October 26, 2004

The Freedmen: Abraham the African Seminole Leader


A significant number of Afro-Americans escaped or fled from slavery and eventually settled in the West, where they were adopted by Indian tribes and accepted into the tribal structure as equals. Many even assumed roles of leadership. Abraham, the African Seminole is one such leader.


He is sometimes called “Negro Abraham” in historical references. This proud African Seminole warrior was part of the Seminole Nation from its beginning in Florida and his life ended in Indian Territory years after the Seminole War. 

Abraham was believed to have been originally from Florida, though other sources have his origins in in Georgia. He was born in the late 1700’s and had lived and labored as a slave of Dr. Sierra in northern Florida. He saw an opportunity in the War of 1812, when the British officer Edward Nichols offered freedom to any slave who would join him. Abraham left the environment of the army of Andrew Jackson and he is said to have assisted in building the fort at Prospect Bluff. Many Africans had begun to find the fort a place of refuge, and it became a target place of safety when fleeing from bondage in the Carolinas and Georgia. This Negro Fort was eventually destroyed when a shell was fired into it causing much loss of life. However, Abraham was one of the survivors.

Many of the Africans fleeing from enslavement on whites in the United States found allies in Florida, and joined with them to fight a common enemy. It was during this time that Abraham made his own name, and found himself emerging as a leader. He quickly adapted to the customs and language of the Muskogee Seminole people, and within a short time, he was considered a warrior among the people. Abraham bore the name of Suwanee Warrior—Sauanaffe Tustunaggee. He quickly became close to Chief Micanopy, and by 1826, Abraham, was principal interpreter and accompanied an official delegation to Washington DC. He also served from 1837 to 1839 as Micanopy’s official interpreter.

By the time of the Removal to the new Indian Territory Abraham was responsible for the negotiations of the removal of the successful removal of the Africans along with their Indian compatriots. Abraham relocated with several hundred other Seminole citizens as a free man in the Territory, where he continued to live and influence the affairs of his people in the Seminole Nation. He is buried in the old Bruntertown cemetery in Oklahoma, a site many years overlooked by descendants and citizens of Oklahoma. This burial site was first pointed out in the 1930’s by Kenneth Wiggins Porter, has yet to be identified and proper historical markers are yet to honor the final resting place of this noble African Seminole leader.


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