John Rollin Ridge
His Life and Works
"This answers the call for biographies of leading Cherokees of the nineteenth century such as John Rollin Ridge. It should be of interest to Native American scholars, historians of California, and those interested in ninteenth-century American literature."—William L. Anderson, Western Carolina University. "A fine book providing valuable information about an important Cherokee writer and politician."—A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff, University of Illinois at Chicago.
A cross between Lord Byron, the romantic poet who made things happen, and Joaquin Murieta, the legendary bandit he would immortalize—that was John Rollin Ridge. His was the kind of life that inspires ballads an dsagas. He was born to a prominent Cherokee Indian family in 1827, a tumultuous time when the state of Georgia was trying to impose its sovereignty on the Cherokee Nation and whites were pressing against its borders. He grew up amid the violence of removal and post-removal factionalism. The murder of his father (which he witnessed) and of his grandfather and uncle, who had advocated removal to the West, marked him permanently, activated his mental and spiritual powers to make him someone to be reckoned with. John Rollin Ridge: His Life and Works is the first full-length biography of a Cherokee whose best revenge was in writing well.
James W. Parins places Ridge in the circle of his family and recreates the circumstances surrounding the assassination of his father, John Ridge; grandfather, Major Ridge; and uncle, Elias Boudinot, by rival Cherokees led by John Ross. Eventful chapters portray the boy's flight with his mother and her fmaily to Arkansas; his surprisingly good classical education there; his killing of a Ross loyalist and his exile to California during the Gold Rush; his talent as a romantic poet and as the author of The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit (1854), one of the first novels ever written by an American Indian; and his career as a journalist. Newspaper editing and politicking (he was anti-Lincoln and anti-Abolitionist) suited Ridge's passionate temperament. To the end of his life in 1867 he advocated the Cherokee' assimilation into white society. Parins takes full measure of a controversial, contradictory, celebrated, self-cast exile.
James W. Parins is a professor of English and director of the American Native Press Archives at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. His publications include A Biobibliography of Native American Writers, 1772-1924 (1984, 1985) and American Indian and Alaska Native Newspapers and Periodical, 1826-1985 (1985, 1986), both with Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr.