Hey friends! Welcome back to another post! Today, we’re talking about the life of Dr. Angie Debo. She was a pioneering historian and is widely remembered across the state of Oklahoma. Dr. Angie Debo wrote nine books, “edited three, co-authored another, wrote many chapters, articles, and forwards, and presented numerous papers on Native Americans and Oklahoma history.” (Angie Debo Sculpture Project) Let’s get started!
*All photos in this post were taken by myself at the Stillwater Public Library and the Edmon Low Library at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Dr. Angie Debo’s Story
Born on January 30, 1890, Angie Debo spent the first decade of her life in Beattie, Kansas. In November 1899, her family moved to Marshall, Oklahoma Territory. She graduated from Marshall High School in 1913 and taught in local schools from 1913-1915. She then went on to attend the University of Oklahoma (OU) from 1915-1918, graduating from OU in 1918 with a history degree.
After graduation, Debo was the principal at the Village School in Enid from 1918-1919. She then taught for four years at Senior High School in Enid, Oklahoma. Debo soon returned to school and completed her Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago in 1924. She published her master’s thesis, “The Historical Background of the American Policy of Isolation (1924).” It was co-authored by J. Fred Rippy.
Debo returned to teaching at West Texas State Teachers College in Canyon, Texas from 1924-1933. She also taught in local high schools associated with the college. Debo began working on her doctoral degree while teaching at West Texas Teachers College through the University of Oklahoma. Debo finished her Doctorate Degree from the University of Oklahoma OU) in 1933. Debo’s dissertation was titled, “History of the Choctaw Nation: From the Close of the Civil War to the End of the Tribal Period” and was later published as a book titled, “The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic” in 1934. Dr. Debo’s book won the John H. Dunning Prize of the American Historical Association in 1935.
Next, Dr. Debo was the curator of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas for a year (1933-1934). At the end of 1934, Debo moved back home to Marshall, Oklahoma. From 1937-1939, she received a grant from the Social Science Research Council to research and write “The Road to Disappearance.”
In 1937, Dr. Debo helped edit and conduct interviews fro the WPA Indian-Pioneer Project which would late become the Indian Pioneer Papers. From 1940-1941, she was responsible for supervising the Federal Writers Project in Oklahoma.
Dr. Debo published “And Still the Water Runs” in 1940. In 1941, she published “The Road to Disappearance” and “Oklahoma: A Guide to the Sooner.” In 1943, she published “Tulsa: From Creek Town to Oil Capital.” She published her only work of fiction in 1944, “Prairie City, the Story of an American Community.”
Dr. Debo taught summer school at Oklahoma A&M in 1946. She was also a Rockefeller Fellow at the University of Oklahoma (OU) from 1946-1947. She published “Oklahoma, Foot-Loose and Fancy-Free” with some of her funding from the Rockefeller Fellowship.
Dr. Debo was a busy lady in the late forties and fifties. From 1947-1955, she was the curator of maps at Oklahoma A&M (present-day Oklahoma State University). She wrote a column for the Oklahoma City Times titled “This Week in Oklahoma History” from 1952-1954. She was also a book reviewer for the New York Times from 1952-1961. Dr. Debo published “The Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma: Report on Social and Economic Conditions” in 1951. Dr. Debo retired from curating maps at OSU in 1955, but continued researching, writing, traveling, and advocating for Native American rights. Dr. Debo wasn’t done teaching though, and taught Oklahoma History at OSU from 1957-1958.
Dr. Debo published “Geronimo: The Man, His Time, His Place” in 1976. This book won a few awards including the Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Association of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. For more information about the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, click HERE!
Dr. Angie Debo was interviewed for an Oral History Project at Oklahoma State University from 1981-1985. The oral history and transcript are linked in the sources section at the end of this post if you are interested in listening to it. Dr. Angie Debo passed away on February 21, 1988. She is buried in North Cemetery in Marshall, Oklahoma.
Dr. Angie Debo Statue
There is a statue of Dr. Angie Debo in front of the Stillwater Public Library! The contest for the sculpture required artists to submit a design that would “evoke a combination of libraries, reading, Stillwater, and/or Oklahoma.” (Angie Debo Sculpture Project) Eleven artists submitted 16 proposals, and the winning design of Dr. Angie Debo was submitted by Phyllis Mantik.
At the time of the contest, there were no known statues of Dr. Angie Debo anywhere in the United States. So, this statue was a big deal for Oklahoma! Mantik’s design for the statue included the tribal seals of the Indigenous tribes of Oklahoma along the bottom of the base. Watch the video below to see the base in its entirety.
The Stillwater Public Library Trust received several donations for the sculpture. In total, $63,000 was raised from multiple people and communities. The sculpture of Dr. Angie Debo was the first sculpture on City property in Stillwater!
The statue of Dr. Angie Debo was unveiled on November 18, 2010 at a ceremony attended by over 200 people. Notable guests included Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis and Oklahoma City University & Chickasaw Governor Bill Anoatubby.
RESEARCH TIP: The speeches, programs, and memoranda items can be found in the Oklahoma State University Archives. I have linked the OSU Archives HERE.
The Dr. Angie Debo statue is an inspiring place to visit in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Dr. Debo’s story can be an inspiration to us all and I am glad I got to visit the Stillwater Public library and see the statue. I hope you’ll go see it if you’re ever in Stillwater!
Happy Traveling! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂
1107 S Duck St
Stillwater, OK 74074
“Angie Debo Sculpture Project,” Stillwater Public Library.
Dedication of Angie Debo Statue, Stillwater Public Library, Stillwater, Oklahoma Collection, Oklahoma State University Archives, Oklahoma State University Libraries. https://archivesspace.library.okstate.edu/repositories/3/resources/1337.
Chelcey Adami, “Scholar and Activist Angie Debo to be Commemorated in Sculpture,” Stillwater News Press (Stillwater, Oklahoma), March 5, 2010.
Lynda, “Angie Debo,” Stillwater Public Library Blog, December 27, 2010.
Patricia Loughlin, “Debo, Angie Elbertha,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=DE002.
Angie Debo – Center for Great Plains Studies (University of Nebraska – Lincoln)
Angie Debo Biographical and Archival Information – Oklahoma State University Edmon Low Library
Biography of Angie Debo – OSU Library
Chronology of Angie Debo’s Life – OSU Library
Oral History with Angie Debo – OSU Library
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