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BOOK REVIEW: "Alternative Oklahoma" by Davis D. Joyce

University of Oklahoma Press
Davis D. Joyce's 2007 book "Alternative Oklahoma."
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BOOK REVIEW: Alternative Oklahoma: Contrarian Views of the Sooner State by Davis D. Joyce (University of Oklahoma Press) 2007

The book edited by Davis D. Joyce, a former professor of Political Science in both Oklahoma and New Mexico proposes fascinating point of views of Oklahoma untold history.

Subjects such as gender, race, religion, economy to popular music are discussed by preeminent Oklahoman activists and scholars.

Oklahoma is often considered as a very religious conservative state, part of the Bible Belt, where groups such as a Ku Klux Klan were still powerful not a long time ago and where racism and sexism are still omnipresent today. That is true that the large support of Oklahomans to Donald Trump during the last presidential elections doesn’t help ever to see Oklahoma over than a red state.

And yet, as said Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, a retired historian from California State University in the book, “Oklahoma has gone from ‘Red’ to ‘red’.” Or, from socialist to far-right conservative.

Before to be a Republican stronghold, it was during a decade one of the most socialist states in the Union till World Ward I change everything, letting place to patriotism and the KKK.

And who knows that one of the first sit-ins in the nation was held by black children to challenge generations of oppression and segregation on Aug. 19, 1958, at the Katz Drug Store in Oklahoma City? Or that the University of Tulsa was the first university in the country to authorize building a Muslim mosque on its campus in 2003?

Ten years have passed since the publication of the book and during my three years living in Oklahoma I have witnessed that minorities are still struggling, the economic situation is still difficult and almost all state legislators are still members of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant élite.

But at the opposite, I also observed that more than ever activists are very dynamic in Oklahoman from the environment to LGBTQ to Black people to Native American to women rights. Thanks to the precursor (cited in the book) who had the courage to stand.

And what a better example today with the case of the DeBarr Avenue renaming in Norman, Oklahoma. Edwin DeBarr, a former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon, one of the first professors at

The University of Oklahoma and also vice president of the university until 1923, named the street after himself at a time when there were no city rules about the subject.

And even if the University of Oklahoman fired DeBarr in 1923, his name wasn’t removed from the Chemistry building till 1988. But the worst is the City of Norman who blocked all actions to remove the name until this week when Norman’s councilwoman, Breea Clark (a white person) launched a petition to rename the street by bringing awareness on the subject last March.

As nothing really seemed to change she was joined by numerous OU students and local activists who started to organize protests.

And finally, after a couple of months of media coverage of the protests led by Deon Osborne, an African-American OU student and local activist, the councilmembers unanimously voted the renaming of the street not later than June 1st , 2018.

Progress is slowly and continuously spreading through Oklahoma. But if there is one thing that doesn’t change, it that one still need to fight hard to get it done.

Even if the book is 10 years old, it is still a good reminder of the untold progressive history of Oklahoma.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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