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Brace for 'Impact'


A retired teacher compiles Oklahoma’s black history.

Mia Cantu July 3rd, 2012

Inspired by a dearth of black history education in the Sooner State, Rochelle Stephney-Roberson wrote her first book, Impact: Blacks in Oklahoma History. Published last fall, the textbook has been approved by the state Department of Education for use in state high schools.

impact

As a retired teacher, Stephney-Roberson knows firsthand how difficult it is to obtain material about Oklahoma’s black history.

“During my years of teaching, I tried to find tools to use, but it was a topic that we were unable to acquire much information on,” she said.

Impact highlights the men and women who played pivotal roles in state black history. Stephney-Roberson spent four years gathering research and interviewing families.

Portwood Williams, a 96-year-old Oklahoman, invited Stephney-Roberson into his home and told her about his involvement in the civil rights movement. Williams was a neighbor of Clara Luper, one of Oklahoma City’s leaders in the battle for civil rights.

“Words cannot describe how thankful I am,” said Stephney-Roberson. “I’ve had so much support. So many people have gone out of their way to make sure that the information was accurate.”

Due to time constraints and limited space, she was unable to include many significant individuals. One such personality she regrets having to leave out was Deep Deuce musician Charlie Christian. An innovative jazz guitarist in the 1930s, Christian’s pioneering influence later earned him induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Stephney-Roberson said she’s had positive responses to the book. Many have told her that such a resource was long overdue.

“There is a lot of [published information on] Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, and they did a lot,” she said. “But there are also many other people who have done just as much right here in Oklahoma.”

 
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