Seminole research takes Lampkin to Philadelphia and Florida

Stephanie Lampkin ’08 earned two prestigious undergraduate research fellowships to study the interrelationships between Seminole Indians and African slaves in 19th century Florida. The fruits of her work gave her honors degrees in both history and ethnic studies at Cornell, as well as entrance to the University of Delaware where she is working towards an MA in History and certification in museum studies.

Stephanie Lampkin
Stephanie Lampkin: "These experiences have prepared me for graduate studies allowing me to research, collect, analyze and interpret information to answer original questions on topics of historical interest."

Lampkin says she became interested in current battles over tribal rights taking place between Seminole Indians and Black Seminoles.  She spent the summer of 2007 researching the topic in Philadelphia libraries through the SHEAR/Mellon Summer Seminar, and continued her work during a research block in Florida as a Cornell Fellow.

“Although difficult to trace, I have concluded that a significant degree of acculturation occurred between Seminoles and their African ‘slaves’, as Africans began to practice and combine Seminole cultural practices with their own,” she says. “The relationship between the two groups should more accurately be described as tenant farming rather than ‘slavery’ as the term was applied to the chattel slavery practiced in the South. Africans of varying status lived along the outskirts of Seminole villages and became allies to the Seminoles during the Three Seminole Indian Wars until the Seminoles’ forced removal to Oklahoma.”

During her fellowship experiences, Lampkin found herself working in the company of supportive academic professionals. But she also learned to pursue her own leads in what she refers to as a “guerilla” search — following clues by delving into archives, speaking with historians and anthropologists, and tracking down locals.

Though sometimes frustrated by wild goose chases and lack of direct evidence for her thesis, she feels emboldened by the experience. “I have learned to become more self-sufficient, rely increasing on my instincts and utilize my networks,” she says.

Lampkin was involved in a variety of organizations at Cornell, including orchestra, Sister 4 Sister, Eyes of the World, GIRLSS Group, Major Mentors, telecounseling, campus tour guides, Office of Intercultural Life, the Ethnic Studies Committee, and the Council of Multiculturalism. She plans to eventually work within a museum or historical society, allowing her to participate in exhibit coordination, docent work, research, and educational programs