The best books on the history of land dispossession

The Books I Picked & Why

And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes

By Angie Debo

And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes

Why this book?

In Angie Debo’s classic book And Still the Water Runs, the tragic history of the forced removal of the Five Civilized Tribes which consist of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole nations is well visualized in words by Debo.  Due to the murderous overthrow of the tribal ways of life, Europeans forced the Five Civilized Tribes off their land in the Southeast region to settle in Indian Territory (what is now known as the state of Oklahoma). The depiction of the tribes' fight for their land, the deadly trek of the Trail of Tears, to the foreseen dispossession of the tribe’s land in Oklahoma by the U.S. government is a heart-breaking synopsis which Debo captures passionately in a visually impactful manner. 


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Fallen Prince: William James Edwards, Black Education, and the Quest for Afro-American Nationality

By Donald P. Stone

Fallen Prince: William James Edwards, Black Education, and the Quest for Afro-American Nationality

Why this book?

William James Edward is the grandfather of the author Donald Stone. The author does a great job of highlighting the importance that William J. Edward placed on lineage at the beginning of the book. The author shows the forgotten legacy of Edwards as one of Tuskegee’s first graduates. Edwards goes on to start a secondary school in Wilcox county Alabama, following the legacy of Booker T. Washington. The school was called the Snow Hill Institute and in its prime employed over 20 teachers and had over a dozen buildings on the campus. The curriculum was like Tuskegee, where the students learned trades and received a formal education. Under the leadership of William James Edwards, the school thrived until it was forced to close in the 1960s. Donald Stone mostly uses primary sources to paint a picture of the opposition that Edwards faced in trying to operate a school outside of the powers that be. Through his research, he also changes the narrative of black independent success in the south.


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Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South

By Ira Belin

Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South

Why this book?

This book uses census data and other historical facts to highlight the 250,000 free blacks who were in the south post-Civil War. It shows the struggles black people faced in regards to their community, liberty, education, and economic independence inside an oppressive society. Berlin does a good job at depicting the interaction between Blacks and Whites both free and enslaved. He offers a better understanding of the complex race relations that existed in the south. He gives one of the best accounts on record, of the wealth black people accumulated during slavery and 20 years after despite the pushback they faced.


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The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

By Edward E. Baptist

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

Why this book?

The Industrial Revolution of the U.S. could not have taken place without the disenfranchisement of Black Americans. Forced remedial labor under restrictive covenants and Jim Crow ensured oppression. The forced labor of Black Americans and stolen lands of Tribal nations has been the constant leverage used to catapult the U.S. into the quintessential superpower. Edward Baptist, the author provides the reader with a thorough mathematical analysis of how the plantations of the Southeast and the non-Union jobs of the Northeast laid the foundation of the current capitalist economy. Driven by greed, the book outlines in detail how a sequence of policy, treaties, and land theft led to settlers becoming dominant over all communities of color in finance and economics. The continued allowance of economic injustice and tactical means of discrimination outlined in a concise context makes for an amazing read and resource book!


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Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom

By Tiya Miles

Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom

Why this book?

A beautiful manuscript documenting the overall racial tension between Indigenous, enslaved Africans, and Europeans is superbly described by Dr. Miles in all aspects. The undertones of admiration and challenges between all three racial groups is eloquently pictured in the relationship between Shoeboots, a prominent Cherokee Champion and farmer, and Doll, his companion and enslaved African woman. The three-decade depiction of Shoeboot’s and Doll’s lives together and Doll’s petition to the federal government requesting Shoe Boot’s pension as his widow is beyond historic. Ties that Bind is a true testament to the enslaved Africans tribal experience before, during, and after slavery; it is essential to one’s book collection.  


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