Oklahoma is celebrating its centennial of statehood this year, and this book edited by Davis Joyce is timely in light of the commemoration. Some Sooners, though, might not like it,
as it discusses some uncomfortable state-related issues not found in most Oklahoma history books. Alternative Oklahoma is a companion volume to Joyce’s previous book on alternative state history, 1994’s An Oklahoma I Had Never Seen Before: Alternative Views of Oklahoma.
Joyce has collected fourteen essays by various authors covering a variety of topics. Linda W. Reese writes about women historians Anna Lewis, Carolyn Foreman, Muriel Wright, and Angie Debo,
while Carole Jane Joyce examines the significance of three Oklahoma women. Jimmie Lewis Franklin essay is about black Oklahomans, followed by Amanda Struck Frady’s piece on the civil rights movement using sit-ins as a non-violent tactic, especially in Oklahoma City, and its spread to other cities.
Marci Barnes Gracey writes on Joseph Bruner and the American Indian Federation. Thomas Conner’s essay on Woody Guthrie and Red Dirt music leads into Gary Dotterman’s piece on a Vietnam veteran who worked for peace. Elizabeth D. Barlow covers nonviolent disobedience against nuclear power in Oklahoma, while Christine Pappas examines gay rights in Oklahoma. Alvin O. Turner’s chapter on poverty, politics, and religion in segues into Brian Bentel’s exploration of religion in Oklahoma, Samuel P. Roccobene’s review of liberal Presbyterianism in Oklahoma and Marlin Lavanhar’s analysis of Unitarian Universalism in Tulsa. The final study is on radical Okies based on author Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s Red Dirt: Growing up Okie (2006).
The variety of topics the essayists is of impressive scope; many might possibly have been swept under the carpet in more conventional Oklahoma history books as too radical or liberal for this conservative state. Most of the essays have endnotes, and each includes an introduction about the author. There is an index at the end of the collection.
Davis D. Joyce is professor emeritus of history at East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma and teaches part-time at Rogers State University, Claremore, Oklahoma. He is the author of Howard Zinn: A Radical American Vision (2003), as well as An Oklahoma I Had Never Seen Before and other books and articles. The foreword to this book is by former Oklahoma U.S. Senator Fred R. Harris.
This book is recommended to those looking for a history of Oklahoma not found in the usual history books.