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- “Five little known facts about Oklahoma’s Black History” by Richard Hall in The Oklahoman (February 27, 2015)
Black Oklahomans found themselves involved in a couple of infamous rebellions and skirmishes in the early 1900s: the Smoked Meat Rebellion, and the Green Corn Rebellion.
In 1909 a group of Creek freedman — blacks who were descendants of slaves owned by the Creek people — attempted to fend off authorities when they (and/or the Creeks) were accused of stealing meat from a white farmer. The local sheriff formed a posse and, in the end, two deputies and one black freedman were dead, and another 42 blacks were arrested. This event is known as the Smoked Meat Rebellion, or the Crazy Snake Rebellion.
The Green Corn Rebellion began thanks to two things: the 1917 Selective Draft Act and the poor farmers in southeast Oklahoma who sided with the Socialist Party in hopes it would improve their lives. Many of the younger farmers were black, and feared they were most susceptible to the draft. So they — along with European-Americans and Native Americans — formed a group that caused general mayhem around communities in southeast Oklahoma. They then grew to nearly 1,000 strong and had plans to march to Washington D.C., living off the land as they did so, saying they’d eat the “green corn” along the way.
The rebellion really didn’t go anywhere because someone within the group snitched to the authorities and the rebels were intercepted before they even got out of Pontotoc County.
- “Green Corn Rebellion” by Mike Coppock from Oklahoma Magazine (June 25, 2015)
It sounds like something straight out of a Marx Brothers movie.
Hundreds of Oklahoma farmers, American Indians and African Americans, armed with shotguns and pitchforks, planned a walk to Washington, D.C., to protest President Woodrow Wilson’s enactment of the draft and plan to enter World War I. Protestors planned to sustain themselves during the march by living off the land, including eating green corn.
For a week in August 1917, southeast Oklahoma lived in terror as armies of citizens roamed the countryside putting down the Green Corn Rebellion.
It was a very different Oklahoma prior to World War I as Nigel Sellars’ “The IWW and the Green Corn Rebellion” illustrates in the spring 1999 issue of the Chronicles of Oklahoma.