Native Village
Youth and Education news
 February 2011  Volume 4

Groundbreaking exhibition explores shared history between African and Native Americans
Condensed by Native Village

Radmilla Cody
Navajo/African America

Robert Banks
Cherokee Freedman

Jimmy Hendrix

Indiana: Red/Black: Related Through History opens this month at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. Red/Black is joint effort of the Eiteljorg and the Smithsonian’s panel show, Indivisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas.

The history between Africans and Native Americans began when the first blacks arrived in North America. Their relationships varied and were often complex. Some American Indians helped black slaves escape. Others owned black slaves themselves. Sometimes the cultures intermarried and blended their traditions. With Red/Black, the Eiteljorg shares these stories through art, artifacts, history, genealogy, food, dress, music and occupation.

Red/Black also presents individuals and groups who lived inside both cultures. One is about Lucinda Davis. Davis was born into slavery around 1848 and was owned by a Creek Indian family.  She spoke the Creek language and lived the culture. After the Civil War, Davis had great difficulty adapting to freedom, as did many other slaves owned by Native people.

Another Black Indian story is about Charlie Grant, a Negro League second baseman. Grant had high cheekbones and straight hair.  In 1901, the Baltimore Orioles tried to pass him off to fans as a Native American named Charlie Tokohama because Indians had a better chance of being accepted than a black player.

Red/Black: Related Through History also asks the question: “Who am I and who gets to say so?” It illustrates the complexity of racial identity and why judgments about race can be misguided.

Red/Black: Related Through History is open through August 11, 2011

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