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Thread: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

  1. #26

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    Reading this thread it is obvious that a case can be made for pigeon holding various Oklahoma regions in different categories. Than you throw in the differing cultures and it is obvious that homogenization of Oklahoma is still a work in progress.

  2. #27

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    You stated this as fact then posted a bunch of links that merely show settlers came from all over, not "predominately" white Southerners.


    It seems like you are very invested in trying to portray Oklahoma as part of the South.

    From one of your links:
    While I do feel that there is more evidence to lump Oklahoma in with the South more than any other cultural region, I am merely trying to have a nuanced conversation about why Oklahomans seem so polarized about our cultural region.

    And I don't believe I said that Oklahoma's early settlers didn't come from all over, but rather that a majority had their origins in the South.

    Indeed you're quoting the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma's Settlement Patterns article.

    I suppose you ignored my disclaimer about the writing at OKHistory:

    "They paint a pretty cosmopolitan picture of Oklahoma's early settlers"

    They do a careful job as not explicitly state an overall demographic breakdown.

    If you would examine the other links, Oklahoma is shown as being settled to a significant degree by Southerners.

    Again, there is quite a bit of material out online about this topic.

    Oklahoma's early political history is shaped by this demographic situation. After reading about things like the passing of Senate Bill 1 and the subsequent era of Jim Crow and Democratic political dominance in Oklahoma, one does wonder who these people were who ate up segregationist political rhetoric. It clearly wasn't Republican Midwestern migrants from Kansas and Nebraska instituting Jim Crow and setting up pensions for Confederate veterans in Oklahoma.

  3. #28

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    I don't think people are polarized, just that very few here lump us in with the South, and for the dozens of reasons presented by everyone in this thread.

    My family has been here since 1962 and we never regarded Oklahoma as being part of the South and never heard it categorized in that way.

  4. #29

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    Quote Originally Posted by Isaac C. Parker View Post
    While I do feel that there is more evidence to lump Oklahoma in with the South more than any other cultural region, I am merely trying to have a nuanced conversation about why Oklahomans seem so polarized about our cultural region.

    And I don't believe I said that Oklahoma's early settlers didn't come from all over, but rather that a majority had their origins in the South.

    Indeed you're quoting the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma's Settlement Patterns article.

    I suppose you ignored my disclaimer about the writing at OKHistory:

    "They paint a pretty cosmopolitan picture of Oklahoma's early settlers"

    They do a careful job as not explicitly state an overall demographic breakdown.

    If you would examine the other links, Oklahoma is shown as being settled to a significant degree by Southerners.

    Again, there is quite a bit of material out online about this topic.

    Oklahoma's early political history is shaped by this demographic situation. After reading about things like the passing of Senate Bill 1 and the subsequent era of Jim Crow and Democratic political dominance in Oklahoma, one does wonder who these people were who ate up segregationist political rhetoric. It clearly wasn't Republican Midwestern migrants from Kansas and Nebraska instituting Jim Crow and setting up pensions for Confederate veterans in Oklahoma.
    Iím 5th Generation okie. My family were actual Republican farmers from Kansas. We were definitely not southern and we lived in an area of NW oklahoma that looks a lot more like New Mexico than Georgia. There is nothing about my Oklahoma experience that would indicate anything of southern culture. I never heard anyone describe oklahoma as southern growing up.&$

    Now if I were born in southeast oklahoma from a family of Mississippi settlers Id probably be ready to fight anyone who claimed I wasnít ďsouthernĒ

    The answer to this question solely depends on who is answering it. I donít think there are any right or wrong answers. It could go a lot of ways so I usually just go by the labeled map I was given to color in grade school.

  5. #30

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    I am not an expert on this aspect of pre-statehood history, but it's my understanding that while several of the nations allied with the South, it was for their own interests, not because they shared the war aims of the Confederacy. But, yes, there is still anti-Black racism within some nations as freedman are still denied citizenship in the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole nations. The Cherokee Nation recently granted full citizenship to freedman. It's been a long civil rights struggle.

    Oklahoma is clearly a convergence point for several geographic and cultural regions. This is further complicated by it being home to Indigenous nations that were from throughout the U.S. That is why I don't think Oklahoma clearly belongs in any single geographic region. But to Pete's point, I lived in Tahlequah/Tulsa/Norman/Edmond/OKC until I was 30. I felt a total culture shock the first time I traveled to the South. Living in Wichita felt a lot more like Oklahoma than the South did to me. Having said that, I sometime felt like that in small towns in Oklahoma too. In short, it's complicated.

    Or just this:

    Quote Originally Posted by GoGators View Post
    The answer to this question solely depends on who is answering it. I donít think there are any right or wrong answers. It could go a lot of ways so I usually just go by the labeled map I was given to color in grade school.

  6. #31

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    Quote Originally Posted by Isaac C. Parker View Post
    Oklahoma was predominately settled by white Southerners after the Civil War. That's where this element of Southern culture in Oklahoma stems from.



    I'm not sure what you mean here. Small town eastern Oklahoma is pretty similar to small town western Arkansas (for me, anyway). Same as small town southwest Oklahoma from nearby Texas, or the Oklahoma Panhandle and the Texas Panhandle.
    Oklahoma had black towns established before white settlement. Oklahoma had a black territorial governor.

    You seem to be, pardon the term, whitewashing the presence of freedmen and the establishment of black towns in Oklahoma, in order to fit a narrative that we are an extension of the South.

    The tribes had freed their slaves before emancipation.

    Oklahoma was discussed as possibly becoming America's first black state.

  7. #32

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    I'm from Michigan born and raised but I lived in Virginia and spent several years in Mississippi before I moved to Oklahoma and Oklahoma in no way feels Midwestern to me. In my opinion its feels alot like Mississippi the people the food culture I felt no difference from Mississippi to Oklahoma. No Virginia was something totally different

  8. #33

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    Quote Originally Posted by soonerguru View Post
    Oklahoma had black towns established before white settlement. Oklahoma had a black territorial governor.

    You seem to be, pardon the term, whitewashing the presence of freedmen and the establishment of black towns in Oklahoma, in order to fit a narrative that we are an extension of the South.

    The tribes had freed their slaves before emancipation.

    Oklahoma was discussed as possibly becoming America's first black state.
    If you think I'm whitewashing anything because I didn't mention Oklahoma's historic black communities, well I'm at a loss.

    To elaborate a little more on the topic, the Oklahoma Territory was, at one time, a hopeful destination for a lot of Freedmen and their children fleeing west during Reconstruction. Here's an article in the Oklahoman about it too.

    Oklahoma Territory was an appealing place for black settlers, and between the initial land runs and Statehood, Oklahoma's black population more than doubled.

    Unfortunately, as I'd mentioned, Oklahoma quickly became quite hostile towards black settlers who had legal equality in mind, as segregationist laws were implemented at Statehood in 1907. After 1910, Oklahoma's black population shrank in proportion to other demographics within the state. This correlates with a number of Jim Crow laws that were passed and enacted, including the introduction of a "Grandfather clause" aimed at disenfranchising black Oklahomans.

    But, two of your claims are not true. Oklahoma Territory never had a black governor. But, perhaps you are thinking of Edward McCabe, who was a prominent figure in the black community and the founder of the town of Langston. He was never appointed territorial governor, however.

    And the tribes did not free their slaves until the Reconstruction Treaties of 1866 - well after the Emancipation Proclamation.

    While I don't know if any of the aforementioned proves that Oklahoma belongs to any particular region, I do think we all stand to benefit from learning more about the history of the black community within Oklahoma. Thanks for bringing up this topic.

  9. #34

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    I'm from Michigan born and raised but I lived in Virginia and spent several years in Mississippi before I moved to Oklahoma and Oklahoma in no way feels Midwestern to me. In my opinion its feels alot like Mississippi the people the food culture I felt no difference from Mississippi to Oklahoma. No Virginia was something totally different

  10. #35
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    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    Quote Originally Posted by Isaac C. Parker View Post
    Yeah, the Boomers (and broadly the land run settlers) did not comprise the majority of the settlers in early Oklahoma. But the trains were absolutely real; in that first 1889 run, there were trains departing from Arkansas City, KS (purportedly full of Midwesterners/Northerners) and trains departing from Purcell, I.T. (full of Southerners). Subsequently, Guthrie famously was a Republican stronghold and Oklahoma City a Democrat one.

    Generally, northwest/north-central Oklahoma was predominately settled by Midwesterners, while Southerners settled in the rest of the state. Historic voting/voter registration patterns, linguistic divides, religious affiliation, and even agricultural history follow this alignment.
    Yeah, I can relate to that. My ancestors, who settled in Oklahoma around 1895-1905, came from Kansas on my mother's side of the family, who settled in rural Cushing. On my father's side of the family they came from Missouri and settled not very far away from Cushing in rural Glencoe. I don't remember hearing what led them to settle to Oklahoma, unless because the farmland was cheap. Interesting how almost all further generation members from there on elected to stay in Oklahoma even during the depression through now. My grandparents did try moving to California for a while to pick grapes but didn't like how they were treated as migrants and moved back to Cushing where they used their saved up earnings to build a new house. As a child, I fondly remember going to Cushing to visit them.

  11. #36

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    Quote Originally Posted by the michigander View Post
    In my opinion its feels alot like Mississippi the people the food culture I felt no difference from Mississippi to Oklahoma.
    This is the exact opposite experience i had. The first time I was in Mississippi I felt like I'd stepped onto a different planet... but much of our perceptions are likely tied to different places and peoples across the state... which can be pretty different.

  12. #37

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    I think as we move through generations, Americans in general are becoming more homogeneous.

    My wife has cousins from Mississippi. The kids play soccer, dress exactly as teenagers do in every corner of the country, the family doesn't even have accents. They are virtually indistinguishable from other family members that live in Michigan. While I think small towns in different parts of the country retain differences in culture, we increasingly see people across the country living and acting very similarly to each other, provided they are roughly the same socioeconomic class.

  13. #38

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    To demonstrate the point about Americans being increasingly homogeneous, I lived in California for 25 years and not one person ever picked up on the fact I spent my first 29 years in Oklahoma; at least without me telling them up front.


    And this is true worldwide. I went to Italy during college in 1980 and remember I stood out like a sore thumb and it seemed like everyone instantly recognized me as an 'Americano'.

    I spent a ton of time in Europe in the '90s and by then locals would stop me all the time and ask directions assuming I was a native. This happened in a bunch of different countries. I also noticed that people started dressing and looking the same almost everywhere I went.

    Especially in the Western Hemisphere, people are much more mobile and with the advent of cable/satellite TV and the internet, trends and what used to make places unique now get easily shared and adopted.

  14. #39

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    I really do appreciate the thoughtful replies on this thread. I've enjoyed reading them all.

    I thought I'd share a couple of relevant polls attempting to pin down Oklahoma's self-identified region.

    In the 1990s, UNC-Chapel Hill professor and researcher John Shelton Reed conducted a number of polls asking respondents things like whether they lived in "the South."

    One poll found that 69% of Oklahomans said they lived in "the South."

    More recently (2014), FiveThirtyEight polled a couple thousand Americans and asked them which states they thought comprised the South and which states make up the Midwest.

    FiveThirtyEight released their polling data for individuals to parse through, and the Oklahoma data is interesting.

    From what looking at respondents with Oklahoma zip codes in the .csv files said, 52.4% (32 of 61) of Oklahomans polled by FiveThirtyEight thought it was part of "the South," with 62.7% (32 of 51) of Oklahomans polled thought it was part of "the Midwest."

    I'm not sure that this meshes with what a poster above said about "very few" in Oklahoma identifying it with the South, but I think it's very interesting that Oklahoma seems to be a part of both regions in some Oklahomans' opinions.

    Cheers for the discussion.

  15. #40

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    I don't think "The South," i.e., former members of the C.S.A. would identify Oklahoma as a southern state.

    Oklahoma has a unique history among the states. Since we didn't achieve statehood until 1907, we were not part of the slavery dialog which found every other State taking rather extreme positions on the subject--Oklahoma did not exist. It was a conglomerate of Native nations. The Civil War was almost fifty years in the past. Who were these folks setting up nursing homes for Union and Confederate veterans? Housing them together was probably not practically a great idea. That war was a terrible thing, and I'm sure it left a huge impression on those who fought it. A new State would have to deal with the reality that some of those folks were going to migrate its way.

    Are we Southern in our approach to minorities and politics? I'd say that's verifiably true. That doesn't make us part of "The South." though.

  16. #41

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    Quote Originally Posted by Midtowner View Post
    I don't think "The South," i.e., former members of the C.S.A. would identify Oklahoma as a southern state.

    Oklahoma has a unique history among the states. Since we didn't achieve statehood until 1907, we were not part of the slavery dialog which found every other State taking rather extreme positions on the subject--Oklahoma did not exist. It was a conglomerate of Native nations. The Civil War was almost fifty years in the past. Who were these folks setting up nursing homes for Union and Confederate veterans? Housing them together was probably not practically a great idea. That war was a terrible thing, and I'm sure it left a huge impression on those who fought it. A new State would have to deal with the reality that some of those folks were going to migrate its way.

    Are we Southern in our approach to minorities and politics? I'd say that's verifiably true. That doesn't make us part of "The South." though.
    "The South" is not entirely about the CSA any more than "The North" is. There was and is a before and after.

    Here is an interesting article about our area during that time:

    Indian Territory did not have much of an impact on the Civil War, but the Civil War had a tremendous impact on Indian Territory.

    The historian LeRoy Fischer has said that no area of the country, not Virginia or Georgia or Tennessee, suffered more during the Civil War than Indian Territory.

    By the end of 1863, one-third of married Cherokee women were widows; one-fourth of Cherokee children were orphans.

    The Creek village some people called Tulsey Town disappeared from the heights overlooking the Arkansas River during the Civil War and never returned.

    Homes were burned, livestock run off or stolen. By war's end, some 7,000 Union Indians, mostly Creeks and Cherokees, were camped around Fort Gibson. Fifteen thousand Confederate sympathizers were in camps along the Red River.

    All this, for a fight most of the American Indian leaders wanted no part of.

    "It was a completely different war here," said Cody Joliff of the Oklahoma Historical Society. "The Indian Nations did not secede - they were not part of the Union."

    To be sure, the transplanted tribes of the southeast - Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminoles - all had ties to the Confederacy. The mixed bloods, especially, were connected by culture and in some cases by blood. Many owned slaves.

    But more than anything, the war in Indian Territory was about old grudges and personal survival. All of the tribes split along old fissures opened decades earlier, during removal.

    https://tulsaworld.com/news/local/go...8448e1ed2.html

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned Little Dixie yet.

    "Little Dixie" denotes southeastern Oklahoma and its close social, cultural, and above all, political connections to the American South. Although commonly used, the term is rarely if ever precisely defined geographically. The Third Congressional District, which first elected Carl Albert to Congress in 1946, composes the heart of the region. The district encompassed Atoka, Bryan, Carter, Choctaw, Johnston, Latimer, Le Flore, Love, McCurtain, Marshall, Murray, Pittsburg, and Pushmataha counties. Redistricting in 1966–68 added Coal, Cotton, Garvin, Haskell, Hughes, Jefferson, Pontotoc, Seminole, and Stephens counties to the Third District. These nine might be considered the outlying counties of Little Dixie.

    The character of the region began to emerge in the mid-1830s with the arrival of the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes in southeastern Oklahoma, then known as Indian Territory. Both had thoroughly appropriated southern customs, including slavery. The two tribes were the most resolute Confederate allies among the Five Tribes during the Civil War. Further, throughout the nineteenth century whites, mainly southern, migrated legally and illegally into Oklahoma. By 1900, 87 percent of white settlers in the Indian Territory (eastern Oklahoma) were southerners. Late-nineteenth-century immigrants from the Midwest perceived the southeastern part of present Oklahoma as a southern enclave and tended to settle elsewhere.

    Geographers assert that distinctly southern qualities manifest more strongly in Little Dixie than in the remainder of the state.


    https://www.okhistory.org/publicatio...hp?entry=LI013
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Dixie_(Oklahoma)

    I think we are much like the topographic zones where people came from different areas and made their way. Some from the north, Dakotas on down through Kansas with the origins where they and their families migrated from first to there. Some from "The South" as in Little Dixie, and some from Texas expansions into "The West". Much of this has melted together over the generations.

    Edit to add...more about that than I can elucidate: https://www.okhistory.org/publicatio...hp?entry=CU001

  17. #42

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    This article explores settlement patterns of Oklahoma.
    Settlement Patterns | The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture
    https://www.okhistory.org/publicatio...ENT%20PATTERNS

  18. #43

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    Quote Originally Posted by mkjeeves View Post
    I'm surprised no one has mentioned Little Dixie yet.

    87 percent of white settlers in the Indian Territory (eastern Oklahoma) were southerners.

    I think we are much like the topographic zones where people came from different areas and made their way. Some from the north, Dakotas on down through Kansas with the origins where they and their families migrated from first to there. Some from "The South" as in Little Dixie, and some from Texas expansions into "The West". Much of this has melted together over the generations.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    This map is from a recent Reddit post depicting how each county in Oklahoma voted in the Presidential elections from 1908 through 1960 - well before there was ever a Southern strategy drawing Southern Democrats to vote Republican. Although it's not a perfect proxy for historic voter registration, the aggregating of the election data together like this serves a similar purpose.

    Because of the historic, regional nature of American politics, this map shows where most of the Republican Midwestern settlers and Democrat Southern settlers of Oklahoma wound up. It's consistent with the accounts describing each Oklahoma land opening and where most of the settlers originated from.

    While northeast Oklahoma was pretty evenly meshed between Democrat voters and Republican voters (outside of Tulsa), the rest of the state is much more starkly divided. North-Central and Northwest Oklahoma resembled Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa in its agriculture, culture, demographics, and politics. The rest of the state was pretty uniformly Southern in its agriculture, culture, demographics, and politics.

    This sort of contradicts the notion that Southeast Oklahoma, or Little Dixie, is historically the exception rather than the rule; the entire southern quadrant of what used to be Oklahoma Territory was largely indistinguishable from Little Dixie culturally, despite possessing a more arid and rugged landscape.

    Furthermore, the counties of North-Central and Northwestern Oklahoma historically (and today) had smaller populations than the rest of the state. It follows that Oklahoma's historic Democrat political machine stemmed from it being largely settled by Southerners.

    The unfortunate legacy of Oklahoma's Jim Crow era doesn't make sense without understanding the connection between Oklahoma and the rest of the South. It can be difficult to examine unpleasant history objectively, but we can discuss topics like segregation in Oklahoma without endorsing it. Relatedly, I struggle to see how we can celebrate local heroes like Clara Luper and their contributions to Oklahoma society without trying to understand the problems they sought to resolve.

  19. #44

    Default Re: Why is it controversial to call Oklahoma part of the South?

    According to Google, Oklahoma is a South Central State. It says "nothing" about being in the Midwest. I feel the State leans more culturally and geographically towards the South. I am not saying the "Deep South". If you think about it, Arkansas our neighbor to the east, is classified as a Southern State.

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