Please join us at the Mt. Lebanon High School Fine Arts Theater for the Phillis Wheatly Book Award winning author, Alaina E. Roberts in a talk about her recently released award winning book I've Been Here All the While. An audience Q & A and book signing will immediately follow. Books will be for sale by City Books.
"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
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.
In nineteenth-century Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma), a story unfolds that ties African American and Native American history tightly together, revealing a western theatre of Civil War and Reconstruction, in which Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole Indians, their Black slaves, and African Americans and whites from the eastern United States fought military and rhetorical battles to lay claim to land that had been taken from others.
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 onto 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.
Dr. Roberts is a professor in the History Department at the University of Pittsburgh.
This program is co-sponsored by the Mt. Lebanon Public Library and Historical Society of Mt. Lebanon.
This event is funded by the Allegheny County Library Association's Equity in Action grant.