Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Black (Indian Territory) History Month-Negroes Want to Make Oklahoma a Negro State

Negroes Throughout the U.S. to Make Oklahoma a Negro State

Prior to Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory becoming the state of Oklahoma there was a concerted effort by people of African ancestry to make the new state exclusively one that was governed by black people.

Indian Territory Newspaper Index (Negroes/Freedmen)
When I first looked at this index card and read the summary of the article it didn't occur to me that what was meant by "Oklahoma" could have meant Oklahoma Territory? Clearly the article was written in 1890 almost twenty years before actual Oklahoma statehood so unless it is just the manner in which people spoke about the geographical area, why call it Oklahoma?

The next thing that strikes me as curious is the population numbers in relationship to what geographical area being mentioned in the article. Here again, if this was Indian Territory and prior to the Dawes Land Allotment process how did they come up with those numbers?

Not to mention if this was Oklahoma Territory they were not giving the population of Indian Territory Freedmen who lived among the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Indians?

Let me take it one step further, why would they have to agitate Indian Territory Freedmen about immigrating to "Oklahoma" they were already there! The formerly enslaved population of Indian Territory had a documented presence in Indian Territory since the 1830's when they participated (as enslaved people) during the infamous "Trail of Tears." 

These former slaves for the most part were already occupying land in the nation of their birth and in some cases were intermarrying with so called “state Negroes.” It also begs the question of how many people of African descent participated in the “Land Runs” or were they discriminated against for the benefits of those “Oklahomaists” (sic) that “got the land from the Indians?”

Perhaps there is more scholarship concerning these issues and since we are commemorating Black (Indian Territory) History month this chapter in our history deserves more scrutiny?

Indian Chieftain March 6, 1890 p2c1

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Chickasaw Freedmen Fight for Right to be Represented?

Black (Indian Territory) History Month
The other day I was engaged in a discussion about the Chickasaw and Choctaw Treaty of 1866 and how there wasn't any representation for the formerly enslaved population in that treaty to protect their rights or have an enforcement clause that clearly determined the rights to citizenship for those former slaves.

Ironically thirty years later in a newspaper article that discussed the protest by the Chickasaw nation regarding the disposition of their lands during the Dawes Land Allotment process the nation maintained their position that their former slaves were never adopted and “do not regard them as citizens of the United States and continuously insisted upon their removal from our country.”

What was ironic about this article is a sentence that is particularly interesting in light of how it reflects the same situation the former slaves found themselves in thirty years earlier when the Treaty of Fort Smith was negotiated. “The Chickasaws protested that their nation was not represented in the making of the contract and had no opportunity to protect their rights.”

While the Chickasaw nation was adamant about representation to protect their rights, the United States government, the United States Congress, the Chickasaw or Choctaw Nations felt there was no need to protect the rights of an oppressed population of former slaves that in the words of the Chickasaw nation, they didn’t adopt them as citizens and did not regard them as citizens of the United States.

This is the documented history of black people among the Five Slave Holding Tribes and it is a part of “Black History” that continues to not be represented. However the Chickasaw nation and the state of Oklahoma continue to get a pass when it comes to our ancestors place in their history.

Newspaper Article: Daily Ardmoreite_Vol.4,No.82,Ed.1 Feb.2,1897 p1c3

Monday, February 10, 2020

Indian Territory & Oklahoma Black History with Angela Walton Raji and Terry Ligon

Indian Territory & Oklahoma

I had the opportunity to share some thoughts about Black History and Indian Territory History with radio host Cedric Bailey and my colleague Angela Walton-Raji.

You can listen to the podcast at the following link

Mr. Bailey was gracious with his time and platform to have this conversation and I am grateful for the opportunity to share some of the research I've done for more than 30 years with him and his audience.

We were supposed to talk for about 15 minutes but when Angela Walton-Raji and I get to talking about this subject time loses all meaning. I hope you will listen and provide some feedback if you would like to hear more broadcast on some of America's most unique history; a history that does not get enough attention for its contribution to Black History, United States History and the history of the Five Slave Holding Tribes.

Cedric Bailey, National Radio Host for rejoice Musical Soul Food. Various interviews with Gospel Artist, Pastors and more. Bailey is from Ardmore, OK and a graduate of East Central University in Ada, OK.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Milo, Indian Territory-Tell Your Story or Someone Will Tell It For You

I was looking through some newspaper articles that had the name of some communities my ancestors lived in prior to statehood in hopes of finding information about the area they received their land allotments.

While going through articles in the Daily Ardmoreite I came across this article about a man named J.W. Johnson and how as a young man he came to Indian Territory with fifty cents in his pocket and became a very wealthy and successful businessman.

The article did not provide information on why he came to Indian Territory after leaving Pennsylvania at the age of twenty but it did mention “his first work here was on the stock ranch of Williams and Murrys, at Erin Springs, on the Washita River near Kickapoo Flats.”

Mr. Johnson had other employment experiences that included working on the government mail stage line from Caddo, Choctaw Nation to Anadarko and Comanche counties, where the article stated he “met with incidents which to us of this day would seem very thrilling.”

A few years after arriving in the territory J.W. Johnson married Emily Brown in 1886 she was the daughter of Hepsie Brown of Old Mill Creek in Tishomingo County and a Chickasaw Indian. Two years later the couple moved to Milo, Carter County which was then Pickens County, Chickasaw Nation and “settled on lands which he has since taken as allotments for himself and family and where he now resides.”

It is at this point the article seems to contradict itself because it further states, “at the time of his arrival at this place, there was no town of Milo: the land was comparatively wild and in its primitive state.” Perhaps I misunderstood the earlier statement that indicated the Johnson’s “moved to Milo, which was in Pickens County, Chickasaw Nation” In the next paragraph the article states: “the principal population of this part of the country at the time was the Indian, the illiterate negro, the whiskey peddler and the outlaw who made this part of the country his rendezvous.”

For the life of me, the history of freedmen in the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations glosses over the institution of chattel slavery and the presence of the formerly enslaved and their descendants. It also goes to great lengths to illustrate the lack of educational opportunities the former slaves had for their children and implies a certain ignorance that continues a theme of superiority that whites coming into the territory had towards the people who were there long before their arrival similar to J.W. Johnson.

According to the article Johnson established the post office and town of Milo and was the postmaster for the fifteen years prior to the date of the article. Just doing the math it would seem that within the ten years prior to the Dawes Commission allotment, J.W. Johnson established the town and post office of Milo, Indian Territory

The articles continues by identifying Johnson’s family that were entitled to land allotments based on his wife Emily being a “recognized” Chickasaw citizen. This very "successful" man was the head of a family that acquired three-hundred and twenty acres of land for his wife and their eight children “the total amount of this land for himself and family is three thousand two hundred acres, on which he now has fifteen dwelling houses besides his elegant private residence, an up to date cotton gin, grist mill and a nice store.”

I thought the statement in the article “many an eastern farmer longs for one-half of the blessings enjoyed by this man” to be missing the point that there were many people in the area that Mr. Johnson considered “illiterate negroes” that should have had the same opportunity he had but were denied because of the stain of slavery.

There were more than one-thousand five hundred individuals who should have been provided the same three-hundred and twenty acres of land in the same area that he “founded” the town of Milo. The thousands of people who were enslaved by Chickasaw Indians were not welcomed as J. W. Johnson and despite his statement that “come to Carter County and partake of these blessings with us. Civilization has taken the place of lawlessness and plunder.”

Well that is a debatable subject and clearly does not take into account of the manner in which Johnson was able to obtain a large amount of land that was denied people who were there before he arrived, lived among the Chickasaw’s before he arrived and remained on the land for him to come in and claim to establish a town were wild animals and illiterate negroes had been long before he brought his brand of civilization to the area.

To get a full understanding of the effect of what the area looked like I thought I would look at some census records to enlightened me on who among the freedmen lived in the area and how they may have been tied to the Chickasaw nation and found some very surprising results.

Beginning with the 1900 census I wanted to see just who lived in the same census tract that the Johnson family resided so my first task was to locate this family and the surrounding community in which they lived.

Because of my research I am well acquainted with that township and range as well as the enumeration district because many of the families I research live in that community. So you might excuse me if I don’t buy the idea that the area was wild and uncivilized before the arrival of J.W. Johnson and men like him.

Freedmen and their families were a vital part to this community and no doubt added money to the wealth of this man as they navigated their way in the territory a good twenty years before he arrived. Families like Jackson, Abram, Nero, Taylor, and Ligon all have homesteads in Township 3 South, Range 1 West and it is the height of arrogance to ignore their presence in this area.

I write this article to demonstrate just how important it is that Indian Territory Freedmen preserve and tell their family’s story and the story of their community. I can’t say John J.W. “Six Shooter Johnson" was a bad man but articles like the one written about him that diminish the contributions our ancestors had on Indian Territory and the state of Oklahoma. It also diminishes the atrocities visited upon our ancestors that prevented them from amassing the land and wealth that was afforded a man from Pennsylvania with fifty cents in his pocket?

There is much more that can be said about the people of Milo, Indian Territory especially the men, women and children who came west on the Trail of Tears with the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians. The men, women and children that survived the indignity of bondage and later denied their very heritage of sons and daughters of Chickasaw Indians were not provided the same dignity that was shown J.W. Johnson who went on to be considered a pillar in the community of Milo, Indian Territory and the state of Oklahoma.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Children Follow the Status of Their Mother?

Children Follow the Status of Their Mother?

In the past week or two an interesting discussion took place online between freedmen descendants and the descendant of someone who is a citizen by blood in one of the nations of the Five Slave Holding Tribes. In the course of that discussion the concept and rationale for the Dawes Commission, the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes enrolled children of freedmen women as freedmen.

Having conducted years of research I was keenly aware that this was not a practice that was written in stone but I did not want to challenge the post because it is rare we get an opportunity to have exchanges with citizens who are on the blood rolls concerning subjects like this.

Since there was no other follow-up to the statement I wanted to wait and let some time pass before I responded to the idea that a person’s race, identity or political status is based on the so called race of their mother. This custom has a direct link to the antebellum system of enslavers enriching themselves by increasing their slave holdings even if the child is a result of that enslaver fathering the child.

The Five Slave Holding Tribes appear to have accepted this practice with their enslaved population and when the Dawes Commission began enrolling individuals for land allotments, they attempted to use this holdover from the era of chattel slavery to place hundreds of men, women and children on Choctaw or Chickasaw Freedmen rolls despite some clear evidence these people possessed and claimed to have blood of their fathers.
Chickasaw Freedman Card #1071 Front IMPSON, Lucy
Such was the case with the children of Morris and Lucy IMPSON. Morris was a recognized citizen in the Choctaw nation and though he was married to another woman, Morris fathered three children with Lucy BURRIS a Chickasaw freedwoman. Strange as it may sound Morris’ wife was aware of the children and at one time before her death, she met them and advised them to always listen to their father and do what he says.
Choctaw by Blood Card #1829 IMPSON, Morris
It wasn’t until the death of his wife that Morris brought Lucy and their three children to live with him in his home that he shared with his previous wife. It was known throughout their community that Morris was the father of Joshua, Lillie and Frank IMPSON and with Lucy they were known as husband and wife.

When it was time to enroll with the Dawes Commission for their land Morris traveled to Tuscahoma (sic) and because he did not speak a word of English he required the services of an interpreter, Watson BROWN an elderly and respected Choctaw freedman who was working with the commission.

It was at this time Morris was informed his children had already been enrolled by their mother Lucy on her Chickasaw Freedman Card #1071. For reasons known only to Morris, he petition to have his children transferred from the Chickasaw Freedman roll to the Choctaw by Blood roll. Of course the Dawes Commission tried to hold fast to the idea that perhaps like today, children “follow the status of their mother.”

Fortunately Morris was not one to give up and he continued to battle the Dawes Commission, the Choctaw Nation and despite his inability to speak English he challenged this system and demonstrated that his children had every right to be considered Choctaw by blood as he did.

Now that’s not to say it was easy for Morris, the Dawes Commissioners tried every trick in the book to deny Morris and his children a transfer. While interviewing Morris and Lucy they determined that Morris was not married to Lucy at the time of the children’s birth. As stated before Morris was already married making Joshua, Lillie and Frank “illegitimate.”

Figure 3-Applications to Change from Freedmen 
to Citizens by Blood (Joe and Dillard Perry cases) 
1905-1907 Entry 90C NAID 650073 
NARA Fort Worth F—033 page 56
The commissioner at one point implied the children where another man’s children when they discovered Lucy had been living with a man named Jimmie DOCTOR. Lucy through an interpreter herself informed the commissioner that Jimmie DOCTOR was not the father of her children but of course it took another witness to confirm this. That is when the commissioner was informed Jimmie was Lucy’s brother and she was staying at his home with Jimmie and his wife.

Another ploy the commissioner used was the action of “drawing leased district money” as a way of establishing citizenship in the nation. As a citizen Morris was entitled to receive his payment and but Lucy was asked if Morris’ children “draw money” in 1893 and they didn’t. Morris testified he never attempted to draw money for his children in 1893 and this was a method used by the commission to deny an individual’s claim of Choctaw or Chickasaw blood if the record did not reflect them receiving tribal leased district money.

Morris was not to be denied! To the credit of their attorney Chilean RILEY, he demonstrated how the records maintained by the commission provided proof that Joshua, Lillie and Frank should be transferred from the Chickasaw Freedmen Roll to the Choctaw by Blood Roll.

RILEY pointed out on Morris’ field (Dawes) card #1829 it listed him with his daughter Susie Burris IMPSON and there is a notation that states, “No. 1 is the husband of Lucy IMPSON and father of her children on Chickasaw Freedmen card No. 1071” Made on December 9, 1902

The attorney went on to state, on the rear of Chickasaw Freedmen card #1071 it is shown that the father of the three children on the front are the children of Morris IMPSON, Choctaw Indian.

This is very important because in the majority of cases where someone is claiming to have Chickasaw or Choctaw blood there is an indication that whatever the father’s name is, it is followed up with the phrase; Choctaw or Chickasaw Indian.

This is problematic for the Dawes Commission, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations because it is an admission that the person in question has a Choctaw or Chickasaw male parent and therefore possesses “Indian blood.” Clearly Morris was determined to have his children enrolled as Choctaw citizens by blood and with this evidence that in the majority of cases would fail to persuade the commission to transfer these individuals; Morris and Lucy were able to establish their children were the product of a citizen by blood and a freedwoman and still entitled to be placed on the Choctaw by Blood roll.

And yet, here we are in 2019 and for whatever reason, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations are maintaining the antebellum system of racial identification based on the so called race of the mother. They disguise it as the children's status is based on the mother’s clan but if that was the case they need to explain all of those white women who were not Choctaw or Chickasaw who had children by men like Morris and their children were listed as “citizens by blood?”What clan did they belong to?

One thing that has to be mentioned; when you look at the rear of Chickasaw Freedman card #1071, the father of Lucy was noted as a Chickasaw Indian but she was not transferred to the Chickasaw by blood roll, just another tragic example of how these Native American nations held on to the belief that this woman was undeserving of being considered a “Chickasaw.”
Chickasaw Freedman Card #1071 Rear IMPSON, Lucy

Friday, March 1, 2019

Did The Chickasaw & Choctaw Nation Treat Their Enslaved People Fairly?

Did The Chickasaw & Choctaw Nation Treat Their Enslaved People Fairly?

Recently I was viewing a message on the Chickasaw Nation website I was struck how the historical narrative concerning the Chickasaws treatment of their enslaved population was benign and embracing; it is not lost on me this is just one side of that “story.”

Today the Chickasaw tribe seems to be doing a great deal of revisionist history on their involvement with chattel slavery but rarely is the voice of those enslaved included in that narrative, especially voices describing their enslavement and subsequent emancipation. It is hard to imagine that after enslaving thousands of people that it was an act of altruism that those enslaved people would be accepted in the nation when the record demonstrates otherwise.

As I was going through some Congressional records and indexing them for a presentation I will be giving later this year at the Midwest African American Genealogy Institutes (first ever) Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Track #5 the narrative of those formerly enslaved Chickasaw and Choctaw “freedmen” illustrated another point of view that is not representing in the stories told by the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians.

There are many records among the Congressional Record Serial Set that are pertinent to Indian Territory Freedmen in general but one I found germane to the “story” that Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen were taken in and treated more kindly than those people enslaved in the south. The voices of the freedmen and the actions of their former enslavers spoke volumes about the condition of the African and African-Native people of Indian Territory.

On March 16, 1870 approximately four years following their emancipation and two years from the time limit for the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations to adopt their formerly enslaved people, the two nations still refused to comply with the Treaty of 1866. First-hand accounts in the congressional records demonstrates the relationship with the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians did not want to accept their former slaves as citizens in their nation and that contradicts the argument of how much they cared.
Senate Miscellaneous Document #106 41st Congress, 2nd Session page 1
The Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen were constantly advocating for their adoption but just four years after emancipation it was clear to them that the people that enslaved them were determined not to accept them as citizens; and sometimes their disdain for their former slaves rose to the level of violence and intimidation. The freedmen formed a group of men to represent their views and they expressed those views in the form of a memorial to the United States Senate in 1870.
SMD #106, (41-2) pg 2
The freedmen (colored people of Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes) said in their own words, “although freed from slavery by the result of the late war, we enjoy few, if any, of the benefits of freedom.” Clearly the freedmen were not under any illusions they were not embraced by their former enslavers. They continued their concerns by stating, “Being deprived as yet of every political right, we are still wholly in the power of our late masters, who were almost a unit on the side of the rebellion against the government and who, from having been compelled to relinquish their ownership in us, regard our presence among them with no favorable eye.”
SMD #106 (41-2) pg 3
Nothing in those were suggest the freedmen were being treated in the manner that the Chickasaw nation is attempting to demonstrate of their good relationship with those people they enslaved. The conditions in the Chickasaw Nation became so intense the Choctaw and Chickasaw freedmen living in eastern part of the Choctaw nation sought to hold a convention on September 25, 1869 at Scullyville ; to address their grievances.
SMD #106, (41-2) pg 4
There was another convention of “colored people of the western portion of the Territory, to take similar action in relation to their condition” was met with threats on their lives, destruction of their printed posters that advertised the “proposed” convention and had one of their leaders was arrested on his way to the meeting by the United States agent.

SMD #106, (41-2) pg 5

Clearly the Chickasaw nation is not portraying their history and relationship with their formerly enslaved people according to firsthand accounts by the very people affected and it is sad to see that this may be the type of information that is being placed on official websites of the nation.

SMD #106 (41-2) pg 6
 As Black History Month comes to a close, we are reminded that history is often told by those who are the victors; fortunately in this case we have a record that can refute an incorrect and misleading narrative concerning the Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen. 

It’s time for the descendants of those formerly enslaved men and women and the descendants of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians discover what is true about their shared history and be guided by correcting the historical record from a full review of the record. 

Senate Miscellaneous Document #106 was a Memorial by the Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen, the former slaves of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nation in an attempt to address their grievances regarding their equal rights in the same manner that white "citizens" were given. Let that sink in, the people who were treated as property continued to not have rights or citizenship in the nation of their birth.

The treaty of 1866 could not be enforced to secure their rights but today the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations would have the public believe they had a soft spot for people of African descent; "what a web we weave when we practice to deceive."

SMD #106, (41-2) pg 7

Friday, February 22, 2019

Indian Territory/Oklahoma Historic Landmarks #FreedmenFriday

Indian Territory/Oklahoma Historic Landmarks

I was on the phone earlier this week speaking with a man who wanted to get permission to refer to a blog post I wrote about Jehovah Baptist Church. His reason for the request was based on the 150th Anniversary of the church and a program they were planning for March of this year.

After thinking about all of the effort Oklahoma puts into recognizing “Oklahoma All Black Towns” I was not aware of their recognition of Indian Territory Freedmen landmarks, settlements, buildings or institutions.

Now that is not to say the state doesn’t recognize the history of Indian Territory Freedmen, I’m just not aware of them and considering that a church that established by Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen approximately three years following their “emancipation” I would think that church should be recognized at least by the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The ground on which the church sits is a cemetery that the sacred remains of many Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen lay in rest. It is also the resting place for Chickasaw Indians like Amanda ABRAM Chickasaw by Blood #610
M 1186 Chickasaw by Blood #610 
Considering there are other individuals who have attended this historic church and have been laid to rest on the soil of their ancestors it is vitally important that this history and the history of this institution is recognized and preserved for generations to come.

There other important people who have left a mark on Indian Territory and Oklahoma history and you will find their presence on these hallowed grounds. If you are a student of Chickasaw Indians and Chickasaw Freedmen you undoubtedly have heard the names of Dora and Jesse McGEE,

One of the oldest original Chickasaw Freedmen interred in Jehovah Cemetery is Maria FRANKLIN a sister of Amanda ABRAM’S husband Ed ABRAM (Chickasaw Freedman Card #699.)
M 1886 Chickasaw Freedman #600
I don’t know the status of the church and it’s cemetery as far as a historical landmark but I do know as a Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen descendant we need to recognize and preserve our history.

There are other cemeteries that are being taken back by nature like the one I visited years ago that was the resting place for United States Color Troop Soldier Thomas BLACKWATER at the Brazil Cemetery and the cemetery in Berwyn (Gene Autry) that is the resting place for Chickasaw leader Charles COHEE. I find it difficult that the descendants of these heroes and she-roes are not insuring the preservation of these sacred sites.

As we celebrate Black History Month we need to know, why isn’t the state of Oklahoma showing the same zeal to recognize and preserve these sites as part of the history of Indian Territory and the state of Oklahoma as they “proudly” proclaim the “All Black Towns of Oklahoma?

More importantly, why are we as descendants of Indian Territory Freedmen preserving and celebrating our long history and historic sites in Indian Territory and the state of Oklahoma?


Place Names
Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church
Calvary Cemetery
Jehovah Cemetery

Milo, Indian Territory