TOP YOUNG HISTORIANS
Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman
114: Christina Snyder, 8-2-10
Teaching Position: Assistant Professor, History and American Studies, Indiana University 2009-present.
Area of Research: Identity, race, and the intersection of Native American and Southern history
Education: Ph.D., History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2007
Major Publications: Snyder is the author of Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010). Snyder is also the author of scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including among others: “Conquered Enemies, Adopted Kin, and Owned People: The Creek Indians and Their Captives,” Journal of Southern History 73 (2007), 255-288; “The Lady of Cofitachequi: Gender and Political Power among Native Southerners” in South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times, ed. Joan Johnson, Valinda Littlefield, and Marjorie Spruill. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2009.
Snyder is currently working on the book manuscript “The Indian Gentlemen of Choctaw Academy: Status and Sovereignty in Antebellum America.” and an upcoming journal article “Andrew Jackson’s Indian Son: Native Captives and White Captors.”
Awards: Snyder is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
College Arts and Humanities Institute (CAHI) Travel Research Grant, IU, 2010;
New Frontiers Exploration Traveling Fellowship, IU, 2010;
Barra/Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, 2007-09;
Sequoyah Fellow, Royster Society of Fellows, The Graduate School, UNC , 2006-07;
Phillips Fellow, American Philosophical Society, 2006;
Wills Fellow, Tennessee Historical Society, 2006;
Filson Fellow, Filson Historical Society, 2004/05;
Summer Research Grant, Center for the Study of the American South, 2004.
Snyder was the Barra/Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Asst. Professor, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania, 2007-2009.
I grew up in Macon, Georgia, a fall-line city carved out of Creek Indian country that became a major cotton depot. My high school was downtown, near a cluster of historic sites: the Cannonball House, so-named because of damage sustained during the Civil War; the 1916 Beaux Arts train station, with its reliquary of extra water foundations and bathrooms and waiting rooms; the home of Sidney Lanier, a poet, novelist, and critic who famously eulogized the Old South; the Douglass Theater which, throughout the Jim Crow era, featured entertainers including local greats like Little Richard and Otis Redding. Every day we passed a memorial of some kind, markers that begged us to consider the legacies of slavery, the Civil War, segregation, or some combination thereof. Substantial physical reminders were all around us, and they forced an ongoing dialog with our history. I doubt that any Maconite would argue that the past is past.
Towering literally over all these historic sites were the Ocmulgee mounds, remnants of a thousand-year-old Native city that had borne silent witness to a much longer scope of Southern history. The tallest mound was built atop a natural plateau, and seemed nearly twice as high as its fifty feet when viewed from the floodplain. When I was about eight years old, I went to summer day-camp there, and I remember trekking around the sweltering, miasmic bottomlands at the base the mounds, wondering about the lives of the chiefs who had lived atop them, including how they had managed without air conditioning. Growing up, this place seemed disjointed from the rest of my historical knowledge: I could connect the dots from the colony’s eighteenth-century settlers to the living history museum at the Georgia Agorama, but Ocmulgee seemed an awe-inspiring outlier, a challenge to what I thought I knew about the place I grew up.
That challenge has continued to inspire me. Throughout the course of my education, I discovered, of course, that Ocmulgee is not an outlier. It was an early and particularly grand example of the Native chiefdoms that dominated the region prior to European colonization. The Creek or Muscogee Indians, whose ancestors built the site, carried its name with them to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma; their tribal government meets at Okmulgee in a contemporary building shaped like a mound. Indian Removal expelled the Creeks and many other Native peoples from their homelands, and so, too, did it largely erase them from the region’s historical memory. When the cotton curtain descended, it obscured the history of an older South, a messier, less biologically determined one. But, as I wrote in my first book, these two Souths were never really separate, and Native people, like their neighbors, struggled with questions of identity and belonging, and the meaning and significance of race, slavery, and freedom. I’m grateful to all of my teachers, especially my hometown, for showing me the complexity and diversity of American history, for exposing its contested meanings and its enduring relevance to us all.
By Christina Snyder
- “In a nation passionate about freedom, the standard historical narrative tells us that bondage was an American aberration. Restricted in time and space, slavery characterized the antebellum South, and its victims were African Americans. Captivity, not slavery, belonged to Indian tribes, and they targeted white women. But bondage cannot be so neatly confined. In 1725, near what is now Natchez, Mississippi, Tattooed Serpent’s nameless Indian servant died not merely because he was loyal, but because he was a slave. In life, the head servant contributed labor and prestige to his master’s household; in death, he confirmed the social order that privileged elites like Tattooed Serpent. Captivity and its most exploitive form-slavery-was indigenous to North America, it was widespread, and it took many forms. From Tattooed Serpent’s slave to indentured servants in colonial Philadelphia to Apache women sold in the mission of San Antonio, the unfree were everywhere.” — Christina Snyder in “Slavery in Indian Country The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America”
About Christina Snyder
- “Until Christina Snyder, no historian has told the story of the constantly evolving Native American tradition of enslavement that long pre-dated the arrival of Europeans and of Africans. Compellingly written and deeply researched, Slavery in Indian Country is a model of how foregrounding Native experiences can transform our understanding of American history. The “Slave South” will never look quite the same again.” — Daniel K. Richter, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania
- “Snyder illuminates a world where slavery and survival went hand-in-hand, an era when native people were both masters and slaves, and a culture that only gradually learned to define slaves by the color of their skin. Her narrative sweep, unflinching analysis, and astonishing research make this a disturbing and powerful book.” — Adam Rothman, Georgetown University
- “Snyder skillfully explores Indian captive-taking, associated with warfare from the dawn of time, and its evolution and adaptation to new conditions after Europeans and Africans arrived and captivity was transformed into race-based slavery. Beautifully written, this is Indian and Southern history at its best.” — Kathryn Braund, author of Deerskins and Duffels: The Creek Indian Trade with Anglo-America, 1685-1815
- “Deeply researched, authoritative, and indispensable, Slavery in Indian Country tells us how slavery as an institution changed from a kin-based to a race-based system and richly evokes what the experience of slavery meant to those who were enslaved.” — Nancy Shoemaker, University of Connecticut
- “A fascinating new perspective on slavery in the American South, especially valuable for understanding slavery’s great variability and change over time, and for offering new insight into race and race-making.” — Peter Kolchin, author of American Slavery
- “The American South, a familiar setting for bondage, reveals a new story,” in the hands of Indiana University assistant professor of history Snyder, who explores the Indian practice of enslaving prisoners of war in this instructive and remarkably readable book. “The South is more than the Confederacy,” she asserts; the major Native American nations (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole) were not merely “villains or victims or foils, but leading players” in slaveholding. She reaches back to early Indian captivity practices– and how conceptions of captives and their roles in Indian communities changed with the arrival of Europeans and Africans. During the colonial period, captives were chosen on the basis of gender and age, not race, but as a nativist movement (“a collective identity as red people”) emerged in the late-18th century, Americans, black and white, became the “common enemy.” By the early 19th century–when, among other factors, black slaves became more highly valued–Africans were specifically targeted. Snyder breaks new ground in this study reveals pre-colonial Southern history and restores visibility to Native American history in the region.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Posted on Sunday, August 1, 2010 at 5:50 PM