Thursday, May 27, 2010

Remembering Tullahassee Manual School, and Flipper-Davis College

Image of Tullahassee Manual Labor School 1891
(Courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society)

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

Signatures of board members
(L. K. Manuel, H.C. Reid, Sugar George)

Unfortunately there are not remnants of the school anymore, and very little on the town of Tullahassee Oklahoma landscape reflects the unique history of this school and those who attended it. 

Within the town of Tullahassee, stands, there stands only 1 original building from the era of the Tullahasse School and Fliiper Davis College---the A.J. Mason Building. This was a general store built by the Mason brothers. They owned a cotton gin in the region and extensive farm land. Many would bring their cotton crop to the Masons for it to be ginned and would shop in the store for supplies while their cotton was being ginned. Today the Mason General Store building is preserved as an historic landmark.

A. J. Mason Bldg. Tullahassee, Oklahoma

Glimpses of Oklahoma's African-Native past partially lie in the landmarks.  Many have already disappeared such as Oak Hill Academy, in Idabel, the Cherokee Nation Colored High School, that was once in Double Spring, and Dawes Academy in Ardmore.

My goal is to work so that this history can be be preserved, and my hope is that more descendants of these communities will work to find the old photos, momentoes, artifacts that reflect this fastly disappearing rich history.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Old Directory Provides Glimpse into Oklahoma Past

On my genealogy blog My Ancestor's Name, I recently featured an article about information about a directory published for African Americans traveling during the harsh years of living with Jim Crow laws in America.  This directory, called The Green Book was useful for those black people who had to travel to new cities and towns and who would need accommodation and need to be safe in places that were hostile.  It provide information on hotels, inns, and homes where accommodation could be found.   Oklahoma had an impressive site listing, featuring black owned businesses and establishments for travelers.

This booklet was published yearly, and the 1949 Edition of the Green Book can be found online. 

While looking at the Oklahoma entry one learns where there were African American places of businesses were at the time or where businesses that welcomed black trade could be found.

I noticed that several establishments existed where there were sizable Freedmen communities, and one can ask if these were once owned by persons who were Indian Freedmen, or their descendants. Cities like Boley, Okmulgee, Muskogee were included in this directory.  I decided to find some of those places as I wondered what they look like today.

Since the directory featured online is more than 60 years old, and the addresses were posted on the pages of the booklet, I decided to take a look to see if some of the establishments still stand. The significance of looking at these places is that they provide a glimpse into the past where many of our parents and grandparents lived and they reflected how they coped with the times within an insulated community, isolated by the laws of the day.

My questions----What is the status of those places today? 
Is the site till owned by the same persons? 
Can part of the history of that community be seen if one is to stand on those same streets today?

I noticed that Okmulgee Oklahoma had an impressive listing.  At 407 E. 5th street there was a restaurant known as Simmons.

Looking down the same street today, is this what possibly remains of the old Simmons restaurant that served a black clientele? Was the restaurant owned by the Simmons family related to Jake Simmons?

Is this the old Phillips service station on 5th & Delaware in Okmulgee that served black patrons?

Looking at the addresses in Tulsa, the expressway cut through many of the establishments and much of what existed 60 years ago is now gone.

Many of the establishments on these addresses are now gone and an expressway cut right through the community.

A Road House Listing

In Muskogee on So. 24th, an establishment referred to as a "Road House" was listed. It was called the Blue Willow Inn.  Is this the shell of what might have been that road house?  Or was this an old church or school?  Being the oldest building in the area now---one can imagine the stories told within the walls.

Is this the old Blue Willow Inn, or another black owned business that served the community?

In Guthrie, on East Springer Street some would find a bed in one of these homes, since hotels would provide no lodging.

E. Springer Street, Guthrie, Oklahoma

We, as genealogists utilize many resources and we look at the information that can be found and also analyze what is not listed.  Sadly in this case, communities like Ardmore, Berywn, Milo, in the south were not included nor were Tahlequah, Wewoka, nor Idabel and Valiant and other communities where many African American families, Freedmen, lived. 

How did travelers to those communities fare?  Hopefully, if they had family there, they found the warm bed and comfortable meals they sought and needed.

Of course, as researchers, our task is to look at all resources to assist us in telling the story. 

Sometimes part of the story might simply be---asking the right questions.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Madness: When Will History Reflect My People?

America's historical scholars, particularly those who are specialists in the American Civil War, for more than 100 years have continually chosen to overlook, bypass, erase, ignore, over 8000 slaves in North America.

How can a number so large, in a region that was part of the American South, be overlooked?

How can a region of people where the slaveholders were documented in slave schedules when the census was made in 1860 but on the pages of American history---those particular slaves are never mentioned?

How can a region that sympathized with the Confederate states and fought with them on their side to preserve slavery, be omitted when discussion of the Confederacy and their sympathizers are mentioned?

And from the perspective of the enslaved, these questions must be asked:

How can thousands of slaves living in land that would become part of this country be ignored?
How can the largest slave rebellion in North America not be reported in American textbooks? A rebellion more than 3 times the size of Nat Turner's rebellion, but not get mentioned? (See: The Cherokee Slave Revolt)

How can the constant stories of resistance from runaways to slave uprisings be ignored by America's historians?

Runaway Slave Ad from Choctaw Intelligencer 1850
(Note the reward offered if the young man is not captured alive.)

Why is every map depicting slavery on the North American continent conveniently not reflecting enslavement of 8000+ slaves on the same continent? These slaves lived directly north of the state of Texas.

Looking directly north of what was Texas---no slavery in Indian Territory is reflected.

This image of Slavery States and Territories also does not reflect slavery in Indian Territory

In 2009, CNN had a series called "Black in America" and as they depicted slavery in America, they too ignored the same people and the same region when they created their own map of slavery in America.

CNN: Black In America
This image also ignores slavery just north of Texas in Indian Territory in what would become Oklahoma.

And again this is repeated

Once again looking directly north of what was Texas.---no slavery in Indian Territory is reflected.

So----Who are the ignored people on America's historical landscape?  Who were these men, women and children? They were the Slaves of Indian Territory----the black people taken west, in bondage, against their will to the west, with Indians as slaves on the same Trail of Tears.

The Cherokees even documented the 1200 that they took west with them. Yes, there were also free blacks who lived among some of these tribes and they have wonderful stories to tell---and they were not ignorant of the plight of their people and many worked within the tribes to assist their people.  But the enslaved are somehow erased, once the free blacks are discussed. It is almost as if slavery never happened----but it did.

In 1860 there were 444 free black people enumerated in the 1860 census in Indian Territory. In that same year, there were more than 8000 enslaved people documented on the slave schedules in the very same community.

Again the question-----

Why are their stories not told?
Are their being slaves of Indians somehow making them less of a slave or less worthy of inclusion on America’s historical landscape?

It is time that those who are the voices of American history, from historians in the academic institutions to those of the History Channel-------take note of this error and this omission.

The historians of The Organization of American Historians, Assoc for the Study of Afr. American Life & History, American Historical Association are all being asked here and are addressed here: as America's history tellers--how does  this omission get corrected?  

And the story tellers from Ken Burns, to the History Channel---when does this omission get corrected?

There are apologists for the slaveholding tribes that will give quick answers saying "Oh that is because Indian Territory was not part of the United States.

The discussion here is NOT when Oklahoma joined the Union and became a state.

The discussion here is the omission of telling the story of slavery in Indian Territory and thus altering American history.


*Discussion of the Removal is presented in American textbooks, and NO American history book omits this story. But discussion of black chattel slavery after removal is continually omitted.

* California was not a state in 1849---but NO American history textbook omits the story of the California Gold Rush and it's impact.

* Lands from Louisiana to the Pacific Northwest were not part of the United States in 1803---but no American history textbook omits the story of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

The argument therefore of the slaveholding tribes not being a state holds neither weight nor water.

Also note:
The slave holding tribes signed a treaty with the Confederate states at the very beginning of the Civil War.
At the same time there was no objection to the fact that the Slave Holding Tribes of Indian Territory did not live in the United States---just right next door,  nor does the fact of these tribes joining forces to fight for the philosophy and beliefs of the Confederate South was never a concern and is not a concern to this day.

This is is not a discussion of the fact that they may have been on the wrong moral side of a war  by befriending those that fought to preserve a heinous institution. But--re-hashing the Civil War is not the focus here. 

The focus is the omission of inclusion of thousands of enslaved people on America's historical landscape.

The question at hand is: When will the historical maps reflect this history?

Students of history turn to the historical texts, writers, and producers of documentaries to learn what has happened.  But how can one learn when a blind eye is cast upon one region?

When, oh when, will history reflect my people?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Headstone of Rev. Monday Durant

Headstone of Rev. Monday Durant (the elder)
Photo by Sue Tolbert, Muskogee Oklahoma

Special thanks to Ben Young, and Dr. Willard Johnson both of whom pointed out that there were clearly two men of distinction from the same family line and with the same name.  I followed up on the father to the younger Durant and learned that Rev. Durant was the grandfather to the second Monday Durant.  The elder Rev. Monday Durant, born many years before Removal, was a leader in his own right, and was one of three prominent African Creeks of his era. Much is written about both Monday Durants who continued to serve the Creek Nation.

Rev. Monday Durant is buried in the Durant cemetery off 11th St. W in Muskogee Oklahoma. 

Thankfully, his stone is among a very small number of graves that are still visible in this cemetery.

Special thanks to Sue Tolbert, who is also responsible for the on going efforts to preserve Old Agency Cemetery, also located and documented the few graves in the Durant cemetery.  She also gave her permission to share this image on the blog.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Finding Monday Durant, the Elder

Adam Durant Creek By Blood
(Census Card 2496  Field Card 2521)
Click on image for a larger view.

After recently sharing information about Monday Durant who worked closely with the Creek people for many years, especially in the latter half of the 19th century, several individuals who also research Indian Territory have shared information pertaining to a much older Monday Durant. 

The question is, who was the elder Monday, and were they related?
The answer could be found by researching Adam Durant, the younger Monday's father.

Monday Durant of the latter part of the 1800s was the son of Adam Durant of Tuskeegee (Taskigi) Town.  According to the card, Adam Durant, his father was not deceased.   Adam Durant of Tuskegge Town appears on Creek Card #2496.  On that card, Adam states his father's name---also Monday Durant. If this Adam of Tuskeegee town is the same man as Adam (of Tuskeegee Town) who was the father of Monday Durant on the Freedman Card, then he named his son after his father.

Thus the elder Monday is the grandfather to the younger Monday Durant.

It was asked if the two Mondays were related and as this first study it does appear that they were related.

I noted also that on Adam Durant's card, by blood, his wife Dicey Durant and their children are on Creek Freedman Field Card #1514.  (Note the reference is to the Field card and not the Census card number.)  If the father was 1/4 Creek, then the children were 1/8, although being put on the Freedmen Roll their blood tie is not indicated.  

Monday Durant (the younger) indicated that his mother Hannah Caesar was deceased so it is not clear what town she was part of. Noting however that the elder Monday was also of Candadian Colored as was the younger Monday, then the chances of their truly being grandfather and grandson are high.  Adams Durant's wife Dicey at the time of the Dawes Commssion, was also a member of Canadian (Colored) Town.

Dicey Durant (wife of Adam Durant)
Creek Freedman Enrollment Card (Front side of card)
(Click on image for larger view.)

Dicey Durant (Back Side of card)
(click on image for larger view)

The structure of the Durant family clearly illustrates how this was a blended family--with both Indian and African Creeks residing in the same household. 

In the 1900 Federal Census, Adam Durant and wife Dicey (written as Dysa) were enumerated on the Special Indian Census. 

Adam Durant 1900 Census - Creek Nation
(click on image to see larger view)

It should also be noted that blended families like this occurred in all of the nations, of those that were once the Five Slave-holding Tribes.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Remembering Monday Durant - African Creek Leader

Several years ago while documenting Cane Creek Cemetery with a close research colleague, I was more than surprised to see the headstone of Monday Durant.  We went looking for the headstone of Cow Tom--which we did find.  But another surprise awaited me that day---there was another name I had often read about:  Monday Durant!  This was amazing to see, as his name was often found among tribal affairs for several decades in Creek Nation history.

Monday Durant was a prominent leader in the Creek Nation. He was born free, in the Creek Nation, around 1850 and he was the son of Adam Durant also free born, of Tuskeegee (Taskigi)Town and Hannah Ceasar. As a young adult in his twenties, by the mid 1870s's he quickly rose to become a leader in the Muskogee Community where he lived. Being fluent in both Muskogee and English, many in the tribe depended upon him for his language skills.  He also was known to travel on official delegations to Washington with tribal leaders.

 He served in the House of Kings and usually voted along the same lines as other African Creeks. He was part of a group of young African Creek leaders (Simon Brown, Sugar George, William McIntosh. Silas Jefferson and Monday Durant.) He did interact with older African Creek leaders as well, such as Harry Island, Ketch Barnett, William Nero and Cow Tom. By the late 1870s however, these older leaders had already died and men like Sugar George and Monday Durant emerged as the more dynamic men of their day.
Front of Dawes Enrollment Card for Monday Durant
(click on image for larger view)

Back side of Dawes Enrollment Card
(click on image for larger view)

Monday Durant was an associate of Silas Jefferson (Ho-tul-ko-micco) who was an advisor to Locha Hacho.
During one time of political upheaval in the tribe a movement began to remove Chief Lacho Hacho from office. Hacho had strong support of the African Creek leaders. When hearings were made for Hacho's removal, the African Creek leaders voted in a block to insist that Hacho remain in power.  However, Durant had traveled to Washington during that time and could not cast his votes with other African Creek leaders, although he strongly supported Hacho, as well.  Hacho was removed from office nevertheless in spite of the strong votes in his favor.

During these years, though, Monday Durant was very much involved in tribal affairs, and served in the House of Kings representing Canadian Colored Town.  The African Creek leaders were still involved in local tribal affairs and represented the African Creeks in both ruling houses--the House of Warriors and the House of Kings.

Durant received his land allotment and went through the Dawes process, like others in the Creek Nation.  He lived to see Oklahoma statehood, and saw the dissolution of the power among the African leaders, over the years.   He died in 1925 and is buried in Cane Creek Cemetery, in Okmulgee.

His story is place here, so that he will not be forgotten.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ben Pitchlynn - Enslaved by Chief Peter Pitchlynn - Wordless Wednesday

(click on image to see larger view)

Chief Peter Pitchlynn
Courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society
(click on image to see larger image)