African American Studies Native Americans and African Americans
Kendra Field
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 December 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 June 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190280024-0038


Since the mid-20th century, a significant literature has developed at the intersection of Native American and African American lives in North American history. Much of this work has emerged within regional literatures: the American West, South, and Northeast. Some of the earliest studies emerged within African American scholarship and the literature on the black West and the long-standing presence of African Americans in Indian country. At the same time, scholars of Native Americans and African Americans in the US South have increasingly engaged and debated the historical development and legacies of racial slavery in Indian country. Since the early 21st century, scholarship has been increasingly engaged with the intersection of African American and Native American lives in early America, including especially the colonial South and Northeast. Numerous scholars of Native American history have highlighted the history of Indian captivity, exploring the intersection of the Indian and African slave trades. Within and beyond regional studies, scholars of American history and expansion have documented and theorized the historical intersection of slavery and colonization. Finally, scholarship in this field has included numerous biographies, family histories, and other microhistorical approaches at the intersection of Native American and African American history.

General Overviews and Documents

A number of syntheses have emerged at the intersection of African American and Native American histories. Horsman 1981 and Rothman 2007 engage and theorize the relationship between slavery and colonization in North American history, while Snyder 2010 (cited under Lower South) provides an overview of the historical relationship between Indian captivity and southern slavery. Katz 2012 considers the broad history of black Indian peoples in North America. Forbes 1993 engages this intersection in the precolonial era, including analysis of the Caribbean and Europe. A growing number of scholars, including the author of Bennett 2009, have engaged such intersecting histories within the context of Latin America and the Caribbean. Minges 2004 compiles 20th-century interviews with ex-slaves of Native American slaveholders and those of Native American descent. Finally, TallBear 2013 and Tayac 2009 explore early-21st-century legacies of the historical relationship between Native Americans and African Americans.

  • Bennett, Herman L. Colonial Blackness: A History of Afro-Mexico. Blacks in the Diaspora. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2009.

    This pathbreaking study narrates the history of Mexico through the experiences of Africans and Afro-Mexicans.

  • Forbes, Jack D. Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples. 2d ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993.

    This study offers important discussions of precolonial contact between Native Americans and Africans in North America, the Caribbean, and Europe, as well as racial formation and classifications in the Americas.

  • Horsman, Reginald. Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981.

    This groundbreaking study documents the centrality of race to American nationalism, including the racialization of African Americans, Native Americans, and Mexican Americans.

  • Katz, William Loren. Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage. Rev. ed. New York: Atheneum, 2012.

    First published in 1986, this accessible study brought popular attention to the “hidden heritage” of black Indians. The 2012 edition includes updated chapters.

  • Minges, Patrick, ed. Black Indian Slave Narratives. Real Voices, Real History. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2004.

    This is a collection of Works Progress Administration (WPA) interviews with former slaves who reference Native American slaveholders, Native American descent, and Native American relations.

  • Rothman, Adam. Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.

    This compelling study, first published in 2005, illustrates the expansion of racial slavery in the wake of the American Revolution. One chapter especially engages the intersection of slavery and Indian removal, and the racialization of Native American slaveholding.

  • TallBear, Kim. Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

    Groundbreaking work engaged in discussion of race, nation, sovereignty, science, and “blood” politics.

  • Tayac, Gabrielle, ed. IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas. Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 2009.

    This edited collection originated with the pathbreaking 2009 IndiVisible exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian, intended to make visible African-native lives in North America. The collection includes the work of twenty-seven scholars and includes significant discussion of early-21st-century policies, communities, and aesthetic traditions.

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