Journalist Caleb Gayle tells the story of the Creek Nation, a Native tribe that two centuries ago both owned slaves and accepted Black people as full citizens. Thanks to the efforts of Creek leaders like Cow Tom, a Black Creek citizen who rose to become chief, the U.S. government recognized Creek citizenship in 1866 for its Black members. Yet this equality was shredded in the 1970s when tribal leaders revoked the citizenship of Black Creeks, even those who could trace their history back generations—even to Cow Tom himself.
... absorbing ... Gayle blends that story with his own encounters with racism and his personal identity: Is he Jamaican or Black? The Black Creeks’ ongoing legal fight to reclaim Creek heritage has inspired him to reexamine his own perspective, he writes. He is Black and Jamaican and American, just as the Black Creeks are 'fully Black and fully Creek.' The United States, he argues passionately, would be a richer, more beautiful society if we recognized and honored those complexities.
... in illuminating look at racial dynamics within Creek Nation ... Gayle brilliantly untangles the interwoven threads of colonialism, racism, and capitalism by documenting the lives of Cow Tom’s descendants, including businessman and civil rights activist Jake Simmons Jr. and attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons, who is currently waging a legal battle to reinstate tribal citizenship for Black Creeks. Sharp character sketches, incisive history lessons, and Gayle’s autobiographical reflections as a Jamaican American transplant to Oklahoma make this a powerful portrait of how 'white supremacy divides marginalized groups and pits them against each other.'