A Man Called Horse: John Horse and The Black Seminole Underground Railroad

An interesting and accessible book, A Man Called Horse offers readers a manageable amount of information on Native American culture and the Underground Railroad by focusing on the life of Juan Caballo, or John Horse.

John Horse, a Black Seminole, was born in 1812 to a Seminole father and a mother of Native American and African descent. Although Black Seminoles were technically ‘free’, they were always in danger. We follow their journey from Florida to Mexico, as John rises to prominence, shining as a political and military leader, helping his people survive in uncertain and unsafe times. Each chapter explores different locations and documents the tribe’s hopes for a safer land – and their consistent disappointments and let-downs.

One of the central facts we learn about the Seminole Nation is how they helped to set up and maintain the Underground Railroad. They actively protected and sought justice for runaway slaves, standing up to white slave-owners, even claiming to be runaways’ new masters to get them to safety and a better life.

Well-written and organised, Tilley’s narrative brings alive the time and major players in this scramble for land, the upper[1]hand and basic survival. Aesthetically speaking, while the archival illustrations and photographs are original, it does have the feel of a book from an earlier time. Nonetheless, it is a fascinating look at the history of the Seminole people, and John Horse in particular.

Book Cover - A Man Called Horse
Publication Date
November 2021