Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 24:4 (Fall 2004). Copyright © 2005 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


In the late 1800s and early 1900s coal reigned supreme in what is now southeastern Oklahoma. As was the case in the northeastern United States, Italians and other immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were brought in as a form of inexpensive labor to work the mines. Italians had different customs, a different language, a unique appearance, and a lack of training in mining compared with the American, English, Irish, and Scottish miners that preceded them. These differences were the foundation of an atmosphere in which immigrant groups would settle in communities. The results were struggles between southern and eastern European immigrants on one side, and American and western and northern European immigrants on the other. Italians as well as other southern or eastern European immigrant groups in Oklahoma suffered through this discrimination. Italians have since dealt with the stigma of discrimination and developed a stable economic industry within southeastern Oklahoma.