The Franklin Masonic Hall

I’m bummed I didn’t get to go on the tour, because apparently there’s a ton of Civil War graffiti upstairs and I’m sad I missed out. But I’m so excited they’re figuring out ways to restore and save this building.

The conference I went to is in the very same room where Andrew Jackson and the Chickasaw Nation negotiated the treaty that led to their removal. And the conference was, in part, about Indian removal.

It was the best small conference I’ve ever been to. Every talk built on what came before and gave information relevant to the talk after it. At least the day I was there, they stayed on schedule. The talks were all top-notch and interesting.

And I learned new stuff. Like massive new stuff. Like the fact that all the Native American tribes I’ve been taught were ancient and Southern–Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, etc.–developed in the 1700s and 1800s in the wake of massive, massive slave trading that cleared out a lot of the local population. Which is the other thing! The reason a place, say, here, was empty of Native Americans when Europeans got here (though we can debate about how empty it was) is because there was a massive, massive trade in Indian slaves and whole towns were wiped out so that the populations could be sold into slavery in the Caribbean.

So, basically, these tribes formed from the survivors of the slave trade banding together and fighting back. But it took all these disparate people and nations seeing themselves as a group with common interests that needed to work together. And then they did fight back enough to mostly end the Indian slave trade.

Which white learned from when they scaled up the African trade. And, in fact, apparently, it was the fact that they chose everyone with a common feature (black skin) from a whole continent that made it so hard for Africans to fight back against it. Like, there had to be a whole paradigm shift in Africa about why people were being enslaved. If you’re enslaved because your enemies captured you and sold you to white folks, then your neighbors learn that the trick is not not be enemies with the enslaving group. But that’s actually no help, because people weren’t being enslaved because they were at war with the wrong folks. They were being enslaved because they were black/Africans.

But no one in Africa–a whole fucking continent, after all–viewed themselves as having some huge commonality with other “Africans.” Just like we wouldn’t feel like we were in any grave danger if someone invaded Mexico and started kidnapping everyone with blue eyes. It would be weird and a shame, but it would take a long, long time for blue-eyed people in Alaska, say, to realize they should be terrified.

Anyway, super fascinating and I’m sorry I couldn’t go to the second day.