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Alaina Roberts: Black Freedom on Native Land

Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize lecture

5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Center for Great Plains Studies
1155 Q St.
Lincoln NE 68588
Directions: 11th and Q streets
Katie Nieland, (402) 472-3965,
Dr. Alaina Roberts will speak about her book “I’ve Been Here All the While: Black Freedom on Native Land,” the winner of the 2022 Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021). Books will be available for purchase at the lecture. The talk will be live streamed at

Facial coverings have been requested by the speaker for this event. See UNL’s COVID-19 information here:

Perhaps no other symbol has more resonance in African American history than that of “40 acres and a mule”—the lost promise of Black reparations for slavery after the Civil War. In “I’ve Been Here All the While,” we meet the Black people who actually received this mythic 40 acres, the American settlers who coveted this land, and the Native Americans whose holdings it originated from. Through chapters that chart cycles of dispossession, land seizure, and settlement in Indian Territory, Roberts draws on archival research and family history to upend the traditional story of Reconstruction. She connects debates about Black freedom and Native American citizenship to westward expansion on to Native land. As Black, white, and Native people constructed ideas of race, belonging, and national identity, this part of the West became, for a short time, the last place where Black people could escape Jim Crow, finding land and exercising political rights, until Oklahoma Statehood in 1907.

Dr. Roberts is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh who studies the intersection of Black and Native American life from the Civil War to the modern day. She holds a Doctorate in History from Indiana University and a Bachelor of Arts in History, with honors, from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She writes, teaches, and presents public talks about Black and Native history in the West, family history, slavery in the Five Tribes (the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole Indian Nations), Native American enrollment politics, and Indigeneity in North America and across the globe.

“I’ve Been Here All the While tells the stories of the Black, Native, and white people who made Indian Territory, now known as the state of Oklahoma, their home,” Roberts said. “This history is often overlooked, so it’s such an honor for my book to be recognized by the Center for Great Plains Studies, which houses important projects like Black Homesteaders, that do so much to educate the public on the diverse history of the Plains.”

The Center for Great Plains Studies’ Stubbendieck book prize celebrates the most outstanding work about the Great Plains during the past year, chosen by an independent group of scholars. This Paul A. Olson Great Plains lecture is free and open to the public.

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