Oklahoma's Black Homesteaders
Dr. Kalenda Eaton and Dr. Heidi Dodson of the Oklahoma Black Homesteader Project research talk about their new research on Black homesteaders in Oklahoma Territory. The presentation discusses the process of researching and locating specific homesteading families with a preview of new archival research that expands common understandings of the Black homesteading experience.
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[00:00:02.250]Good evening everybody and welcome.
[00:00:05.647]And thank you for attending this evening's virtual event.
[00:00:09.750]My name is Margaret Jacobs.
[00:00:11.130]I'm the director of the Center for Great Plain Studies.
[00:00:15.120]The Center for Great Plain Studies
[00:00:16.470]if you're not familiar with it,
[00:00:18.450]we are at the University of Nebraska
[00:00:21.014]and the University of Nebraska is a land grant institution.
[00:00:24.930]We have campuses and programs on the past, present,
[00:00:28.290]and future homelands of the (indistinct) Cheyenne
[00:00:35.504]and Arapaho peoples as well as those of the relocated
[00:00:39.245](indistinct) Sac and Fox and Iowa people's.
[00:00:43.920]The land we currently call Nebraska
[00:00:45.810]has always been and will continue to be
[00:00:48.030]an indigenous homeland.
[00:00:50.250]Please take a moment to consider the legacies
[00:00:52.560]of more than 150 years of displacement,
[00:00:55.920]violence, settlement and survival that bring us here today.
[00:01:00.767]This acknowledgement and the centering of indigenous peoples
[00:01:03.560]is a start as we move forward together.
[00:01:10.290]This event is part of our Paul Olson seminar series,
[00:01:13.980]which we do every year.
[00:01:15.660]We are very grateful to Paul Olson for helping to found the
[00:01:19.020]center more than 45 years ago
[00:01:21.410]and for being such a passionate advocate
[00:01:23.910]for the Great Plains and for his ongoing
[00:01:26.395]support of the center.
[00:01:28.666]This presentation is also the culminating event
[00:01:32.130]in our year long reckoning and reconciliation
[00:01:34.920]on the Great Plains series.
[00:01:36.803]Our series invited participants to recognize
[00:01:39.810]the Great Plains complex
[00:01:41.820]and often painful history and then imagine and build
[00:01:45.120]new relationships and communities
[00:01:46.740]based on respect and dignity for all.
[00:01:50.045]We included topics like land dispossession and return,
[00:01:54.450]racial violence and repair
[00:01:56.670]and environmental harm and justice.
[00:01:59.580]If you missed our events,
[00:02:01.350]you can find recordings of most of the series events
[00:02:04.110]on our website.
[00:02:05.610]And I believe that we just put a link
[00:02:08.010]to the series in the chat
[00:02:12.360]home steading represented one way that black residents
[00:02:15.390]on the Great Plains sought to address the discrimination,
[00:02:18.750]violence and legacy of slavery that they faced.
[00:02:22.276]Our center's prior Director Rick Edwards
[00:02:26.040]founded the Black Home Steading Project
[00:02:28.800]and worked closely with Jake Freifeld
[00:02:30.900]and Michael Ekstrum to conduct research
[00:02:33.540]on eight different states.
[00:02:35.730]And we'll also put a link to
[00:02:37.339]the Black Home Center Project in the chat.
[00:02:42.120]Rick Edwards retired a few years ago,
[00:02:44.910]and at that point the center recruited Dr. Kalenda Eaton
[00:02:48.660]of the University of Oklahoma to expand
[00:02:51.123]the Black Home Center Project to Oklahoma.
[00:02:55.740]Dr. Eaton now serves as the director
[00:02:57.650]of Oklahoma Research for the Black Homestead Project
[00:03:01.260]as and is an associate professor of African
[00:03:04.170]and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma.
[00:03:08.250]She is a humanity scholar focused
[00:03:10.140]on African American Western studies,
[00:03:12.930]the intersections of black literary and gender studies,
[00:03:16.320]African American social and cultural history,
[00:03:18.676]and black diaspora studies.
[00:03:23.280]The project also hired Dr. Heidi Dodson
[00:03:26.520]as a postdoctoral fellow just about a year ago.
[00:03:29.621]Dr. Dodson is a historian who specializes
[00:03:32.760]in late 19th and 20th century
[00:03:34.560]African American community building migration,
[00:03:38.010]social movements and oral history.
[00:03:41.160]And we're delighted to have
[00:03:43.290]both of you with us this evening.
[00:03:45.604]If you're listening to the presentation
[00:03:48.450]and you have questions.
[00:03:49.770]Please feel free to type those into the Q and A
[00:03:53.040]or the chat function at the bottom of your screen.
[00:03:57.060]And we're really eager to learn more about
[00:04:01.710]this new research that both
[00:04:03.270]Dr. Eaton and Dr. Dodson are doing.
[00:04:05.280]So welcome and thank you very much.
[00:04:10.710]As was stated, I am Kalenda Eaton.
[00:04:13.140]I'm from the University of Oklahoma.
[00:04:15.868]I want to thank the Center for Great Plain Studies
[00:04:20.490]and director Dr. Margaret Jacobs
[00:04:23.760]for the invitation to speak about our progress
[00:04:27.131]with the Oklahoma Black Homesteader Project.
[00:04:32.760]So in the present,
[00:04:34.410]the work that we are doing actually
[00:04:37.020]would not be possible without the support of the center,
[00:04:40.364]the National Park Service, the University of Oklahoma,
[00:04:44.160]the Oklahoma Historical Society,
[00:04:45.935]and other archives across the state.
[00:04:49.679]We are indebted to the staff at Homestead National Park and
[00:04:54.600]the recent published research on
[00:04:56.550]Black Homesteaders across the Great Plains
[00:04:58.841]by doctors Rick Edwards,
[00:05:01.320]Rebecca Wingo, Jacob Friefeld and Michael Ekstrum.
[00:05:05.700]We also thank the countless individuals,
[00:05:08.580]families and their descendants whose legacies we honor.
[00:05:13.800]Overall, this project engages with
[00:05:16.200]and reinterprets earlier scholarship
[00:05:18.240]on black migration and mobility throughout
[00:05:21.360]the 19th and 20th centuries.
[00:05:24.210]In the vein of Carter G. Woodson
[00:05:26.580]a century of Negro migration published in 1918
[00:05:30.682]research on African American mass movement
[00:05:33.930]into Indian territory.
[00:05:35.760]And then eventually Oklahoma territory
[00:05:38.610]is highlighted in early 20th century scholarship
[00:05:42.200]by people like Arthur Tolson and (indistinct)
[00:05:46.740]and later Daniel Littlefield and (indistinct)
[00:05:51.210]Quintard Taylor, Angela Walton-Raji, Hannibal Johnson
[00:05:55.950]and others interested
[00:05:57.510]in the black presence in the American West.
[00:06:01.830]The Oklahoma Black Homesteader project acknowledges that
[00:06:05.490]through the process of of homesteading black immigrants into
[00:06:09.900]the territory entered a tangled web of racist
[00:06:14.460]settler colonial practices negatively affecting
[00:06:17.547]indigenous communities in North America for centuries.
[00:06:21.044]And through research one learns
[00:06:23.370]that it was very clear early on
[00:06:25.500]that similar racist and settler colonial practices
[00:06:28.860]often limited black mobility in these same spaces
[00:06:33.660]and made what it meant to be
[00:06:35.430]a black homesteader,
[00:06:37.380]a separate more fragile category than others.
[00:06:41.895]The Oklahoma Black Homesteader Project
[00:06:44.340]is a multi-phase project.
[00:06:47.823]The phases include data collection,
[00:06:53.220]cataloging and assessment, archival research,
[00:06:58.290]oral history, interviews,
[00:07:01.680]mapping, the creation of a digital archive and database,
[00:07:07.080]and also of course public facing
[00:07:09.778]humanities presentations such as this one.
[00:07:14.802]That would include exhibits and publications,
[00:07:18.540]and also an interactive website
[00:07:22.080]that will include a lot of this material.
[00:07:25.590]So today we're going to share work in progress
[00:07:29.100]and highlight a few key places and figures.
[00:07:32.569]But first I'm gonna start with a little bit of background.
[00:07:36.930]So Congress passed the Homestead Act of 1862.
[00:07:41.130]Under the act the federal government
[00:07:43.016]offered eligible settlers 160 acres of government land
[00:07:48.960]after they completed several requirements.
[00:07:52.080]In their work, Edwards Ekstrum and Friefeld
[00:07:55.410]emphasized that the act was conceived
[00:07:58.170]as a system to create family farms
[00:08:01.140]and build up a struggling, poor and working class
[00:08:04.680]with limited options.
[00:08:06.660]Although race was allegedly not a factor,
[00:08:11.220]the language of the acts provisions excludes as it includes.
[00:08:16.530]For example, those eligible were male citizens
[00:08:20.220]of the United States over 21 years of age.
[00:08:23.730]War veterans of any age, widows and single women
[00:08:27.676]married women who were listed as heads of households
[00:08:32.160]and eventually new immigrants into the United States
[00:08:35.790]were allowed to participate in the program
[00:08:38.550]if they stated in intent to become a citizen.
[00:08:42.720]So this question of eligibility is important
[00:08:45.240]for people of African descent in the U.S.
[00:08:47.910]because if you consider the criteria again
[00:08:50.610]in 1860, for example,
[00:08:52.860]of about four million people of African descent,
[00:08:55.650]only 488,000 around 12 or so percent were free.
[00:09:02.490]And since the 14th Amendment,
[00:09:04.200]which granted citizenship to this group
[00:09:06.300]was not adopted until 1868,
[00:09:08.940]most of these individuals were not
[00:09:10.620]legally considered citizens in 1862.
[00:09:13.763]Now in 1866, the civil rights legislation stated
[00:09:19.140]that African Americans could homestead
[00:09:21.750]and people took advantage of the opportunity
[00:09:27.270]But even then there were questions about where they could go
[00:09:31.066]and the masses of black people living outside
[00:09:34.560]the Western United States were not equipped
[00:09:37.110]to fully participate in the program at this time.
[00:09:42.693]So we're focusing on Oklahoma.
[00:09:46.080]And so Oklahoma is very unique
[00:09:48.120]in that the Homestead Act does not really
[00:09:50.190]make a significant impact like it does in other states
[00:09:54.000]and territories until about 20 years after the inception.
[00:09:58.860]There are about and there also, sorry,
[00:10:00.750]there are several reasons why Oklahoma stands apart.
[00:10:04.230]First, Oklahoma was Indian territory
[00:10:07.770]and originally protected from these land openings.
[00:10:11.310]However, due to broken federal promises,
[00:10:15.380]the forest renegotiation of treaties
[00:10:17.880]with tribes and a new land allotment process,
[00:10:22.110]Indian territory then becomes a focus
[00:10:24.750]and kind of this point of settlement.
[00:10:28.380]This also leads us to the second reason
[00:10:30.090]why Oklahoma is a bit unique in that is the,
[00:10:33.390]the land runs right or land rushes
[00:10:35.820]or land grabs depending on who's speaking.
[00:10:39.660]Between 1889 and 1895, there were five land runs.
[00:10:45.300]And in 1901 there was a land lottery
[00:10:48.090]where people had to register and their names were drawn.
[00:10:50.970]And in 1906, a land auction with sealed bids.
[00:10:55.770]If you see this map on your screen,
[00:10:59.100]the colors on the western portion
[00:11:01.260]of the map indicate different parts
[00:11:04.380]of the state that were settled because of the land grants.
[00:11:10.590]And so the black presence in the territory
[00:11:13.260]also was very significant,
[00:11:15.660]and that's another reason that Oklahoma stands out.
[00:11:20.400]Research indicates that over 8,000 people of African descent
[00:11:25.020]were living in Indian territory prior to the land runs
[00:11:29.250]as mostly enslaved members of the tribes,
[00:11:34.470]of five tribes.
[00:11:36.000]After emancipation and as the result of changes
[00:11:39.449]to the land allotments post 1865 in the treaties,
[00:11:44.509]one of the treaties of 1866 and of course after Emancipation
[00:11:48.581]homesteads in Indian territory
[00:11:51.390]were allotted to some of the members of this group
[00:11:54.780]now known as Black Indian Friedman.
[00:11:57.480]Although these homesteads are not usually
[00:12:00.090]studied or included under kind of this larger conversation
[00:12:04.043]about the Homestead Act, because Indian territory
[00:12:08.850]as you can even see in this map right
[00:12:10.710]sits separate and and is east right
[00:12:13.590]of the of that settled territory.
[00:12:17.490]Something else that really makes Oklahoma significant,
[00:12:21.383]maybe not necessarily unique,
[00:12:24.030]but at least a significant space,
[00:12:26.190]is that the word about the home,
[00:12:29.430]the word got out about the home study act
[00:12:31.735]in black communities through a lot of different means,
[00:12:35.340]word of mouth, and then also people of course traveling
[00:12:38.670]to these spaces, but primarily through newspapers,
[00:12:42.090]black newspapers that were published
[00:12:43.883]all throughout the Midwest and also in the East.
[00:12:47.423]And so places like Illinois and Missouri and even
[00:12:51.225]some southern states like Tennessee,
[00:12:54.120]they frequently ran advertisements for lands due West.
[00:12:57.819]Many of the locations in the ads
[00:12:59.789]were pre-purchased plots of land
[00:13:02.340]that brokers often sold at higher prices.
[00:13:05.760]However, editorials and articles
[00:13:08.153]in these late 19th century newspapers
[00:13:11.400]encouraged black migration to and homestead
[00:13:15.300]in Oklahoma territory as what was seen
[00:13:19.080]as the best option for a better quality of life.
[00:13:22.926]So there was this rhetoric of possibility of safety industry
[00:13:28.733]and equality that was used to entice
[00:13:31.853]a wide range of people from different economic
[00:13:35.880]and educational backgrounds
[00:13:37.271]to try their hands at home steading.
[00:13:40.118]The Oklahoma District, as you see here, again on the left
[00:13:45.120]or the west, was considered a prime location
[00:13:48.240]for the creation of an all black territory
[00:13:50.940]that would be autonomous and self-governing.
[00:13:57.570]So in the Oklahoma Black Homesteader Project,
[00:14:00.660]we define a homesteader as someone who filed a claim
[00:14:04.168]under the Homestead Act,
[00:14:05.833]including those who either proved up their claim
[00:14:09.150]or those who decided to shorten this initial process
[00:14:13.260]and just pay cash.
[00:14:14.723]Proving up a claim typically included
[00:14:16.980]living on the plot for five years
[00:14:19.200]showing evidence of improvement, hence the proving of
[00:14:22.493]filing a claim, gathering witnesses,
[00:14:25.620]submitting verification statements,
[00:14:27.720]and paying a small filing fee.
[00:14:30.000]Not in that that order.
[00:14:32.610]And due to this rich and complex history of Oklahoma,
[00:14:37.620]we have limited the geographic area to of this project,
[00:14:43.620]to the western portion of the state
[00:14:45.840]and what is known as Oklahoma territory.
[00:14:49.890]This is where the bulk of the claims
[00:14:51.840]were filed under the Federal Homestead Act.
[00:14:54.840]The eastern portion of the state, as was mentioned before,
[00:14:57.650]is Indian territory and was under
[00:15:00.094]a different tribal jurisdictions.
[00:15:04.380]We also see this project as an opportunity
[00:15:07.590]to highlight counties, communities,
[00:15:11.100]and people who might otherwise
[00:15:13.560]be overlooked in state and national history.
[00:15:18.561]Now I'm going to transition and turn
[00:15:21.948]this portion of the presentation
[00:15:24.270]over to my colleague Heidi Dodson.
[00:15:34.500]So thus far we focused our research
[00:15:37.320]on King Fisher and Lincoln Counties.
[00:15:40.980]We're doing our research county by county.
[00:15:44.460]If you're not familiar with Oklahoma,
[00:15:46.773]King Fisher is kind of in the middle of the state,
[00:15:50.100]the central part of the state.
[00:15:52.380]We knew that both of these counties had black communities
[00:15:55.020]or towns that had been organized by homesteaders
[00:15:57.840]or that might have been organized by homesteads.
[00:16:01.110]And we started with King Fisher.
[00:16:02.790]It was one of the primary destinations
[00:16:04.830]for homesteads who participated in the 1889 Land run.
[00:16:08.610]And it's turned out to be the county that probably has
[00:16:12.531]the most black homesteaders.
[00:16:15.240]We've identified 375 individuals and families.
[00:16:20.760]Some of the rural black communities that they established
[00:16:24.000]include Lincoln City, Dunbar, Wannamaker and Zion.
[00:16:30.690]And you can see Wannamaker circle there on the map.
[00:16:36.090]In Lincoln County, we've identified
[00:16:37.890]nearly 200 black homesteaders
[00:16:40.950]and some of the black communities include Sweet Home, Dudley
[00:16:46.469]towns like Wallace have a substantial black population
[00:16:51.240]and a black newspaper.
[00:16:53.610]In fact, (indistinct) and Dudley
[00:16:55.650]are in (indistinct) Township on the western edge
[00:16:58.050]of Lincoln County,
[00:16:59.820]and it had 35 black home steaders
[00:17:02.610]the highest for any township.
[00:17:11.340]And you can see in the map there of Lincoln County,
[00:17:14.970]I believe Dudley is up there,
[00:17:16.560]kind of those areas were
[00:17:18.690]in the northwest part of the county.
[00:17:23.250]So both of these counties were important destinations
[00:17:25.740]for black home steaders.
[00:17:27.330]And there are some differences in their histories
[00:17:29.760]and in the experiences of black home steaders.
[00:17:32.867]Lincoln County was open to home steading
[00:17:35.640]with a September, 1891 land run.
[00:17:39.810]It's notable that it was estimated that about 1500
[00:17:43.590]African Americans made the run
[00:17:45.641]from Langston, Oklahoma in nearby Lincoln County.
[00:17:50.727]This new county Lincoln had been
[00:17:53.340]Iowa Sac Fox and Kickapoo land.
[00:17:56.628]The Kickapoo did not agree to land allotment until 1895,
[00:18:01.650]so there was a separate smaller land run that year.
[00:18:06.360]And one of the things that we've noticed
[00:18:07.800]about Lincoln County is that
[00:18:10.020]it looks like there may have been a significant migration
[00:18:13.020]up from Texas to Oklahoma.
[00:18:17.190]King Fisher County had very few homesteads
[00:18:19.472]who were from Texas.
[00:18:22.380]King Fisher County's migration pattern
[00:18:24.879]tended to be primarily from Tennessee,
[00:18:29.250]but also a lot of families from Kentucky, from Mississippi.
[00:18:36.326]A lot of the homesteads that went to King Fisher
[00:18:39.570]were part of the Exoduster Movement
[00:18:41.820]of the late 1870s.
[00:18:44.400]And they went to Kansas first as part of a mass migration,
[00:18:49.860]and a lot of them did not find land.
[00:18:52.440]And many of them settled in Topeka for several years,
[00:18:57.000]and some of them were day laborers.
[00:18:59.130]They had multiple different kinds of jobs.
[00:19:01.830]And then when Oklahoma opened up,
[00:19:04.080]a lot of them went south and homestead in King Fisher.
[00:19:10.816]One of their slight difference between Lincoln
[00:19:13.740]and King Fisher is that Lincoln
[00:19:15.090]was a cotton producing county,
[00:19:16.770]especially in the early 20th century,
[00:19:19.440]whereas King Fisher was more grain producing county.
[00:19:25.590]So this is a plot map of King Fisher County,
[00:19:29.190]and it shows the location roughly
[00:19:31.920]of black home steaders and where they settled.
[00:19:37.380]Each blue square represents
[00:19:39.180]a minimum of one black home stutter.
[00:19:42.570]Each little square on that flat map is 640 acres.
[00:19:47.790]So if somebody homesteaded the maximum of 160 acres,
[00:19:51.391]then there would be four home steaders in that area.
[00:19:54.990]Sometimes homesteaders, you know,
[00:19:59.550]like 80 acres, sometimes it was 40.
[00:20:02.520]But the average for King Fisher County was around 152.
[00:20:06.120]So most people did Homestead 116,
[00:20:10.770]and most of the homesteaders who file claims
[00:20:14.847]or made an entry in 1889 in that land run
[00:20:19.920]successfully proved up their claims around 1895.
[00:20:24.030]So they had to be on the land a minimum of five years
[00:20:27.480]and make some improvements and they had up to seven years.
[00:20:31.410]And most of those early claims
[00:20:33.300]were proved up fairly quickly.
[00:20:37.770]And we had seen that the majority
[00:20:39.810]of the black home steaders settled
[00:20:42.358]north of the Cimarron River.
[00:20:45.240]You can see that were two large rural clusters.
[00:20:50.263]These were very dense networks
[00:20:52.890]of kinship and friendship of churches and schools.
[00:20:58.740]So these rural areas were anchored
[00:21:01.830]by these small unincorporated in communities
[00:21:05.332]like Dunbar and Zion and Wannamaker.
[00:21:09.810]And then Steads also had strong ties
[00:21:12.630]to some of the other larger towns like Dover.
[00:21:18.420]The reason, one of the reasons
[00:21:20.430]that this northern north of the Cimarron River
[00:21:25.230]is a little bit different is that King Fisher,
[00:21:27.630]as you see it here on this map,
[00:21:30.480]doesn't reflect what it was like in 1889
[00:21:33.510]because part of the county
[00:21:35.999]was not open to home steading until April,
[00:21:41.160]sorry yeah, April, 1892.
[00:21:44.940]So a lot of the western part of King Fisher,
[00:21:47.700]south of the Cimarron River about seven townships,
[00:21:51.030]two partial townships were Cheyenne and Arapahoe land.
[00:21:55.320]And so that was open home steading a few years later,
[00:21:59.070]and there was a different home steading pattern,
[00:22:02.880]so near not nearly as many black homesteaders.
[00:22:06.600]And you know, I'm curious as we continue with the project
[00:22:10.680]to find out more about that because
[00:22:13.536]I know that west of King Fisher in Blaine,
[00:22:17.490]which we haven't fully looked at yet, but there's a,
[00:22:20.820]I've estimated that there's at least 200 black homesteaders
[00:22:24.090]in Blaine County just to the west
[00:22:26.340]that was part of that same.
[00:22:30.457]The other thing about the home steading
[00:22:34.140]in the southwestern part of King Fisher
[00:22:36.330]is that it appears that people took a little bit longer
[00:22:39.900]to prove up their plans.
[00:22:44.204]So now I'm going to just talk about
[00:22:48.270]some of the families and some of the stories
[00:22:51.111]that we've uncovered.
[00:22:55.363]John Ophelia Gower homesteaded in 1889 in Oklahoma County,
[00:23:00.920]and this is Ophelia Gower,
[00:23:04.320]and I think they're pretty well known
[00:23:05.880]in that area of their history.
[00:23:09.660]Their migration story, however reveals
[00:23:12.180]the multi-generational quest for land
[00:23:14.190]within black families and the connections
[00:23:16.710]between Oklahoma and Kansas.
[00:23:19.650]So Ophelia was from Tensile Parish, Louisiana.
[00:23:24.720]She and her parents, Daniel and Patsy
[00:23:27.330]Canada or (indistinct), I've seen it both ways,
[00:23:31.620]appeared to have been part of a planned smaller migration
[00:23:35.520]from that parish to Chautauqua County, Kansas.
[00:23:39.090]So it's a little different story
[00:23:40.830]from the many people who went to Topeka
[00:23:44.389]this was a rural area,
[00:23:46.200]and there was a small land earning community
[00:23:49.650]called Little Caney that was established
[00:23:51.810]and they were a part of that.
[00:23:54.240]This was led by Reverend Alfred Fairfax, who was
[00:23:58.449]involved in reconstruction politics in Louisiana,
[00:24:04.500]and he led this migration to Chautauqua County.
[00:24:07.890]So Ophelia's father Daniel Kennedy
[00:24:10.650]did purchase about 82 acres in that area.
[00:24:15.256]And there was at least one other homestead
[00:24:18.810]in that community who was prominent
[00:24:20.722]DB Garrett who ended up homesteading in Oklahoma.
[00:24:25.920]So in 1889 while Ophelia met her husband
[00:24:32.250]John there in Kansas, and at 1889 they left for Oklahoma.
[00:24:37.800]They homesteaded between Edmond and Arcadia
[00:24:41.556]on the eastern edge of Lincoln Township.
[00:24:44.831]And the, black community between those two towns
[00:24:50.970]was called Nazi.
[00:24:52.710]It's not a name you would find on a map,
[00:24:54.180]but that's how the community was known.
[00:24:57.390]The land that they homesteaded is now
[00:24:59.460]within the Edmund City limits,
[00:25:01.960]and we've had a chance to look at their land
[00:25:08.130]entry case file with the National Archives,
[00:25:10.920]which provides more information about their story.
[00:25:14.130]And so we know that they paid their entry fee
[00:25:16.680]in September of 1889.
[00:25:19.320]They established residents on the land
[00:25:21.480]in December that year,
[00:25:22.980]and they lived in a dugout through the winter.
[00:25:26.100]And then the following May, they built a long house.
[00:25:29.490]And then over the next five or six years,
[00:25:34.590]they proved their claim in 1895.
[00:25:36.897]They built other structures.
[00:25:39.390]It's common to build a chicken coop, a stable,
[00:25:42.150]to build some wire fence just to show
[00:25:44.220]that they were making improvements year by year.
[00:25:47.190]And their acreage increased to where they had 30 acres
[00:25:50.940]at the time that they proved up their claim in cultivation.
[00:25:54.990]And they also had 35 fruit trees.
[00:25:58.905]They had a large family.
[00:26:01.050]And you can see some of the family here,
[00:26:04.391]one of the other significant parts of their story
[00:26:07.260]is that in 1889 when they homesteaded,
[00:26:10.670]they set aside an acre to be a cemetery for the community.
[00:26:17.280]And this is now known as the Gower Memorial Cemetery.
[00:26:20.370]It's on the National Register of Historic Places,
[00:26:23.850]and the descendants continue to take care of that cemetery,
[00:26:28.530]and there's a lot more information online about that.
[00:26:34.410]Another family that homesteaded in the section
[00:26:37.710]right next to the Gower's in Oklahoma County
[00:26:39.930]was Dolly and Jeff Estes and their children.
[00:26:44.700]They were from Missouri.
[00:26:46.410]So they were from Liberty and Plattville, Missouri,
[00:26:49.650]which is what is now the St. Joseph
[00:26:51.510]and Kansas City metropolitan area.
[00:26:55.560]So they married in Missouri in 1885 and in 1889
[00:26:59.340]headed to Oklahoma territory.
[00:27:03.180]Dolly's parents press or Preston and Matilda
[00:27:06.870]or Millie Thomas were also from Missouri.
[00:27:09.900]They followed them and homesteaded as well.
[00:27:12.900]So again, another case of multiple generations homesteading,
[00:27:17.490]and they located south of Edmond.
[00:27:23.700]The kids family had multiple stops
[00:27:30.240]throughout the deep south on their way up to Oklahoma.
[00:27:34.710]This is Martha Ann Pitts and her son, Rufus
[00:27:38.430]and daughter-in-law Roses Simmons Pits
[00:27:41.220]homesteaded in (indistinct) Township in Lincoln County.
[00:27:45.570]They received their patent in 1902,
[00:27:48.540]and that time period was
[00:27:49.830]a lot more common for Lincoln County.
[00:27:52.380]A little bit different than King Fisher.
[00:27:55.530]So the Pitts fam,
[00:27:56.670]while Martha and Pitts was born in Georgia,
[00:27:58.830]her husband was born in South Carolina,
[00:28:01.620]several of their children were born in Alabama
[00:28:04.731]than they were in Texas.
[00:28:07.650]They arrived somewhere between 1859 and 1862.
[00:28:11.820]Now, this was prior to the Civil War,
[00:28:14.040]they were likely enslaved,
[00:28:15.420]so this would've been a forced migration.
[00:28:18.306]After the war, they located in Dallas County, Texas,
[00:28:24.930]then moved a little bit further to Collin County Texas
[00:28:28.560]and then migrated up to participate in the home steading
[00:28:33.120]in Oklahoma territory in Lincoln County.
[00:28:41.460]Sallie Ridley Greer,
[00:28:43.230]this is an advertisement at Sinclair Service Station
[00:28:46.620]that you can see here that she's advertising her grocery.
[00:28:50.490]She homesteaded as a single woman.
[00:28:54.566]Sallie Ridley, when she made her entry.
[00:28:59.460]And she married George Greer
[00:29:01.179]as she was proving up her claim.
[00:29:04.830]But in 1949, and this was in King Fisher County.
[00:29:09.000]In 1949, she published a recollection
[00:29:11.640]of her home steading experience.
[00:29:14.516]And what she said is that she and her father
[00:29:17.340]Jack left Topeka, Kansas in a covered wagon
[00:29:21.120]and then headed down to Oklahoma.
[00:29:23.640]They had to make a stop in Hennessy,
[00:29:25.890]which was one of the primary towns of the area.
[00:29:29.490]And then she filed a claim in Lacy Township,
[00:29:31.879]and that was part of that northwest
[00:29:35.790]large rural area north of the Cimarron River
[00:29:39.780]in King Fisher, a very dense network of communities.
[00:29:44.610]And the area where she filed her homestead claim
[00:29:47.820]became called Dunbar.
[00:29:52.470]I'll quote a little bit of what she wrote.
[00:29:56.700]My father and I located and filed on an unclaimed section.
[00:30:00.120]The forest was beautiful,
[00:30:01.920]tall trees with no undergrowth and tall grass.
[00:30:05.550]I've watched the community grow
[00:30:06.960]from the first lock church and the first lock schoolhouse
[00:30:09.898]to the frame church and the brick schoolhouse.
[00:30:14.250]As I mentioned, she married George Greer.
[00:30:16.590]He was also the son of Homesteads, George and Sylvia Greer.
[00:30:21.420]And one of the reasons
[00:30:25.208]well, Sally was also a teacher,
[00:30:27.930]but one of the reasons that she
[00:30:30.270]pursued different professions
[00:30:31.680]is that she had some health issues,
[00:30:33.090]she said made it difficult to work on the farm.
[00:30:36.030]So she decided to open her business,
[00:30:38.610]which she did with a friend Carrie Ballinger,
[00:30:41.426]who was also her parents were homesteaders
[00:30:46.419]and later bought out Kelly's interest in the store.
[00:30:50.790]And she continued her grocery for several years.
[00:30:54.300]And this is pretty common with homesteaders,
[00:30:57.120]black homesteaders either having
[00:31:00.300]a profession or having a different job,
[00:31:03.800]or during the time that they were proving their claim,
[00:31:08.280]needing some additional income and maybe leaving
[00:31:11.790]for a few weeks to work on the railroad
[00:31:15.030]or do some other type of work.
[00:31:17.520]They couldn't leave while they were proving
[00:31:18.990]their claim for extended periods of time,
[00:31:21.557]definitely no longer than six months.
[00:31:24.330]But in the case files, you see them asking
[00:31:27.930]for permission for leads of absences
[00:31:29.631]sometimes because they had to supplement
[00:31:31.800]their income on their basis.
[00:31:34.610]Heidi, so in terms of where we're now,
[00:31:39.210]this is first of all of course just
[00:31:41.130]a snapshot of the work in progress,
[00:31:45.990]but we have several future directions,
[00:31:51.330]I guess we can call it, in ways that we're thinking
[00:31:54.329]about the project that have arisen
[00:31:56.174]through the research process, through the,
[00:31:59.850]you know, census records that have been gathered
[00:32:05.760]and acquired and assessed through some of the
[00:32:10.200]original primary sources that are being transcribed.
[00:32:14.970]And so we've we're noticing very early on
[00:32:17.580]some trends and different areas
[00:32:21.990]that we find to be particularly interesting.
[00:32:23.850]For example, political participation.
[00:32:26.179]There's quite a bit of political participation
[00:32:29.913]in some of the early home steading counties
[00:32:34.080]and in some of the early black communities
[00:32:36.870]in these counties.
[00:32:37.800]And so you have examples of black men and women
[00:32:42.990]who are very active in areas that would allow them
[00:32:48.450]to rise from the local all the way to the,
[00:32:50.547]the state level in terms of some of
[00:32:53.580]the early territorial legislative offices,
[00:32:56.910]and then also in their own local communities
[00:32:59.580]in terms of fighting for equality
[00:33:03.810]in the local school system and just equality
[00:33:07.800]in general in terms of businesses and what have you.
[00:33:10.260]And so we've been finding these stories
[00:33:12.459]of homesteaders who are not necessarily, say,
[00:33:17.880]coming into the space and only focusing on,
[00:33:20.850]you know, proving up their land,
[00:33:22.170]but coming into the space already with a,
[00:33:25.320]a very clear understanding of what it means
[00:33:28.140]to be a part of a community, what it,
[00:33:30.300]how this community fits into this larger conversation that
[00:33:34.830]they're having across the nation at the time
[00:33:37.530]about social mobility, economic improvement,
[00:33:41.730]economic mobility and kind of what that can look like
[00:33:44.820]in Oklahoma territory.
[00:33:46.936]And we also are noticing some trends among black women
[00:33:52.740]who are home steading.
[00:33:54.780]So as you know, from in the beginning
[00:33:56.640]when I was talking about who was qualified
[00:33:58.920]or who was eligible to be a homesteader,
[00:34:01.740]single women were on that list.
[00:34:04.350]Women who were heads of households who were on that list,
[00:34:06.870]were on that list as well and widows.
[00:34:08.651]And so often when we think about or hear about homesteaders
[00:34:14.109]and, you know, the pioneer, pioneer woman,
[00:34:17.850]which we have a large statue of in Oklahoma,
[00:34:20.908]that woman does not often look like the women
[00:34:24.900]like Mrs. Gower and others that you've seen in these slides.
[00:34:28.560]And so one of the early conversations
[00:34:31.745]that Heidi and I had were about, you know,
[00:34:35.130]the ways in which we can highlight black women
[00:34:38.250]and their participation in the home steading process.
[00:34:42.900]And so entrepreneurship and kind of
[00:34:46.695]providing opportunities for generational wealth
[00:34:51.420]are something that are very important
[00:34:53.010]and tied with home steading.
[00:34:54.000]And we see a lot of women who are leading the charge there.
[00:34:57.240]And so we're going to continue to gather those stories.
[00:35:01.920]And then the other area that we have interest in is also
[00:35:07.410]migration patterns where people are coming from.
[00:35:10.247]And so you heard some of this earlier that,
[00:35:12.720]you know, some of these counties, people are, you know,
[00:35:14.727]you see a lot of people when you review the census records,
[00:35:17.880]a lot of people are coming from Texas
[00:35:20.100]or were born in, you know, particular areas
[00:35:23.589]of the nation and are kind of coming in mass.
[00:35:26.970]And a lot of that is tied to black migration history
[00:35:30.780]just in terms of organized groups of people
[00:35:34.410]moving from particular cities and states
[00:35:38.250]into these spaces in the west.
[00:35:40.770]And then there are other reasons, you know,
[00:35:42.510]church group people who are members of the same church
[00:35:44.940]or whatever the case may be.
[00:35:46.538]And so I know there's a kind of an interesting tie in,
[00:35:51.180]in a community of people who come from
[00:35:53.364]a particular French speaking or Creole speaking,
[00:35:59.040]I should say, section of Louisiana
[00:36:01.500]that then immigrate into this space
[00:36:04.596]and have their own kind of community, separate community.
[00:36:07.830]And so there are different stories and examples
[00:36:10.055]that we've seen throughout this process.
[00:36:12.187]And I think overall, the the thing that I,
[00:36:15.398]I'm learning and I think is really important,
[00:36:18.600]and I hope that we can continue to highlight
[00:36:20.456]in this project is that the, there's,
[00:36:24.030]it's one thing to tell the homestead story, right.
[00:36:26.903]And that story has been told for, you know, over a century.
[00:36:31.206]It's another to tell black homestead story, right.
[00:36:34.620]Which has been told in bits and pieces.
[00:36:37.334]And then it's another to actually think about the
[00:36:40.410]individuals or communities, right,
[00:36:43.938]Or kind of groups that are working together
[00:36:47.507]and sharing in the neighbors and those particular stories.
[00:36:51.450]And those stories aren't necessarily told as much.
[00:36:54.330]So when we read archival material,
[00:36:57.313]or you even think about the ways in which
[00:36:59.784]literature or Hollywood, right talks about homestead.
[00:37:03.930]You have Little House on the prairie,
[00:37:05.340]you have, you know, letters of a woman homestead,
[00:37:07.620]you have all these different texts or people
[00:37:09.180]either writing their memoirs or recreating
[00:37:13.035]these narratives that people have told.
[00:37:16.170]And very often all of those stories
[00:37:20.190]and all of those people kind of look the same, right.
[00:37:22.502]Or even if we're thinking about European immigrants
[00:37:25.200]who have come into this space, right.
[00:37:26.520]There's a kind of a literature,
[00:37:28.140]body of literature and a way of understanding
[00:37:30.576]how they fit into this space.
[00:37:32.820]But when it comes to what was happening on the ground level
[00:37:36.060]in terms of the black homesteaders across the Great Plains,
[00:37:39.676]those stories are a little harder to find.
[00:37:43.953]They exist, but they're just a little harder to find.
[00:37:47.430]And then when we think about a place like Oklahoma,
[00:37:50.040]whereas I mentioned before, there's such a rich,
[00:37:51.974]rich history and present,
[00:37:55.200]and it's such an interesting space.
[00:37:59.040]We are excited about opening up those conversations.
[00:38:03.000]And on the website, I don't know
[00:38:05.430]if anyone has been to the website,
[00:38:07.530]but I wrote that the project hopes
[00:38:10.830]to foster complex and rich conversations
[00:38:14.110]about how the history of Oklahoma is connected
[00:38:16.866]to the promises and ideals of black freedom
[00:38:21.060]locally and nationwide.
[00:38:23.790]And with that, I've always said,
[00:38:25.860]and I say it to people around me here in the state,
[00:38:30.330]that Oklahoma as both state and then also,
[00:38:33.012]you know, prior to that in terms of the Twin territories,
[00:38:35.819]is this very interesting microcosm of the entire nation.
[00:38:40.746]So you have all parts of this American story
[00:38:44.070]that find themselves, find its themselves,
[00:38:47.070]itself, rather in Oklahoma,
[00:38:49.170]there's a place in Oklahoma
[00:38:50.640]for all of these different parts of the American story.
[00:38:53.670]And so for the public,
[00:38:55.050]we hope that the Black Home Center project
[00:38:57.510]will provide more information to those
[00:39:00.150]who may have a limited understanding of American history
[00:39:03.690]during the 19th and 20th centuries.
[00:39:05.883]And so through the website and also different various
[00:39:09.720]digital projects that we will begin
[00:39:11.670]to roll out over the next two and three years,
[00:39:14.138]we plan to provide this narrative insight
[00:39:17.730]into what life was like for these people who homesteaded.
[00:39:22.620]And we also hope that the digital database
[00:39:25.110]of names we are creating will be
[00:39:27.450]useful for genealogical research.
[00:39:30.690]And we really hope that this can fill in some gaps
[00:39:34.260]for people looking to tell a more complete family story
[00:39:37.860]just by having a place where you can go and see last names,
[00:39:41.190]right, and see some of the transcribed census data
[00:39:44.250]that's not always easy to get ahold of.
[00:39:49.260]And if you look at this picture that's up here, now,
[00:39:52.258]this is an image that was taken from
[00:39:57.060]the Western History Collection and it's of Luana Matthews.
[00:40:01.860]And she has a narrative in the Indian Pioneer papers
[00:40:05.790]where she's talking about her family,
[00:40:07.800]her parents who immigrated into Oklahoma rather,
[00:40:12.870]and homesteaded and then as an adult,
[00:40:16.290]she came in later and was able
[00:40:19.290]to also participate in this process.
[00:40:22.170]And so you have these generations
[00:40:24.210]of people who are benefiting from
[00:40:28.212]the ability to own land and to build and to farm.
[00:40:34.440]And not all, and not every story was successful.
[00:40:38.044]Not every community that was mentioned exists.
[00:40:42.870]Most of the communities
[00:40:44.460]don't exist anymore for a number of reasons.
[00:40:47.853]Not just because of, you know, natural disasters
[00:40:51.440]you know, drought or other agricultural reasons,
[00:40:54.990]but because of very real, you know,
[00:40:58.380]social reasons and political reasons
[00:41:00.270]and terroristic reasons,
[00:41:02.100]a lot of these communities don't exist anymore.
[00:41:03.870]And we talk about that as well in this project,
[00:41:06.091]that it's not as, you know,
[00:41:07.651]as if homesteading was this perfect answer,
[00:41:11.473]to the nation's problems.
[00:41:14.490]It was a, again a possibility.
[00:41:17.610]And there was hope, a lot of hope there.
[00:41:20.640]So overall the project presents a nuanced,
[00:41:24.420]very multicultural and multi-layered story
[00:41:27.265]of Oklahoma that allows us to open up
[00:41:31.710]the conversation about black freedom
[00:41:34.500]and promise in the Western United States.
[00:41:37.380]And we hope that you've enjoyed listening
[00:41:39.480]to some of where we are at this point,
[00:41:42.329]and we're looking forward to continuing this work.
[00:41:46.710]And we're excited about the work
[00:41:48.480]and uncovering new things every day.
[00:41:51.600]And we thank you for your time.
[00:41:57.570]Hello everybody, it's now an opportunity
[00:42:00.900]for some questions and from you in the audience.
[00:42:04.260]I've got one question in the Q and A from Delbert DeWitty,
[00:42:09.930]and that's a very familiar name to people
[00:42:12.900]who study Black home steading DeWitty.
[00:42:15.799]Welcome Delbert, thank you so much for being here.
[00:42:19.650]Delbert asks, were black towns and communities established
[00:42:23.010]as part of the Homestead Stead Act or outside it?
[00:42:29.190]Hello, Mr. DeWitty, I owe you an email.
[00:42:31.830]So that's a wonderful question.
[00:42:36.286]Yes and no, so there are some towns that we think of,
[00:42:43.030]you know, that that still exists,
[00:42:44.580]like Langston, for example,
[00:42:46.710]that was established through the purchase of land
[00:42:54.491]that was made possible through the Homestead Act.
[00:42:58.145]So for example, the white gentleman
[00:43:01.980]whose name escaped me at this point,
[00:43:04.041]who purchased the plots of land that then
[00:43:06.177]and when McKay, you know, kind of partnered with,
[00:43:09.360]and he then purchased those plots
[00:43:11.670]and then sold those to others, right.
[00:43:13.500]That land was actually homesteaded,
[00:43:15.660]homesteading land in the very beginning.
[00:43:18.094]But it's interesting we think about
[00:43:21.270]the remaining towns.
[00:43:22.890]So those outside of Langston and outside of Brooksville
[00:43:28.410]that are in Indian territory, were not,
[00:43:34.650]were a part of allotment processes often
[00:43:37.920]or a part of freedmen who were,
[00:43:41.540]who sold their land, for example, to others.
[00:43:46.440]And then towns were built as a result.
[00:43:48.420]So you have a kind of a mixed,
[00:43:53.640]kind of a mixed bag, so to speak, I guess,
[00:43:56.275]of how these particular towns were started.
[00:43:58.500]But when we think about the Homestead Act,
[00:44:00.600]the Federal Homestead Act, right,
[00:44:02.790]and kind of that line of demarcation,
[00:44:05.063]you see that happening more so,
[00:44:08.180]or those settlements happening more so
[00:44:10.530]in the western part of the state.
[00:44:12.136]And the majority well all basically
[00:44:15.330]all of those towns and communities that were,
[00:44:20.700]that were started and developed at that time
[00:44:22.604]no longer exist in the form in which they were,
[00:44:27.270]when they were all black and kind of of thriving areas.
[00:44:32.400]And so that's my answer to that is that,
[00:44:36.840]you know, you do have the Homestead Act,
[00:44:38.580]of course that's very important with
[00:44:40.860]this movement and in these these towns
[00:44:43.950]and communities that were established.
[00:44:45.600]But in terms of those that still remain,
[00:44:47.779]many of those are not the result
[00:44:52.380]of the Federal Homestead Act.
[00:44:58.500]Heidi, did you wanna add anything
[00:45:00.150]or should we go on to the next question?
[00:45:04.108]No, I think, yeah, that was pretty comprehensive.
[00:45:10.050]I might tackle the next one is it okay.
[00:45:13.226]Okay, yeah, we have a question from Tanya Compton.
[00:45:16.110]Welcome Tanya, so glad you're here.
[00:45:18.243]And I know Tanya's very interested in women and gender.
[00:45:21.652]Do you have a sense of how many
[00:45:23.280]of the black homesteaders were single women.
[00:45:28.199]I have recently been trying to look a little bit at that
[00:45:32.880]because we are gonna be focusing our attention
[00:45:35.350]on black women.
[00:45:37.500]And I just looked at King Fisher information
[00:45:42.540]and I just tried to look specifically at single women.
[00:45:47.730]So in total, so far there's around 24 women
[00:45:52.410]of different statuses, widows, single,
[00:45:57.172]maybe some who were widowed in the proving process.
[00:46:01.053]So that's, I think, you know,
[00:46:04.200]in some places it's been estimated
[00:46:06.420]black women were around 10%,
[00:46:08.070]so that would be a little bit less than 10% in King Fisher.
[00:46:11.730]Of those that were about five or six
[00:46:13.860]who were single, like Sallie Ridley Greer
[00:46:16.590]when they filed or put their entry in,
[00:46:19.860]there were quite a few people who had been widowed
[00:46:24.210]and then did independently make their entry.
[00:46:28.890]I would say yeah,
[00:46:29.910]that's probably the largest proportion
[00:46:32.970]in King Fisher and then a smaller number
[00:46:36.120]whose has been or died during the proving process
[00:46:40.830]and they continued the claim on their own.
[00:46:45.210]We'll know more about Lincoln soon.
[00:46:51.570]So Casey has a question that I think is probably gonna be
[00:46:57.360]very difficult to answer,
[00:46:58.620]but are you looking at connections between
[00:47:01.320]black homesteaders and indigenous populations
[00:47:03.773]with respect to previous enslavement of black people's
[00:47:07.320]by indigenous tribes, as well as any conflicts
[00:47:09.750]between the two during the home steading process?
[00:47:18.600]I'm sorry, I was answering,
[00:47:20.250]answering another question at the same time.
[00:47:22.740]So not in this project in terms of the,
[00:47:28.738]the data that we're collecting currently
[00:47:31.938]and the way that the project is going to unfold
[00:47:36.810]in terms of the story maps
[00:47:38.310]and the stories that are being told
[00:47:41.190]of the narratives that about the black homesteaders
[00:47:45.570]in Oklahoma territory, but yes, in the larger sense in that,
[00:47:50.250]that context is always there and it's always,
[00:47:52.470]you know, it's extremely important.
[00:47:54.240]I mentioned to Heidi at the very beginning of the,
[00:47:57.570]of the pro, well when she first came online, I should say,
[00:48:00.559]and the project, I said, you know,
[00:48:02.850]there are two or three big stories here,
[00:48:06.810]like two or three big projects,
[00:48:08.782]and one of those projects is exactly
[00:48:11.250]what this question is asking.
[00:48:13.080]And I said, that's not our project right now.
[00:48:16.170]We don't have the human or financial resources
[00:48:20.070]for that project right now.
[00:48:21.930]But that is a, that is I think,
[00:48:23.820]a fascinating project and an important one.
[00:48:26.115]Because as I mentioned before in my earlier remarks,
[00:48:30.759]you do have Black Indian Freedman who homesteaded
[00:48:37.590]in ways that were tied to kind of
[00:48:42.420]federal allotments in some way, right.
[00:48:44.526]With the redistribution of land.
[00:48:47.970]But then you have others who then, you know,
[00:48:50.880]bought or purchased land that was originally, you know,
[00:48:56.730]a part of the Homestead Act of 1862, so to speak, right.
[00:49:00.090]And so you do have these connections even though
[00:49:03.000]you don't necessarily have, at least in mass, that we found,
[00:49:06.780]you don't necessarily have, you know, this mass movement of,
[00:49:09.870]of people from Indian territory into Oklahoma territory
[00:49:14.010]to take part in the actual home steading process, right.
[00:49:20.010]And so this line seems very arbitrary
[00:49:23.468]when you think about it because I mean,
[00:49:25.560]we're talking about the same state,
[00:49:27.750]but it's kind of the way that I think about say
[00:49:32.266]a Haitian, the Dominican Republic, right.
[00:49:36.069]You know, it's like it's the same country.
[00:49:38.559]I mean it's the same, sorry
[00:49:40.470]the same body of land I should say,
[00:49:42.974]but you have these two different countries there
[00:49:45.540]and then you have all of this movement back and forth
[00:49:48.870]and all these connections, but then you have these attempts,
[00:49:51.810]these political right attempts to separate.
[00:49:54.180]And so it, you see that happening on a much, much smaller,
[00:49:58.110]smaller scale in Indian territory,
[00:50:01.180]which then becomes the twin territories
[00:50:03.360]of Indian and Oklahoma territory.
[00:50:05.310]So you could have say someone who was you know,
[00:50:11.100]a Black Indian Freeman who was living in Indian territory,
[00:50:14.970]who then moves into Oklahoma territory.
[00:50:17.430]And then not only does that movement signify
[00:50:20.880]a kind of a specific and kind of particular change,
[00:50:23.563]but also at a certain point in history,
[00:50:28.770]and I try not to be too dense here,
[00:50:30.677]but at a certain point in the history
[00:50:33.390]you have citizenship changing right.
[00:50:35.340]From say that citizenship being under,
[00:50:38.940]you know, say Choctaw for example, and then becoming,
[00:50:41.850]you know, American.
[00:50:42.810]And so there are all these movements
[00:50:45.270]that are back and forth and they're very important.
[00:50:47.490]And people have written about these movements
[00:50:49.740]and written about, you know,
[00:50:53.905]these political migrations kind of focusing on
[00:50:59.216]the five Southeastern tribes, right.
[00:51:02.400]That are here and forced here
[00:51:04.940]as a result of the Trail of Tears,
[00:51:06.660]it kind of written about them in separate ways.
[00:51:09.210]Like, you know, this is what's happening
[00:51:10.260]in this particular tribe or this particular tribe
[00:51:12.120]and this particular tribe because they're all,
[00:51:13.680]you know, different nations.
[00:51:15.636]But that larger project, we're kind of looking at all
[00:51:18.882]of them together and all of those different connections
[00:51:22.500]and relationships I think is one that's very,
[00:51:25.170]very important as it relates to home steading in Oklahoma
[00:51:29.160]and Indian territory.
[00:51:30.960]And one that hopefully somebody will take on.
[00:51:34.872]I don't know if it's gonna be us in the future,
[00:51:38.190]but at least hopefully somebody will take that on.
[00:51:42.780]I think your answer also answered Delbert DeWitty's
[00:51:46.560]question about blacks who might have owned
[00:51:50.048]so-called Indian land or gained that land
[00:51:54.935]and those who were also homesteaders.
[00:51:57.120]I think you're conveying to us how complicated
[00:52:00.044]the situation was in the Twin territories.
[00:52:03.892]And that seems to me to be one of the key differences
[00:52:09.780]between Oklahoma and other states where home steading was,
[00:52:13.136]you know, very, was done.
[00:52:17.082]And I wondered building off that a question would be,
[00:52:21.222]do you see significant differences
[00:52:24.240]between home steading and Oklahoma and other states?
[00:52:31.439]The act of home steading, I would say is the same, right.
[00:52:36.510]In terms of the, you know, farming,
[00:52:39.510]I mean we're talking about farmers, right.
[00:52:40.980]We're just talking about farming.
[00:52:42.060]It's not anything I magical or kind of exciting.
[00:52:45.900]We're talking about people who are farming.
[00:52:47.703]So all of that is the same, right.
[00:52:50.010]And then the different provisions of,
[00:52:52.039]in terms of again, like the proving upon the land
[00:52:54.571]and living on the land for a certain period of time
[00:52:57.570]and you know, and all of that is the same.
[00:53:00.213]But those social networks,
[00:53:02.322]I think that is what we're kind of talking about here.
[00:53:04.530]Those social networks I think are a bit different.
[00:53:07.345]And because you have so many black communities,
[00:53:14.367]and we can think about them in terms of, you know,
[00:53:17.520]a term that that's been used a lot lately,
[00:53:19.380]especially thinking about Texas,
[00:53:20.430]like freedom colonies, right.
[00:53:22.380]You have so many black communities in Oklahoma
[00:53:26.201]compared to say somewhere like New Mexico
[00:53:29.550]or somewhere like even, you know,
[00:53:32.580]even Nebraska or South Dakota where you have them there,
[00:53:36.000]but they're, you know,
[00:53:36.833]they're a couple here, a couple over there.
[00:53:39.840]Even when we think about Alberta,
[00:53:41.400]Canada and the home sitting that's,
[00:53:42.690]that's taking place up there.
[00:53:43.830]You have, you know, a kind of a cluster here and a cluster,
[00:53:47.439]you know, over here, three or four or you know,
[00:53:49.413]what have you, Kansas would probably be
[00:53:52.560]the state that would have,
[00:53:54.421]that has kind of the next largest,
[00:53:57.030]you know, number of these communities.
[00:53:59.296]But because Oklahoma had such
[00:54:02.302]a longstanding black presence right,
[00:54:07.290]prior to all of this taking place,
[00:54:09.915]and then you have those who come to this space
[00:54:13.785]either to reunite with family after the emancipation
[00:54:16.332]or to just move into the space for, you know,
[00:54:20.010]because of all of those reasons that I mentioned before
[00:54:21.840]about the promise of, you know, of Oklahoma,
[00:54:24.540]you have these networks of people that
[00:54:27.898]you don't necessarily see
[00:54:29.880]in these other homesteading communities.
[00:54:32.190]And I think that part of it is kind of particularly
[00:54:36.840]interesting and unique and very different
[00:54:39.000]aside from the large Native American population,
[00:54:43.621]you know, and then you have these questions
[00:54:45.810]of whether or not, you know,
[00:54:47.610]Oklahoma's gonna be the next Sequoia
[00:54:49.770]or is it going to be the next, you know, Lincoln,
[00:54:52.380]right, in terms of the black state or you know,
[00:54:54.930]or could it be a native and black state
[00:54:57.960]and all of these conversation, all these questions
[00:55:00.000]and conversations that I would say you don't necessarily see
[00:55:04.110]right in these other home steading areas.
[00:55:06.000]And so where the white population that comes in
[00:55:12.611]and kind of, you know, takes over the process
[00:55:16.836]and also moves, you know, moves into and is
[00:55:20.787]and is brought into a lot of the tribes as well,
[00:55:23.850]and that population is is large, right.
[00:55:26.070]We're talking about like, you know,
[00:55:27.030]hundreds of thousands of people.
[00:55:28.200]So it's not as if they're the minority,
[00:55:30.660]but you still have a very strong vocal black
[00:55:35.307]minority if you wanna call it that,
[00:55:40.340]or a strong vocal black contingent.
[00:55:43.230]And you have a very extremely,
[00:55:45.090]a strong vocal native contingent.
[00:55:47.400]And so you have these networks
[00:55:50.640]and this social and political prior to 1907
[00:55:56.370]and also very kind of important economic right
[00:56:02.188]networks happening as well in this space.
[00:56:06.300]And so I think that, I mean,
[00:56:08.580]I know I sound biased because I'm, because I'm here,
[00:56:11.490]but I think that's what makes Oklahoma,
[00:56:13.920]you know, worth studying
[00:56:15.630]and worth paying attention to
[00:56:17.790]in addition to the other things that were mentioned.
[00:56:20.760]Yeah, I'll just chime in just a little bit
[00:56:22.440]and say that in the stuff
[00:56:23.760]that we looked at with the politics,
[00:56:25.436]because I was looking so much at, you know,
[00:56:27.450]kinda the meetings and things like that,
[00:56:29.875]so many of them were networked
[00:56:32.730]across the county like King Fisher.
[00:56:34.980]So even though you had these
[00:56:36.480]denser networks up in north of the Cimarron River
[00:56:39.030]and then you at smaller cluster south,
[00:56:41.340]there were representatives from those smaller areas
[00:56:44.515]that all came together.
[00:56:46.740]So they were definitely networking and,
[00:56:48.990]and it's also just so striking how many of the people
[00:56:52.080]knew each other all the way from Tennessee.
[00:56:54.072]And then you have this, you know,
[00:56:55.980]so many people knew each other from Topeka
[00:56:58.320]and then they're all coming down.
[00:56:59.700]And so, you know, you have this kind of long continuous,
[00:57:02.778]you know, aspect to the social networks.
[00:57:10.260]Well, we've got a couple interesting questions.
[00:57:12.660]Again, another one from Delbert DeWitty
[00:57:14.520]about the politics of Oklahoma
[00:57:17.222]becoming a black state is very intriguing indeed.
[00:57:21.276]And he is curious about how that discussion impacted
[00:57:25.720]how home steading was seen in Washington.
[00:57:30.392]If you have any comments on that,
[00:57:32.670]and then we'll get to the next question too.
[00:57:37.916]I can't speak to how Washington
[00:57:43.428]or we're not to the point yet.
[00:57:45.600]I guess that to kind of talk about how,
[00:57:47.790]what Washington thought of homesteading
[00:57:50.100]as it related to the idea of the black state.
[00:57:54.199]However, the people who were a part of
[00:58:01.502]the kind of immigration and organizing people
[00:58:06.090]to migrate into Oklahoma who were doing this
[00:58:09.990]under the kind of umbrella of the home steading act
[00:58:12.660]like I mentioned McCabe before, but there are many others.
[00:58:16.530]Were definitely in conversation with people
[00:58:21.328]in Washington, right?
[00:58:23.430]You know, other local, I mean local officials,
[00:58:25.530]but also, you know, on a national scale.
[00:58:28.890]And there was a lot of talk and it, and a bill was,
[00:58:34.740]you know, even proposed that there would be,
[00:58:39.167]you know, this land set aside or this portion
[00:58:43.620]of Indian territory, sorry, set aside for the black state.
[00:58:48.330]But in terms of how homesteading and the Homestead Act
[00:58:53.070]came into that conversation, I'm not,
[00:58:55.186]I can't answer that question at this point.
[00:58:57.840]I know that those conversations were happening,
[00:59:01.920]and I know a lot of people were talking about
[00:59:04.689]the mass movement in the places like Kansas
[00:59:08.700]and, you know, there was an entire,
[00:59:10.380]you know, senate review of the movement
[00:59:14.292]and people were interviewed, you know,
[00:59:15.990]why are so many people moving?
[00:59:17.580]And you know, Benjamin Pap Singleton, who was,
[00:59:20.251]who's known as kind of being the father of
[00:59:22.527]the Exoduster movement in Kansas was, you know,
[00:59:25.530]interviewed about why he, you know,
[00:59:27.777]why he thought people were moving
[00:59:29.730]and what he was doing to entice them and what have you.
[00:59:31.677]And so Washington was very much aware
[00:59:33.899]of what was happening in terms of people moving,
[00:59:37.144]African Americans moving into the planes,
[00:59:41.310]onto the planes as a result of the Homestead Act.
[00:59:43.915]But I don't know that answer to that question about that
[00:59:48.060]through line between that act and then also
[00:59:51.720]the conversation about the being a black state.
[01:00:01.076]So we have a question from Kurt Mine about
[01:00:08.640]how was the black home setter experience
[01:00:11.940]affected by the Dust Bowl?
[01:00:14.820]Is that something you all are getting into?
[01:00:20.010]Heidi, did you want to begin?
[01:00:22.500]We haven't gone or at least I haven't gone
[01:00:25.295]that far forward in newspaper research except
[01:00:30.120]to look specifically at the Dust Bowl
[01:00:32.730]and the environmental conditions.
[01:00:34.110]But I know that just from looking with King Fisher County,
[01:00:38.850]I looked at more census years than, you know,
[01:00:43.740]we may be able to for other counties
[01:00:46.050]and I could see the decline.
[01:00:48.000]I could see in terms of finances between, you know,
[01:00:52.856]1900 and 1930 the sheriff's sales
[01:00:56.058]and the mortgage lawsuits, the foreclosures.
[01:00:59.882]And it's hard to tell from that,
[01:01:03.870]you know, what the cause was.
[01:01:04.860]I know the interest rate, you know, was like 10, 12%.
[01:01:08.471]It's hard to know what was going on
[01:01:10.140]behind the scenes as far as that goes.
[01:01:12.567]I'm not really sure as far as environmental conditions,
[01:01:15.404]but I do know that, for example, when I look at the
[01:01:22.654]list of homesteaders for like 1910, 1900, 1920,
[01:01:30.960]the number just really drops off over those decades.
[01:01:38.340]People, some moving into town and staying in Oklahoma
[01:01:41.760]and then some people of course passing away,
[01:01:44.670]but some people are probably leaving.
[01:01:46.770]There's, you know, ancestry links, so many documents.
[01:01:50.280]And so you see a lot of people moving out to California.
[01:01:54.006]There's the earlier migration, there's migration to Canada,
[01:02:00.150]there's some folks who go to some other plain states.
[01:02:04.890]I've seen a lot of folks go to Arizona.
[01:02:07.968]So whether that had to do with the (indistinct)
[01:02:10.988]or the economic conditions of the depression,
[01:02:12.990]I'm not entirely sure.
[01:02:17.726]Well, I have one final question for you both
[01:02:20.728]and of course if there's anything you wanna add that we
[01:02:24.930]haven't had a chance to talk about, that's great too.
[01:02:27.221]My question is, what do you think is the really
[01:02:30.510]the biggest challenge about uncovering this history
[01:02:33.270]of black homesteads in Oklahoma?
[01:02:40.110]One challenge, you just want one challenge.
[01:02:42.637]There are multiple challenges.
[01:02:44.400]Well, no, yeah.
[01:02:45.660]What are some of the biggest challenges that you face?
[01:02:49.980]So, well, first of all.
[01:02:51.750]I mean, I was making a joke,
[01:02:53.640]but I will have to say that the process
[01:02:57.270]has actually been fascinating and it has been
[01:03:00.960]very enlightening and exciting too.
[01:03:03.660]And there's a lot of gaps, right.
[01:03:06.810]Are being filled in through the work
[01:03:09.457]that's being done on this project.
[01:03:11.607]And so again, it's kind of that knowing
[01:03:13.560]that large scale history and, you know,
[01:03:17.100]understanding migration or knowing that people
[01:03:19.650]are in these spaces or settling these spaces,
[01:03:22.140]but actually kind of what's happening in between
[01:03:25.050]and in the seams and all of that.
[01:03:26.652]That's really being filled in.
[01:03:28.860]And so that's been very exciting.
[01:03:31.904]At the same time, that can also be a bit of a challenge
[01:03:36.707]because we're not talking about kind of a treasure trove
[01:03:42.270]of memoirs or, you know, archival doc.
[01:03:45.492]There's not an archive, at least that we know of, right.
[01:03:49.230]There's not an archive of all of these, you know,
[01:03:52.320]homesteaders in Oklahoma that we are mining through.
[01:03:56.070]You know, we're not mining through this archive
[01:03:57.660]and picking out pieces that we think are important
[01:03:59.670]for this project.
[01:04:00.800]In many cases, we are creating the single archive, right.
[01:04:06.210]There are, as I mentioned before,
[01:04:08.206]studies that have been done in stories that exist, right.
[01:04:10.830]And there's information out there,
[01:04:12.240]but in terms of compiling it, putting all together
[01:04:14.450]in one space and being able to access that,
[01:04:17.211]we are kind of doing a lot of that.
[01:04:20.704]And so that has been, I mean that's, you know,
[01:04:24.240]that's obviously research, right.
[01:04:25.590]But it, I mean, that's also been a little challenging.
[01:04:28.961]I would also say, and I know Heidi.
[01:04:33.000]Heidi has some other, other answers to this
[01:04:36.540]but I would also say
[01:04:40.981]getting in conversations with people,
[01:04:46.177]getting people to kind of understand this,
[01:04:52.040]how do I wanna put it?
[01:04:53.130]I don't really wanna say separation
[01:04:54.390]because that's not the really the term I want to use,
[01:04:56.640]but that there's a kind of a difference
[01:04:58.570]between what's happening during a particular period
[01:05:02.940]with home steading.
[01:05:04.110]And also what we see with the rise of
[01:05:08.730]the all black towns in Oklahoma.
[01:05:11.671]There's a lot of overlap, of course
[01:05:14.921]and you have a lot of the folks who are establishing
[01:05:18.970]these towns, you know, you did come as a,
[01:05:22.320]you know, as a part of the,
[01:05:23.580]or as a result rather of the Homestead Act
[01:05:25.890]but that's not the whole story.
[01:05:27.480]And so there's like a gap between, you know,
[01:05:33.625]the Trail of Tears and Black Indian Freedman
[01:05:39.055]and the establishment of all black towns.
[01:05:41.640]And that gap, in my opinion, is where that home,
[01:05:47.302]is where home steading fits in.
[01:05:49.440]And so trying to wedge homestead into that
[01:05:52.350]and have people really understand that this is
[01:05:56.610]something that is of course equally important
[01:05:59.280]and it's all very connected,
[01:06:00.698]but that it's a puzzle piece that we are putting in place
[01:06:04.626]has not always been easy because people are like,
[01:06:07.860]well, what is the difference?
[01:06:09.750]There's no difference, right?
[01:06:10.650]It's all the same and these are all the same people.
[01:06:12.420]It's like, well, not necessarily.
[01:06:14.070]So I think a lot of what we're doing
[01:06:16.270]and how we're moving towards telling, again,
[01:06:19.145]these stories about counties and individuals and you know,
[01:06:23.392]what have you, I think that actually is helping people
[01:06:26.757]really understand more of what we mean by this difference.
[01:06:30.510]And also, you know, being very clear about this kind of line
[01:06:33.570]of demarcation, you know, in terms of different territories
[01:06:36.711]and all of that.
[01:06:37.890]So it's a story, these are stories rather
[01:06:41.922]that have often been subsumed under other stories.
[01:06:46.500]And so as a result of that, it hasn't always been easy
[01:06:50.100]to get people to kind of understand how the story
[01:06:54.830]fits or where it fits, if that makes sense.
[01:07:01.260]Yeah, I'll just follow up on that a little bit.
[01:07:02.880]And just as an example, a couple examples,
[01:07:06.768]I mentioned the Dunbar community,
[01:07:08.610]which isn't like on the map
[01:07:11.051]or considered a black town or anything.
[01:07:14.310]And it was part of that, you know,
[01:07:16.350]larger cluster north of the Cimarron River.
[01:07:18.270]And I don't think that there were any like known black towns
[01:07:22.950]up in that area, but you've got this huge area of,
[01:07:26.031]you know, politically active people
[01:07:28.050]and community institutions and things that now,
[01:07:31.890]you know, there are cemeteries and stuff
[01:07:33.570]that kind of mark these spaces
[01:07:35.040]but there's just very little known about that.
[01:07:37.470]And I think, you know, talking to descendants
[01:07:40.050]and finding other resources will help bridge that gap.
[01:07:43.191]And one other example would be like (indistinct) Garrett who
[01:07:47.190]gets more pressed because he's kind of prominent,
[01:07:51.157]but his homestead, he was involved in Lincoln City,
[01:07:54.150]which was very briefly in existence, was a community.
[01:07:59.400]But on his own homestead,
[01:08:01.200]he hosted a lot of political activity,
[01:08:03.690]emancipation celebrations, it's called Garrett's Grove.
[01:08:06.768]So you have this homestead that was the space of activity.
[01:08:09.893]And those are, you know, stories
[01:08:12.960]that there's so many we don't know about.
[01:08:15.457]And I will also just say in terms of sources,
[01:08:19.001]I found that King Fisher probate records can provide
[01:08:22.659]some wonderful information and kind of help
[01:08:27.510]flash out some of the census and things like that.
[01:08:33.570]Well, I said that was gonna be the last question
[01:08:35.610]but we did have another one come in
[01:08:37.260]while we were talking, and that's from Dr. Greg Rutledge.
[01:08:41.657]And Greg asked if you have used case law
[01:08:46.800]or court cases at all as a source.
[01:08:49.427]I think that's a great question.
[01:08:51.933]Has that come up or is that something you plan to use?
[01:08:56.343]It has come up and I'm gonna let Heidi speak to that
[01:08:59.250]but that's where it gets spicy.
[01:09:00.720]That's where we get, you know, some of the excitement.
[01:09:05.251]Yeah, I would love to be able
[01:09:07.020]to look at some court records,
[01:09:08.671]some things that have come up just, you know,
[01:09:11.100]in looking at families as one divorce cases,
[01:09:14.910]for example, in women's property rights.
[01:09:17.520]There was one case that apparently
[01:09:19.200]went to the state Supreme Court
[01:09:21.288]that had to do with the black home steading family.
[01:09:23.400]So I'd love to look at that.
[01:09:25.380]And then there were a lot of contested claims,
[01:09:28.459]and of course in general, I mean the newspapers
[01:09:33.510]were full of notice of contested claims
[01:09:35.679]but there were some specific feuds that happened,
[01:09:38.850]I would say three or four that I know of
[01:09:41.108]that ended in violence, but that were ongoing
[01:09:44.519]and sometimes those contested claims did go all the way
[01:09:49.710]to the courts after going through the bureaucracy so.
[01:09:56.910]Well, I wanna thank you so much.
[01:09:59.430]The weird thing about being in webinars,
[01:10:01.260]you can't hear people clapping
[01:10:02.790]and you can't hear the applause
[01:10:04.110]but we're just so grateful for you to be here tonight
[01:10:07.290]and for doing this work.
[01:10:09.000]I think many people express that in the Q and A
[01:10:11.850]that they were very interested in what you're doing.
[01:10:14.490]And it's fascinating
[01:10:15.480]and also just so important to uncover this past,
[01:10:19.410]given all the kind of pressures were under right now,
[01:10:23.100]to erase our paths
[01:10:24.540]and especially the path of people of color.
[01:10:27.030]So thank you so much for doing this work.
[01:10:29.674]Thank you for being here,
[01:10:31.227]and I hope you all will check out some of the other
[01:10:36.420]resources that are out there on our website
[01:10:40.500]and on our Black Home Steading project website.
[01:10:42.990]So thank you.
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