Friday, August 19, 2011

Secret Schools In Indian Territory?

Recently I was intrigued by the title of a post on Facebook "Secret School Preserved in Chickasha." It turns out that the title referred to a story on a local television station in Oklahoma City about a segregated and "secret"  school for blacks in Indian Territory which later became the state of Oklahoma.

The more I watched the video the more I became intrigued by some delicious irony and what could possibly be a clever edit job by the television station that produced the segment.

I have to believe the producer of this segment may have edited the segment in such a way to say something that is arguably untrue.

Anyone who researches Indian Territory or Oklahoma history should know; the probability of "secret schools" is misleading at best.

Following the Civil War, former slaves of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole ALL sought to educate their children and they were very upfront and open about it. It was not uncommon for them to seek the help of the Indian Agent in securing the services of teachers for their children's education, especially in the Chickasaw Nation. In 1876 Agent Rogers sought to purchase a building for the express purpose of making it a Freedmen school.

In the Creek Nation, former slave and Civil War soldier Sugar George; a Creek citizen, petitioned the Creek council for funding to construct a "segregated school" for the children of Creek Freedmen.

Indian Journal April 24, 1878 p5c2

In the Choctaw and Chickasaw freedmen community there were men like David Franklin, Simon Love, King Blue, Charles Cohee, Nathan Cochran, Richard Brashears and many others who saw the value of education for their children and put their money, time and effort in securing that education.

Senate Document 157 55th Congress, 1st Session pp34-35

Senate Document 149, 55th Congress, 1st Session

Senate Document 101 55th Congress, 3rd Session p.8
Clearly, the idea that there were "secret schools" in Indian Territory or the state of Oklahoma can be shown as inaccurate by the ample amount of documentation available.

The only remains of the Dawes Academy Berwyn, OK (now Gene Autry, OK)

I suspect the video footage was edited to appear to say secret schools. The woman the statement is credited to never made the statement. In my opinion she was speaking about the antebellum era when educating slaves was prohibited and done in "secret."

One of the positive points of the segment was the proposed plan to preserve a school building that existed during Oklahoma's segregated past. It is not clear from the video if this school existed before statehood which if it was, preservation of the building should be a priority by the state and the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Unfortunately the comments I read after viewing the video segment tended to be negative in nature and fixated over the three hundred thousand dollars that was needed to convert the school into a museum.

  • "What? $300,000??? Who you trying to scam, you rotten liers?(sic) There is no way!"
  • "I'm glad the school or any part of our history has been preserved for that matter but they need 300.00 for what exactly. It looks like everything is intact and in good shape so I'm a little puzzled at why the money is needed. Put the school on Americas roadside attractions, Google it. Pretty sure it's free and then ask for donations as people come to see it."
  • "I think the school is an important part of history but I think 300,000 would be better spent. Maybe some scholarships for college, maybe some donations to the local food banks so that people can get help with food. Museums cost money to visit so only those with extra money will see it. come to see it."
However, there was one individual who had the insight to look past the $300,000 and see the value in preserving the schoolhouse.

  • "If they spend some of the money developing this museum it may be able to be used to recieve (sic) donations and admission revenu (sic) to then provide scholorships (sic) and so on. Creating a possibility to recieve (sic) far more than ($)300,000."
First and foremost, this is a historical site that is an important part of the history of Indian Territory, the state of Oklahoma and the tens of thousands of blacks and Indian Territory Freedmen descendants who have a unique and little known history among the states resident's, as well as people throughout the country.

How shortsighted of the other three people who commented and failed to realize by preserving this building and converting it into a museum it has the capability of generating more revenue for the state and community of Chickasha where they plan to develop the museum.

A curator, along with many other fields of employment would become immediately needed to maintain the facility. The museum could become a repository for the history of the Indian Territory freedmen who lived in and near Chickasha and therefore generate tourism to the area when those same families have their reunions in or near the area.

Oklahoma has an obligation to preserve ALL of it's history but for a long time the state has appeared to be more inclined to minimize the presence of blacks before statehood who lived and were enslaved by the so called Five Civilized Tribes. 

It also offers an opportunity for the Chickasaw Nation to demonstrate some responsibility in preserving the history of their nation by preserving a schoolhouse of their former slaves who were never adopted into the nation, which brings me to the delicious irony in this entire saga.

The $300,000 figure just happens to be the same amount of money that was to be provided to the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nation as part of the Treaty of 1866 if they adopted their former slaves.

The former slaves of the Choctaw's were adopted as citizens and were able to provide some education for their children but the Chickasaw Freedmen had to fight constantly to get their children educated because the portion of the $300,000 that could have helped them fund a school was denied them. Perhaps this is an opportunity for some fence mending?


The Choctaws and Chickasaws, in consideration of the sum of $300,000, hereby cede to the United States the territory west of 98° west longitude, known as the leased district, provided that the said sum shall be invested and held by the United States at an interest not less than five per cent., in trust for the said nations, until the legislatures of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations respectively shall have made such laws, rules, and regulations as may be necessary to give all persons of African descent, resident in the said Nations at the date of the Treaty of Fort Smith, and their descendants heretofore held in slavery among said Nations, all the rights, privileges, and immunities, including the right of suffrage, of citizens of said Nations, except in the annuities, moneys, and public domain claimed by or belonging to said Nations respectively, and also to give to such persons who were residents as aforesaid, and their descendants, forty acres each of the land of said Nations on the same terms as the Choctaws and Chickasaws, to be selected on the survey of said land, after the Choctaws and Chickasaws and Kansas Indians have made their selections as herein provided ; and immediately on the enactment of such laws, rules, and regulations, the said sum of $300,000 shall be paid to the said Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations in the proportion of three-fourths to the former and one-fourth to the latter—less such sum, at the rate of one hundred dollars per capita, as shall be sufficient to pay such persons of African descent before referred to, as within ninety days after the passage of such laws, rules, and regulations shall elect to remove and actually remove from the said Nations respectively.

And should the said laws, rules, and regulations get be made by the legislatures of the said Nations respectively, within two years from the ratification of this treaty, then the said sum of, $300,000 shall cease to be held in trust for the said Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, and be held for the use and the benefit of such of said persons of African descent as the United States shall remove from the said Territory in such manner as the United States shall deem proper—the United States agreeing, within ninety days from the expiration of the said two years, to remove from said Nations all such persons of African descent as may be willing to remove; those remaining or returning after having been removed from said Nations, 'to have no benefit of said sum of $300,000, or any part thereof, but shall be upon the same footing as other citizens of the United States in the said Nations.

Teacher's Report Dawes Academy 1904 Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory

It would be interesting to see what the value of $300,000 in 1866 would be in 2011 dollars? Somehow I think the state of Oklahoma as well as the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations would be providing a stimulus to the economy of the area and making good on a treaty provision that is not well known by citizens in the two nations or the citizens of Oklahoma.

Additional Notes:

See, "My Life And an Era" by Buck Colbert Franklin (father of John Hope Franklin) who details how his father paid for the education of the children in his community out of his own pocket.

For more articles on Indian Territory schools see:

Education For Creek Freedmen

Evangel Mission, School For Creek Freedmen

Jehovah Baptist Church


  1. Here's the answer to the value question of
    what 1866 dollar's would be worth in 2010.

    What cost $300,000 in 1866 would cost $4,412,101.55 in 2010.

    Also, if you were to buy exactly the same products in 2010 and 1866, they would cost you $300,000 and $21,656.03 respectively.

    The on-line inflation calculator can be found at:

    Preston Washington

  2. Thanx Preston, hope you are well?

    It would appear the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nation along with the U.S. government should come up with $4,112,1010.55 and use that money to preserve some other Indian Territory Freedmen landmarks and/or institutions for the betterment of Oklahoma. Seems a small price to pay for breaking the Treaty of 1866???