Local Author Chronicles Oklahoma's Dark Past

Saturday, February 28th 2009, 8:07 pm
By: News 9

By Christian Price, News9.com INsite Team

SHAWNEE, OKLAHOMA -- It began as a college assignment for Charles Clark. He had to pick a newspaper article near his birthday and write about it for history class. The article that caught his eye began a 10 year research project that resulted in a one-of-a-kind book chronicling Oklahoma's dark past.

"I was living in Norman at the time and went to the library there and picked an article from 1914," Clark said. "I just picked up an article from the Norman Transcript that was nearest my birthday and in the headlines, 'Negro Fiend Lynched in Nobel'."

The article resulted in a 10 year journey researching Oklahoma's past from 1830 to 1930. What he uncovered resulted in the book "Lynchings in Oklahoma".

"What I wanted to do was to further that assignment to get a whole census of how many people were actually lynched in the state," Clark said. "No one ever really conducted a census as to how many people were actually lynched in Oklahoma."

The stories that are compiled predate statehood and involve people of every race, gender and age.

"I have 57 stories in the book," Clark said. "There are 91 cases but I've been able to find about 153 individuals who were lynched between 1830 and 1930. Most of them were lynched in the territory, statehood; I've been able to find 42 lynchings."

Clark does air a word of caution to those interested in his book.

"I don't hold anything back, even the language" Clark said. "If there's something said that was quoted 100 years ago, it's in there verbatim, and it doesn't matter how offensive it may be, I'm not going to taint history."

The driving force behind the book is simple according to Clark.

"This may be something from our history, but history often repeats itself," Clark said. "In the right set of conditions, something like this could spring up again. Remember James Byrd who was dragged behind a truck back in 1998 in Jasper, Texas? To me, that was a lynching."

This part of Oklahoma's history is gruesome, but it's something that shouldn't be forgotten," Clark said.

"This is one thing that we should not have repeated," Clark said.

Clark's book can be found in local book stores and will be available in national book store chains soon.  His book can also be purchased through the official "Lynching in Oklahoma" Web site.