By Ernest Lowery
Special to the New Journal and Guide
What I have discovered in life is a fact: you can know a lot about life experiences and still be mis-informed. When I visited Tulsa, Oklahoma in October 2021 in conjunction with the 4th Annual Juneteenth Director & Planners Meeting/ National Juneteenth Independence Day Commemoration. I was overwhelmed by information I was not aware of, but yet it was right at my fingertips.
Information can certainly be found in the media, internet, newspapers, books and word of mouth if you’re really looking for answers. Tulsa is commemorating its 100-year massacre since 1921; that’s when the white people of that town basically went crazy behind a lie, jealousy and literally destroyed the town. What a terrible tragedy!
I left the city feeling a new appreciation and resilience in my soul for African Americans, as we have forgiven so many horrors but not forgotten.
I was reminded so much of my trip to Ghana, West Africa when I visited Cape Coast Castle and Elmina castle. There, it was The Door of No Return that heightened my anxiety and gave me renewed purpose for my life as a Black man. If you, too, “get that feeling” and want to do something—put Tulsa, Oklahoma on your list to visit. It is worth it.
I was in Tulsa for several days as Chairman and Founder, Chesapeake Juneteenth Foundation and a contributor to the National Juneteenth. There were many historical places of value we visited and participated in that related to the state’s African American history.
Did you know Oklahoma was destined to be a Black state? Former slaves or freedmen (in that era, they were not called African American) created more than 50 all-Black towns and settlements in Indian Territory between 1865-1920.
Among the places of interest is Rentiesville, founded in 1903. This community is one of the more than 50 all-Black towns in Oklahoma and one of 13 still existing today.
Muskogee was established in January 1872 as a railroad town (city) which ran through Missouri, Kansas, to Texas and was traveled by hundreds of families and freighters. When you look at the history of Honey Springs, you will find in this Indian Territory, there were more than 107 documented hostile encounters. Cherokee and Creek fought on both sides with an estimate of 9,000 men involved.
Also, of interest is the history of the first Kansas Colored Volunteers, which was the first African American regiment in the Union army.
I would also draw to your attention that the first cowboys were Black men—free and freedmen—in Oklahoma, driving cattle from Fort Worth, Texas to Kansas City (railhead).
By now most of you are familiar with the Greenwood District (Black Wall Street) which sprang up in the 1900’S, and by the 1921 sparked the worst racial violence in America’s history. Today Black Wall Street is flourishing; that’s good news. You must visit the new Greenwood Cultural Center; my two cents, this is one of the most complete Cultural Center I have ever engaged in.
Juneteenth is now a State and National Federal Holiday which deserves to be treated with respect. According to the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF) and its Juneteenth 101 Teachers Guide. “Let’s Destroy Our Enemies By Making Them Our Friends.”
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”- Abraham Lincoln
To Be Continued…