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Into the Black Creeks Pushing for Tribal Citizenship

Black people helped shaped the Muscogee Creek Nation. Now, they’re fighting to be recognized as citizens of the tribe again.
America Cohee-Webster, circa 1965, and Willie Cohee, circa 1896.
America Cohee-Webster, circa 1965, left, and Willie Cohee, circa 1896.Courtesy Rhonda Grayson

About this episode:

Rhonda Grayson is the great-granddaughter of America Cohee Webster, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. Rhonda can say America’s roll number by heart: 4661.

Rhonda grew up aware and proud of her Creek ancestry, but has not been able to enroll as a member of the tribe herself. In 1979, the Creek Nation re-wrote its constitution to change the citizenship parameters so that only people who could trace their lineage by blood could be members. That meant Black people who were the descendants of the Creek’s enslaved population were removed from the rolls. These people were called Creek Freedmen, and until 1979, they were considered members of the tribe.

Rhonda is now a founding member of the Muscogee Creek Indian Freedmen Band, a group of Black people working to preserve their families’ connection to the Creek Nation. On Into America, Rhonda tells Trymaine Lee about her fight to be legally recognized as part of the Muscogee Creek Nation. And they talk about her family’s legacy: including her great-grandmother, America Cohee, whose picture you can find as the tile art for this episode.

Find the transcript here.

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