Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How Many Oklahoma Freedmen Were There?

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".

(Source: same as above.)

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

TOTAL:                      17050

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!


EG said...

Often I am asked the very same questioned...how many freedmen were there? Its a very complex question with no simple answer unless you ask for a specific year in questioned....slaves and free people of Color before the Civil War, freedmen just after the Civil War who made claimed to citizenship? Which tribe? Freedmen during the reconstruction years? Freedmen during the time of the Dawes commission and would this include the new born and minor accepted under the Act of April 26th...or would it go deeper and include Creek Nationals for example who were not considered freedmen under Act of April 26th found under the JW Dunn roll of 1866, but cast on the by blood rolls...a very complex question, unless you just want a guesstimate of all Black folks in Indian Territory wither classified as Indian or Freedmen....Eli Grayson

EG said...

Sorry one other thing...JW Mackey, Indian Agent to Indian Territory just after the Civil War in his report to Washington did say on May 19th, 1866 that there were some 10 to 12 thousand Negroes in the Five Nations....Eli

Unknown said...

My ancestors were Black Indians with the surname Hughley.

Most did not remove to Indian territory but remained in Chambers county and Tallapoosa county Alabama.

Kenneth Burton

Cheryell said...

Thanks to the Freedmen rolls, we are able to go further back in history. Our family was owned by Katie Grayson in Mayes County, OK.

Cheryell said...

If anyone has information about the following families, please share: Ross, Harlin, Grayson (former owner Katie Grayson), and a Nave who fathered two children of Lorena Ross between 1900-1910. I'm also interested in info about Sugar George. His name was mentioned in an application.