As Red Clay State Historic Park celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2019, a budding MTSU historian is sharing what she’s learned about the area’s origins as the beginning of the “Trail of Tears” on the “MTSU On the Record” radio program.
Host Gina Logue’s interview with Danielle Shelton, a doctoral candidate majoring in public history, first aired June 25 on WMOT-FM Roots Radio 89.5 and www.wmot.org. You can listen to their conversation above.
Shelton is working on a cultural landscape report on the park, a 263-acre facility in Cleveland, Tennessee, and the surrounding area for her dissertation. It was the final seat of government of the Cherokee Nation before the tribe’s forced removal in 1838.
Through her research, Shelton has discovered a seldom-discussed aspect of Cherokee history. She said the U.S. Army turned the Red Clay area into a concentration camp at the end of May 1838, when the U.S. military began enforcing the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
“There were 2,000 Cherokee held there for at least 2 1/2 months prior to their removal, and we know that there were at least seven who died there,” Shelton said.
Shelton said she also discovered that some Cherokees owned African-American slaves, and some descendants of those slaves still live in the area around the Bradley County park.
The series of forced relocations of Native Americans from their ancestral lands in the Southeast to land west of the Mississippi River, set aside by the U.S. government as “Indian territory,” became known as the “Trail of Tears.” The removals involved the Cherokee as well as the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee or Creek, and Seminole nations.
To hear previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, visit the searchable “Audio Clips” archives at www.mtsunews.com.
For more information about the radio program, contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.