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- “Dreams of Revolution: Oklahoma 1917” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and John Womack, Jr., Monthly Review.org (2010)
Excerpt: In August 1917, tenant farmers and sharecroppers in several eastern and southern Oklahoma counties took up arms to overthrow the United States government, to stop military conscription and U.S. entry into the war in Europe. Renegade Socialists, organized in their own “Working Class Union” (WCU), white, black, and Indian, they believed that millions of armed working people across the country would march with them to take Washington.
The rebellion attracted immediate national attention, but did not last long. Posses of local patriots put it down in a few days, killing one “draft resister” in action and an innocent roadblock-runner along the way. Of 458 “resisters” eventually arrested, 146 were convicted on state and federal charges; twenty-eight did time under maximum security at the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, the last there pardoned by President Harding in 1923.1 By then, the WCU’s insurrection had vanished from the nation’s mind. Locally, in Oklahoma, it stuck in memory as only a scandal, the “Green Corn Rebellion.” This was a seasonal, folkloric designation, not the “revolution” the rebels had called it, but a polite mockery and evasion of their politics. For Oklahoma’s Babbitry, the rebellion remained a shame on the state, to be overcome by ever louder patriotism, or explained away as pitiful. For the defeated and their families, it remained a private misery.