Home is Where the People Are: A Case Study of the Black Westward Movement, Sandtown, Oklahoma
Phelicia Ann Morton
Robert L. Harris, Jr
Thesis DT 3.5 1999 M678
viii, 97 leaves: ill., map; 29 cm.
My topic of study is the westward movement of Black people in the late 1800s and early 1900s, using the example of the Sandtown addition of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma as my primary focus. I have deliberately named my topic "westward movement" rather than "Black migration" because the latter phrase often carries with it a connotation of escapism and hopelessness. This connotation has been entrenched by a long tradition of analyses that focus on the economic and political terrorism as the sole force that drove Blacks from the South. I sincerely believe that in leaving the South for the West, Blacks were not acting on a debilitating fear or pessimism. In the westward movement, the factor of Black resistance to white racism has never been fully discussed. Thus, I am countering the tradition of perceiving Black migration as a mass episode of abandonment and despondency with that of the Black westward movement which characterizes Black participants as pioneers who took the issue of freedom in their own hands. The Black westward movement not only connotes pioneerism, but it nullifies the characterization of Black migratory trends as episodic and detrimental.
I will be taking an African-centered or Afro-centric perspective. There are unique characteristics in the Black community and the Black experience that, I believe, urges an African worldview and scholarship. In this regard I am applying the definition of Afrocentric and Afrocentricity as offered by Molefi Asante and Maulana Karenga. In "Afrocentricity and Multicultural Education: Concept, Challenge and Contribution" Karenga summarizes Asante's use of Afrocentricity as "the delineation of a conceptual framework for a self-conscious, unified and effective understanding, appreciating and utilizing the rich and varied complexity of African life and culture."1 He goes on to add his own conceptualization on the term, arguing that " Afrocentricity, at its best, is a quest for and an expression of historical and cultural anchor, a critical reconstruction that dares to restore missing and hidden parts of our historical self-formation…" Thus, in applying this conception of Afrocentricity to my thesis I will, for example, identify the westward movement as a Black social movement (the westward movement is typically presented as a white phenomenon that focuses on the white male and female pioneers who 'settled' the 'wild west'). I am presenting it, in this case, as a movement of Black male and female pioneers who added to the historical and cultural reservoir of the West.
My analysis consisted of several methodologies that were of considerable importance in adequately addressing this issue since documentation was scarce. In many instances, these methodologies were interdependent. My analysis will include a survey of the literature on Black migration (specifically to Oklahoma), with two aims in mind: (1) to demonstrate the basic history of Oklahoma and link that history to Sandtown, and (2) to survey the scholarly material regarding the Black westward movement/Black migration. I have included a demographic analysis of the Sandtown community through the use of census data, governmental documents, newspapers, and local resources. I have also included interviews (individual and group, formal and informal), and relied on the method of observation and participation which provided much of the oral history of Sandtown.
The time period that I will be discussing begins in 1844 when the first Sandtown church was founded, and will span the decades Sandtown's establishment, growth, zenith and decline due to urban renewal and development. I will be focusing on the community and its internal institutions and the effect that external factors (migration, governmental programs, and historical events) had on the community.
1 Karenga, Maulana. Afro- American Nationalism: Social Strategy and Struggle for Community. (Doctoral dissertation, United States International University, 1976). UMI Dissertation Information, 4.