The history of African-Americans in Oklahoma is a story unlike any to be found in the United states. African-Americans initially came to this region on the "Trail of Tears," as Indian slaves. Later, they came as cowboys, settlers, gunfighters, and farmers. By statehood in 1907, they outnumbered both Indians and first and second generation Europeans. They created more all-black towns in Oklahoma than in the rest of the country put together, produced some of the country's greatest jazz musicians, and led some of the nation's greatest civil rights battles.
Oklahoma's first native-born governor, Robert Kerr (later a senator for 14 years) held the statehouse during World War II and brought the state national recognition by promoting Oklahoma as a site for military, industrial, and conservation projects. Under early postwar governors Roy Turner, Johnston Murray, and Raymond Gary, tax reductions attracted industry, major highways were built, a loyalty oath for state employees was declared unconstitutional, and Oklahoma's higher educational facilities were integrated.
Although an Oklahoma statehood bill was introduced in Congress as early as 1892, the Five Civilized Tribes resisted all efforts to unite Indian Territory until their attempt to form their own state was defeated in 1905. Congress passed an enabling act in June 1906, and Oklahoma became the 46th state on 16 November 1907 after a vote of the residents of both territories. Oklahoma City was named the state capital in 1910.
Oil made Oklahoma a rich state, but natural-gas production has now surpassed it. Oil refining, meat packing, food processing, and machinery manufacturing (especially construction and oil equipment) are important industries. Minerals produced in Oklahoma include helium, gypsum, zinc, cement, coal, copper, and silver.
Oklahoma's borders enclose a rich mishmash of landscapes. Forested foothills and low mountains shape the northeast, where the Ozarks, with their tall pines and twisty valleys, reach into the state. The Arbuckle and Wichita ranges in the south are rougher and more rugged. Volcanic pressure pushing up from inside the earth caused these granite peaks to rise. We only see the tips of them today.
In 1817, a military post, which was called Fort Smith, was established at the mouth of the Poteau River, on the eastern border of Oklahoma. Most of the soldiers in its first garrison had served under General Andrew Jackson at the battle of New Orleans, only a little more than two years before. A few white people had already settled along the Arkansas and Red rivers in Eastern Oklahoma a year or two before that, but these were afterward compelled to remove.
The first expediation sent out was that of Captains Lewis and Clark, leaving St. Louis in 1804 which ascended the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains. Two years later, two other expeditions were sent to explore other portions of the Louisiana country. One of these was commanded by Lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike, who went westward, across Kansas, to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Lieutenant James B. Wilkinson, with five soldiers, was sent down the Arkansas River from the central part of Kansas. Lieutenant Wilkinson wrote a description of his journey down the Arkansas river across Oklahoma.
Although one of the youngest states in the nation, Oklahoma is a land that reaches far back in time. Oklahoma's recorded history began in 1541 when Spanish explorer Coronado ventured through the area on his quest for the "Lost City of Gold." The land that would eventually be known as Oklahoma was part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Beginning in the 1820s, the Five Civilized Tribes from the southeastern UnitedTrail of Tears Statue States were relocated to Indian Territory over numerous routes, the most famous being the Cherokee "Trail of Tears." Forced off their ancestral lands by state and federal governments, the tribes suffered great hardships during the rigorous trips west. The survivors eventually recovered from the dislocation through hard work and communal support. Gradually, new institutions and cultural adaptations emerged and began a period of rapid developments often called the "Golden Age" of Indian Territory.
Several tribes of Indians lived in or ranged over parts of the present state of Oklahoma at the beginning of the historic period, when men of the white race first began to explore this part of the continent. These tribes included the Caddo, which ranged over the valley of the Red River, in the southeastern part of the state; the Wichita, which occupied the southwestern part of the state; the Quapaw, which ranged across the eastern border along the valley of the Arkansas; the Osage, ranging across the valleys of the Grand and Verdigris rivers in the northeastern part of the state; the Comanche, which roamed over the plans in the western part of the state, and the Ute, which occupied the extreme western part of the old No-Man's Land.
Oklahoma also is a cultural borderland. It occupies the region where the cultural East, West, Southwest and Midwest come together and, as the last part of the public domain opened to homesteaders, attracted a number of European immigrants. Because the settlement of the state took more than a century, from 1803 - 1907, Oklahoma was populated piecemeal and not in a systematic east to west migration.