Asking the 'ultimate question' about the Freedmen
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Sunday, October 21, 2012
10/21/12 at 4:15 AM
The most important part of the title of Hannibal Johnson's latest book is the question mark.
Johnson, a Tulsa lawyer and author, has just published "Apartheid in Indian Country? Seeing Red Over Black Disenfranchisement," which examines the history and controversies surrounding the relationship between some American Indian tribes and their African-American members, known as "Freedmen."
"I first began working on this book about five years ago," Johnson said. "At the time, there was an issue surrounding the Freedmen in the Cherokee and Muscogee-Creek nations. I've always been interested in issues of diversity, inclusion and African-American history, and the issues surrounding the Freedmen really illustrate all those issues."
The five major tribes that were forcibly relocated to Oklahoma were accompanied by people of African descent. Following the American Civil War, when a portion of the Five Civilized Tribes sided with the Confederacy, the U.S. negotiated new treaties with the tribes that included adopting these "Freedmen" as tribal members.
The modern-day legal battles over the status of Freedmen descendents within the Cherokee Nation and other Indian tribes are "emblematic of the unique richness of Oklahoma history because of that interrelationship among people of European, American Indian and African ancestry," Johnson said.
He said this book examines legal, political, economic, social and moral issues surrounding the present controversy over tribal citizenship of Freedmen.
As for the importance of the question mark in his title, Johnson said, "Some people have seen parallels between this situation and the apartheid in South Africa. But really, this is the ultimate question - what is happening here and why? Is race a factor, and if so, how significant a factor? And why is this continuing into the 21st century, which we like to think that we've moved toward a more inclusive ideal in our society?"
Tulsa author Hannibal Johnson will be
signing copies of his book “Apartheid in
Indian Country? Seeing Red over Black
Disenfranchisement” from 1 to 3 p.m.
Saturday at Steve’s Sundry, Books and
Magazines, 2612 S. Harvard Ave.
Original Print Headline: Asking the 'ultimate question'
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478