“A backcountry out of control”
Tropical Spaces of Radical Resistance in Joshua Giddings’ ‚The Exiles of Florida‘
Pages 351 - 366
In 1858 the abolitionist congressman Joshua Giddings published a history of the Black Seminoles, fugitive slaves who formed maroon communities on the Florida peninsula and who allied themselves with the Seminoles against U.S. troops. Unlike most abolitionist literature that constructed the slave’s movement as leading northward, either to the northern States or to Canada, his text focused on slave mobility southward, to Spanish Florida and to the Caribbean. This essay argues that Giddings’ text constitutes an important contribution to the literature of abolitionism because its focus on this southward mobility allows us to view the history of black fugitives from a wider hemispheric perspective. Moreover, by framing the maroons as the true heroes of the Seminole Wars, by stressing black mobility between Florida and the Caribbean islands, and by highlighting the role of climate and tropical landscape in the conflict with U.S. troops, his text implicitly links Florida and maroon resistance to slave rebellions in the Caribbean such as the Haitian Revolution.