It’s November 16th, 1907 a crowd of around, 30,000 people has assembled in the city of Guthrie.
Oklahoma, the men are in their best suits.
The women look like they’re straight out of Little House on the Prairie, they’re gathered at the steps of the town library for a wedding.
The sound of Celebration is in the air military bands.
Played joyful Tunes.
Whistles ring out.
Bursts of fireworks.
Fill the sky.
But this is not your typical marriage ceremony.
It’s a symbolic Affair.
The bride is Miss Indian Territory.
She represents the territory controlled by American Indians, the groom is mr.
Oklahoma territory, he represents the territory controlled by the US government.
I white people, mr.
Oklahoma, do you take Miss Indian Territory to be your legal and lawful wedded wife.
One in corporate and promise to cherish and defend her through all eternity.
This was a fake wedding, but it really happened.
This is a transcript from the statehood celebration, read by voice actors.
Miss Indian Territory.
Do you take this man to be your legal and lawfully?
Wedded husband through all eternity I do then I pronounce you man and wife life, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you for the first time, the union of these two territories into the newest state in the nation.
Oklahoma you may now kiss the 25 million acre land mass but not everyone was celebrating this Union.
Oklahoma’s black communities, never even got an invite.
From gimlet media.
This is not past it a show about the stories.
We can’t quite leave behind every episode.
We take a moment from that very same week in history and tell you the story of how it shaped our world.
I’m Simone plannin on November 16th 1907, 115 years ago, this week Oklahoma became the nation’s, 46th state, white, settlers, and certain American Indians United behind the state’s formation.
Another group of residents was completely sidelined black Americans, some of whom were also tribal citizens.
It’s a legacy that some people who identify as black and American Indian are still trying to shake.
So Happy Thanksgiving America.
I’ve got a story about your colonialist history, you probably haven’t heard after the break.
Eli Grayson grew up, knowing he was part black and part American Indian Muscogee Creek to be exact, but he didn’t know the full story.
How these groups became intertwined.
I’m below the generation of the generation that didn’t talk about anything and my dad.
Other than, oh, you’re Creek, know the, oh, people really didn’t talk about it and Eli, didn’t ask.
He left his family history unexplored for Cades things changed after he moved from Mississippi to Los Angeles in the early 2000s.
Eli heard about a meeting for Muscogee Creek, tribal citizens.
And on a whim he went there was about 30 people when I walked in there as soon as I say my name is Grace on everybody got oh yeah you’re creepy because the graysons way some prominent name in the Muscogee Creek Nation when Eli walked into this room of strangers, he felt moved a connection to his ancestors and Eli’s words.
It was almost like Awakening a DNA memory.
So he kept showing up to the meetings I think was the third meeting.
Someone said to me, are you enrolled in the tribe premium role and where you have to make application to be a citizen and a Creek Nation?
You just can’t claim you’re Creek as a nationality.
Not a club and I was like, what?
You’ll hear a real.
I use Creek and Muscogee Creek interchangeably, though.
You may have heard the tribe referred to as simply the Muscogee nation in order to officially enroll, Eli needed to look deeper into his family tree tribal citizens, who lived in Indian Territory.
At the turn of the century were all listed on documents made by the US government.
These lists are called the Dawes rolls.
Eli scrolled through them searching for a connection and found some of his ancestors.
They were marked on the roles as Muscogee Creek by Blood as in descended, from indigenous people.
But as he continued digging, he discovered other ancestors, had a different label.
I started looking at my own family documents and seeing the word Creek freehan.
It is sort of get mad mad because the term Friedman is used to describe black people who had once been enslaved.
And in this case, not by white people enslaved by American.
Indians my father’s grandmother, my great-grandmother who was born in 1858, she was born enslaved, her father owned her and he was a free candy you’ll I found it hard to comprehend.
I went and checked out books about The creeks and Stark just kind of going through stuff.
And then that’s when I well my God, my tribe enslaved people you ever cannot hit your elbow and you go numb for a second and your elbow.
My brain was like that.
I was like, wait a minute.
This isn’t what I was taught.
This is not in the movies.
John, Wayne and talk about this.
When he’s talking about Indian tribes.
You, I learned that in the mid-1800s citizens of the Creek, Seminole, Cherokee Choctaw, and Chickasaw Nations.
It’s a Ka.
The five tribes enslaved more than 7,000 black people.
Like in southern plantations, it was a select relatively wealthy group of American Indians.
And when the Civil War broke out some tribal citizens sided with the Confederacy, After the war ended in 1865, the tribes signed treaties with the Union, these treaties gave tribal citizenship to the formerly enslaved.
Now freedmen as well as their descendants and for a Time, the Muscogee Creek Nation and the freedmen lived side by side in Indian Territory, anti-black racism still existed.
But as Eli learned, there was also room for strong alliances the 1D.
Post-reconstruction years Friedman, did extremely well and the Creek Nation three tribal towns were actually established for them so they can have a political say-so in our tribal government things are going relatively well for the freedmen but that changed thanks to the push for Oklahoma statehood.
Now at this point Oklahoma was not a state.
It was Indian Territory.
The five tribes came here starting in the 1830s, the US government, forcibly removed them from the deep south during the Trail of Tears.
So with few options, they go to home in this new territory for the next 50 years.
It was all theirs as the u.s. expanded adding states to the West.
This territory was a holdout then and 1889 the US government reneged on their deal.
Surprise surprise they said white settlers could move in.
It’s certainly set off alarm bells for one guy.
Who’d lived here, his whole life, his name was James.
Cody Johnson, Johnson was black, the son of a formerly enslaved.
And as a Freedman descendant he was also a Muscogee Creek tribal citizen Johnson was critical of statehood.
He felt American Indians treated Friedman, pretty well.
They have not felt that we were Intruders or usurpers of a part of their domain, but rather The Creeks have recognized them as Citizens.
This is a voice actor.
Reading Johnson’s testimony to Congress.
In 1906, we lived here side by side and they are grew up a friendship among the people of the Different nationalities and this friendship continues to exist up to this day.
Johnson had been able to excel in Indian Territory.
He was a widely respected, interpreter and lawyer, and he held political power within the tribes serving as a representative in the Muscogee Creek government, and as a secretary to the Seminole chief Johnson suspected that statehood would reshape Indian Territory and make it look like the rest of the u.s. segregated.
Jim Crow laws were popping up all over the country Johnson, feared that the rights of the territories black residents would be erased.
So how does a territory become a state?
If you missed that Schoolhouse Rock episode, I’ll tell you, it starts with a convention representatives from all over the territory.
Getting together in a room, hashing it out.
What rights will we Grant?
What rules will we live by Johnson was skeptical but he didn’t want to just watch it play out from the sidelines.
He was chosen as a representative from his district and on July 12 1905, he and the rest of the delegates gathered in Oklahoma City’s. 3,000.
See Delmar Gardens theater.
Trains lead to Oklahoma City today for the Great Patriotic meeting.
I like to thank Johnson, stood out, probably wearing his usual three-piece suit hair cropped.
Tight a pocket watch chain pinned to his vest.
He always dressed to impress because he needed to be taken seriously.
James, Cody Johnson is elected pretty specifically to represent.
Afro indigenous, people.
Laura Errata is a professor of history at Oklahoma State University and her work focuses on the u.s. west.
He’s representing freak Friedman at that point.
And even though he is duly elected and highly qualified, he is denied.
Johnson was forbidden from entering the convention, not a negro was admitted to the convention.
The slogan was no negroes need apply.
That’s when another leader.
Took Center Stage, a white guy, an eccentric figure by the name of William Murray.
He becomes this sort of folkloric figure in Oklahoma history where he’s wearing his overalls, or his kind of scruffy looking plaid, flannel shirt, whatever it is.
Most people called him by his nickname Alfalfa Bill picture a Pringles man level must Mustache.
But with a rugged twist, a lot of people think of him as sort of this representative of, kind of an average person.
He never looks particularly polished, but he was getting things done, and as he was drafting a constitution Murray also made his racist views clear.
He says, quote, we should adopt a provision prohibiting.
The mixed marriages of the negroes with other races in this state and provide separate schools.
As a rule Negroes of failures as lawyers, doctors, and in other professions, he must be taught in the line of his own sphere as Porter’s bootblacks and Barbara’s roof.
But this rhetoric worked Alfalfa Bill attracted.
A lot of followers and not just white.
People American Indians to Murray was a prominent figure within the Chickasaw Nation.
He helped build a coalition between white, People and American Indians to the exclusion of freedmen and the Chickasaw Nation.
We have the best class of negroes in the new state because we have always denied them, the Privileges of going to our schools voting in our elections, and sitting in our juries in the Creek Nation where the Negro is a given inequality in voting and holding office, we find the worst class of negroes Murray and his supporters began wearing buttons.
That red plainly democracy equals white, man and Indian against negro and carpetbagger by 1907, Murray’s group had drafted a state constitution.
Their document would codify Murray’s anti-black racism into law.
Anyone of African descent would be considered colored everyone else including non black American Indians was white but this wasn’t lost yet.
The next step was to ratify this constitution by a vote of territory residents.
As James Cody Johnson saw it.
There was still a chance to block this thing, he built his own Coalition.
There’s probably been no event in the history of the Negroes of said territories when more conservative action and sober thought is demanded than now Johnson rallies black people across the territories and tries to stop the creation of Oklahoma in its tracks.
That’s after the break.
Welcome back to Oklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plains.
Before the break, we heard about how white settlers gained ground in Indian Territory and how their leader Alfalfa Bill Murray wanted to create the state of Oklahoma and limit the rights of the territories.
James Cody Johnson, The prominent lawyer and Muscogee Creek.
Freedmen fought back here.
He is writing in 1907 and the pages of the Muscogee, Scimitar, a black-owned newspaper.
An Ian territory.
At this time, there are grave matters soon to arise calling for the utmost care and the best deliberations of our leaders for the protection and Welfare of the race of this state Johnson called for black Americans to unite.
He created a group called The Negro Protective League of Oklahoma.
And in the spring of 1907, he asked them all to gather in Oklahoma City for yet.
Another convention you are Therefore urgently and earnestly requested in the selection of delegates to this convention, to choose those Representatives who have or whom you believed to have the best interest of the race at.
Heart Johnson, didn’t know what the turnout would look like, but an impressive crowd showed up 300 Negroes among them, the most prominent and able men of the color race in Oklahoma and representing 50,000 colored citizens, condemned the Constitution, despite the turnout Johnson’s efforts fell short Murray’s, racist Constitution was ratified with 71% of the vote.
It was now on its way to the desk of the president of the United States, to officially be signed into the Union Johnson thought there was still time to kill this thing.
So, in October 1907 Johnson and his allies got on a train and headed to Washington.
Roosevelt was in the White House at the time, he agreed to the meeting but paid little attention to the black men.
When they arrived, we were ushered into the president’s office and mr.
Roosevelt shook hands, all around and then turn to other callers.
They made their plea to a distracted Roosevelt, please.
Don’t let Oklahoma into the Union.
Not under this constitution.
Protect basic human rights but Roosevelt wasn’t having it he bluntly told them, please do not ask me, not to sign it.
So what happened next?
Well, I’m going to guess you saw this one coming on November 16th 1907, Teddy Roosevelt.
Signed a presidential Proclamation, officially creating the state of Oklahoma.
Johnson was diplomatic in the face of failure, he gave a speech to the Negro Protective League thanking.
The black men who fought alongside him, but Johnson’s fears about statehood while sadly.
They all came true.
The first thing Oklahoma State lawmakers passed was Senate.
It’s segregated, the state’s train cars.
Then in 1910 a constitutional amendment, Element blocked Friedman and other black Oklahomans from voting, the relationship between African-Americans and the five tribes.
It becomes kind of strange because this is Donald fixico professor of history at Arizona State University.
He studies American Indians, and the u.s.
The crimes are really trying to regain and to hold on to whatever that they have and their loosen that.
And so they begin to look at African Americans.
It’s also as Intruders.
Also, as Outsiders, Donald has Muskogee Seminole, Shawnee and sac and fox ancestry.
He says, to keep in mind that American Indians were being heavily subjugated by the US, their entire way of existence was under threat.
Many were set on self-preservation.
They are against everything that is non-native for good reason.
And so, they had their biggest fear is that they’re losing control over their own future, and losing control of Their identity.
So Friedman, once brought in is tribal citizens, were pushed away over the course of the 20th.
Century, all five tribes ended, citizenship for freedmen, Descendants black tribal citizens were kicked out, unless they could prove they shared American Indian ancestry by Blood.
Using the Dawes rolls and within the five tribes.
Well, debates are still raging over what makes a tribal Citizen and who gets to decide.
Whatever else we may be, we are all Creek, Indians by Blood.
Here’s Muscogee Nation, Ambassador, John and of choudhry testifying before Congress earlier this year, and as a nation that has endured policies intended to exterminate us because we are Creek, Indians by Blood, citizenship, and issues, involving non-creepy persons, and gender.
Deep conflicting, emotions.
And choudhry says, this is a matter of self-preservation of trying to preserve a people almost wiped It Out by genocide.
It should be up to the tribes to decide who belongs.
One Tribe has reversed course, and response to a 20-17 federal court.
Ruling the Cherokee Nation.
Once again, allowed for freedmen, descendants to enroll Eli.
Grayson, who we heard earlier in the show, took on this debate, he got more involved in his tribe and the early 2000s and started pushing for change.
One of the things I started doing as president of the For you, creaks Association was seeking now.
People who claim to be Creek Freeman and inviting them to our monthly meeting, I’m like your creek.
You should be there.
You got history to be.
Told I want to hear and I actually got in trouble for it.
I mean we had members in California regulars at our monthly meetings called the cheeks, the Creek Nation and said he liked Grayson is inviting the in like you know what I’m talking about?
The ends to our meetings in the chief called me and said, hey, I heard you were inviting the Ann’s to your meetings out in California, the chief repeated the racist complaints, he had received and, uh, can you believe what they’re saying?
Kind of way, but it made plain to Eli how some still felt about black tribal citizens.
Why am I hearing the need for black people?
Laurie enslaved, by these Creeks, to say, they need the blood of the people that enslave them to have rice in the try and Eli’s opinion all Friedman.
Descendants, should be able to enroll.
He says, blood metrics aren’t the right way to define tribal citizenship.
We began the story with a wedding two territories became one but the glossy Union of Miss Indian Territory and mr.
Oklahoma territory hid, a darker truth, a devastating loss.
The end of the road for James, Cody Johnson’s dreams, dreams of true.
Equality in his lifetime dreams killed in part by that familiar mechanism of white supremacy.
Putting to Age groups against one another, but I like to thank James.
Cody Johnson’s vision for the United States still holds hope.
He saw room for marginalized groups, to find common ground to work together to reach New Heights, a vision, the American project has yet to fully realize a vision still worth pursuing all the same.
Not passed it as a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp media, this episode was produced by Ethan Oberman.
Next week, we’re bringing back our story about the ultimate Thanksgiving sabotage.
We’ll go back to their homes.
The rest of our team is producer, Olivia Briley, our associate producers are remotely.
Phillip and Nick, Delle Rose.
Laura Newcombe is our production assistant.
The supervising producer is Erica Morrison editing by Annie Gilbertson Andrea.
Be Scott is our executive editor fact-checking by Ian, Michael John butts voiced.
James Cody Johnson, been Britain voiced, William Murray the Reverend and newspaper Clips, Laura Newcomb, voiced Miss Indian Territory, anythin, Oberman voiced mr.
Sound design and mixing by Emma Monger original music, by sacks kicks.
Ave, Willie Green Day, bless and Bobby.
Lord, our theme song is Toko, Liana by cocoa with music supervision by Liz Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin and Talia Rahman.
The executive producer at CSP media is Zach Stewart Ponte a, the executive producer from gimlet is Matt shelves.
Special thanks to Sterling Casper and also to Gary, Zeller, if you want to learn more about the Muscogee Creek Friedman, you can read his Book African Creeks, which helped in researching this episode.
And to Lydia Pole, Green Abbie ruzicka Dan Behar Jen hon, Emily wiedemann, list Styles, Ariel Joseph and Joshua Bianchi follow not past it.
Now to listen for free exclusively on Spotify, click the little bell next to the follow button to get notifications for new episodes while you’re there.
Hey why don’t you write as 5 Stars?
You can follow me on Twitter at Simone pollen on.
Thanks for Hangin.
We’ll see you next week.
Okay, well, send my granny.
A note saying, I didn’t cuss anybody out in this goddamn, don’t only there.
Okay, well, send my granny.
A note saying, I didn’t cuss anybody out in this goddamn, don’t only there.