Aside: Race Relations 100 Years Ago in Oklahoma

My friend Jason Jackson has edited a small volume of essays by Frank Speck, Negro and White Exclusion Towns and Other Observations in Oklahoma and Indian Territory: Essays by Frank G. Speck from The Southern Workman. It’s available for free from Connexions — see the link above. I was particularly caught by a passage from one of the essays:

While waiting at the railroad station at Chandler, Oklahoma, for a late train, a Negro, his belongings wrapped in a bandanna, inquired of me whether Stroud, a large town some distance to the east, was open to Negros. I replied with some surprise that I did not know, but asked him some questions, and in a short time I learned of the hostile feeling in many parts of the then territories which has given birth to the high-handed expulsive acts committed by both parties. As it proved, Stroud was a newly converted exclusion town and when the train arrived there Sam, who was of a determined nature, decided to learn for himself whether or not he could take the job of waiting in the hotel which had been offered to him. A large crowd of white men filled the station platform and Sam was immediately lost to view in a surrounding mass of inquirers, who were enforcing upon him in various ways the fact that it would not be “healthy” to stay over night there. I noticed, nevertheless, that he stayed. Stroud, as it was later rumored, had only recently turned anti-Negro and I learned that within two weeks the only family of resident Negroes, who persisted in their intention of braving the opposition, had been blown up with dynamite. “No lives lost, but the house demolished and Negroes ousted,” was the gist of the newspaper accounts.

The amount of talk circulating in the neighborhood after this “raising,” as they called it, let the light in on many other facts relative to the local race question. The neighboring town, where I happened to be, at once began casting side glances on the Negroes who thronged the streets on market days. Were it not for the fact that it lay in Indian Territory where Negro freedman have land rights and the numerical strength to hold their own, the outcome of public excitement might have been the same as at Stroud. Now the question is, in towns where both races still abide in tolerance how long will the balance be maintained? Feelings of antagonism through pride of character ought really to have little place in some of these villages….

It was the use of raising as a euphemism for terrorizing that caught my attention. There’s something more to be said about this, but I need a bit more time to think about it.