African Ancestry in Oklahoma
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  • HISTORY & BACKGROUND

    The history of African-Americans in Oklahoma is a story unlike any to be found in the United states. African-Americans initially came to this region on the "Trail of Tears," as Indian slaves. Later, they came as cowboys, settlers, gunfighters, and farmers. By statehood in 1907, they outnumbered both Indians and first and second generation Europeans. They created more all-black towns in Oklahoma than in the rest of the country put together, produced some of the country's greatest jazz musicians, and led some of the nation's greatest civil rights battles. ;

    African-Americans One of the great omissions in history books was the role African-American soldiers played in the Civil War. Blacks first fought alongside whites during the Battle of Honey Springs, an engagement fought on July 17, 1863 on a small battlefield outside present-day Muskogee.

    Black troops held the Union's center line in that battle, breaking the Confederate's center and giving the Union a critical win that secured both the Arkansas River and the Texas Road (the region's major transportation routes). This ensured the Union a solid foothold in Indian Territory -- one it never relinquished. In that same battle, blacks also fought in two other units------the Kansas Colored, and the Indian Home Guards. The Kansas Colored would later be designated as part of the U.S. Colored Troops, but the Indian Home Guards, were the 3 Union Native American regiments. The remaining Native American regiments such as the Choctaw Mounted Rifles faught with, and for, the Confederacy.

    A year after the Civil War ended in 1865, Congress passed a bill providing provisions for black troops, what became the 9th and 10th cavalry. The 10th went on to be headquartered at Fort Gibson; the 9th was stationed at Fort Sill. Black soldiers built Oklahoma forts, fought bandits, cattle thieves, and Mexican revolutionaries (including Pancho Villa), and policed borders during the land runs. They also played a critical role in the Indian Wars of the late 1800s, earning the respect of Native Americans who gave them the name "Buffalo Soldiers."

    After the Civil War, Freedmen and new African-American settlers in Oklahoma could vote, study, and move about with relative freedom. Pamphlets distributed throughout the South urged African-Americans to join land runs in Indian Territory, to create black businesses, black cities, and perhaps even the first black state. Pamphlets promising a black paradise in Oklahoma lured tens of thousands of former slaves from the South. In the late 1800s the status of the Indian Freedmen was often discussed, and 20,000 Africans were enrolled on the Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes, through the Dawes Commission thus receiving land in their respective nations. The Dawes Commission also brought about the dissolution of the Five nations, and led to eventual statehood.

    In 1907, Oklahoma joined the United States, and brought with itself, the Jim Crow laws of the Deep South. The state was then thrown into the throw of Deep South culture, erasing the powers enjoyed by thousands of Africans for the 4 previous decades. Oklahoma would later undergo race riots, and struggles for freedom mirrored throughout the Deep South however, its original culture and history are now being pursued in depth by historians and genealogists. Eventually 27 black towns grew to encompass 10 percent of Indian Territory's population. Today many of Oklahoma's original black towns and districts are gone, but those that remain still host rodeos, Juneteenth celebrations,community reunions,economic and educational growth opportunities.
     



    STATE & LOCAL RESOURCES

    Oklahoma African American Genealogy Links:

    Tulsa Historical Society concerning the 1921 Race Riot
    Oklahoma Historical Society
    For land,vital,tax and other records resources
    Oklahoma State Archives
    Oklahoma Dept of Libraries

    Oklahoma African-American Historical Links

    African-American lawmen of Oklahoma early days (with Art Burton)
    Biography of Cowboy Bill Pickett (originator of the rodeo sport of BullDogging)
    Oklahoma Juneteenth events
    Angela Walton-Raji's African-Native American homepage
    History of Ft. Sill,OK (original was built by "Buffalo Soldiers")
    The Aframerindian Slave narratives
    The Oklahoma Indian pioneer narratives



    QUERIES, SURNAMES & LOOKUPS

    AfriGeneas Surnames Database
    Golden Gates Genealogy Forum surnames database
    African Ancestored Resource Area
    USGenweb-OK states page (hosted by Rootsweb)

    An AfriGeneas

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    Placed online: 9 Sep 1999 | Updated: 10 March 2002
    Questions or comments: Robert E. Broome,Sr.
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