Greenwood: February 2009 Archives

A couple of years ago, I told you about historian Currie Ballard's amazing find of films taken in Oklahoma in the 1920s of African-American families, communities, businesses, and events. (This YouTube user has some clips from the films.)

These were in the news again recently, and in looking for more information I came across the website of Global ImageWorks, a service that provides stock footage. They list Ballard's collection in their online catalog:

BLACK AMERICAN TOWNS FROM 1920s

Global ImageWorks is exclusively representing a rare and unique film collection discovered by historian Currie Ballard consisting of six hours of film documenting the daily lives of successful black towns in Oklahoma thriving in the aftermath of the infamous Tulsa Riots of 1921. The footage illustrates a little known piece of history and includes footage showing entire black communities visiting one another's country homes, parading through downtown Muskogee in some two dozen Packards, crowding an enormous church in Tulsa not long after the riots, gathering at the National Baptist Convention, and traveling to Europe. It includes black cowboys riding horses amidst oil derricks rising from their ranches, various sporting events including rare footage of the 1928 Los Angeles to New York "Great American Foot Race" in which three of the finishing runners were black Americans. The material found by Ballard came in 29 cans and was shot by the Rev. S. S. Jones, a circuit preacher assigned by National Baptist Convention to document the glories of Oklahoma's black towns of Guthrie, Muskogee, and Langston.

The embedded video on that catalog page is a series of short clips from the collection, which appears to have been beautifully restored.

A site search turns up six "tapes" containing footage from the collection. Here are the titles links to each item page, each of which includes a detailed list of the scenes contained therein:

OKLAHOMA COVERAGE 1924 -1928 - MIDDLE CLASS BLACK LIFESTYLE Tape #: 3382 | Date: 1920s | Location: Clearview, Muskogee, Langston, Bristow, Tulsa, Oklahoma | Length: 60:00 | Master Format: film - 16mm video - digi beta | B/W

Oklahoma coverage of middle class black family life in Clearview, Muksogee , Langston and Bristow showing families on their farms and their oil wells. Unique footage from the Currie Ballard Collection. 1925-1927

AFRICAN AMERICAN MIDDLE CLASS LIFESTYLE IN BLACK RUN TOWNS IN OKLAHOMA 1920S
Tape #: 3383 | Date: 1920s | Location: Muskogee, Harlinville, Depew, Boley, Duncan, Okemah,Taft, Oklahoma | Length: 60:00 | Master Format: film - 16mm video - digi beta | B/W

Scenes of black middle class lifestyle in Oklahoma in completely black run towns of Muskogee, Duncan etc. in 1920s. Church, train scenes, Antioch cadets, black kids in school, grocery and filling stations, farms, and local commerce. From the Currie Ballard Collection.

PEOPLE AND LIFESTYLE IN BLACK RUN TOWN OF MUSKOGEE, OKLAHOMA IN 1925
Tape #: 3384 | Date: 1920s | Location: Muskogee, Oklahoma | Length: 60:00 | Master Format: film - 16mm video - digi beta | B/W

Various residences of people living in Muskogee, Department store, basketball team and high school speling contest, classes, faculty etc. From the Currie Ballard Collection

MIDDLE CLASS LIFE STYLE SHOWING RESIDENCES, FAMILIES AND SCHOOLS.
Tape #: 3385 | Date: 1920s | Location: Okmulgee, Tulsa, Oklahoma | Length: 60:00 | Master Format: film - 16mm video - digi beta | B/W

Middle class life style showing residences, families and schools. From the Currie Ballard Collection

OKLAHOMA - AFRICAN AMERICAN LIFESTYLE
Tape #: 3386 | Date: 1920s | Location: Oklahoma | Length: 60:00 | Master Format: film - 16mm video - digi beta | B/W

Various towns of Oklahoma, residences,schools, baptism, construction, lifestyle, Masons parade, Masonic lodge, Church. From the Currie Ballard Collection.

OKLAHOMA AFRICAN AMERICANS
Tape #: 3387 | Date: 1920s | Location: Germany, Jerusalem, Italy, Oklahoma | Length: 60:00 | Master Format: film - 16mm video - digi beta | B/W

Oklahoma African Americans from the Currie Ballard Collection.

Some of the Tulsa-related scenes:


  • The Oklahoma Eagle Divinity Company, Greenwood Street 1927 Tulsa

  • Tulane Avenue Baptist Church Bus from New Orleans, Louisiana at Gen Convention Tulsa Brady Theater 1927 Tulsa

  • Church members leaving church winter brick church inner city

  • Scenes from Thanksgiving Day 1925 parade and football game: "MTH Muskogee vs. BWH of Tulsa" (Tulsa won, 13 to 9)

  • Mr. Jessie Brown new $75,000 Funeral Home, 540 E. Easton 1928 Tulsa

  • Brown Funeral Service 1928 Tulsa

  • Union Baptist CadetS at State SS & BYPU Convention, Rev. D.C. Cooksey August 4, 1928 Tulsa

  • Train loaded with cars, oil derrick in background

  • Church Baptist Cadets

  • Ground Breaking Union Baptist Church Pastor D.C. Cooksey Officers and Members August 4, 1928 Tulsa

  • Church ground breaking (older Church burned down during Tulsa Race Riot 1921)

  • Tulsa Business League Dr. S.S. Jones (right to left) Tulsa

  • Dr. S.S. Jones eyeglasses Tulsa

  • Mt. Zion Baptist Church after the Riot Photo Stills (right to left) Tulsa

  • Greenwood Street seven years after Tulsa Race Riot 1921

  • C.B. Bottling Works, 258 E. Archie (right to left) Tulsa

  • Soda Pop Bottling Company

  • Jackson's Undertaker Co. (right to left) Tulsa

  • Booker T. Washington High School, noon hour Tulsa

  • Dunbar Grade School (right to left) Tulsa

  • Dunbar Agri Gardens (right to left) Tulsa

There are scenes from many Oklahoma cities and towns, including Okmulgee, Muskogee, Haskell, Coweta, Ardmore, Langston, Bristow, Taft, El Reno, Oklahoma City, Lawton, Depew, Boley, Wewoka, Boynton, Gibson Station, Wetumka, Eufaula, Red Bird, Porter, and Holdenville plus scenes from travels to Paris, London, Chicago, and the Holy Land.

These, along with old street directories, newspaper microfilm, and Sanborn fire insurance maps, could be the makings of a fascinating documentary.

MORE: From an Oklahoman story on the films from September 2006:

The significance, he said, is the "positive light it puts on blacks in this state. Under the heat of Jim Crow laws, it showed that blacks were prosperous."

Many blacks living in the 1920s were former slaves, and the films show a bustling and prosperous way of life, Ballard said.

"It was rare for a white person to have the camera and equipment in those days," he said. "For someone black to have a camera was unreal. That's what makes it so rare. The movies are from an African-American point of view....

Some of the movies were taken just a few years after the Tulsa race riots of 1921, which virtually destroyed the city's Greenwood district. Jones chronicled the 1925 (black) National Baptist Convention in Greenwood and an accompanying parade.

"The movies showed the strength and resilience of the people of Greenwood to pull off a national convention and to rebuild what was burnt to ashes," Ballard said.

That's the footage that also impresses Blackburn. Like Blackburn, he said it shows the people were able to not only recover but to prosper.

"It would have been easier to be intimidated and to run away and go to St. Louis or Chicago," Blackburn said. "This film footage is very important."

What is interesting, Blackburn said, is that the films show no signs of destruction, but vitality of the Tulsa black community.

STILL MORE: Currie Ballard was recently appointed Assistant Secretary of the Oklahoma State Senate.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Greenwood category from February 2009.

Greenwood: December 2008 is the previous archive.

Greenwood: September 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Contact

Feeds

Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
Atom
RSS
[What is this?]