In an event billed as a speaking engagement by former Black Panther Billy X Jennings, students in attendance were instead given a history lesson by sociology professor J. Vern Cromartie about Geechee and Gullah lineage and its relation to the Seminole Nation Saturday in LA-100.
Dr. Cromartie explained the trouble the United States government had prior to the Civil War in containing the Seminole Nation, which led to the American Indian wars. He also outlined the numbers of black people that fought alongside the Indian warriors.
“I was upset when I found out the Black Panther wasn’t going to be speaking,” Black Student Union Secretary Shani Miranda said. “The presentation was helpful if you take (Cromartie’s) class, so it was like a study session for me. I knew some of it because he went over it in class, but I know a lot more now.”
Cromartie showed his family tree, which traces back five generations to his Geechee/Gullah roots, with him being the sixth.
Gullah people are the descendants of slaves who held on to their West African heritage and intertwined it with the ways of their new land.
The professor took a DNA test to find out his country of origin within the Gullah heritage.
As with 20 percent of slaves on record with the Port of Charleston, his DNA traced back to Senegal, a country located on the West Coast of Africa, and a major slaving port.
Cromartie presented a key unattributed antebellum Gullah quote that clarifies what a Gullah is for those who are unaware.
He said, “All the people that came from Africa or overseas were called Gullah and their talk was called Gullah talk.”
Cromartie details essays, photographs and research documents on Gullah and Geechee history in his new book, “Morgan-Frazier Family Clan: Chronicles of a Black Family with Geechee and Gullah Heritage.”
Students watched two movies instead of listening to the scheduled speaker. The first movie, “Black Warriors of the Seminole” covered the early 19th century partnership between escaped slaves and the Seminole Indians.
Blacks were free among the Seminoles. When the U.S. government tried to relocate the Indian nation, blacks fought side by side with Indians in three wars against the government.
The second movie, “From Florida to Coahuila,” traces the culture of the Mexican people known as the Mascogos, referred to as Black Seminoles.
It showed the path that Indians from the Seminole Nation took from Florida through Texas and into the state of Coahuila, Mexico. It tells the tragic story of time and cultural saturation leading to the demise of the Seminole way.
“There was a lot of history in the presentation that I didn’t know about,” criminal justice major Malcolm McCreary said.