The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997 Page: 20
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
and widely publicized response was their attack on Brown and "subver-
sive" materials in the Bartlesville Public Library. The incident-publi-
cized by "The Friends of Miss Brown"-attracted attention from media
around the country and tested the American Library Association's de-
fense of intellectual freedom. It reveals both the kinds of individuals
whose activities foreshadowed the civil rights movement and the difficul-
ties they faced. Above all, it exemplifies the widespread use of McCarthy-
ism as a weapon against proponents of racial equality, the use of
accusations of disloyalty and subversion to silence those who worked to
bring about an end to the exclusionary and oppressive practices of Jim
Crow. Although the attack on the Bartlesville Public Library gained most
of the attention, a close examination of the events reveals that the un-
derlying issue was race. To understand the incident and appreciate its
implications, one must attempt to appreciate the landscape and climate
of Cold War Bartlesville, Oklahoma.'
Located less than thirty miles from the Kansas border in the Cherokee
Hills of northeastern Oklahoma, Bartlesville in 1950 was steeped in the
lore of its origins as an Indian trading post and its growth as a capital of
the oil boom. Its oldest families (except, of course, the descendants of the
Osage or Cherokee whose land had yielded the oil) had come to the area
seeking opportunity in the decades surrounding Oklahoma's statehood in
1907. "Uncle Frank" Phillips, an uneducated barber who married a
banker's daughter, had speculated on the oil bubbling from the ground
in Indian Territory, and hit eighty producing wells in a row. Phillips Petro-
leum dominated the landscape, not only with its high-rise buildings in the
small city of 19,288 but also with its large number of employees.4
Phillips and the smaller Cities Service occupied a large portion of the
business district that lay to the east of the railroad tracks. To their east and
south, on streets such as Cherokee (the best address), Osage, Delaware, John-
stone, and Dewey, and on to the Caney River, resided the white middle
and upper class. In these areas lived the shopkeepers and businessmen,
' "Friends of Miss Brown to Dear Friends," mimeographed letter, Aug. 21, 1950, Ruth W.
Brown Papers (Special Collections, Pittsburg State University Library, Pittsburg, Kan.). John
Egerton's Speak Now Against the Day. The Generation before the Civil Rights Movement in the South
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994) presents a clear picture of the period between World War II
and the Brown v Board ofEducatzon decision (1954) in the South. Although he refers only to the
eleven states of the former Confederacy, conditions were much the same in Oklahoma, which,
while it had not yet become a state at the time of the Civil War, had sided with the Confederacy
' Angle Debo's And Still the Waters Run. The Betrayal of the Fwive Civilized Tribes (2nd ed.; Prince-
ton- Princeton University Press, 1972) is still the definitive work on how white land, oil, and rail-
road interests conspired to deprive these Indians of their land and culture. Frank Phillips's story
is told by Michael Wallis in Ol Man: The Story of Frank Phzllaps and the Birth of Phillips Petroleum
(New York: Doubleday, 1988). For population data, see U.S. Bureau of the Census, Census ofPop-
ulatzon 1950, Vol II Charactenstwcs of the Populaton, Part 36, Oklahoma (Washington, D.C.: Gov-
ernment Printing Office, 1952), (cited hereafter as Census of Populaton 1950), 36-49, 36-53
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997, periodical, 1997; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/m1/48/: accessed August 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.