"The Sawners of Chandler: A Pioneering Power Couple in Pre-Civil Rights Oklahoma"

May 16, 2018

On this edition of ST, an interesting discussion with Hannibal B. Johnson, the Tulsa-based attorney, local historian, and prolific author. He joins us to talk about his newest book, which is just out: "The Sawners of Chandler: A Pioneering Power Couple in Pre-Civil Rights Oklahoma." As is noted of this compelling and eye-opening book at Mr. Johnson's website: "Juxtaposed against the grim realities of black life at the turn of the twentieth century, the lives of George and Lena Sawner shone like the blazing sun on an oven-hot August day in Oklahoma. Educated, professional, and economically stable -- well-off by most standards -- the Sawners lived the American dream, accompanied, periodically, by nightmarish reminders of the realities of race. The couple owned a home, rental property, stocks, businesses, and two cars. They hobnobbed with local, state, and national dignitaries. They vacationed in faraway places.... Despite their undeniable attainments, the Sawners, like other African Americans in Oklahoma, often swam against the current, regularly battling waves of bigotry and intolerance. Reminiscent of the Jim Crow South, the political waters in Oklahoma, particularly as they cascaded over racial matters, became increasingly contaminated. This is their story -- a tale of triumph amidst a backdrop of tragedy."