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Color of the Land

Race, Nation, and the Politics of Landownership in Oklahoma, 1832-1929

David A. Chang

Publication Year: 2010

Chang brings the histories of Creek Indians, African Americans, and whites in Oklahoma together into one story that explores the way races and nations were made and remade in conflicts over who would own land, who would farm it, and who would rule it. He argues that in struggles over land, wealth, and power, Oklahomans actively defined and redefined what it meant to be Native American, African American, or white.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xiv

It astonishes me how fortunate I have been to benefit from the help of so many talented people at every stage of the development of this book. At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Linda Gordon was a model of rigorous scholarship and political commitment...

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Introduction: Oklahoma as America

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pp. 1-14

“Oklahoma” means “red man” in the Choctaw language, is run though by a “Black Belt,” and has been claimed by some as “white man’s country.” It has been termed an Indian homeland, a black promised land...

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PART I: BEFORE ALLOTMENT: Land and the Making of Creek Nationhoods

From the 1700s to the late 1800s, questions of owning (land, objects, people, and crops) and belonging (to families, towns, races, and nations) were at the center of Creek history. Established Creek practices of communal ownership...

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1. Owning and Being Owned: Property, Slavery, and Creek Nationhood to 1865

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pp. 17-38

On January 18, 1802, an American man named Benjamin Hawkins walked through Tuskegee, a Creek town perched on a bluff above the point where the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers meet in present-day Alabama. In his account of the visit, he made particular...

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2. An Equal Interest in the Soil: Small-Scale Farming and the Work of Nationhood, 1866–1889

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pp. 39-70

One day in 1866, the members of the McIntosh family learned that they were free. Prior to that day, Jackson and Hagar McIntosh and their eight children had labored for their owner, Roley McIntosh. He was the micco of Coweta, one of the leading Lower Creek...

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PART II: ALLOTMENT: Dividing Lands, Nations, and Races

At stake in allotment was the meaning of nations and the fate of races. From the point of view of a middle-class white reformer in the 1880s who was dedicated...

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3. Raw Country and Jeffersonian Dreams: The Racial Politics of Allotment

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pp. 73-106

“At first this was just raw country,” Joe Grayson told his interviewer. In 1937, the elderly white man sat in his rural home northwest of Henryetta, Oklahoma, and recounted...

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In the early twentieth century, allotment, statehood, and a host of land-related policies made land ownable and made race a fixed and powerful legal category...

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4. Policy and the Making of Landlords and Tenants: Allotment, Landlessness, and Creek Politics, 1906–1920s

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pp. 109-148

In 1912, a frustrated farmer wrote a letter to a left-wing Oklahoma Cotton Belt publication that addressed his fellow farmers. “Ten years ago,” he reminded the readers, “you were eager to unfold your plans of acquiring and fitting in a snug little farm...

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5. We Were Negroes Then: Political Programs, Landownership, and Black Racial Coalescence, 1904–1916

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pp. 149-174

On November 16, 1907, Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory were bound together to make a new state. From the point of view of many of Oklahoma’s black residents, statehood also bound together the fates of two black populations...

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6. The Battle for Whiteness: Making Whites in a White Man’s Country, 1916–1924

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pp. 175-204

What did it mean to be a Klansman? N. Clay Jewett, the Grand Dragon of the Oklahoma Ku Klux Klan, spread the word about what he considered the highest of callings. “Klankraft,” as he put it, meant “the exemplification of the noble ideals of chivalry.”...

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Epilogue: Newtown: Unsettling Oklahoma, Unsettling America

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pp. 205-212

By the late 1930s and early 1940s, a visitor to Oklahoma could be forgiven for thinking that the paradoxes and conundrums of the past were as dead and buried as the Indian leaders of the previous century. Wasn’t it obvious what it meant to own land? Wasn’t it clear who was Creek, who was white, and who was black?...


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pp. 213-256


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pp. 257-276


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pp. 277-292

E-ISBN-13: 9781469604398
E-ISBN-10: 1469604396
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807833650
Print-ISBN-10: 0807833657

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 593326999
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Color of the Land

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Creek Indians -- Land tenure -- Oklahoma -- History.
  • Creek Indians -- Oklahoma -- Ethnic identity.
  • Allotment of land -- Oklahoma -- History.
  • Land tenure -- Social aspects -- Oklahoma -- History.
  • African Americans -- Land tenure -- Oklahoma -- History.
  • Whites -- Land tenure -- Oklahoma -- History.
  • Oklahoma -- Race relations -- History.
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