Thursday, November 11, 2010

Black Chattel Slavery Among Choctaw Indians

Researching history of the Five Slave Holding Tribes is difficult regarding accounts of slavery. However through careful examination occasionally you can piece together some information by examining oral interviews. One source for this type of interview is contained in the Indian Pioneer Papers.

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.

Contained in these sentences a lot of information is being given about the family of Jordan Folsom. His grandmother, Sylvia brought two children with her to Indian Territory; they were all slaves. One of her son’s died along the route to Indian Territory with the Choctaw’s.

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.


  1. My name is Janelle and I am the Great-Great Granddaughter of Jordan Folsom Jr. Thank you very much for doing what you are doing :)

    1. Greetings Jamelle,

      I am grateful for your comments and reminded that in some small way my research can be beneficial to others trying to reconnect to their history.

      It gives me strength to continue with my research when I begin thinking it is time to move on to other endeavors.

    2. Hey, Janelle. I'm James Woods, Jordan Folsom, Jr's grandmother, Amelia Radford is my 3rd great aunt making him my 1st cousin three times removed. How is everything?

    3. Correction. Amelia is his mother.

  2. my name is mahlon hathorn, my father is sean hathorn. hathorn is our legal name, but my natural grandfather is michael ritter, he had previously changed his name from folsom, i am a direct descendant of the first halfblooded choctaw chief david Folsom. this page has helped me a lot. thank you.

  3. Greetings Mahlon,

    Your claim of direct descent from David Folsom is interesting. If I may ask, who is the ancestor that connects you to Folsom?

    Is this ancestor on the Dawes roll as a Choctaw freedman/woman or are they on the Choctaw by blood roll?

    Because of the research I conduct I would be interested to know so I can check to see if they are in my database.

    1. I have a connect t Folsom due to Amelia Radford , my 3rd great aunt, marrying Jordan Folsom, Sr. to begot Jordan, Jr.

  4. Greetings
    While I am not associated with this family by blood I too have a similar story to tell. My grandfather David walcott was born in Okmulgee, ok. in 1895 to lula McIntosh walcott who's mother susie McIntosh parents walked the trail of tears. They were from Alabama. All were listed on the dawes roll and were allocted land.
    I found this after 30 years of searching.
    Thank You Dekalb Walcott

  5. Radford are in my bloodine,I'm a 6th generation descendant of Abe and Betsy Radford, my 3rd great-grandparents. Jordan Folsom, Jr is my 1st cousin, thrice removed.

  6. Greetings JD, I know we may have talked previously and since I've been working on some descendant charts recently I noticed your RADFORD connection and wondered which ancestors other than Abe (Abram) and Betsy RADFORD?

    I have an ancestor along my Isom and Julia JACKSON line that was married to a RADFORD and wondered if you have any info regarding a JACKSON connection of your own?

  7. great4x grandma was the hostage of his wife harriet colbert folsom bt she passed after the war i think (his wife) and my granny was freed under henry....some of these people were in mob-like families and the actually participated in a hidden indian/aborigine slave trade that is be revealed to many now...more indians were enslaved here than africans....