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The land that today makes up Oklahoma was added to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Throughout the 19th century, the U.S. governmentrelocated Indian tribes from the southeastern United Statesto the area, and by 1900, over 30 Indian tribes had beenmoved to what was originally calledthe Indian Territories. At the same time, ranchers in Texas began to move into the area in search of new pasture lands, and the government eventually opened the land to settlement, creating “land runs” in which settlers were allowed to cross the border at a particular hour to claim homesteads. Settlers who broke the law and crossed the border sooner than allowed were called “sooners,” which eventually became the state’s nickname. Oklahoma became the 46th state in 1907, following several acts that incorporated more and more Indian tribal land into U.S. territory. After its inclusion in the union, Oklahoma became a center for oil production, with much of the state’s early growth coming from that industry. During the 1930s, Oklahoma suffered from droughts and high winds, destroying many farms and creating the infamousDust Bowl of the Great Depression era.
Date of Statehood: November 16, 1907
Capital: Oklahoma City
Population: 3,751,351 (2010)
Size: 69,899 square miles
Nickname(s): Sooner State
Motto: Labor Omnia Vincit (“Labor Conquers All Things”)
Flower: Oklahoma Rose
Bird: Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
- In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which forced the Eastern Woodlands Indian tribes off of their homelands and into “Indian Territory,” which is now the state of Oklahoma. By 1840, nearly 100,000 Indians had been evicted and close to 15,000 had died of disease, exposure to elements or malnutrition along the journey, which became known as the “Trail of Tears.”
- In 1905, representatives from the Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw nations—known as the Five Civilized Tribes—submitted a constitution for a separate Indian state to be called Sequoyah. Although a large majority of voters supported the petition in the November election, Congress refused to consider the request for statehood. On November 16, 1907, Indian and Oklahoma territories were combined to form the state of Oklahoma.
- During the course of the day on June 8, 1974, Oklahoma City was struck by five different tornadoes. Between 1890 and 2011, the city, which is located near the heart of “tornado alley,” was hit by a total of 147 tornadoes.
- Oklahoma’s state capitol building is the only capitol with an oil well directly underneath it. In 1941, the “Petunia Number One” well was slant drilled through a flowerbed to reach the oil pool, which produced approximately 1.5 million bbl. over the course of 43 years.
- Oklahoma is a Choctaw Indian word that means “red people.” It is derived from the words for people (okla) and red (humma).
- Thirty-nine American Indian tribes are headquartered within the state of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma History Timeline
The Spiro Native Americans arrive in 500 CE, eventually building burial mounds filled with exquisite artwork. They are present in the region until about 1300. 1012 (November 11) Viking explorers visit eastern Oklahoma and leave their mark on a large flat stone near the town of Heavener. The land that today makes up Oklahoma was added to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
Oklahoma became the 47th state in 1907, following several acts that incorporated more and more Indian tribal land into U.S. territory.
16th Century Oklahoma History Timeline
1541 - Francisco Vasquez de Coronado first explored the region for Spain
18th Century Oklahoma History Timeline
1714 - Saint Denis from New Orleans ascended the Red River along the southern boundary of Oklahoma.
1717 - The Spanish under Padilla marched from the Spanish settlements on the Rio Grande across the Great Plains to punish the Comanche for making warfare on them. They fought a hard battle on the western border of Oklahoma and captured seven hundred prisoners.
- French explorer Jean-Baptiste de la Harpe explores Oklahoma, claiming it for France.
- Bernard de la Harpe, under direction of Governor Bienville at New Orleans, set out from Natchitoches on the Red River to explore the valley- of that stream. He passed over Southern and Southeastern Oklahoma.
1723 - New Orleans was proclaimed as the seat of government for the territory of Louisiana. Etienne Venyard du Bourgmount crossed Oklahoma, visiting the Pawnee, Kaw, Osage, Missouri, and then the Comanche on the Arkansas River in what is now Central Kansas. He loaded the Indians with presents in an effort to win their attachment to the French, thus beginning the rivalry with the Spanish for the Great Plains region.
1739-40 - Two brothers named Mallet and four companions ascended the Missouri River to the Platte, following that river to the Rocky Mountains. Skirting the mountains, the party went to Santa Fe, N. M, where they spent the winter, separating in the spring, three members of the party returned overland to the Missouri, while the other three passed down the Arkansas through Oklahoma.
1760 - Brevel, a French Creole trader from New Orleans, visited the Wichita Mountains in company with the Caddo Indians. He reported the Spaniards to be engaged in mining operations in the mountains at that time. Spanish priests were also present among the Indians.
1763 - The territory of Louisiana was secretly ceded to the Spanish by the French to prevent its falling into the hands of the British.
19th Century Oklahoma History Timeline
1800 - Before settlers enter the region, several tribes of Native Americans live in or range over the land. The Plains Native Americans include the Kiowa, Apache, Ute, and Comanche in the western part of the land. They are nomadic hunters who follow the huge herds of buffalo that graze on grasslands. In the east, the Wichita live in houses thatched with grass and cultivate crops like corn, beans, pumpkins, and melons. Of the original tribes that ranged throughout Oklahoma prior to settlement, only the Ute remain. A large portion of Oklahoma's Native American population is made up of descendants of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole, who were forcibly moved to Oklahoma by the U.S. government between 1820 and 1842.
1803 - The US acquired most of Oklahoma in 1803 in the Louisiana Purchase from France
1819 - Adams-Onis Treaty with Spain defined Oklahoma as the southwestern boundary of the United States.
1824 - Fort Gibson was the first fort to be established in Oklahoma.
1830s - 1840s - The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole (called the Five Civilized Tribes) are encouraged and then forced to relocate from their native lands (by the US government) into Oklahoma, known then as the Indian Territory. Thousands of native Americans lost their lives on the bloody marches to Oklahoma.
1834 - Set aside as Indian Territory
1842 - Remaining Seminole Indians (from Florida) move to Oklahoma
1845 - Western Panhandle region became US territory with the annexation of Texas
1860s - After the Civil War, because the Indians had sided with the Confederacy, they faced ruin and forfeiture of their lands
1870s - An additional 25 tribes were moved to Oklahoma to reside on federal lands
1870 - 1872 - First railroad to cross Oklahoma was built between 1870 and 1872
- Land in Indian Territory was opened to white settlement by land runs, lotteries, and auctions. The territory was split in half, and the western half became Oklahoma Territory.
The first land run was held April 22nd. At exactly noon, a cannon boom signaled the start of the run which opened the Unassigned Lands for settlement.
1890 - May 2 - Region was divided into Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory
1891 -September 21 - The Sac and Fox, Pottawatomie-Shawnee Lands, located just east of the original run site, were opened.
1892 - April 19 - The Cheyenne and Arapaho lands in western Oklahoma were opened.
1893 -September 16 - The largest and most spectacular run in northern Oklahoma, the Cherokee Strip, was held.
1895 -May 23rd - the Kickapoo Land Run was held in central Oklahoma
20th Century Oklahoma History Timeline
1907 - November 16 - Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory were combined to make a new state, Oklahoma. Oklahoma became the 46th state to join the Union.
1921 - The Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, housed one of the most successful Black economies in American history. The area is, now, commonly referred to as “The Black Wall Street.” Most of the businesses and homes were burned down when on May 31 and June 1, 1921, a white mob started the Tulsa race riot, attacking residents and businesses of the African-American community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in what is considered the worst incident of racial violence in United States History.
1930's - Oklahoma part of the Dust Bowl
1935 - May - Rural Electrification Administration established
1937 - Route 66 which is also known as "The Mother Road," "The Main Street of America" and "The Will Rogers Highway" was paved end to end.
1990 - Oklahoma's Native American population is the largest in the nation -252,420
1959 - Alcohol prohibition is repealed in the state
1971 - Opening of the Oklahoma portion of the Arkansas River Navigation System gave the cities of Muskogee and Tulsa (at its port Catoosa) direct access to the sea.
1990 - Oklahoma becomes the first state to limit the terms of legislators
1995 - Terrorist bomb blows up the Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, and injuring hundreds more
21st Century Oklahoma History Timeline
2000 - Dec 28, In the US recent bad weather was blamed for 41 deaths: including 22 in Texas and 11 in Oklahoma.
- Two Oklahoma State basketball players, six staffers, broadcasters associated with team killed in plane crash during snowstorm in Colorado
- Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, executed
2002 - 12 people killed when barge struck bridge, caused collapse into Arkansas River on Interstate 40
2004 - Oklahoma City bomber co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, found guilty on all counts
2008 - Tornado struck Picher, killed six, destroyed 20-block area (clean-up efforts complicated by town's status as one of most polluted sites in nation -
2010 - Tornadoes, rainstorms killed two, injured hundreds, damaged more than 1,485 homes and businesses
2011 - Tornadoes struck in several areas of the state, killing five
The first people may have arrived in what’s now Oklahoma 30,000 years ago. Many thousands of years later Native American tribes including the Plains Apache, Caddo, Comanche, Wichita, Kiowa, and Osage lived on the land.
Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado traveled to the region in 1541 searching for fabled cities made of gold. By the 1700s both Spanish and French explorers and traders had come to the area. Both France and Spain controlled parts of the area for some time. Then in 1800, French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte acquired the land from Spain. Three years later, he sold the Louisiana Territory (a huge swath of land that includes present-day Oklahoma) to the United States.
In the 1830s many Native Americans were forced to leave their homelands in the eastern United States and relocate in what’s now Oklahoma, which was then called Indian Territory. In the 1890s part of Indian Territory became Oklahoma Territory. Then in 1907 the Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory were combined again to become the state of Oklahoma. Today members of over 30 tribes still live in Oklahoma.
WHY’S IT CALLED THAT?
The word Oklahoma is a combination of two words in the Choctaw language, which is spoken by the Choctaw people.
In 1889 settlers were allowed to race into parts of Oklahoma and claim land for themselves. But some managed to get to these spots before the territory was officially open to them. They were called “sooners,” which eventually became the state’s nickname: the Sooner State.
Right: Oklahoma state icons
GEOGRAPHY AND LANDFORMS
Oklahoma is bordered by Colorado and Kansas in the north, Missouri and Arkansas in the east, and Texas in the south, and New Mexico in the west.
The state can be divided into 10 different geographic regions. The Ozark Plateau is in the northeast. It includes a bit of the Ozark mountain range, which has ridges, steep valleys, caves, and sinkholes.
In the northeast is the Prairie Plains, fertile farmlands where animals graze.
In the southeast is the Ouachita Mountains region, which includes Ouachita National Forest (part of this forest is also in Arkansas.)
East-central Oklahoma contains the Sandstone Hills region that has low, rocky hills.
In south-central Oklahoma, the Arbuckle Mountains are one of North America’s oldest ranges, at 1.3 billion years old. They’ve been heavily eroded, or worn down.
Travel southwest to reach the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, the state’s biggest wildlife refuge.
The Red River Valley runs along Oklahoma’s border with Texas. In addition to the Red River, which forms the wiggly boundary between the two states, this area has sandy, fertile soil and some forests.
In the center of the state is Oklahoma’s largest land region, the Red Beds Plains, with gentle hills made of red sandstone and shale.
Farther west are the Gypsum Hills, low hills capped with up to 20 feet of sparkling gypsum, a soft mineral.
The High Plains are flat grasslands in the northwest. They include the Oklahoma panhandle, the 34-mile-wide strip that stretches west beneath Colorado. This is the highest and driest part of the state.
Pronghorn antelopes, American bison, armadillos, and coyotes are just a few of Oklahoma’s mammals. Birdwatchers can look for greater roadrunners, red-headed woodpeckers, and scissortail flycatchers. Oklahoma is home to amphibians like gray tree frogs and Woodhouse toads (the state’s largest toad). Reptiles include copperhead snakes, snapping turtles, and American alligators.
Common trees that grow here include red maple, sweetgum, Ponderosa pine, hickory, and eastern redbud (Oklahoma’s state tree). Coneflower, buttonbush, Indian blanket, and ghost flower are some of the state’s wildflowers.
Oklahoma is one of America’s top producers of petroleum, crude oil, and natural gas.
—State celebrities include baseball player Mickey Mantle, folk singer Woody Guthrie, country singer Garth Brooks, and actors Will Rogers and Brad Pitt.
—Visitors can learn about the Old West at the National Cowboy Western & Heritage Museum, which displays Native American artifacts, a model turn-of-the-century town, and a kid-size corral.
—People come from around the world each summer to see Native American artwork and dance performances at the annual Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma - HISTORY
What is it?
Oklahoma History Online is an online, subscription-based resource for learning about or teaching Oklahoma History, a required course for all students in Oklahoma.
For Homeschoolers: Most schools teach OK History in 3rd and 9th grade integrated into an American History class or as a separate Oklahoma History course. If you are homeschooling, you can teach Oklahoma History when it works best for your family. I recommend teaching Oklahoma History as a separate, multi-level unit with all your children at one time, covering it once in elementary school and again in high school. You can choose to teach it as a six-week unit or as a course that lasts from six months to a year. Many families simply cover the basics and go on others enjoy the course so much that they spends months or even a years on it (see Reviews below). It's all up to you!
High School Credit information: If you use the course for 1 semester or 1/2 school year (covering as much as you can in that time) you would award 1 credit (or 1/2 unit) to your child's transcript. If you use the course for 2 semesters or one school year (covering as much as you can in that time), you would award 2 credits (or 1 unit) to your child's transcript.
Oklahoma History Online contains all the information needed to fulfill requirements for public schools, as well. See pages 26-28 of Social Studies PASS (Priority Academic Student Skills) requirements for Oklahoma.
For Adults - learning about Oklahoma History is something everyone enjoys, including adults. This resource includes videos, audios, photos, and links to reading material that appeals to all ages. Use it on your own or share the learning with a child or grandchild!
Oklahoma History Online is very flexible. It can be used as a short, 3-6 week unit, an 18-week semester, a one-year course, or simply to learn more about Oklahoma History. It can be used with a single child or as a multi-level course for all your children in K-12. Each chapter includes a resource list for various grade levels from which you may choose the most appropriate for your child(ren). Much of the material is written for 4th -12th grade and up however, I recommend allowing your K-3rd grader to participate as he/she is able. There are many resources listed for these younger children, as well.)
No textbooks are needed to use the Oklahoma History Online resource. All required resources are accessed from this website. The optional activities, however, do include the use of books, videos, craft supplies, and other resources (depending on the activity selected) which must be obtained by the purchaser. These resources are items that are currently available at your local library, on the Internet, or through local or online stores. (NOTE: There are a few out-of-print books recommended that are so good I've included them in the hope that you may be able to obtain a used copy.)
Because Oklahoma History Online is accessed online, it is continually being updated. All website links and recommended resources are being kept up-to-date to ensure their availability. Additional or improved activity suggestions and worksheets are being added as they are created, making this a resources that you will want to access throughout the time you are teaching or learning about Oklahoma history.
Table of Contents:
- How to Use the Oklahoma History Online Resource
- Unit 1: Ancient Oklahoma History
- Unit 2: Exploration of Oklahoma
- Unit 3: The Fur Trade and Oklahoma Forts
- Unit 4: Missionaries in Oklahoma
- Unit 5: Five Civilized Tribes, Trail of Tears, & the Civil War
- Unit 6: Plains Indians and Buffalo
- Unit 7: Railroads, Cattle Drives, Cowboys, & Outlaws ( SAMPLE CHAPTER )
- Unit 8: Land Runs & Life in Oklahoma Territory
- Unit 9: Statehood
- Unit 10: Oil Boom
- Unit 11: African Americans in Oklahoma and the Tulsa Race Riot
- Unit 12: Great Depression, The Dust Bowl & WWII
- Unit 13: Oklahoma City Bombing
- Unit 14: State & Local Government and State Symbols
- Unit 15: Animals and Plants of Oklahoma
- Unit 16: Industry of Oklahoma & Tourism
- Unit 17: Oklahoma’s Geography
- Unit 18: Weather, Climate & Tornadoes
- Unit 19: Additional Study & Review
Each chapter (unit) is organized as follows:
Required Activities (applicable for school use):
- Notes (an outline of the materials for that unit)
- Website Research (links to the Internet for additional learning including primary source documents, videos, and sound recordings)
- Timeline (includes a blank timeline to print out and colorful timeline pieces)
- Oklahoma Notebook (instructions for creating an Oklahoma History notebook)
- Bible Study (suggestions for optional Bible reading and a short composition or oral report related to the reading)
- Learning Style Activities:
- Read/Write Learner Projects (suggestions for additional books to read, compositions, vocabulary work, and/or worksheets)
- Visual Learner Projects (suggestions for art projects, craft projects, charts & graphs, and/or videos to watch)
- Auditory Learner Projects (suggestions for music, poetry, and oral reports)
- Kinesthetic Learner Projects (suggestions for games, drama, recipes, hands-on projects, and/or lab work)
Hardware & Software Requirements:
- You will need internet access, preferably high-speed in order to take advantage of all the features.
- You need the free software Acrobat Reader 7.0, or later, installed. Some websites recommended in the curriculum may require other free software such as Flash or Real Audio in order to take advantage of all it has to offer.
- You need pop-up blockers deactivated in order to input your user name and password.
- You will need to use either Firefox or Safari web browser. I don't guarantee the other browsers will work. To check your browser, try the sample page and see how it works: http://www.oklahomahomeschool.com/OKHUnit7Samp.html
Updates: Because Web site addresses change frequently, I update this curriculum on a regular basis. Each time you access the curriculum, please referesh your browser so that you have the updated version. If you find a bad link, please email me so I can fix it or replace it with a new one .
Oklahoma History Online Subscription ($14.95): $14.95 for one year of online access for personal use or for an individual homeschool. You will receive your access code by email within 24 hours of ordering. (If you do not receive your order within 24 hours, please check the email used by PayPal. Often, I receive orders using PayPal with old email addresses!) No refunds on electronic products, so please look over the sample pages before ordering. You must have Adobe Reader to open and read the document.
Oklahoma History Online CLASSROOM Subscription ($45.00): $45.00 for one year of online access, for a single teacher and his/her classroom only. You will receive your access code by email within 24 hours of ordering. (If you do not receive your order within 24 hours, please check the email used by PayPal. Often, I receive orders using PayPal with old email addresses!) No refunds on electronic products, so please look over the sample pages before ordering. You must have Adobe Reader to open and read the document. If desired, you may request a free copy of Oklahoma Scrapbook to be included with this subscription.
Oklahoma History Online Subscription PLUS Oklahoma Scrapbook ($19.95) . Purchase both a one-year subscription to Oklahoma History Online PLUS a pdf copy of Oklahoma Scrapbook for only $19.95. Save $5.00. For personal use or an individual homeschool only.
If you do not receive your order within 24 hours, please check the email on file for you from PayPal.
Reviews of Oklahoma History Online:
“I used your Oklahoma History curriculum with my gifted/talented students at Peary elementary inTulsa. The unit was great and, as part of our school celebration, we added a stage presentation of famous Oklahomans with costumes, photos and a brief highlight of each by individual students. I believe it was informative as well as entertaining for the school population. The students enjoyed the study and we all learned many new things. Thanks for the opportunity to offer such a well organized unit to my GT students.”
Susan Westerfield (Teacher - Tulsa, OK)
“We love Oklahoma History this year. Thank you so much for making it available to us and for all the work you went to so that we would have so much fun learning about our great state!! ”
Charlotte Shiever (Newkirk, OK)
“Brittany has been studying OK history for the past few months. I love the curriculum we are using. Cindy Downes, a local lady, wrote it and publishes it online. It is a very reasonable price and is chock full of great information. I am learning far more about OK history than I EVER knew about NM history! Brittany is finishing up the Plains Indians this week and we will move on to Railroads, Cattledrives, Cowboys and Outlaws next week."
Kahri Lynn, (Broken Arrow, OK)
“We really are enjoying OK history online and, of course this year is a great year to do OK history. I have twin second graders (girls) and a third grade boy. We are going slow (thus our additional years subscription) but the kids ask if we can do history first every week. Thank you so much for all the work and research. My son especially enjoyed the Lewis and Clark interactive game from the Smithsonian(?). We also really love the affordability of the course and all the field trip suggestions.”
Sheree Howell (Skedee, OK)
“This is my kind of history! I have a hard time picking up a high school textbook and asking my child to use it if I know I would NOT want to read it! Textbooks too often make history dry and boring. That is not the case with Cindy&rsquos Oklahoma History Online course. I was dreading teaching OK History to my high schoolers because I hadn&rsquot found a high school curriculum that excited me and I didn&rsquot want to have to design my own. I am no longer dreading it! OK History Online has miles of information and is definitely NOT dry and boring. There are notes to go over together, then there are web links for more details, timelines to create, &ldquoreal&rdquo books (historical fiction and non-fiction) to read (with age appropriate suggestions), suggested movies, and field trip ideas (with links so if you can&rsquot go there you can still learn more about the area). One especially exciting aspect is the activities list for each lesson &ndash it is divided up by learning styles (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic). Of course that means you have even more choices to choose from and you can consider your children&rsquos learning styles (and your own) to enhance their learning experience even more! I am excited that not only is it written from a Christian perspective but each lesson includes a short Bible lesson. There&rsquos even a chapter on missionaries! Then there&rsquos even a link to OK travel coupons. For those that prefer textbooks I would still recommend OK History Online as an excellent supplement and resource. If desired there is a short quiz on each lesson for those that want something graded, but most students should have plenty in their notebook to prove they have learned Oklahoma history (and not just know the information but also be proud of their Oklahoma heritage)."
Debbie Smith (Broken Arrow, OK)
Mom of 4 blessings and home school mom of 16 years (with 13 years to go!)
“I want to thank you for putting this course together. We used the full school year to complete it. I feel that anything less would have been rushing it. There was so much more to learn than what was taught to me in public school. The only thing I remembered was having to memorize the counties for a test. I hope that my children benefit from us going in depth on Oklahoma history.”
Larina M. (Apache, OK)
“I have been thrilled with your Oklahoma Online History Course. I have been using the course since you first offered it and have completed the first five units with my fourth grade son. I had several Oklahoma History resources that I had used when I was a public school teacher, or that I had purchased to use with my older children, but none of them are as complete and easy to use. I appreciate the variety of activities provided for different learning styles. I like having all the information in one place and easily accessible. I only print off the parts I need, when I need them to teach a particular section of Oklahoma History. Having it on the computer takes up no additional in my school room, which is a huge advantage. By using high speed internet, I can have all the information in a matter of seconds. This is much faster than I could find it in a book, plus I can always find my computer. I have misplaced many books. The Index allows me to quickly find the topic I want to teach and with a click of the mouse I have located more information than I could ever find in one resource book. Another advantage to having the information available online is that it is updated as new resources are made. My son looks forward to learning about Oklahoma's history and especially likes it when we go to one of the places listed in the field trip section. He likes making the timeline, too. I have enjoyed learning more about Oklahoma. Our entire family is enjoying the benefit of all that Oklahoma has to offer as we travel to different cities to enjoy museums and National Parks. Thank you for making such an extensive Oklahoma History curriculum at such an affordable cost.”
MaryAnne B. (Oklahoma City, OK)
“I ordered your online Oklahoma history program at the beginning of the fall semester this year. Because I have a 4th grader and a 9th grader, I wanted to reduce my workload as well as my time instead of teaching two separate history courses on the same topic. I've had some outside issues this year that have kept me from using the program as faithfully as I would like however, I can honestly say that it has been a blessing. Both of my children like to do "hands-on" work and have really enjoyed that aspect of the curriculum. I like the lesson plans and appreciate that everything is laid out in an easy-to-use format. Some of the internet sites have been quite fun to play around on and are always very informative. Putting together the timeline and the coordinating pieces give my 4th grader something extra to look forward to as we begin each unit. Given the expanse of material provided, the value of this curriculum far exceeds the cost.
Both of my children thought the "Adventures at Spiro Mounds" story was wonderful. Without knowing it, you managed to connect with outside interests they have through the storyline. As the author of this story, you did a fantastic job, cleverly intertwining history and entertainment to a merry end. They would both like to see a story like this included with each unit. (Now there's an undertaking. )”
Marla H. (Shawnee, OK)
“We plan on starting this as a unit study next semester. I wanted to get everything in order and go through it all before we begin. I will be using this for my 4th graders. I have looked over the course and am extremely impressed! You have put forth so much work organizing this. This course is worth far more than I have paid. It is stocked full of information that is for so many different levels. There is more information in this course than what I received in my Oklahoma History class at the high school level. I love the fact that you put in field trip suggestions. My children love field trips and we don't run the risk of "oh, we should have went there" later on down the line. Of course, my favorite part of Oklahoma History is the Indian side of it. I have a bit of Cherokee in me, but I am truly amazed at the strength of the Indians despite all that their people have suffered. The Trail of Tears affects me more than any other topic. I was pleased to see the links posted concerning this. I love the program and am very excited to get started on it.”
Janetta B. (Yukon, OK)
“We began the Oklahoma History Online course approximately 5 months ago. I am using it for a 7th and 9th grader ages 13 an 15. My oldest child has a learning disability and has enjoyed schoolwork on the computer. I am a single mother who works part time so all of the website and activity lists really help me to prepare the lessons. Plus the course was affordable and a good investment. Thank you for putting together this course and offering it at a reasonable price. My favorite part is the learning activities for the different learning styles. Some of the reading was long and dry but the kids didn't seem to mind. Child #1 liked doing his reading on the computer and didn't like the timeline. Child #2 liked the old radio shows and disliked all the reading. Two very different opinions but overall I think the course has worked well for us. My only problem is getting it all in before my 6-month subscription is over. There has been so much to learn!”
Larina M. (Apache, OK)
How the push for statehood led a beacon of racial progress to oppression and violence
In October 1907, eleven black leaders from the “Twin Territories,” out on the frontier, traveled to Washington, D.C. in a last-ditch effort to prevent Oklahoma from becoming a state. Among them were A.G.W. Sango, a prominent real estate investor who wanted to draw more black people out West W.H. Twine, a newspaper editor whose weekly Muskogee Cimeter had been mounting a forceful opposition campaign against statehood for weeks and J. Coody Johnson, a lawyer who was a member of the Creek Nation and had served in its legislature in the town of Okmulgee. These men had carved unlikely paths to success on the outskirts of America, where the nation’s racial hierarchy had not yet fully calcified. But they feared that when Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory were combined to form a new state, Jim Crow laws would again thrust black people under the heel of white supremacy. The men needed help to prevent that from happening.
They hoped to find an ally in President Theodore Roosevelt. He was a member of their own Republican Party and had signaled that he would veto any state constitution that included Jim Crow discrimination. Over the course of a few days, the delegation met with the U.S. attorney general, the secretary of the interior, and finally, the president himself. Details of the exchange are unknown, but the group must have told Roosevelt how Oklahoma legislators planned to institutionalize segregation, including banning black people from white train cars, keeping them out of white schools and preventing them from voting. Some of the white residents of the territories wanted to do worse.
(As part of our centennial coverage of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, read about efforts to recover the massacre's long-buried history in "American Terror")
Subscribe to Smithsonian magazine now for just $12
This article is a selection from the April issue of Smithsonian magazine
These black men had no say in drafting the state constitution, and they didn’t have the numbers to vote it down at the ballot box. But they thought Roosevelt might recognize that Oklahoma did not deserve to become a warped appendage of the Deep South, when it could be so much more—when it had been so much more. The delegation left Washington feeling optimistic. “The work has been done,” Twine reported in the Cimeter, “and eagerly are results awaited.”
Black people arrived in Oklahoma long before the prospect of statehood. The first to settle in the area were enslaved by Native American tribes in the Deep South, and they made the journey in the 1830s as hunters, nurses and cooks during the brutal forced exodus known as the Trail of Tears. In Indian Territory (much of today’s eastern Oklahoma) slavery as practiced by the Creek, Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw and Seminole tribes sometimes resembled the vicious plantation systems of the South. During the Civil War, the Five Tribes sided with the Confederacy, but after the war most of the tribes, bound by new treaties with the federal government, granted formerly enslaved people citizenship, autonomy and a level of respect unheard of in the post-Reconstruction South. In the Creek and Seminole tribes, black tribal members farmed alongside Native Americans on communally owned land, served as justices in tribal governments, and acted as interpreters for tribal leaders in negotiations with the growing American empire.
J. Coody Johnson, a Creek tribal member and lawyer, fought for black civil rights. Center, Seminole Chief Halputta Micco. Right, Okcha Hacho, a member of the Seminole council. (Oklahoma Historical Society)
Black Americans with no ties to the Five Tribes journeyed to Oklahoma on their own accord, attracted by the promise of equality on the frontier. Edward McCabe, a lawyer and politician from New York, ventured to Oklahoma Territory in 1890, where he founded a town exclusively for black settlers called Langston, promising his brethren in the South a utopia where “the colored man has the same protection as his white brother.” Ida B. Wells, the crusading journalist who dedicated her life to chronicling the scourge of lynching, visited Oklahoma in April 1892 and saw “the chance [black people] had of developing manhood and womanhood in this new territory.” There was truth to these proclamations. In pre-statehood Oklahoma, it was common for white and black children to attend the same schools as late as 1900. Black politicians held public office not only in tribal governments but also in Oklahoma Territory, the modern-day western half of the state. In the early days of Tulsa, black residents owned businesses in the predominantly white downtown district and even had white employees.
Oklahoma was evolving into an unusually egalitarian place. But it was also nurturing a vision at odds with America’s increasingly rapacious capitalist ideals. In 1893, former Massachusetts senator Henry Dawes led a federal commission to compel the Five Tribes to divide their communally owned lands into individually owned allotments. Dawes considered himself a “friend of the Indians,” as white humanitarians of the era were called. But his approach to “helping” Native Americans hinged on their assimilation into white America’s cultural and economic systems. He was mystified by Native Americans’ practice of sharing resources without trying to exploit them for personal profit. “There is no selfishness, which is at the bottom of civilization,” he reported to the Board of Indian Commissioners in Washington. “Until this people consent to give up their lands. they will not make much progress.” In a series of forced negotiations beginning in 1897, Congress compelled the Five Tribes to convert more than 15 million acres of land to individual ownership. Tribal members became U.S. citizens by government mandate.
Black tribal members, who were classified as “freedmen” by the Dawes Commission, initially seemed to benefit from the allotment process. They were granted approximately two million acres of property, the largest transfer of land wealth to black people in the history of the United States. It was the -acres-and-a-mule” promise from the Civil War made real black members of the Creek Nation actually got 160 acres. But the privatization of land also made tribal members vulnerable to the predations of the free market. Though Congress initially restricted the sale of land allotments, in order to prevent con men from tricking tribal members out of their property, these regulations disappeared under pressure from land developers and railroad companies. Eventually, many Native Americans were swindled out of their land black people lost their protection first. “It will make a class of citizens here who, because of the fact that they do not understand the value of their lands, will part with them for a nominal sum,” J. Coody Johnson warned at a congressional hearing in Muskogee in 1906. Officials ignored him.
B.C. Franklin, a black Choctaw tribal member who later became a prominent Tulsa attorney, stands with associates outside his law offices in Ardmore, Oklahoma, in 1910. (Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift from Tulsa Friends and John W. and Karen R. Franklin)
Graft and exploitation became widespread practices in Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory. Given implicit permission by the federal government, white professionals continued a wide-ranging effort to dismantle black wealth in the region. Black children allotted land bubbling with oil were assigned white legal guardians, who sometimes stole tens of thousands of dollars from their wards. Real estate men tricked illiterate black people into signing predatory contracts, sometimes for under $1 per acre (less than one-sixth their average value, according to the congressional treaties). Black-owned property was often simply taken by force. White locals ran black residents out of communities like Norman, the current home of the University of Oklahoma, and established “sundown towns,” where no black person was welcome at night. None of this was done in secrecy it was spoken of casually, boastfully, even patriotically. “We did the country a service,” C.M. Bradley, a Muskogee banker who was arrested for defrauding black landowners, told a congressional panel. “If this business that I am in is a grafting game, then there is not a business in the world that is not a graft.”
Black communities in the Twin Territories also wrestled with deep internal tensions. At first, black tribal members clashed with the African Americans who immigrated later. The freedmen viewed the black interlopers as participants in the white man’s plunder and called them “state Negroes” (or sometimes a Creek word for “white man’s Negro”). The new black migrants called the black tribal members “natives.” In Boley, an all-black town populated by migrants, freedmen would gallop through the streets at night shooting out residents’ windows. In the pages of the black press, businessmen admonished freedmen for betraying the race by selling their land allotments to white men instead of black entrepreneurs. Black migrants and freedmen, in other words, did not see themselves as sharing a racial identity.
The people around them, though, increasingly did. Within the Five Tribes, earlier notions of egalitarianism were replaced with a fixation on blood quantum—a person’s percentage of “Indian blood” based on their ancestry—as a marker of tribal legitimacy. (Creek descendants of slaves are still fighting today for their tribal citizenship to be acknowledged in both tribal and U.S. courts.) Meanwhile, as Jim Crow crept westward across the prairies, new laws excluded blacks from white schools. Black political aspirations dimmed as many Republicans began advocating Jim Crow policies in an effort to secure white votes. Sundown towns spread. Lynchings of black people became more common. “We are vilified and abused by the Guthrie lily-whites until election time draws near and then the crack of the whip is heard,” a black Republican named C.H. Tandy said during this period. “I have talked to all my brethren and they are mad. We won’t stand it any longer.”
In 1907 two separate entities were joined to create the 46th state, outlined above. Native Americans largely opposed the move as encroachment: Indian Territory had been set aside for the Five Tribes, forcibly relocated decades earlier during the Trail of Tears. (Library of Congress)
The battle over Oklahoma’s constitution represented a bellwether for how legally sanctioned racism would be tolerated in the United States at the dawn of a new century. Since the 1890s, settlers in the Twin Territories had advocated statehood to legitimize their encroachment on land that wasn’t theirs. As the white population of the region grew, the political power of competing groups waned. In 1905, Congress ignored an effort by the Five Tribes to get Indian Territory accepted into the Union as a state on its own, governed by Native Americans. The next year, when white leaders assembled a constitutional convention with congressional approval, black people were largely shut out of the drafting of the document. Statehood would cement white political power as the land allotment process had guaranteed white economic power.
William H. Murray, the Democratic delegate who was elected president of the constitutional convention, summed up the racial philosophy of the Twin Territories’ white leaders in his inaugural convention speech: “As a rule [Negroes] are failures as lawyers, doctors, and in other professions. He must be taught in the line of his own sphere, as porters, bootblacks, and barbers and many lines of agriculture, horticulture and mechanics in which he is an adept, but it is an entirely false notion that the negro can rise to the equal of a white man.”
Murray called for separate schools, separate train cars and a ban on interracial marriage. The convention hall itself had a segregated gallery for black onlookers. But black leaders refused to cede their civil rights. While the mostly white convention was happening in Guthrie, in December 1906, black residents organized a competing convention in Muskogee. They declared the constitution “a disgrace to our western civilization . . . that would cause endless strife, racial discord, tumult and race disturbances.” In April 1907, three hundred African Americans, including J. Coody Johnson, met at the Oklahoma City courthouse to convene the Negro Protective League, a black advocacy group. They galvanized opposition to the constitution in every town and hamlet, organizing petitions and mailing out thousands of letters to black citizens directing them to vote against its ratification. “Help us defeat a constitution that lays the foundation for the disfranchisement of our people in the new state and. measures calculated to humiliate and degrade the whole race,” black residents demanded in a petition to state Republican leaders. It failed.
William Murray, an anti-corporate crusader and folksy future governor, was also a vehement segregationist. He ensured that the Oklahoma constitution discriminated against African Americans. (Library of Congress)
In September 1907, the constitution was put to a public vote, and passed with 71 percent approval. This is what led the delegation of black leaders to travel to the nation’s capital the following month. They hoped President Roosevelt would block the state’s admission to the Union because of the self-evident racism of its proposed government. The conditions for accepting Oklahoma into the Union were already clear: In the 1906 federal law allowing for Oklahoma’s statehood, Congress required the new state’s constitution to “make no distinction in civil or political rights on account of race or color.” But Murray and other convention delegates were careful to leave out certain egregious discriminatory provisions. They understood how to follow the letter of the law while trampling over the spirit of it.
By the time the black leaders were standing face to face with Roosevelt, he had apparently already made up his mind.
On November 16, 1907, the president signed the proclamation turning Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory into the 46th U.S. state, Oklahoma. Despite Roosevelt’s professed misgivings about admitting a state that discriminated against a portion of its citizens, the constitution itself enshrined the segregation of schools. With the president’s signature secured, state leaders moved aggressively to enact the rest of their Jim Crow agenda. The very first law passed by the state legislature segregated train cars. Next, the legislature passed the so-called “grandfather clause,” which circumvented federal voter rights protections by instituting a literacy test on any person whose ancestors had not been allowed to vote before 1866. Naturally, that included all descendants of slaves. Ultimately, the legislature would segregate nearly every aspect of public life—hospitals, cemeteries, even phone booths. Oklahoma’s formal and fully legalized racism was actually more rigid than that in much of the Deep South, where Jim Crow was sometimes upheld by custom and violence rather than legal mandate. In the South, segregation emerged from the vestiges of slavery and failed Reconstruction in Oklahoma, it was erected statute by statute.
Ironically, at the time, Oklahoma’s state constitution was hailed as a victory for the progressive movement. William Murray, the constitutional convention president and future Oklahoma governor, earned the folksy nickname “Alfalfa Bill,” and was seen as an anti-corporate crusader in an age of oppressive monopolies. The constitution allowed for municipal ownership of utilities, increased taxes on corporations, made many more public offices subject to democratic elections, and set train fares at the affordable rate of 2 cents per mile. The progressive magazine the Nation declared that Oklahoma’s constitution had come “nearer than any other document in existence to expressing the ideas and aspirations of the day.”
Edward McCabe settled in Oklahoma Territory in 1890, where he founded the all-black town of Langston, helped form its namesake university and launched a newspaper to promote black migration. (Science History Images / Alamy Stock Photo)
But this view of “progress” measured success only by how much it benefited white people. And it led to broader disenfranchisement when those in charge perceived threats to their power. An early push at the convention to expand suffrage to women, for example, failed when delegates realized that black women were likely to vote in larger numbers than white ones.
And the constitution had another profound consequence that would alter the demographic landscape of the new state. It erased the line between “freedmen” and “state Negroes” once and for all. The document stipulated that laws governing “colored” people would apply only to those of African descent. “The term ‘white race,’ shall include all other persons,” it stated. In other words, segregation measures would apply to black migrants and black tribal members, but not to Native Americans.
With all black people in Oklahoma now grouped together, a new and more unified black identity began to emerge. It was represented most vividly in a neighborhood on the northern edge of Tulsa, in what had been Indian Territory, where black people learned to be collaborative, prosperous and defiant. The place was called Greenwood.
O.W. and Emma Gurley arrived in Tulsa from Perry, Oklahoma Territory, in 1905, on the eve of a radical transformation. The city, which occupied land long owned by the Creek Nation, had recently been incorporated by white developers in spite of opposition by Creek leaders. White newcomers were rapidly expanding neighborhoods south of the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway. The Gurleys decided to settle north, and opened the People’s Grocery Store on a patch of low-lying undeveloped land. Just a few months after their store opened—“The Up-to-Date Grocer for the Choicest Meats, Groceries, Country Produce”—a geyser of oil erupted into the sky just south of Tulsa. The discovery of the massive reservoir, which came to be known as the Glenn Pool, transformed the tiny frontier outpost into one of the fastest-growing locales in the United States. Boosters called it the “Oil Capital of the World” and “The Magic City.”
Oil, however, played a secondary role in the black community’s success. Black laborers were systematically excluded from participating directly in the oil boom in 1920, there were nearly 20,000 white oil well workers, compared with only about 100 black ones. But black laborers and residents did benefit from the wealth that transformed Tulsa, becoming cooks, porters and domestic servants.
And from the seed of People’s Grocery Store an entrepreneurial class took root on Greenwood Avenue. Robert E. Johnson ran a pawnshop and shoe store. James Cherry was a plumber, and later, the owner of a popular billiards hall. William Madden mended suits and dresses in the tailor shop he set up in his own home. An African American Episcopal church sprouted up just north of these businesses, and a Baptist church was opened just east. Homes fanned out around all the enterprises.
Statehood was a cause for celebration for most white Oklahomans. In Hollis, a town in the state’s southwest corner, residents commemorate admission to the Union, 114 years ago. (Courtesy Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries, William Hollis no. 17)
Among the most prominent early entrepreneurs was J.B. Stradford, a “state Negro” from Kentucky who had arrived in Tulsa before statehood. As a real estate agent, Stradford helped nurture the nascent neighborhood into a thriving black enclave filled with regal hotels, lively theaters and elegant clothing stores. He held a deep-seated belief that black people would find the most success working independently of white people and pooling their resources. “We find among the white people that they are not only prosperous individually but also collectively,” he said in a 1914 address to Greenwood entrepreneurs. “The white man has put his money together for the purpose of employing, elevating, and giving to those who are deserving a chance to arrive at prominence in the race of opportunities.”
Greenwood’s leaders saw their fight for basic civil rights and economic prosperity as deeply linked. They married Booker T. Washington’s calls for economic uplift with W.E.B. Du Bois’ demands for social equality. “I came not to Tulsa as many came, lured by the dream of making money and bettering myself in the financial world,” wrote Mary E. Jones Parrish, a stenographer and journalist from Rochester, New York. “But because of the wonderful co-operation I observed among our people.”
For Greenwood’s many accomplished businesswomen, political activism, community building and an entrepreneurial spirit were intertwined. Loula Williams’ Dreamland Theater hosted vaudeville acts and boxing bouts, but it also served as a headquarters for community leaders who worked to challenge the legal encroachments of Jim Crow. Carlie Goodwin managed a slate of real estate properties along with her husband, J.H. she also led a protest at the local high school when teachers tried to exploit black students’ labor by having them wash white people’s clothes. Mabel Little, a hairdresser who worked as a sales agent for Madam C.J. Walker, the black cosmetics titan, owned her own salon on Greenwood Avenue and started a professional organization for local beauticians.
Black tribal members also played a crucial role in Greenwood. B.C. Franklin, a member of the Choctaw tribe, opened a law practice that would help protect black property rights after the violent white-led massacre that destroyed much of the neighborhood in 1921. (Franklin’s son, John Hope Franklin, became the distinguished scholar of African American history his grandson, John W. Franklin, was a longtime senior staff member at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.) Wealthy tribal members who had oil-producing wells on their allotments injected money back into the community. A.J. Smitherman, the fiery editor of the Tulsa Star, was not a freedman himself, but he formed a protective league meant to stop unscrupulous white lawyers from gaining guardianship over freedmen children.
But Oklahoma’s white establishment stymied every effort by the state’s black citizens to improve their station. Stradford filed a lawsuit against the Midland Valley Railroad after being forced to sit in a Jim Crow car he lost the case in the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Hundreds of black Tulsans fought a local ordinance that prevented them from moving onto any block that was mostly white. The measure remained on the books. The two white-owned newspapers, the Tulsa Tribune and the Tulsa World, reported every crime they could uncover in the neighborhood they sometimes called “N-----town,” and ignored most black success stories.
And then there was the violence. Black people had been navigating white violence for centuries, but World War I marked a change in how African Americans viewed their own citizenship. After thousands of black soldiers were shipped overseas to fight for their country and experienced life outside Jim Crow, black writers and activists began to call for resistance against white incursions at home. In 1919, during a bloody period that came to be called the “Red Summer,” race riots erupted in more than 30 American cities, from Omaha, Nebraska, to Washington, D.C. In Elaine, Arkansas, a few hundred miles from Tulsa, an estimated 200 black people were killed by white vigilantes who falsely believed that black sharecroppers were staging a violent uprising.
Greenwood residents learned about such violence with growing trepidation, yet the neighborhood was thriving. By 1920, J.B. Stradford had opened his Stradford Hotel, a three-story, 68-room structure, at the time the largest black-owned and operated hotel in the country. The Dreamland Theater was on its way to becoming an empire, expanding to include venues in Muskogee and Okmulgee. Greenwood boasted a hospital, two theaters, a public library, at least a dozen churches, three fraternal lodges, and a rotating cast of restaurants, hairdressers and corner dives, serving about 11,000 people.
A memorial to Tulsa massacre victims outside the Greenwood Cultural Center, which has long worked to preserve the district’s history. (Zora J Murff)
On May 30, 1920, a year and a day before Greenwood began to burn, a man named LeRoy Bundy went to speak at the First Baptist Church, just off Greenwood Avenue. Three years earlier, Bundy had survived a riot in East St. Louis, Illinois, and had served time in prison afterward for supposedly orchestrating an attack on police officers. He appealed and the verdict was overturned. Bundy came to talk about his experiences as a witness to the destruction. Forty-eight people had been killed, more than 240 buildings destroyed. It would have been difficult for Greenwood’s residents, half a century removed from the Civil War, to imagine urban destruction in America on a larger scale.
In retrospect Bundy’s visit appears as a warning. Three months later, two men were lynched in Oklahoma in a single weekend: a white man named Roy Belton in Tulsa, and a black man named Claude Chandler in Oklahoma City. Tulsa County Sheriff James Woolley called the mob attack under his watch “more beneficial than a death sentence pronounced by the courts.” The Tulsa World called the lynching a “righteous protest.” Only A.J. Smitherman and his Tulsa Star seemed to intuit how calamitous the collapse of the rule of law would be for black people. “There is no crime, however atrocious, that justifies mob violence,” he wrote in a letter to Oklahoma Gov. James B.A. Robertson.
Smitherman was a staunch advocate for a muscular form of black self-defense. He chastised black residents in Oklahoma City for failing to take up arms to protect Claude Chandler. But, like the men who had ventured to Washington, D.C. to lobby President Roosevelt 13 years earlier, he believed that black people’s best hope for safety and success came in forcing the country to live up to its own stated promises. Smitherman and the other Greenwood residents bore the burden of living in two Americas at once: the idealized land of freedom and opportunity and also a land of brutal discrimination and violent suppression.
Smitherman’s very name—Andrew Jackson—carried the weight of the contradiction. It was President Jackson who first banished Native American tribes and the black people they enslaved to Oklahoma in service to the interests of white settlers. But Smitherman could articulate better than most what it meant to be a patriot living outside the prescribed boundaries of patriotism: “[The American Negro] is not a real part and parcel of the great American family,” he wrote. “Like a bastard child he is cast off, he is subjected to injustice and insult, he is given only the menial tasks to perform. He is not wanted but is needed. He is both used and abused. He is in the land of the free but is not free. He is despised and rejected [by] his brothers in white. But he is an American nevertheless.”
Greenwood’s residents, deprived of justice long before their neighborhood was burned to the ground, continuously called for their city and their country to honor its ideals and its plainly written laws. That demand resounded before the events of 1921, and it continues to echo long afterward.
Oklahoma - HISTORY
Before Europeans arrived in Oklahoma, Native American tribes lived throughout the land. These tribes included the Ute, Comanche, Osage, Quapaw, Wichita, and the Caddo. The Caddo and the Wichita lived in the southern part of the state and had similar customs and history. The Quapaw and the Osage lived in the eastern part of the state and spoke a similar language. They grew corn and hunted buffalo. The Comanche and the Ute were pure hunters who lived mostly off of buffalo. They followed the buffalo herds and lived in portable homes called teepees.
Bison on the Tallgrass Prairie Nature Preserve
The first European to arrive in Oklahoma was Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1541. Like most Spanish explorers he was searching for gold, but did not find any in Oklahoma. Over one hundred years later, French explorer Robert de La Salle arrived. He claimed the land for the French who then established fur trading posts along the rivers in the region.
In 1803, the United States bought a large region of land west of the Mississippi River from the French for $15 million. It was called the Louisiana Purchase and included Oklahoma. Explorers such as Zebulon Pike and Captain Richard Sparks were sent out by President Thomas Jefferson to map out the new territory. In 1819, Oklahoma became part of the Arkansas Territory.
Indian Territory and the Trail of Tears
In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act requiring the Indian tribes in the Southeast to give up their land and move to the west. Oklahoma was set aside as Indian Territory. Many tribes moved to the new territory including the Creek, Chickasaw, Seminole, Choctaw, and Cherokee. Some tribes were forced to march to the new territory under harsh conditions. When the Cherokee were forced to march from the Southeast to Oklahoma in 1838, around 4,000 Cherokee died along the way. Today, this march is called the Trail of Tears.
Oklahoma Land Rush by Unknown
After the Civil War, Oklahoma became part of the American frontier. Cattle ranchers used Indian lands to graze their cattle. It was a land of cowboys and Indians.
People racing to claim new land
In the late 1800s large sections of Oklahoma were unoccupied. Despite making promises to the Indian tribes that the land was theirs, the United States decided to allow settlers into the land. In 1889, a large section of 2 million acres was opened to the public. Homesteaders had to wait on the border and then "rush" in to grab their land when a gun was shot. Some people cheated and snuck in early. These people were called "sooners" and gave the state its nickname.
In 1890, Oklahoma was split into the Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory. The leaders of the Indians wanted to make their own state called Sequoyah. They applied for statehood in 1905. However, Congress rejected their application and instead reunited Oklahoma into a single state. Oklahoma became the 46th state on November 6, 1907. The original capital city was Guthrie. The capital was moved to Oklahoma City in 1910.
Oklahoma City by Soonerfever
Birthdays 1 - 100 of 262
- Alice Brown Davis, first female Principal Chief of the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma (1922-35), born in Park Hill, Indian Territory (d. 1935) Francis Kelley, Catholic Bishop of Oklahoma (d. 1948)
1879-11-04 Will Rogers, American humorist and actor (Judge Priest), born in Oologah, Oklahoma (d. 1935)
1887-05-28 Jim Thorpe, American all-round athlete (Olympic gold decathlon, pentathlon 1912 College & Pro Football Hall of Fame), born in Indian Territory, Oklahoma (d. 1953)
- Almira Sessions, American actress (Oklahoma Annie), born in Washington, D.C. (d. 1974) Julian Rivero, American actor (Son of Oklahoma, Via Pony Express), born in San Francisco, California (d. 1976) Judith Lowry, American actress (The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds), born in Fort Sill, Oklahoma (d. 1976) Charlotte Greenwood, American actress (Oklahoma, Moon over Miami), born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (d. 1978) Roy Harris, American composer (When Johnny Comes Marching Home: An American Overture), born near Chandler, Oklahoma (d. 1979) Josie Sedgwick, American actress (The Best Man, Queen of the Round-Up), born in Galveston, Texas (d. 1973) Steve Owen, American Pro Football Hall of Fame tackle (NY Giants) and coach (NFL C'ship 1927, 34, 38 NY Giants), born in Cleo Springs, Oklahoma (d. 1964) Chester Gould, American cartoonist (Dick Tracy), born in Pawnee, Oklahoma (d. 1985) John Forest "Fuzzy" Knight, American actor (Oklahoma Annie, Cowby & the Lady), born in Fairmont, West Virginia (d. 1976) Glenda Farrell, American actress (Golddiggers of 1935), born in Enid, Oklahoma (d. 1971) Clarence Nash, American voice actor (Donald Duck), born in Watonga, Oklahoma (d. 1985) Grant Withers, American actor (Rio Grande, Oklahoma, Annie), born in Pueblo, Colorado (d. 1959) Agnes De Mille, American dancer and choreographer (Oklahoma), born in NYC, New York (d. 1993) Bob Johnson, American baseball player, born in Pryor, Oklahoma (d. 1982) Bruce Drake, American Basketball Hall of Fame coach (University of Oklahoma 1938-55, 200-181), born in The Gentry, Texas (d. 1983) Jim Thompson, American author (The Killer Inside Me), born in Anadarko, Oklahoma (d. 1977) George James, American jazz saxophonist, born in Boggs, Oklahoma (d. 1995) Iron Eyes Cody [Espera Oscar de Corti], Italian-American actor (Keep America Beautiful, Black Gold, Ernest Goes to Camp), born in Tulsa, Oklahoma (d. 1999) Cal Tinney, American comedian and actor (The Missouri Traveler, Stop Me If You Heard This One), born in Pontotoc County, Oklahoma (d. 1993) Lee Wiley, American jazz singer (Night in Manhattan), born in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma (d. 1975) Rufus "Rufe" Davis, American actor (Cocoanut Grove, Trail Blazers, Gangs of Sonora), born in Vinson, Oklahoma (d. 1974) Loyd Sigmon, American amateur ("ham") radio broadcastor, born in Stigler, Oklahoma (d. 2004) Van Heflin [Emmett Evan Heflin Jr], American actor (Great Adventure, Madame Bovary), born in Walters, Oklahoma (d. 1971) Marshall Royal, American jazz alto saxophonist and clarinetist (Count Basie Orchestra), born in Sapulpa, Oklahoma (d. 1995) Sally Kirkland, American fashion editor (Vogue magazine) and manager (Lord & Taylor), born in El Reno, Canadian County, Oklahoma (d. 1989) [Woodrow Wilson] Woody Guthrie, American folk singer (This Land Is Your Land), born in Okemah, Oklahoma (d. 1967) Donald "Don" Porter, American actor (Gidget, The Ann Sothern Show), born in Miami, Oklahoma (d. 1997) Earl Bostic, American jazz alto saxophonist (Flamingo, Temptation), born in Tulsa, Oklahoma (d. 1965) Ralph Blane [Hunsecker], American songwriter (Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, The Trolley Song), born in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (d. 1995) Gail Kubik, American composer (Gerald McBoing Boing), born in South Coffeyville, Oklahoma (d. 1984) John Berryman, American poet (The Dream Songs), born in McAlester, Oklahoma (d. 1972) Ken Carson, American singer (Garry Moore Show), born in Coalgate, Oklahoma Jay McShann, American jazz pianist & bandleader, born in Muskogee, Oklahoma (d. 2006) Tommy Bolt, American golfer (US Open 1958), born in Haworth, Oklahoma (d. 2008) Bud Wilkinson, American college football coach (Oklahoma), born in Minneapolis, Minnesota (d. 1994) Joe Liggins, American pianist and vocalist (The Honeydripper), born in Seminole, Oklahoma (d. 1987) Douglas Edwards, American newscaster (CBS Evening News, FYI), born in Alda, Oklahoma (1990) Oral Roberts, American Televangelist, founder Oral Roberts College, born in Pontotoc County Oklahoma (d. 2009)
1918-03-29 Sam Walton, American businessman (founder and CEO of Walmart and Sam's Club), born in Kingfisher, Oklahoma (d. 1992)
Three of the country’s large physiographic regions extend into or across the state. The Interior Highlands (Ozark Plateaus and Ouachita provinces) cover part of eastern Oklahoma the Atlantic Plain (Coastal Plain provinces), extending through Texas to the Gulf of Mexico, is in the southeast and the Interior Plains, including the Central Lowland and Great Plains provinces, cover the remainder. Ten subregions lie within Oklahoma. Three are mountainous and in the south—the Ouachita, Arbuckle, and Wichita mountains—and are characterized by rough topography and thin soils lumbering, grazing, some farming, and mining are their principal economic activities, although these are being surpassed by recreation and tourism. The northeastern Ozark Plateaus province, most of which lies in Missouri and Arkansas, has rough terrain and small fields devoted primarily to growing fruits and vegetables. Once important as a lead and zinc producer, the plateau region has a Cherokee heritage and beautiful rivers that make it a major recreation and tourist attraction.
The Sandstone Hills, a wide band stretching through the east-central portion of the state between the Red River and the Kansas border, lacks timber and is a poor site for agriculture but is important for its oil, gas, and coal deposits. The region is sprinkled with deserted or dying oil-boom towns, with Tulsa a prosperous exception. The sparsely populated Gypsum Hills section of western Oklahoma is devoted largely to grazing and farming, with large wheat acreages in the north and smaller cotton farms in the south.
The remaining four subregions are flat to rolling and are agricultural. The Red River Plains, once the area of the best farmlands in the state, has been depleted by cotton cultivation. Its agriculture has been diversified by the addition of peanuts (groundnuts), melons, and vegetables grown on medium-sized plots. Its population is relatively dense, with many small towns serving as trade centres. The Prairie Plains region in the northeast is marked by grazing in its rougher portions and vegetable farms in the river valleys. Oil and gas fields are common, as is strip-mining for coal. It contains a number of middle-sized towns, some of which have small manufacturing plants. The Red Beds Plains constitute the largest of Oklahoma’s 10 subregions, running through the middle of the state. Both Oklahoma’s greatest population density and most of its larger towns are located there oil provides much of the income. Although cotton rules in the south and wheat in the north, corn (maize), watermelons, sorghum, alfalfa, vegetables, and livestock are common. The sparsely populated High Plains region, encompassing the Panhandle and a small adjacent portion of northwestern Oklahoma, offers a marked contrast. With the highest elevation and the least moisture, the eastern portion of this region is dominated by wheat and natural gas production and the western by grazing.
Western expansion reached Oklahoma in the late 1800’s in a way that was unprecedented in the history of the United States. In 1889, a choice portion of Indian Territory in Oklahoma was opened to white settlement, and the early settlers in Oklahoma engaged in various “land runs” throughout the territory. At this point in history, Oklahoma was still mostly void of all things considered civilized. The only visible elements of civilization was a railroad line that crossed the territory, and water towers and other requirements for steam rail operation were located at intervals along the tracks that connected Arkansas and Texas. Beyond that, early pioneers to Oklahoma Territory had to make do with what they could bring or build on their own.
The first settlers arrived in their covered wagons with very few necessities and no luxuries of life. They usually brought enough grain with them to plant crops. Wild turkeys, geese, deer, elk and prairie chickens were plentiful so meat was provided in abundance.
"Staking a site": Oklahoma land rush in 1889. Guthrie, Oklahoma
A typical Wagon Train. (My great grandmother used to tell me stories about this when I was a kid. She remembered her parents riding in a wagon train.)
History and Historical Sites
From Indian heritage and Viking explorers to land runs and oil booms, Oklahoma has a history unlike any other state. Historical sites throughout the State honor Oklahoma's original residents, settlers and a wide variety of history making people and events.
Connect with the past at a living history event, while you watch re-enactments on Civil War battlefields, learn traditional crafts or meet re-enactors playing fur traders who lived in Oklahoma long before settlers moved in. Attend a powwow to experience the pageantry and fellowship among our Native peoples as they gather to celebrate traditions and hold dance competitions.
Visit the Washita Battlefield National Monument to learn the history surrounding Custer's surprise attack on the peaceful Southern Cheyenne village of Chief Black Kettle and then walk along the shores of the Washita River where the massacre took place. Trek to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center to discover the rich history of the famous cattle trail that spanned Oklahoma, or see the last standing original sod house on the prairies of Oklahoma and learn more about pioneer life at the Sod House Museum.
From oil barons to cowboys, the rich heritage of Oklahoma offers one fascinating journey after another for history buffs.
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