"In this beautifully written book, prize-winning historian Christina Snyder reinterprets the history of Jacksonian America. Usually, this drama focuses on whites who turned west to conquer a continent, extending liberty as they went. Great Crossings features Indians from across the continent seeking new ways to assert anciently-held rights, and people of African descent who challenged the United States to live up to its ideals. These diverse groups met in an experimental community in central Kentucky called Great Crossings, home to the first federal Indian school and a famous interracial family. Great Crossings embodied monumental changes then transforming North America. The United States, within the span of a few decades, grew from an East Coast nation to a continental empire. The territorial growth of the United States forged a multicultural, multiracial society, but that diversity also sparked fierce debates over race, citizenship, and America's destiny. Great Crossings, a place of race-mixing and cultural exchange, emerged as a battleground. Its history allows an intimate view of the ambitions and struggles of Indians, settlers, and slaves who were trying to secure their place in a changing world. Through deep research and compelling prose, Snyder introduces us to a diverse range of historical actors: Richard Mentor Johnson, the politician who reportedly killed Tecumseh and then became schoolmaster to the sons of his former foes; Julia Chinn, Johnson's enslaved lover, who fought for her children's freedom; Peter Pitchlynn, a Choctaw intellectual who, even in the darkest days of Indian removal, argued for the future of Indian nations. Together, their stories demonstrate how that era transformed colonizers and the colonized alike, sowing the seeds of modern America"-- Provided by publisher.
"The book centers on the community that developed around Choctaw Academy, the first federally-controlled Indian boarding school in the United States, which operated from 1825 to 1848 on the Kentucky plantation of prominent politician Richard Mentor Johnson. In addition to white and Indian teachers, the school was supported by the labor of free and enslaved African Americans. Although initiated by the Choctaw Nation, the Academy eventually became home to nearly 700 boys and young men from seventeen different Native nations throughout the Southeast and Midwest. Beginning auspiciously as a voluntary, collaborative project between Native peoples and the federal government, Choctaw Academy catered to the children of Indian elites and advertised a classical education with a curriculum that included Latin, moral philosophy, and advanced study in law and medicine. In the 1830s, however, with the rise of scientific racism and Indian removal, the curriculum deteriorated, and the school itself became a battleground, where students, slaves, and staff clashed over race, status, and the future of America. Choctaw Academy both anticipated and contrasted with later Indian and African American schooling experiences, but my project addresses a much broader historiography as well. Great Crossings reveals much about the gap between racial ideology and everyday practice as well as cross-cultural ideas about class and gender, and American and Indian notions of sovereignty during a crucial era in the continent's history. Arguing that, for people of color, the colonial era extended into--and even accelerated in--the early to mid-nineteenth century, Great Crossings explores the complex ways in which colonized people responded to early U.S. imperialism"-- Author's description from Indiana University Bloomington, Department of History website.