Tullahassee is one of the few remaing black towns Oklahoma, located in Wagoner County, Oklahoma. This once vibrant town was a community that was residence to many Creek Freedmen, and was once a thriving community.
One of the most memorable images of life in Indian Territory, can found from the image of the schools that were established for Freedmen of the Five Tribes. Education was an important goal of many of the former slaves and their children, and much effort was put into obtaining qualified teachers who would provide new avenues for the next generation.
Schools such as the Tullahassee Manual Labor School began to appear, and fortunately it was one of the schools from which a few images have survived. This school originated as a school for Creek Indians in the 1850s. It existed at the confluence of the Arkansas and Verdigris Rivers. After destruction by fire, the school was rebuilt and established as a school for African Creeks in the 1880s. For many years, it was the only school that offered schooling beyond the 8th grade for Freedmen.
After the tribes were dissolved in 1906 and statehood came in 1907, the school was under control of the BIA till 1914. [Source: Gary Zellar, African Creeks: Estelvste and the Creek Nation (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007)]
In 1916, the AME church established Flipper Davis College which was the only private institution for African Americans in the state, and it occupied the building of Tullahassee Manual Labor School until the doors closed in 1935. The school operated as a Junior College under the direction of Bishop James M. Connor. During its years of operation it was the only African American Junior College in the region. Hopefully someday images from the junior college years will surface.
In the years in which the photo above was taken, the board consisted of L. W. Manual who was Superintendant, H.C. Reid, and Sugar George, a well known leader in the Creek Nation and leader in the Creek Freedman community. In 1995 while looking for data on Sugar George, I was able to locate a document from the Tullahasse school, reflecting the expenses accrued at the school and the signatures of the persons who ran the school.
These documents represent a budget sheet showing school expenses, and reflects the signatures of the men on the board.
Budget Sheet of Tullahassee Manual Labor School 1891
submitted to the Educational board of the Muscogee Creek Nation