Captives of the Dark and Bloody Ground: Identity, Race, and Power in the Contested American South Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 20, 2019
  • Snyder, Christina N.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • In this dissertation, I use the lens of captivity to explore how Native Southerners defined themselves and the other. Before they encountered one another in the colonial era, the peoples of Africa, Europe, and North America considered enslavement a legitimate fate for captured enemy peoples, though their attitudes about the status and roles of captives differed. In the South during the colonial and early national periods, violent conflict often erupted as Indian nations labored to maintain their territorial integrity and political autonomy, Euro-Americans desired to control Indian land and African labor, and Africans sought freedom. During such episodes, Native groups took enemies-white, black, and Indian-as captives. Victors then subjected their captives to a variety of fates: they ritually killed some to satisfy the demands of clan vengeance; they adopted others to replace deceased family members; they made chattel slaves out of the remainder. Throughout the colonial period, Native Southerners largely determined a captive's fate based on his or her sex and age. By the late eighteenth century, however, race became a captive's most salient characteristic, and African-American captives were overwhelmingly targeted in warfare and then sold or held in transgenerational bondage. This study, in part, explores why that shift toward racialization occurred, and how it reflected Native Southerners' changing sense of identity. More broadly, "Captives of the Dark and Bloody Ground" addresses the construction of race and racism in America and contributes to a growing body of scholarship on the diversity of enslavement in North America. This dissertation traces the dynamic institution of captivity from the precolonial past, when Native chiefdoms competed for regional power, through the conclusion of the Second Seminole War in 1842, which marks the final captive-taking episode in the contested American South. It draws upon a wide variety of English- and Spanish-language sources including legal documents, personal and official correspondence, journals, ethnographies, and the archaeological record.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Green, Michael D.
  • Open access

This work has no parents.