In Untangling a Red, White, and Black Heritage: A Personal History of the Allotment Era
(U New Mexico Press, 2018), Darnella Davis
combines the personal with the national in telling the story of allotment in Indian Territory/Oklahoma. Dr. Davis traces her family story back several generations and explores the contested and complicated nature of race in the United States. Her journey through the archives is a personal one, and draws upon a range of sources form family stories and saved documents, to government records and the tangled history of land sales. Untangling a Red, White, and Black Heritage
is about how marriages, births, and lives lived in Oklahoma complicate the story of race in the United States, and describe the histories of Cherokee and Muskogee Creek leaders such as Amos Thornton and the Adams clan, as well as the children of Oklahoma freedmen and women such as John Bowlin. Davis’s story of her kin is a family chronicle, but also a story of how the United States has attempted to put people into ill-fitting boxes based on race. As Davis herself asks, “Do the stories of the Thorntons, Bowlins, Davises, and Adamses tell us that the federal government succeeded in transforming a communal culture into one solely occupied with individual wealth?” Her argument is one that embraces complication and emphasizes how the microcosm of family can encompass a hopeful story of American life.
Stephen Hausmann is an Assistant Professor of US History at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. He teaches courses on modern US history, environmental history, and Indigenous history and is currently working on his book manuscript, an environmental history of the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.