When you consider all of the information about the Five Slaveholding Tribes known as Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muscogee) and Seminole, their involvement in African chattel slavery rarely gets written about in our history books. This history is rarely mentioned when tribal historians tell of their past?
I first came across the name of Jordan Folsom when I was performing research into freedmen who sought a transfer from the freedman roll to the Choctaw by blood roll.
|Choctaw Freedmen Dawes Card# 220 front|
In the interview of Jordan Folsom Jr., a Choctaw Freedmen we get a glimpse of slavery in the Choctaw Nation by way of Jordan’s father, mother and grandmother.
This is a story that clearly illustrates how much has been missing from Native American history. When the story of tragedy is told regarding the infamous “Trail of Tears,” we seldom, if ever hear the story of those tears shed by the African and African-Native slaves who lived among them.
Jordan Folsom Jr. provides information on his mother Amelia who was also a slave of Dr. Henry Folsom. Clearly her story became a part of the family oral history. Jordan had been told Amelia was born a slave on Dr. Henry Folsom’s plantation; “in the slave quarters.”
Amelia (Pamelia) Radford provided Jordan with the names of both her parents, Abe and Elizabeth. This oral history could provide valuable information when I compile the data on what was the basis for the Folsom’s claim to Choctaw blood.
Again the importance of this interview is shown by two statements. First, it establishes that at least one of Jordan’s ancestor’s was born in Indian Territory as a slave in the Choctaw Nation. The second significant aspect of this passage is the revelation that Elizabeth and Amelia were both buried in Doaksville Cemetery! Clearly the next question becomes; where is this cemetery? Has it been enumerated and who else is buried there?
Remember, this information illustrates life on a plantation owned by a Choctaw Indian who clearly does not fit the stereotype of “Native American.” He was a well educated man, who practiced medicine and was a surgeon according to Jordan Folsom. It is only natural to examine what type of “plantation” Dr. Folsom owned; which would give us an idea of how many slaves he held in bondage?
One record that sheds light on this man and his wealth is the 1860 Arkansas Slave Schedule for Towson County, Indian Territory. Dr. Folsom would have been considered a very wealthy man prior to the Civil War. The record illustrates he held in bondage approximately fifty humans as slaves. Beginning on page 9 of the slave schedule and continuing to page 10 we see all of the enslaved people enumerated on Dr. Folsom’s plantation.
It is important that the whole story of Indian Territory be told and part of that story is the institution of slavery among the so called Five Civilized Tribes. Many historians and the tribes themselves fail to adequately write or discuss this tragic chapter.
Over the years I observed how the Five Slave Holding Tribes promote their history and culture. In the majority of instances they do so by leaving out decades that included the brutal and uncivilized institution of chattel slavery.
For many in the tribes it would appear this history is insignificant. Tragically very few voices have emerged over the years to address the legacy of enslaving African and African-Native Descendant people. I’m sure, this won’t be my last reminder; but it is hoped that this excerpt from the interview of Jordan Folsom Jr. will shed more light on the subject and encourage discussion on the topic.