The Farm Security Administration and the Okie Myth

              The Farm Security Administration (FSA), played a big part in the creation of the Okie legend. Art Historian Cara Finnegan says that “Many in the early years of the twentieth century did not believe that rural poverty existed.”[1] The long revered Jeffersonian agrarian ideal centered on the belief…

Exodus: Black Okie Migration

            THE MIGRATION numbers for African Americans in Oklahoma are difficult to pin down because although there was a statewide net loss of only 3,349 or 2% of the total population of African Americans in the state between 1930 and 1940, this same period saw huge changes in black residency. Franklin…

Organizing

         Before they migrated out of their home states, many Okie and Arkie sharecropping, and tenant farmers organized to try to negotiate for more humane economic deals with plantation owners. In Gregory argue that it was “’grit’ and a preoccupation with toughness that became one of the cornerstones of the Okie subculture,”…

Racism and Relief

          Although Oklahoma had its share of middle class black citizens, not all, nor even most African Americans enjoyed a stable economic existence. As was so common across the cotton belt, many Oklahoman farmers were sharecroppers. In 1930, Oklahoma had 22,937 black farmers, 14,559 of them tenants. Meaning that 77% of…

Sharecropping

          Although Oklahoma had its share of middle class black citizens, not all, nor even most African Americans enjoyed a stable economic exitance. As was so common across the cotton belt, many Oklahoman farmers were sharecroppers. In 1930, Oklahoma had 22,937 black farmers, 14,559 of them tenants. Meaning that 77% of…

Racism and Public Policy in Oklahoma

Due to the deliberate political and social actions of whites, black Oklahomans began to lose ground economically earlier and at higher rates than their white counterparts during the early years of the Depression. In 1930, campaigning against “The Three C’s—Corporations, Carpetbaggers, and Coons,” William “Alfalfa Bill” Murray was elected governor of the state in a…

African Americans in Oklahoma

          Historians of the Dust Bowl and the Depression ignore the effect these events had on African Americans living in the Southwestern United States. Donald Worster in his book Dust Bowl, mentions African Americans only once, saying “few African Americans ever lived in the regions’ rural countryside.” Worster goes on to…

Social and Physical Mobility for African Americans in Oklahoma

          The society pages of black newspapers defy the notion that blacks were too poor before the Depression to have been affected by its economic upheaval. Many African Americans in Oklahoma were economically secure and physically mobile. The Chicago Defender had a society section specifically dedicated to the social movement and…

The Basics. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.

          Although the underlying economic factors that created the conditions that led to the Great Depression are myriad, and had been building for decades, the beginning is conventionally thought to be Black Tuesday, October 24, 1929, when the stock market crashed dramatically and sent the economy of the United States into…

“Not All Okies Were White”

THE HISTORY of the state of Oklahoma has been romanticized to the point that it is included in the national mythology of the United States. “Okies” migrating west were epitomized by Steinbeck’s Joad family, Woody Guthrie and the image of a wandering troubadour, Dust Bowl days with jalopies heading west on Route 66, dusty winds…