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Spotlighting Oklahoma: African American Heritage

OOHRP delves into Muskogee’s Black History

February 22, 2012
Story by Emily Nielsen, OSU Library Communications Intern

For Immediate Release

STILLWATER -February is Black History Month, and the OSU Library’s Oklahoma Oral History Research Program has helped that history be recognized through a project on Muskogee’s African American community.

In 2009 the OOHRP partnered with the Muskogee Public Library to record the histories of African Americans in the town of Muskogee. Muskogee was once the third largest city in Oklahoma and was home to a thriving African American community.

The OOHRP’s goal for the project was to discover the effect integration in the 1960s had on the population. Current members of Muskogee’s African American community were interviewed about their perceptions of Muskogee before integration as well as their perceptions of the town today.

Tanya Finchum, an OORHP librarian, said, “Jan Bryant, the director of the Muskogee Public Library, was very interested in gathering oral histories with members of the African American community that her library served. The OOHRP was also eager to increase the diversity in our collection, not to mention that this was part of the little-documented cultural history of Oklahoma.”

In his interview, Lansing Lee, an OSU alumnus, said, “When I was a grade schooler, I can remember (we didn’t have a car at the time) walking to town with my mother and seeing the little water fountains that said, ‘white’ and ‘colored.’ Going to a laundry mat and seeing a sign that says, ‘Whites Only Beyond This Point.’ Not being able to go into some stores at all or being very careful to be in one section of the store only. You know, it’s a lot different now. Some say there’s more freedom now. There’s more freedom to interact with other people. More freedom to get around and go buy whatever you want from whoever you want.”

There are currently 11 interviews in the Muskogee African American Heritage project. The entire collection can be viewed online through the Library’s website at http://www.library.okstate.edu/oralhistory/soohp/muskogee-list.htm.

Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant system of interdisciplinary programs that prepares students for success. OSU is America’s Brightest Orange. Through leadership and service, OSU is preparing students for a bright future and building a brighter world for all. As Oklahoma’s only university with a statewide presence, OSU improves the lives of people in Oklahoma, the nation, and the world through integrated, high-quality teaching, research, and outreach. OSU has more than 35,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 24,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and around 120 nations. Established in 1890, OSU has graduated more than 240,000 students to serve the state of Oklahoma, the nation and the world.

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URL: http://www.library.okstate.edu/news/spring12/blackhistorymonth.htm
Last Updated: 22 FEB 2012

Media Contact:

Bonnie Ann Cain-Wood, APR
Email: lib-pub@okstate.edu
Phone: (405) 744-7331

225 Edmon Low Library
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078-1071

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