I’ve Been Here All the While: Black Freedom on Native Land

Perhaps no other symbol has more resonance in African American history than that of “40 acres and a mule”—the lost promise of Black reparations for slavery after the Civil War. In I’ve Been Here All the While, we meet the Black people who actually received this mythic 40 acres, the American settlers who coveted this land, and the Native Americans whose holdings it originated from. Through chapters that chart cycles of dispossession, land seizure, and settlement in Indian Territory, Alaina E. Roberts draws on archival research and family history to upend the traditional story of Reconstruction. She connects debates about Black freedom and Native American citizenship to westward expansion on to Native land. As Black, white, and Native people constructed ideas of race, belonging, and national identity, this part of the West became, for a short time, the last place where Black people could escape Jim Crow, finding land and exercising political rights, until Oklahoma Statehood in 1907.

 


Praise

“[Roberts] masterfully untangles the many complicated arrangements in the U.S. government’s settlement of Indian Territory and its imposition of racial categories and restrictions… Roberts’s original book will cause historians to reexamine generalities about Indigenous and Black people in Oklahoma and their empowerment and identity; and to extend the story of Reconstruction and its aftermath westward in time and space.” – Library Journal