I’ve Been Here All the While: Black Freedom on Native Land

Univ. of Pennsylvania. Jun. 2021. 224p. ISBN 9780812253030. $34.95. HIST
Historian Roberts draws on her family history, oral accounts, government records, and other sources to discover a hidden history of the land that was once Indian Territory and eventually became the U.S. state of Oklahoma. She explores the histories of the people inhabiting the area, including members of the Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole nations; white settlers; Black people who were enslaved by any of the above groups; and Black Americans who had been freed from slavery. In this book, Roberts recasts the histories of Indian removal, slavery, emancipation, Reconstruction, and the years after reconstruction, and emphasizes the importance of place in shaping enslaved and free societies and cultural adaptations. She masterfully untangles the many complicated arrangements in the U.S. government’s settlement of Indian Territory and its imposition of racial categories and restrictions that, with its statehood in 1907, made Oklahoma a Southern state. Roberts ends her account with a brief history of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.
VERDICT Roberts’s original book will cause historians to reexamine generalities about Indigenous and Black people in Oklahoma and their empowerment and identity; and to extend the story of Reconstruction and its aftermath westward in time and space
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