Choctaw people began buying, selling, and owning enslaved Black people in the late 1700s. Choctaw slave owners recognized that owning and exploiting enslaved people gave them economic power in the United States.
In the early 1800s, the Choctaw Nation became a target of the U.S. government, which wanted to give Choctaw lands in Mississippi to white settlers. In 1830, Choctaw leaders were forced to sign the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek with the U.S. government. Choctaw people were forced off their lands for new territory west of the Mississippi River. When the Choctaw moved westward, they brought their enslaved people with them.
Choctaw people who privately owned land east of the Mississippi River sold it to white buyers in exchange for cash and enslaved people, turning their land into wealth that could be transported with them to their new lands. The enslaved Black men, women, and children forced to travel west with their owners had no say in their fate. They lost ties to the families and communities they had known in the Deep South.
In these two letters, Choctaw woman Molly Nail writes to the U.S. government twice to give updates about the sale of her land after the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. In the first letter, she is angry because she has agreed to sell her land to an agent for four enslaved people and $100, but she has not yet received payment. She asks the government to stop the sale. In the second letter, she writes that her payment has been received and she wants the government to approve it.
Each letter ends with “Molly Nail, her x mark.” This implies that Molly could not read or write. Interpreter John Pitchlyn transcribed her letters, and she signed them with an x.