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

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U of Nebraska Press, 2020 - History - 280 pages
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 United States. 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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The Great Oklahoma Swindle: Race, Religion, and Lies in America's Weirdest State

User Review  - Publishers Weekly

Journalist Cobb (The Paradox of Authenticity in a Globalized World) offers an unflattering and eye-opening history of his home state of Oklahoma. Cobb hangs out the state’s dirty laundry, describing ... Read full review

Contents

Prologue
1
1 Voyage to Dementiatown
9
2 Youre Not Doing Fine Oklahoma
26
3 The Road to Hell in Indian Territory
40
4 Where the Hell Is Oklahoma Anyway?
74
5 The Long Goodbye to Oklahomas SmallTown Jews
87
6 Okies in the Promised Land
98
7 Among the Tribe of the Wannabes
113
9 Keeping Oklahoma Weird
150
10 Cursed?
168
11 The Fire That Time
182
12 Uncommon Commons
204
Epilogue
227
Notes
235
Index
245
Copyright

8 Backward Christian Soldier
133

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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 reporter 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, and the Nation, and on NPR. 
 

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