The Great Oklahoma Swindle by Russell Cobb
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, longtime This Land contributor 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.
© 2020 University of Nebraska Press. Hardcover. 249 pages.