It is hard to write two things at once, you know.
I started this newsletter because I believed—and I still believe—that serious commentary on current events is severely lacking nowadays. It is one thing to chat about sociopolitical happenings on Cotto/Gottfried, but it is quite another to write about them in my own corner of the World Wide Web.
As the months passed, however, I began to feel that history itself deserved my attention, seeing as it created our present and it most certainly shall inform our future. So many Americans, on both sides of the political aisle, are woefully ignorant about their country’s past, believing convenient narratives which suit modern partisan narratives.
Many folks do not even get that far; they have no idea why society unfolded as it has and, by all indications, they do not care.
Needless to mention, I do care. Quite a bit. In order to grasp some faint idea of what our future might hold, we must know what came before, and know this damn well. There are no two ways about this.
With said idea running through my head in an unending loop, I decided to place Cotto’s News & Culture Report aside. It took some time to decide which facet of history to focus on, not only because there had to be a gripping enough story, but on account of my need to find something relevant to our day and age.
Eventually, I found it. Boy, did I find it. The story was right under my nose all along—or, to be more literal, right under my feet. As a born-and-raised central Floridian, the story I wanted (needed, even) to tell was the story of the very land on which I sit, writing these words.
The essential, if not beautiful, thing about this all too obscure, sometimes ugly story is that it relates to folks who live nowhere near myself. There is a deeply humanistic universality to the story in question. It not only offers deep insight on the nature of mankind, but the litany of misunderstandings which fuel some of the worst elements in contemporary politics.
All the same, the story I tell is far from a political polemic. It is not a political treatise of any kind, glad to report. It seeks to impart fundamentally apolitical knowledge on folks of all stripes, so they may learn something profound about not only their society’s past, but how this influences the present, so, just maybe, a better future can be built.
As you might have heard, the title of my new book is Runaway Masters: A True Story of Slavery, Freedom, Triumph, and Tragedy Beyond 1619 and 1776. What is it about, specifically? As the blurb I wrote for its Amazon page goes …
They were—and still are—the Seminoles, the only American Indians who never surrendered to Uncle Sam. Runaways from other tribes, the Seminoles carved a kingdom for themselves out of the wilds of Florida, despite British and Spanish imperialists theoretically ruling the day.
The Seminoles also enslaved fugitives from American plantations, creating a slaveholding society unlike any other. When the Americans wanted not only their slaves back, but unsurpassed control over Florida, the Seminoles formed a groundbreaking alliance with those who they held in bondage.
What happened next is an epic story of victory, defeat, friendship, betrayal, hard truths, damnable lies, integration, segregation, heroism, cowardice, deep respect, blind hatred, and—above all else—the struggle for survival.
This story has lessons for us all. It challenges the way we view race relations, enslavement in the 'land of the free,' and the nature of American history itself. As many question all of these subjects, and much more, 'Runaway Masters' provides no guidance as to what we should think.
It does, however, offer valuable insight on a history oft-forgotten, or even hidden. This history, in so many ways, tells the story of our time.
Of course, I highly recommend that you check Runaway Masters out. While somewhat conscious about sounding too much like a salesman, I must say that the book is reasonably priced ($9.99 USD in its paperback form and $4.99 USD via Kindle, with Kindle Unlimited subscribers being able to read the whole thing for free).
Since I have told you so much about Runaway Masters, and why it not only led me away from this newsletter, but—from my humble perspective—why it deserves your readership, it only seems fair to include an excerpt here. Included below is the first chapter. I hope that you find it to be worthwhile.
Even though they were ‘free,’ each of them toiled, as their forefathers had done, under the beating sun, in fear of not gathering enough crops before ‘the man’ came around.
Here, their ‘freedom’ was a less benign form of slavery than what was had back in the old country -- which was the United States, located just a few miles north in Georgia. Their new home was not even run, technically speaking, by those who they had come to accept as master. In this rough-and-tumble society, white was effectively at the mercy of red, while blacks found themselves as slaves to white and red alike.
“White people live in towns where many thousands work together on small grounds; but the Seminole is a wild and scattered people,” an unnamed tribal chief explained to a fellow who shall be specified later. “The Seminole swims the streams and leaps over the logs of the forest in pursuit of game, and is like the whooping crane that makes its nest at night far from the spot where it dashed the dew from the grass and flowers in the morning.
“For a hundred summers the Seminole warrior has rested under the shade of his live oaks, and the suns of a hundred winters have risen upon his ardent pursuit of the buck and bear, with none to question or dispute his claims.”
Among other things, the Seminole claimed blacks as his unpaid servants, and he would not hear any question of this. If a black person disputed this arrangement, the Seminole had no qualm in settling the matter in only the most decisive of fashions.
Fortunately for both sides of this divide, violence was rarely a serious prospect. The blacks who lived under Seminole control in what was nominally Spanish Florida were, as a rule, just happy to no longer be tilling the fields of plantations in Georgia and other Southern jurisdictions. The Seminole had no interest in micromanaging the daily routine of his slaves. He was too busy dominating the white man’s land.
The Seminoles are, fundamentally, Muscogee Creeks whose ancestors lived in what are now Alabama and Georgia. Eventually, certain bands of these Creeks migrated southward, until they were on Floridian soil, where they stayed for generations (beginning in the 1700s), developing their own unique culture. ‘Seminole’ is the Anglicization of ‘simano-li,’ itself the Muscogization of ‘cimarron,’ which is the Spanish word for ‘runaway.’
These Creeks, becoming known as ‘Seminoles’ as the years passed, lived under the Spanish and British crowns without much issue. The Spanish were stretched too thin across their far-flung empire to really try at colonizing Florida, save for a few remote communities. The British, on the other hand, earnestly attempted to colonize the land once they purchased it from Spain in 1763. The Britons made more progress at bringing about political, legal, economic, and social development than the Spanish had in the 250 years previous. Regrettably, the American Revolution depleted the United Kingdom of requisite funds to sustain its Floridian enterprise.
Britain sold Florida back to Spain in 1783 and that is when the fun really began—for the red man, not the white one.
As you can tell, this chapter is rather short. None of my book’s chapters run on for all too long, which, dare I say, makes what I wrote quite reader-friendly. I authored Runaway Masters so it comes across as something of an epic novel, despite its unwavering nonfiction status. Well, I hope that it reads similar to an epic novel! Of course, only the reader can truly make such a judgment.
Enough chatter from me. Judge for yourself. Get your hands (physically or virtually) on Runaway Masters today. It should make for a cool summer read that not only captivates, but informs you.
Expect the next entry in this newsletter to be posted next week. I intend to keep the Report totally free, for the time being. As things stand, I will publish it once per week. Hope that you are looking forward to the next article as much as I am.