April 23, 2018 3 min to read
Critically Acclaimed “Staking A Claim” Republished
Publication : Informing to Empower, Uncategorized
Descended from the only black chief ever to lead a Native American tribe, this historical biography of civil rights kingfish and international oil broker Jake Simmons Jr., this historical biography takes readers through a little known but significant chapter of African-American history.
Staking A Claim: Jake Simmons and the Making of an African American Oil Dynasty was first published in 1989 by Atheneum (hardcover) and Viking Penguin’s Plume (1990 paperback). In April, 2018, it was republished by Informing to Empower Publishing as a mass market paperback, now available here on Amazon for $14.99
This Washington Post Book World front page review observed, “It is a rare biography that challenges a reader’s senses in the same way that science fiction does: creating a world of its own, complete with geography, characters and a value system that consistently undermines a reader’s assumptions and prejudices. Staking a Claim is such a book”
Publishers Weekly called the book “crisply written,” Book List called it “a fascinating story,” and The Library Journal praised the book as a “thoroughly researched biography.” The Asbury Park Press called it “a history text that educates, fascinates and inspires.” The New York Public Library Young Adult Services selected Staking A Claim as a 1991 Book for the Teen Age.
From the post-Reconstruction period to the modern civil rights era, nearly a century of state-sanctioned economic subjugation created what many regard as a permanent black underclass in America. What would have happened had freed slaves truly been enfranchised into the political and economic system after the Civil War? Staking a Claim, the life of Jake Simmons, Jr. – the international tycoon who was the most successful African-American in the history of the oil industry – affords us a rare perspective on this question.
Simmons’s great-grandfather, Cow Tom, a slave interpreter to a Creek Indian, rose to become the first black chief of a Native American tribe. This was in Indian Territory (which later became Oklahoma), where blacks were able to secure rights denied them in the white-controlled states. Cow Tom passed on a unique legacy of independence and entrepreneurial spirit that gelled in Jake. His resolve strengthened by his studies with Booker T. Washington, Jake took a series of calculated risks that allowed him to accomplish what would have seemed impossible to many – and become enormously rich at it. He began by brokering oil leases for black landowners who had formerly been cheated by white drillers in Oklahoma and Texas. Expanding his operations into postcolonial Africa, he negotiated amiably where America’s multinational oil giants feared to tread, winning enormous concessions while earning the goodwill of African leaders.
“The saga of Jake Simmons, our first black oil entrepreneur, is a remarkable story of one man’s pride, courage and determination to challenge and achieve success in two of the world’s most hostile arenas — the international oil business and the field of human rights — and we are all the better for it.” -Armand Hammer, CEO, Occidental Petroleum Corporation
As a political power broker, Jake Simmons was no less impressive. He remained throughout his life what he called “a crusader for human dignity.” In 1938 he brought one of the first school desegregation cases to the Supreme Court. It was said that while he served as the head of Oklahoma’s NAACP his opinion held sway over ten thousand voters. White politicians across the South vied for his support. He asked his sons, “How the hell can a black man stay in bed in the morning when white men rule the world?” – and he lived by those words.
“This book is far more than just an interesting history of racial attitudes on the frontier, it is a celebration of the perseverance of the human spirit and the endurance of human dignity.”David Boren, former Governor and United States Senator, Oklahoma
Acclaimed novelist Charles Johnson, in a front page Los Angeles Times Book Review, wrote, “Throughout “Staking a Claim” financial reporter Jonathan Greenberg presents us with the inspirational saga of a black Oklahoma family whose history intersects significantly not only with important Civil Rights legislation, but also with the Native American past and the evolution of the oil industry.”
“A marvelous story of a fascinating family, superbly told.” -David J. Garrow, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Bearing the Cross”
Full Review of STAKING A CLAIM
Photo of the Simmons family