• Terry Ligon

Using Newspapers as a Source for Storytelling

It is said that our ancestors didn’t write their own history therefore making it practically impossible to tell their story. I happen to think there are other ways to describe the lives of our ancestors through the events that were happening to them but written by others. For that view of history is can be beneficial to take a look at some of the local, regional and national newspapers to provide vital information that may have influenced the lives of our ancestors, especially those living in Indian Territory.


Although the events of the day in Indian Territory and across the nation may have had a direct or indirect effect on our ancestor’s lives one place to always look for information would be the “front page” of any newspaper. The Associated Press as it does today was distributing articles from one locality to others where a particular story would be picked up so those that could read could learn of events like the coming of the Dawes Commission to Indian Territory, congressional legislation and laws that would determine the future of Indian Territory Freedmen and their descendants.


Now earlier I stated that our ancestors may not have written about their lives and the events that shaped their daily existence but for the record there were numerous newspapers in Indian Territory that were owned and operated by formerly enslaved people of the Five Slave Holding Tribes as well as Black people who lived in the United States which Indian Territory was not included.


I don’t have a complete list of all the Black Newspapers in or out of Indian Territory but some that you may want to become acquainted with are:

· The Muskogee Cimiter, W.H. TWINE, Editor, Muskogee, Indian Territory

· The Western World John C. LEFTWICH, Editor, Muskogee, Indian Territory

· The Kansas City Sun, Nelson C. CREWS, Editor, Kansas City, Missouri

· The Muskogee Star (became The Tulsa Star), Editor, A.J. SMITHERMAN, Tulsa, OK

· The Black Dispatch, Roscoe DUNGEE, Editor


The various stories that collectively tell the story of our ancestors that lived in Indian Territory among the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek/Muskogee and Seminole Indians has been emerging with new revelations every day. Their story has been lying dormant for their descendants to bring their history, our history to a wider audience, their story is the quintessential American story and it deserves to be read, heard, seen and included in the history of African and African-Native people in this country.


This is by no means a complete list of Black newspapers but hopefully it will inspire someone to conduct more research and tell the story of the Indian Territory Freedmen in the press?


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