Exploring the mental worlds of the major groups interacting in a borderland setting, Cynthia Cumfer offers a broad, multiracial intellectual and cultural history of the Tennessee
frontier in the Revolutionary and early national periods, leading up to the era of rapid westward expansion and Cherokee removal. Attentive to the complexities of race, gender, class,
and spirituality, Cumfer offers a rare glimpse into the cultural logic of Native American, African American, and Euro-American men and women as contact with one another powerfully
transformed their ideas about themselves and the territory they came to share.
|"A nuanced picture of frontier American political life . . . reveals a thriving political culture in which all levels of society participated."|
— Western Historical Quarterly
"Provides critical insight. . . . [Makes] important contributions . . . to frontier, intellectual, and cultural history.
— North Carolina Historical Review
"Raises questions of profound importance about the American frontier and the formation of national character."
— Georgia Historical Quarterly
"Successfully illustrates the disintegration of trust and possible amity between Native Americans and white settlers in the post-Revolutionary era within a more detail-oriented ground-level analysis than many before accomplished."
— Southern Historian
"[A] valuable study.
— The Journal of American History
The Tennessee frontier shaped both Cherokee and white assumptions about diplomacy and nationhood.
After contact, both groups moved away from local and personal notions about polity to embrace nationhood. Excluded from the nationalization process, slaves revived and modified African
and American premises about patronage and community, while free blacks fashioned an African American doctrine of freedom that was both communal and individual. Paying particular
attention to the influence of older European concepts of civilization, Cumfer shows how Tennesseans, along with other Americans and Europeans, modified European assumptions to
contribute to a discourse about civilization, one both dynamic and destructive, which has profoundly shaped world history.
Cynthia Cumfer is an attorney and independent scholar in Portland, Oregon.