Over the generations, Cherokee citizens became a conglomerate people. Early in the nineteenth century, tribal leaders adapted their government to mirror the new American model. While accommodating institutional slavery of black people, they abandoned the Cherokee matrilineal clan structure that once determined their citizenship. The 1851 census revealed a total population nearing 18,000, which included 1,844 slaves and 64 free blacks. What it means to be Cherokee has continued to evolve over the past century, yet the histories assembled here by Ty Wilson, Karen Coody Cooper and other contributing authors reveal a meaningful story of identity and survival.
About the Author
Ty Wilson, founder of Cherokees for Black Indian History Preservation Foundation, and writer Karen Coody Cooper decided to work together on Oklahoma Black Cherokees early in 2016. Wilson was raising money to create a cultural center in the abandoned Antioch Baptist Church (active when he was a youngster growing up in the neighborhood), and Cooper was looking for another history project when she discovered that the old church was just five blocks from where she lives. Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in the Cherokee Nation, is a history mecca with several rich archives, half a dozen museums and a crowd of reliable historians, all joining in revealing compelling stories of black Cherokee people.