I have often wondered why there is not much in depth information about Oklahoma's amazing African American past. On many websites, one sees the African American history beginning with the attack upon Greenwood in Tulsa in 1921. However--black history did not begin with the attack in Tulsa. African American presence is well documented in the mid-1800s but still not spoken of widely. As early as the Indian Removal when Choctaws and Cherokees brought slaves with them, there was a black presence on the soil of what is now Oklahoma.
Someone asked me recently if the numbers of Freedmen were so small, if that would explain why there is so little information. I have become interested in the size of the population also, and recently ran into an article that appeared in the Indian Advocate in 1900 that addressed the size of the population, in Indian Territory.
Included in the numbers were the numbers of Freedmen from the Five Civilized Tribes. The population of Freedmen included in the article represented 4 of the 5 tribes. (Seminoles were reported as one general population and did not break out the Freedmen in their count.) But of the total population was 314,000 from the tribes, and more than 17000 were classified as "Freedmen".
The total numbers of the Indian Tribal Freedmen was notable, numbering over 17,000.
The numbers are approximate, and were rounded off, but they are still statistically significant:
Cherokee Freedmen: 4000
Creek Freedmen: 5000
Choctaw Freedmen: 4150
Chickasaw Freedmen: 4500
With over 17000 people there are many aspects of the people's lives that can be studied and examined by historians and scholars of many disciplines. There are several dozen black towns, hundreds of families, numerous schools, churches, cemeteries, newspapers, societies & associations that will reflect amazing histories still to be told of the Oklahoma Freedmen.
Hopefully more blogs, preservation and heritage associations, books and articles will be shared by those who are students of all of Oklahoma's history. Among the Freedmen were tribal leaders such as Stick Ross, George Vann, Henry Cutchlow, Sugar George, Harry Island, Cow Tom, Bettie Ligon, and so many more.
There are still stories to tell and I hope that more descendants of freedmen will tell their stories. Their legacy extends beyond the Dawes rolls, and their history predates even their freedom.
Let us all strive to tell all of Oklahoma's story!