Writings from 2017

Disclaimer: We are sharing a wide range of perspectives and opinions on the history, legacy and lessons of the Green Corn Rebellion, hence, it is important to note that views expressed in content published/linked on this website do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or supporters of this website.

Also we have barely scratched the surface on the wealth of writings on the GCR, so please check back soon for more updates.

    • April 6, 2017 “More than 85,000 Oklahomans marched to WWI” by Matt Patterson, in The Oklahoman (available via NewsBank Database, with free access by Metropolitian Library System card holders)

      But Oklahoma wasn’t completely united. There were those who favored isolationism. The Socialist Party of America was large and powerful in Oklahoma state politics. Most members opposed American involvement calling it a rich man’s war and questioning the motives behind foreign entanglements.

      “There was a sentiment that we didn’t need to go to war and a lot of that attitude was centered in the Midwest and the plains,” said Jonathan Casey, an archivist at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City. “There were suspicions about with why Washington wanted to get involved.”

      In August, 1917, tenant farmers and Native Americans in rural southeastern Oklahoma, many of them members of the socialist party, rose up to protest the draft. Law enforcement put down the so-called Green Corn Rebellion and the socialist party in Oklahoma was never the same.

      “The party died because it didn’t support the war enthusiastically,” Agnew said. “It was literally defunct by the time the war began and the Green Corn rebels were considered threats to democracy.”

      As enemy naval attacks on allied shipping escalated, the anti-war movement eventually gave way to nationalism and phrases like, “Remember the Lusitania,” a reference to the sinking of a large passenger liner, galvanized public support for the conflict.

      “The sinking of ships and unrestricted submarine warfare helped to solidify support,” Casey said. “But overall, people were patriotic. Some of it was peer pressure, but there was a lot of sincere enthusiasm, along with the dissent.”

    • June 15, 2017: “Repressing Radicalism: The Espionage Act turns 100 today. It helped destroy the Socialist Party of America and quashes free speech to this day.” by Chip Gibbons from Jacobinmag.com, June 15, 2017

      Excerpt: Electoral opposition and draft evasion weren’t the only sources of concern for the political elite.

      On August 3, 1917, a multiracial group of Oklahoma tenant farmers opposed to conscription launched an armed rebellion, intending to march across the country to Washington, DC. They didn’t get very far, but they burned bridges and slashed telephone lines before being stopped. The “Green Corn Rebellion” resulted in three deaths, 400 arrests, and 150 convictions.

      Pro-war elites clearly had a problem on their hands.

    • June 19, 2017 Unlikely Alliances : Native Nations and White Communities Defend Rural Lands by Zoltan Grossman (2017)

      Excerpt from page 17 : “Because our history books present settler colonialism as uncontested within non-Native society, we never read about the white Wisconsin settlers who opposed the forced removal of Ho-Chunk and Ojibwe neighbors, the Washington settlers put on trial for collaborating with Coast Salish resistance, the Oklahoma farmers and sharecroppers joining in the Green Corn Rebellion, or other atypical stories of cooperation rather than conflict. Some Europeans and Africans attracted to freer Indigenous societies even became kin to Native families. We never read these dangerous stories of Native/non-Native cooperation in history class, because they undercut the myth of Manifest Destiny as an inevitable, almost natural force. But there were always better paths not followed, even if they were exceptions to the white supremacist rule.”

    • June 29, 2017“Rilla Askew’s new book dubs Oklahoma ‘Most American’” by John Thompson from NonDoc.com, June 29, 2017

      Excerpt: Our history is rooted in both “loss and expectation.” Oklahoma produced the largest socialist movement, per capita, in American history. A less effective resistance, the multi-racial anti-war Green Corn rebellion in Seminole County, occurred as the political repression of World War I was imposed. Students have long been encouraged to sing “This Land Is Your Land” while being taught to be embarrassed by Woody Guthrie.

      Like the nation as a whole, our “collective forgetfulness” makes it difficult to face the obvious fact that slavery was not America’s and Oklahoma’s only “original sin.” We also were born of “ethnic cleansing.”

      Oklahoma contributed a disproportionate percentage of soldiers who fought in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, which are our longest modern wars. Askew reminds us, however, that America’s Indian wars started in 1622 and lasted 300 years, ending with the final Apache raid of 1924. The last battle occurred during the time of the (unrelated) mass murders of Oklahoma Osages when whites killed their own Indian wives in order to steal oil leases.

      Our Jim Crow state also had more female Ku Klux Klan members than any other state. It was shockingly successful in burying the history of the 1921 Tulsa race “riot.” Actually, the murderous assault on Black Wall Street began as “a race war and turned into a pogrom.” Askew places the mass murder in perspective. It was “as if a seventh of the white population of Manhattan had suddenly swept north into Harlem at the height of the Harlem Renaissance and burned it to the ground.”

    • July 19, 2017 “Green Corn Rebellion” from Stones From the Creek Blog (July 19, 2017) – This article gives some fascinating details discovered by the author from reviewing records from the Leavenworth Prison records that are now in the National Archives.

    • August 1, 2017 “Oklahoma’s Socialist uprising” The Oklahoman by Dale Ingram (August 1, 2017) — Editor’s note: This article is available behind a paywall from Oklahoman.com but can be read for free by library card holders of the Metropolitan Library System. To do this, follow this link and then login to your library account. After that, search for “Green Corn Rebellion.”

    • August 2, 2017 “Get up, stand up: Recalling the Green Corn Rebellion of 1917” by Andrew W. Griffin from The Red Dirt Report (August 2, 2017)

      Excerpt: As Red Dirt Report has noted, there has been an uptick in recent years, of interest in radical politics, in the form that was largely new a century ago – socialism, anarchism, and varying left-leaning ideologies – and embraced, in particular, by agrarian folks here in the new state of Oklahoma.

      During coverage of a protest here in Oklahoma City in September 2016, one targeting the Red River II Pipeline, where long-time activist Robert Mendoza noted that the Green Corn Rebellion of 1917 – which featured “an alliance of white, Native and African-American activists” – inspires folks even today, even though the Green Corn Rebellion is hardly – if at all – noted in high school history courses.

      “We need an alliance (of different groups) if we are going to make real changes in Oklahoma,” said Mendoza, who is part of the progressive Green Corn Alliance, named after the original rebellion.And groups seeking real change are organizing here in Oklahoma, thanks to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

      At the Green Corn Rebellion Centennial website, the mention of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or “Wobblies”) reminds us of how that organization is making a bit of a comeback, as this April 2015 Red Dirt Report article noted at the time.As Oklahoma IWW organizer Mitch Runnels said at the time: “If anybody in this state is fighting for a better workplace environment or a better future for themselves or other workers in this state, and doesn’t want to go at it all alone anymore … that’s what we’re here for. Get in touch with us and we’ll do what we can.”

      You may not agree with progressive politics, but you may be frustrated with the status quo and a lack of real change that benefits you and your family, don’t sit on the sidelines.

      Get involved. Run for political office. Make your voice heard, just as they did 100 years ago, even in the face of brutal violence and oppression.

    • August 2, 2017 “More on the Green Corn Rebellion” from Stones From the Creek Blog (August 2, 2017)

      Excerpt #1: One hundred years ago today, August 2, 1917, hundreds of men in central Oklahoma — white, Black and Native American; mostly young, mostly tenant farmers — took up arms to resist the World War 1 draft. They chose the old slogan “Rich man’s war; poor man’s fight.” They gathered on the Sasakwa farm of John Spears, prepared to march on Washington. Before the next day was over most of them had surrendered to sheriff’s posses. Nigel Sellars, the historian who has done most work on the Green Corn Rebellion, thinks they were willing to fight President Woodrow Wilson, who they called “Big Slick”, but unwilling to fight their own neighbors, people whom they knew personally. Dozens were arrested and many of the leaders served time in Leavenworth Penitentiary for espionage and conspiracy.Excerpt #2: Or consider another co-defendant, Price Street. Street, like many African Americans, escaped to Indian Territory from the former Confederacy — in his case Alabama — seeking relief from the growing white supremacist hegemony of disfranchisement, Jim Crow, and lynch law. He married a Black Seminole, Missie Davis. Look again at that plat above for her allotment, just east of Cuffie Harjo’s in section 10. So, if his wife was a landowner, why was Price Street a tenant farmer? Do you really have to ask anymore? Price Street was sent to Leavenworth Penitentiary for his part in the rebellion. As a side note, I was sorry to discover that his grandson, Marine PFC Lenard Street, Jr. died in 1968 at Quang Tri. He was 19 years old and had been in Viet Nam under four months.

      Most of the participants in the Green Corn Rebellion were white. They hadn’t stolen the land of their Native and African American neighbors. That was done by bankers and lawyers. But they were not great advocates of equality, either. There are suggestions in the historical record that white rebels refused to listen to Price Street, because he was a Black man. And that part of Oklahoma became a center of Ku Klux Klan power in the years immediately after the war. But for a minute in 1917, landless farmers of all races united to oppose militarism and capitalism. It is worth remembering.

    • August 3, 2017 “Rebels With a Cause: A Century Later, ‘Green Corn Rebellion’ Still One of Seminole County’s Most Historic Events” by Stu Phillips from The Seminole Producer, August 3, 2017

      Excerpt:Before America’s involvement with World War One, the seeds of rebellion had already been planted in Seminole county. Socialists did moderately well in elections. Sometimes they received 25% of the vote.

      The Workers Class Union (WCU) was started in Arkansas. It was too radical for the Socialists, and accepted farmers that the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) would not.

      They thrived in Seminole county by giving speeches at small local schools.

      The message was class warfare and when America started drafting young men for WWI the slogan became “A rich man’s war, a poor man’s fight”.

      For the poor farmer the fight was not just about letting your boy go into the military. The very real possibility of losing your farm to repossession without labor children could starve the whole family. People could not sign up for welfare in those days. Some people starved and died in the streets.

      When the threat of draft became clear the talk of rebellion grew to actual plans.

      Editor’s note: Special thanks to The Seminole Producer for granting us permission to reprint this article in its entirety, which can be read by following this link.

    • August 3, 2017 Green Corn/Black Corn” by Andrew W. Griffin from The Red Dirt Report (August 3, 2017)

      Excerpt: I start out with that, I guess, to say that corn has played a major role in American life since our founding, with that first Thanksgiving.But corn has been twisted in our modern, Atomic Age world. With high-fructose corn syrup (read my 2009 review of the documentary King Corn), the Marshallese, who grew and consumed healthy crops on their atolls for generations, are now unhealthy, in many respects, not only from radiation exposure but the processed, corn-laden food we gave them and continue to give them.Today happens to be the 100th anniversary of Oklahoma’s Green Corn Rebellion (which kicked off in Seminole County on Aug. 2, 1917), a name chosen, in part because this week is traditionally when the August Green Corn Moon (the Full Sturgeon Moon, as known by tribes along the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain) appears and the Green Corn Ceremonies celebrated by Oklahoma tribes including the Seminoles, Choctaw, Muscogee Creek and Cherokee, as well as the Iroquois of areas further north, are observed.This observation includes feasting, fasting, dancing and religious activities.This ongoing “corn theme” is one I will continue paying attention to and highlighting, as we move forward in these uncertain times.

    • August 6, 2017 “Remembering the Green Corn Rebellion,” Letter to the editor by James Matthew Branum from The Oklahoman, August 6, 2017

      Regarding “Oklahoma’s Socialist uprising” (News, Aug. 1): I thank The Oklahoman for covering one of the most important events in our state’s history, but especially for interviewing descendants of some of the participants in the rebellion. I do take one issue, though, with the idea that the memory of the Green Corn Rebellion “has faded because few people cared to remember it.” That may have been true in prior generations who had been terrorized by the U.S. government’s war on all forms of dissent and war resistance during World War I and later during the Red Scare, but it is not true today. Today many Oklahomans are finding inspiration from the oppressed white, black and American Indians who stood up against the draft, an unjust war and an exploitative economic system. And we have also learned important lessons from them and their story as well. This why a group of local activists has created the website GreenCorn.org, because we want to remember the rebellion and to keep talking about it.

    • August 7, 2017 “Old News: ‘Slackers’ 100 years ago were war averse” by Celia Storey from ArkansasOnline.com, August 7, 2017Editor’s note: This story gives some present-day discussion and commentary on 1917 reporting of the events in the Arkansas Gazette. In the future, we hope to include the full text of these stories in our historical archives.PHOTO: Front page, Arkansas Gazette August 4, 1917