What historian Tiya Miles calls the “settler colonial slavery complex” mediated knotty and contradictory relations among Native peoples and Africans living in the U.S. James Fenimore Cooper's The Oak Openings, a novel about white settler colonialism set in West Michigan, sought to represent a white supremacist-controlling mediation of those relations. The Oak Openings works to project dominant white/U.S. values, ideologies, and cultural constructions of race and appropriate relations of racialized groups onto imagined literary Indians. While evidence for organized links between the Odawa and African-descended people is scant in Blackbird's History, his and his people's political commitments during the Civil War signaled alliance with the hundreds of thousands of self-liberating Black people who fought to destroy slavery and white supremacy. Blackbird's support for the “Black Republican” ticket in 1856 combined with his active opposition to “copperhead” Democrats registers a meaningful struggle against white supremacy. Like Cooper, the copperheads deployed a racial hierarchy that aimed to disrupt potential alliances among Native and African-descended peoples. Blackbird's History is simultaneously a “lamentation” of the failures of the anti-white supremacy struggle, but also, given the future-orientated aims of the text, a preservation of the embers of that alignment of the oppressed for future use.

You do not currently have access to this content.