Abstract

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.