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Copyright (c) 2002 Oklahoma City University
Oklahoma City University Law Review

ARTICLE: African-American Attorneys on the Oklahoma Frontier

Spring, 2002

27 Okla. City U.L. Rev. 245


R.O. Joe Cassity, Jr.*


Among the principal legacies enshrined in American frontier heritage, the image of the pioneer lawyer as an embodiment of virtue and vice has endured for over two centuries. Since the opening years of the nineteenth century, American novelists and playwrights have typecast the early lawyer as a figure of critical importance in the formulation of frontier institutions and the transmission of established American values. Fortunately, a number of significant studies have sharply delineated some of the principal features of the frontier lawyer image and the sources of its origin in the early nineteenth century. 1 These studies, however, have concentrated the preponderance of their attention on the image of white lawyers within the white community--and the validity of the lawyer's image as it relates to historical development--from an almost exclusively white perspective.

This essay seeks to explore the validity of three principal aspects of the pioneer lawyer image that may be applied to African-American attorneys relating to the Oklahoma frontier environment. For a number of reasons, the experience of Oklahoma African-American attorneys during the first three decades of settlement offers a particularly appropriate focus for consideration of this question. Following the land rush of 1889, colonists from neighboring states carved all-black settlements out of the prairie wilderness and established a robust pioneer society on the Oklahoma plains. Within this frontier society, African-American members of the legal profession came to play a commanding role and served as the focal point within their respective communities. By the 1910 census, Oklahoma, which ...
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