"An excellent case study of a little-studied and poorly known community experiencing the processes of identity formation and culture change."--Brent R. Weisman, University of South Florida This is the first full-length ethnography of a unique community within the African diaspora. Rosalyn Howard traces the history of the isolated "Red Bays" community of the Bahamas, from their escape from the plantations of the American South through their utilization of social memory in the construction of new identity and community. Some of the many enslaved Africans escaping from southern plantations traveled to Florida and joined the Seminole Indians, intermarried, and came to call themselves Black Seminoles. In 1821, pursued and harassed by European Americans through the First Seminole War, approximately 200 members of this group fled to Andros Island, where they remained essentially isolated for nearly 150 years. Drawing on archival and secondary sources in the United States and the Bahamas as well as interviews with members of the present-day Black Seminole community on Andros Island, Howard reconstructs the story of the Red Bays people. She chronicles their struggles as they adapt to a new environment and forge a new identity in this insular community and analyzes the former slaves' relationship with their Native American companions.
Black Seminoles in contemporary Red Bays number approximately 290, the majority of whom are descended directly from the original settlers. As part of her research, Howard lived for a year in this small community, recording its oral history and analyzing the ways in which that history informed the evolving identity of the people. Her treatment dispels the air of mystery surrounding the Black Seminoles of Andros and provides a foundation for further anthropological and historical investigations. Rosalyn Howard is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Central Florida.