The Great Oklahoma Swindle: Race, Religion, and Lies in America's Weirdest State

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University of Nebraska Press, 2020 - Collective memory
Look down as you buzz across America, and Oklahoma looks like another "flyover state." A closer inspection, however, reveals one of the most tragic, fascinating, and unpredictable places in the Americas. Over the span of a century, Oklahoma gave birth to movements for an African American homeland, a vibrant Socialist Party, armed rebellions of radical farmers, and an insurrection by a man called Crazy Snake. In the same era, the state saw numerous oil booms, one of which transformed the small town of Tulsa into the "oil capital of the world." Add to the chaos one of the nation's worst episodes of racial violence, a statewide takeover by the Ku Klux Klan, and the rise of a paranoid far-right agenda by a fundamentalist preacher named Billy James Hargis, and you have the recipe for America's most paradoxical state. Far from being a placid place in the heart of Flyover Country, Oklahoma has been a laboratory for all kinds of social, political, and artistic movements, producing a singular list of weirdos, geniuses, and villains.

In The Great Oklahoma Swindle Russell Cobb tells the story of a state rich in natural resources and artistic talent, yet near the bottom in education and social welfare. Raised in Tulsa, Cobb engages Oklahomans across the boundaries of race and class to hear their troubles, anxieties, and aspirations and delves deep to understand their contradictory and often stridently independent attitudes. Interweaving memoir, social commentary, and sometimes surprising research around the themes of race, religion, and politics, Cobb presents an insightful portrait that will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about the American Heartland.

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About the author (2020)

Russell Cobb is an associate professor in Latin American studies and creative writing at the University of Alberta. His nonfiction writing has won many national and regional awards. He is the editor of The Paradox of Authenticity in a Globalized World and the author of the This American Life story that served as the basis for the Netflix film, Come Sunday. His journalism has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, Slate, NPR, and the Nation.

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