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Samuel Robert Cassius – Early Oklahoma’s Eloquent Black Prophet

Samuel Robert Cassius

Brilliant black clergyman, farmer, businessman, civil magistrate, author, and Oklahoma pioneer Samuel R. Cassius, born a slave in Virginia, migrated around 1890 to future Logan County, before the age of forty. When he departed over thirty years later, he left a regional and national legacy as a leading African-American in the famed Restoration Christian movement. He dared to challenge white Christians on their racism and blacks on both their religious orthodoxy and orthopraxy. He stirred controversy aplenty from all quarters, sustained by the conviction that the very words that angered folks could stir them to greater faithfulness as Americans, followers of Christ, and human beings.

According to Cassius, two key factors spurred African-American initiative and hopes in 1890s Oklahoma Territory, which formed roughly the western half of present-day Oklahoma. He cited the first of these as the belief of many African-Americans that the U.S. government would reserve land (probably the Unassigned Lands opened in the 1889 Land Run) for blacks that was forfeited to it by defeated pro-Confederate tribes. This widely held belief—yearned for by African-Americans, but feared by whites—held that Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory adjacent to it on the east would birth an all-black, or at least strongly black-influenced state.

“When the colored people heard this report,” Cassius recalled, “they all started to Oklahoma, some walking, some on the train, some in oxcarts and some in wagons. No though