Black Oklahomans' statehood experience focus of celebration 

A celebration in Guthrie Friday aims to shed light on the black experience in Oklahoma at statehood " a perspective that one event organizer says before seemed missing not just from centennial events, but history books.

Sponsored by the Oklahoma Historical Society's Black Heritage Committee, the African American 1907 Statehood Celebration weaves lectures with performances of a historical drama, "New Chance Cities: The Plains Truth."

Sharon Fisher penned the play, the title of which refers to black towns that cropped up in what became Oklahoma. Her goal, she said, is to share through the "brief history lesson" what was happening in the black community in 1907, "what people were thinking about, how they were feeling."

"Unfortunately, our history books don't talk a lot about African-American history," Fisher said. "(This drama) tells you a little bit about the perspective of where we stood. And I thought it was missing from the total scope of the statehood celebration; there's a whole group of people here who were kind of left out."

Topics in the play will be discussed in three lectures:
" "All Black Towns of Oklahoma," 11:15 a.m.;
" "Blacks and the Constitutional Convention," 2:15 p.m.; and
" "Impact of Statehood on Black Americans," 3:15 p.m.

Fisher, who has written two other history-based performance pieces and contributes vignettes for candlelight tours the Oklahoma Historical Society sponsors, discovered drama can be a good learning tool. Students she substitute-taught grasped history better " and took more interest in it " when she created scripts for them.

"I want young kids to know what a significant part African-Americans have played in the development of Oklahoma as a state," she said, adding she considers that vital in fostering a vested interest among them in the state and its future.

"I have so many hopes and aspirations for my little play," she said. "I want it to do everything, to say everything, but of course it doesn't. It's about a 35-minute show, and I just hope that people will leave feeling good about Oklahoma statehood."

"New Chance Cities" performances are at:
" 9:30 a.m.,
" 11:30 a.m.,
" 2:30 p.m. and
" 3:30 p.m.

The lectures and performances are free, all in E.P. McCabe Theatre, W. Harrison Avenue and S. First Street in Guthrie. "Emily Jerman

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