The Great Oklahoma Swindle: Race, Religion, and Lies in America’s Weirdest State

Russell Cobb. Bison, $29.95 (280p) ISBN 978-1-4962-0998-6
Journalist Cobb (The Paradox of Authenticity in a Globalized World) offers an unflattering and eye-opening history of his home state of Oklahoma. Cobb hangs out the state’s dirty laundry, describing Oklahoma’s statehood as the product of a “forced marriage” between Oklahoma and Indian territories in 1907 and chronicling how land allotments for Native Americans concentrated in Indian Territory rapidly ended up in the hands of white owners after oil was discovered on the land. Cobb depicts the rise and fall of a vibrant 19th-century Oklahoma Socialist Party, the 1909 insurrection by Crazy Snake and his militia, a statewide near-total political takeover by the Klu Klux Klan in 1923, and the popularity of far-right preacher Billy James Hargis. In the most striking section, he covers “Black Wall Street,” a prosperous enclave of black professionals in Tulsa that was burned to the ground in the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. For Cobb, these events illustrate the “toxic mix” that runs through Oklahoma’s past. Cobb argues that honesty in reckoning with Oklahoma’s past and increased work for social justice remains the only solution. This unflinching look at Oklahoma’s singular past helpfully fills in lesser-known aspects of the historical record. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 12/16/2019
Release date: 03/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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