribes went onto reservations.
The Cherokee , Choctaw and Creek nations were among those Native American tribes that held enslaved African Americans before and during the American Civil War.
They supported the Confederacy during the war, supplying some warriors in the West, as they were promised their own state if the Confederacy won.
After the end of the war, the U.S. required these tribes to make peace treaties, and to emancipate their slaves. They were required to offer full citizenship in their tribes to those freedmen who wanted to stay with the tribes. Numerous families had intermarried by that time or had other personal ties.
If freedmen left the tribes, they would become US citizens.
In the late 20th century, the Cherokee Nation voted for restrictions on membership to only those descendants of people listed as “Cherokee by blood” on the Dawes Rolls of the early 20th century, excluding most Cherokee Freedmen (by that time a term referring to their descendants).
In addition to arguing that the post-Civil War treaties gave them citizenship, the Freedmen have argued that the Dawes Rolls were often inaccurate, recording as freedmen even those persons who had partial Cherokee ancestry and were considered Cherokee by blood.
The Choctaw Freedmen and Creek Freedmen have similarly struggled with their respective tribes over the terms of citizenship in contemporary times.
The tribes have wanted to limit those who can benefit from tribal citizenship, in an era in which gaming casinos are yielding considerable revenues for members.
The majority of members of the tribes have voted to limit membership, and as sovereign nations, they have the right to determine their rules.
Descendants of freedmen believe their long standing as citizens since the post-Civil War treaties should be continued.
Tommy Lafon of New Orleans, a dealer in dry goods and real estate, in 1893, left for charitable purposes among his people, an estate appraised at $413,000.[Pg 98]
Mary E. Shaw of New York City, left Tuskeegee Colored Institute $38,000.
Col. John McKee of Philadelphia, at his death in 1902, left about $1,000,000 worth of property for education, including a provision for the establishment of a college to bear his name.
Anna Marie Fisher, of Brooklyn, N. Y., in 1911, having an estate of $65,000 left $26,000 for educational institutions.
Henry Crittendon, a leader in the education community, at the time of the establishment of the Choctaw Freedmen Oak Hill Academy.
Rufus Cannon, served the Territory as deputy sheriff
Wallace Banks composed the songs Swing Low Sweet Chariot and Steal Away to Jesus.
Do you know of other famous Freedmen? Let us know.