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Monday, March 30, 2015

America's Willful Ignorance of Our History of Lynching Feeds Racial Hatred

African-Americans once believed Oklahoma was their “promised land.” At the turn of the last century, tens of thousands risked everything in search of freedom there. They instead found themselves violently attacked, lynched like Laura and L. D. Nelson, or driven en masse out of more than 50 towns and cities. Blacks were even expelled from the bucolic college town of Norman, the home of O.U., in 1897. Forgetting this violence and exclusion naturalizes the absence of black people from wide swaths of contemporary Oklahoma.    

Moreover, the histories of anti-black violence and migration in Texas and Oklahoma are intertwined. The majority of Oklahoma’s black settlers came from Texas. Parker Rice and Levi Pettit, the students expelled for leading the SAE chant, are from Dallas. Dallas is just down the road from Paris, where Henry Smith was lynched. It is also close to Waco, where Jessie Washington was lynched. Prior to living in Oklahoma, the Nelson family lived in the Waco area. Other black Oklahoma settlers originally lived in Paris and Dallas. And just down the road from all of these cities is Austin, state capital and home of the University of Texas, where President Bill Powers said he would open an investigation into the possibility that the racist SAE chant has been sung at UT as well| Alternet

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