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Cultures of the Americas Seminar

February 4, 8:30 am-12:00 pm


The Helmerich Center for American Research at Gilcrease Museum and the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities invite you to attend a public seminar and discussion featuring Alaina E. Roberts and her new book I’ve Been Here All the While: Black Freedom on Native Land (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021). Roberts will be joined by two guest commentators, Gregory Downs (University of California, Davis) and Kristen Oertel (University of Tulsa), who will offer commentary on the book and its broader significance. Roberts will respond to those comments with her own presentation. The remainder of the public seminar will be open to public discussion with the author and guest commentators. We strongly encourage attendees to read Roberts’ book before the seminar.

Alaina E. Roberts, Ph.D., assistant professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, has authored one book and has been featured in TIME magazine, CNN, The Atlantic and more. Her research illuminates the many intersections of Native American and Black life from the 1400s to the modern day.

Coffee and light breakfast provided at 8:30 a.m. This presentation is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and registration is required.

Prior to the event, on Friday, Feb. 3, from 5 to 6 p.m., seminar attendees are invited to join us at the Zarrow Center for a casual welcome reception to meet the speakers and explore the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities NEH-funded Pathways to Freedom exhibition, focused on the history and futures of Oklahoma’s all-Black Towns.

Please contact Alex Patterson at 918-631-6412 or if you have questions.

From the Publisher:

Perhaps no other symbol has more resonance in African American history than that of “40 acres and a mule”—the lost promise of Black reparations for slavery after the Civil War. In I’ve Been Here All the While, we meet the Black people who actually received this mythic 40 acres, the American settlers who coveted this land, and the Native Americans whose holdings it originated from.

In nineteenth-century Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma), a story unfolds that ties African American and Native American history tightly together, revealing a western theatre of Civil War and Reconstruction, in which Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole Indians, their Black slaves, and African Americans and whites from the eastern United States fought military and rhetorical battles to lay claim to land that had been taken from others.

Through chapters that chart cycles of dispossession, land seizure, and settlement in Indian Territory, Alaina E. Roberts draws on archival research and family history to upend the traditional story of Reconstruction. She connects debates about Black freedom and Native American citizenship to westward expansion onto Native land. As Black, white, and Native people constructed ideas of race, belonging, and national identity, this part of the West became, for a short time, the last place where Black people could escape Jim Crow, finding land and exercising political rights, until Oklahoma statehood in 1907.


February 4
8:30 am-12:00 pm
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Gilcrease Museum


Zarrow Center for Art & Education
124 E. Reconciliation Way
Tulsa, OK 74103 United States
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