The Black Seminoles is a term used by modern historians for the descendants of free blacks and some runaway slaves (maroons), mostly Gullahs who escaped from coastal South Carolina and Georgia rice plantations into the Spanish Florida wilderness beginning as early as the late 17th century. By the early 19th century, they had often formed communities near the Seminole Indians.[1][2]
Together, the two groups formed a multi-ethnic and bi-racial alliance. Today, Black Seminole descendants still live in Florida, rural communities in Oklahoma and Texas, and in the Bahamas and Northern Mexico. In the 19th century, the Florida "Black Seminoles" were called "Seminole Negroes" by their white American enemies and Estelusti (Black People), by their Indian allies. Modern Black Seminoles are known as "Seminole Freedmen" in Oklahoma, "Black Indians" in the Bahamas, and Mascogos in Mexico. The Black Seminole Scouts served in the United States Army during the 19th century.

The Spanish strategy for defending their claim of Florida at first was based on organizing the indigenous people into a mission system. The mission Native Americans were to serve as militia to protect the colony from English incursions from the north. But a combination of raids by South Carolina colonists and new European infectious diseases, to which they did not have immunity, decimated Florida's native population. After the local Native Americans had all but died out, Spanish authorities encouraged renegade Native Americans and runaway slaves from England's southern colonies to move south. The Spanish were hoping that these traditional enemies of the English would prove effective in holding off English expansion.
As early as 1689, African slaves fled from the South Carolina Lowcountry to Spanish Florida seeking freedom. Under an edict from King Charles II of Spain in 1693, the black fugitives received liberty in exchange for defending the Spanish settlers at St. Augustine. The Spanish organized the black volunteers into a militia; their settlement at Fort Mose, founded in 1738, was the first legally sanctioned free black town in North America.[3]
Not all the slaves escaping south found military service in St. Augustine to their liking. It is likely that many more runaway slaves sought refuge in wilderness areas in Northern Florida where their knowledge of tropical agriculture—and resistance to tropical diseases—served them well. Most of the blacks who pioneered Florida were Gullah people who escaped from the rice plantations in South Carolina (and later Georgia). As Gullah, they had preserved much of their African language in an Afro-English based Creole, along with cultural practices and African leadership structure. The Gullah pioneers built their own settlements based on rice and corn agriculture. They were allies to Indians escaping into Florida at the same time.