In 2018, during our annual Seminole Days celebration, Dr. Rosalyn Howard was one of our esteemed guest speakers. She came to speak about an aspect of our diaspora that we didn’t know much about – the Black Seminoles of the Bahamas. She was, quite literally, the expert in her field.
During her speech, she enlightened the audience about the Black Seminoles who continued south, into the Bahamas, after escaping slavery. This group began arriving in Andros Bay as early as 1821. They isolated themselves and in doing so honed their culture, which included their own language, foods, and crafts.
Dr. Howard didn’t just study this group. She lived with them, and she grew to love them individually and as a community incredibly deeply. It was evident in the way she spoke about this group of Black Seminoles from the Bahamas.
From her biography on the University of Central Florida website: “Professor Rosalyn Howard was an Associate Professor of Anthropology at UCF. She specializes in Cultural Anthropology and her primary area of research is ethnohistorical studies of the African Diaspora with a focus on the interrelationships formed by African and Indigenous peoples in the Americas and the Caribbean. Dr. Howard has conducted extensive research among mixed Native-African populations in the Bahamas and Bermuda. Among her publications is the book entitled Black Seminoles in the Bahamas, an ethnographic study of the Black Seminole descendant community of Red Bays, Andros Island, Bahamas.”
She was kind enough to return in 2019 to give another speech. By this time, she had become a dear and beloved friend to our community in Texas. In 2021, when we began revitalizing our language, she was right there on the Zooms with us.
We last saw her this past January at the Florida Black Historical Research Project’s 185th family reunion, where many people had the opportunity to thank her for her work that has helped to advance our understanding of the Black Seminole diaspora. May her memory be a blessing to all who knew and loved her. May she rest in the sweetest peace.