Literary Landmarks in Oklahoma – Susan McVey
For many of us summer equates to family vacations. When I was growing up, those vacations were road trips in the family car. On long trips, my father liked to make the drive educational, which translated into stopping at historical landmarks along the way. We would dutifully stop, get out of the car, and read the plaque generally in the middle of nowhere about some historical event that had occurred in this location. But how many of you know about Literary Landmarks?
Begun in 1986 by the national Friends of Libraries U.S.A. organization, the purpose of Literary Landmarks was “to encourage the dedication of historic literary sites. The first dedication was at Slip F18 in Bahia Mar, Florida, the anchorage of the Busted Flush, the houseboat home of novelist John D. MacDonald’s protagonist Travis McGee. Dedications have included homes of famous writers, libraries and museum collections, literary scenes, etc.”
How many Literary Landmarks would you guess we have in Oklahoma and how do we rank against other states? I think you will be surprised to learn that Oklahoma has the third highest number of Literary Landmarks of any state with thirteen. Not that we are competitive or anything but Texas only has five. We can thank Oklahoma’s high score to both the authors we have had live here and to the Friends of Libraries in Oklahoma (FOLIO), a statewide organization that has made recognizing the literary heritage of Oklahoma a goal.
Here is the list of Oklahoma literary landmarks as of May 31st: 2001-Woody Guthrie birthplace in Okemah; 2002-Ralph Ellison, author of The Invisible Man, at the Ellison Branch of the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City; 2003-Lynn Riggs in Claremore, birthplace of Riggs and setting for Green Grows the Lilacs, the play that became the Broadway musical Oklahoma!; 2004-Angie Debo, first lady of Oklahoma history, her home in Marshall and the OSU Library which houses her papers; 2005-John Berryman, poet and biographer, honored with the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and Bollingen Prize, at his birthplace in McAlester;2006-Sequoyah who developed the Cherokee syllabary at his cabin in Sallisaw; 2007-Will Rogers Museum in Claremore; 2009-John Joseph Matthews, author of the first university press book selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club that sold 50,000 copies, at the Osage Nation Museum in Pawhuska; 2011-Wilson Rawls author of the children’s books, Where the Red Fern Grows and Summer of the Monkees, at the Tahlequah Public Library; 2013-Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, known as the Okie poet, at the Stroud Public Library; 2015-Harold Keith, who wrote the children’s book, Rifles for Watie (winner of the national Newberry Award); 2016-Marquis James at the Enid Public Library who won two Pulitzer Prizes for biographies of notable Americans; and 2018-Dr. John Hope Franklin, Tulsa at the Reconciliation Park, best known for his book From Slavery to Freedom: a History of Negro Americans, first published in 1947 and now in its eighth edition, it has sold over 3 million copies.
Stop by these sites and see the plaques this summer.