Historian Davis Joyce looks back at the Tulsa race riots and the significance of Oklahoma in US history. He is a Professor Emeritus of History at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. His books include An Oklahoma I Had Never Seen Before: Alternative Views of Oklahoma History and Alternative Oklahoma: Contrarian Views of the Sooner State. [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: A hundred and twenty years ago this month, white settlers took over vast areas of so-called “unassigned” lands from Native Americans during the Oklahoma Land Run. In our final segment, we take a few moments to look at Oklahoma’s only — often forgotten history.
We’re joined by Davis Joyce, Professor Emeritus of History at East Central University. He’s the author and editor of nine books, including a biography of Howard Zinn. Davis Joyce joins us on the telephone from Spavinaw, Oklahoma. He wrote Alternative Oklahoma: Contrarian Views.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Very briefly, in this last few minutes we have, can you talk about Oklahoma, for an audience that spans the world? What should we understand about your history here?
DAVIS JOYCE: Good morning, Amy. Thank you very much. I will try to be brief, though you know that doesn’t come naturally to professors.
My approach to Oklahoma history is an approach that’s been very much influenced by Howard Zinn and his idea of history from the bottom up, or people’s history. Thus, my works focus on women and minorities and radicals who have worked to improve the quality of people’s lives and the common people. And when I do look at a subject that’s a standard part of Oklahoma history, I try to look at it in a new, revisionist, what I call “alternative” manner.
You mentioned, for example, the Land Runs. I gave a talk during the centennial year of Oklahoma statehood, 2007, and someone was critical at me at the end, because I had not mentioned the Land Run. And I said, “Well, I have an essay in my book about the Land Run. It’s called ‘The Difficulty of Celebrating an Invasion.’” So, I think there’s something to be said for looking at those ignored parts of our past and those progressive parts of our past that many people have forgotten about.
AMY GOODMAN: So tell us, very briefly — I mean, here we are in Lawton, Oklahoma. It’s the headquarters of the Comanche Nation. The Native American significance of Oklahoma? The race riots of Tulsa? What should we know? And unfortunately, we only have a minute, but I want you just to touch on it here, as we are in Oklahoma.
DAVIS JOYCE: Ironically, when your people made contact with me to bring me on your show, I was working on the final report of the Tulsa Race Riot Commission. I was re-reading it for a long time.
It was an ignored part of the past for Tulsa and for the state of Oklahoma. Fortunately, we have finally done a better job processing that in recent years. It is probably the worst such riot in American history, just after World War I. And there is now a memorial dedicated to John Hope Franklin, the famous African American historian who was from here in our state.
I think what I work on is, we have such a conservative image, red state, that I like to remind people we have not always been that kind of state. And I hope that my approach to history can help get us back in touch with our progressive roots.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you know, Davis Joyce, we’re not going to have time to do this justice, so we’re going to have you back on to talk about the history of Oklahoma. It’s so important, is central to the history of this country. Davis Joyce, Professor Emeritus of History at East Central University here in Oklahoma, author of a number of books, including Alternative Oklahoma.