African American Oral History Resources: Muskogee African American Heritage Collection
About the Collection
The Muskogee African American Heritage Collection is a series of 11 interviews focused on the Black community in Muskogee, Oklahoma, including former students of Manual Training High School. You can view the materials for the collection here.
African American baseball players, Agriculture, Childhood, Church work, Education, Families, Manual training school, Ministry, Negro baseball leagues, Occupations, Race relations, Rural education, School desegregation, Schools, Small towns, Teachers, Universities and college
Select interviews from the Muskogee African American Heritage Collection
- Ben Noble - Ben Noble, a minister in the Muskogee, Oklahoma, community for over fifty years, recalls his youth and being called to the church from an early age. He explains his education and early experiences as a pastor before coming to Muskogee. Noble discusses how he came to Muskogee and some of his memories from being a preacher in the community including giving the final commencement speech at Manual Training High School. He also comments on some of the major historical events he has been a part of, like Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. He acknowledges the changes he has seen in this country and in the Muskogee community.
- Cedric Johnson - Cedric Johnson, a 1951 graduate of Manual Training High School in Muskogee, Oklahoma, talks about his childhood and his education before coming to Muskogee. He remembers hanging out with his friends and the sense of community present in the town. Johnson shares that he was drafted into the military and after serving he earned degrees and became a teacher. He discusses his career path and the administrative work he did in the Muskogee Public School system. Johnson also comments on the changes in atmosphere and in the people of Muskogee over the years. He mentions some of the challenges he has faced and some of the social and political issues present in the area.
- Herman Barrett - Herman Barrett, a 1939 graduate of Manual Training High School in Muskogee, Oklahoma, talks about his childhood and the different educational environments that were available at that time. He describes some of the memories and experiences he had while living in Muskogee and how those have impacted his life. Barrett explains his educational path and his career as a teacher. He discusses why he came back to Muskogee and some of the changes he has noticed in the town. He also comments on some of the racial differences he has seen over the years.
- James Christian - James Christian, a 1956 graduate of Manual Training High School in Muskogee, Oklahoma, was the first Black superintendent of Muskogee Public Schools. He talks about his youth and attending high school. Christian discusses his career path as an educator, the circumstances around positions he has held, and the impact he hoped to have on students. He mentions some of the specific people who have played important roles in his life, some the challenges he has faced, and some of the changes he has seen in education and in Muskogee.
- Lansing Lee - Lansing Lee, a 1971 graduate of Muskogee High School in Muskogee, Oklahoma, recalls his childhood and the strong sense of community he felt in his neighborhood and schools, including his time as a student at Manual Training High School. He explains how he was encouraged to go to college and how he fell in love with teaching. Lee describes the rest of his career, including his work in grant writing. He discusses the changes he has seen in Muskogee and how integration changed many parts of life here.
- Muriel Desmuke - Muriel Desmuke, a 1958 graduate of Manual Training High School in Muskogee, Oklahoma, talks about his childhood and the various jobs he held while in school. He explains his career path, from his time in the Air Force to his work at the Veterans Administration. Desmuke describes what his life has been like in Muskogee and how he has participated in the community. He comments on some of the changes he has seen over the years and some of the challenges he has faced because of his race.
- Pauline Foster - Pauline Foster, a 1957 graduate of Manual Training High School in Muskogee, Oklahoma, talks about her childhood and family and how her experiences in her youth have influenced her today. She shares that both parents were deaf and taught her good work ethics and the value of family. Foster discusses entering the CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) program in 1979 and her resulting work at the Muskogee Public Library and the local newspaper. She also comments on the changes she has seen in the town of Muskogee over the years.
- Porter Reed - Porter Reed, a 1942 graduate of Manual Training High School in Muskogee, Oklahoma, talks about growing up and going to the neighborhood schools. He explains how he first learned how to play baseball and how he made a career out of the sport. Reed discusses what the Negro Baseball League was like, the different teams he played for and some of the specific players he remembers playing with and against, and the sense of friendship they all shared. He comments on how he is asked now to talk about his baseball experiences and how he had to turn his life around once he got back to Muskogee. Reed acknowledges how important it is to know your history and to continue to share your life with others.
- Vernell Redo - Vernell Redo, a 1958 graduate of and former teacher at Manual Training School in Muskogee, Oklahoma, recalls his youth being surrounded by a great community. He discusses education and his path to becoming a teacher in Muskogee. Redo talks some of the changes he has witnessed in the town and in the country. He comments on the importance of education and the essential role of teachers in a community. He shares his hopes for the future of Muskogee and for the state of Oklahoma.
- Virginia Schoats - Virginia Schoats, a longtime resident of Muskogee, Oklahoma, and a 1978 graduate of Oklahoma State University with a doctorate degree, talks about her childhood and having to work early on to help support her family. She explains her educational path and how that led to her long career in education and counseling. Schoats describes the different positions she has held and the impact of integration. She discusses her time in Muskogee and how much it has changed since she first moved there. She mentions some of the people who have helped her throughout her life and acknowledges her husband who, early in their marriage, taught at Manual Training High School for thirteen years.
- W.G. Parker - W.G. Parker, former teacher at Manual Training School in Muskogee, Oklahoma, was an educator for many years and worked with many different types of students and school administrations. He talks about his childhood and growing up doing hard work on the farm. He explains how he received his education and how he began teaching vocational agriculture. Parker describes his time at Langston University and discusses the work he did in Muskogee. He mentions a few individuals who helped him in his career and comments on some of the changes he has noticed in education, agriculture, and society as a whole.