Visual history books come to Henryetta

Senator Roger Thompson provides gift to school district

Henryetta High School students can now learn Oklahoma’s story of statehood through electronic graphic history books, thanks to a gift from Oklahoma State Senator Roger Thompson (R-Okemah).

Henryetta joins schools across the state that are now using the popular graphic history format to teach Oklahoma History with the book,  From Many Nations to Oklahoma Statehood in Three, Two, One. It is a captivating, full-color book featuring historic sites across Oklahoma and students seeking answers to the story of Oklahoma’s complicated path to statehood.

“With our budget so tight now, Henryetta Schools just could not purchase these innovative books,” HHS Principal Dirk Walden said. “Senator Thompson has provided electronic copies, or eBooks, of this graphic history book for Henryetta students to read directly from their Chromebook computers. We really appreciate this gift from Senator Thompson and his continuing commitment to education.”

“Education is a top priority of mine and I am pleased to do anything I can to help and encourage students to learn,” Thompson said.

Henryetta High student Logan Whitlock and HHS graduate Patience Whitlock portray two of the characters in the book. By zipping through hyperlink portals, the characters travel from Okmulgee to McAlester and Krebs, to Guthrie and Langston, to Muskogee and Sallisaw, and on to Shawnee and Oklahoma City. 

Written by Kathryn Shurden of Henryetta and published by You Are Here Curriculum (www.youarehereok.com), the vivid graphic history style captures the imagination of readers and opens doors to a greater understanding of critical turning points in the Oklahoma story. Through the use of historic places and the extraordinary resources of the Oklahoma Historical Society, readers are encouraged to continue their education outside the classroom by visiting sites and buildings where history comes alive.

In the book’s Foreword, Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Dr. Bob Blackburn writes: “Now we have something new, a teaching tool that can open the world of Oklahoma history to young people…. Learning more about Oklahoma history through tools like this graphic novel will have long lasting benefits. 

“Students need inspiration, and Oklahoma history is full of inspiring stories. Students need a sense of community, a belief that they can contribute to the greatest good for the greatest number of people through their own lives. Oklahoma history is full of stories about coming together to deal with challenges and taking advantage of opportunities… I want to thank Kathryn Shurden for taking the time and resources to create this innovative tool for teaching,” Blackburn concluded.

The author’s use of historic places and local guides reveals the meaning behind the book’s title: The many Indian nations that had established governments here before statehood, the three constitutions that led up to formation of the state of Oklahoma, and the two territories that merged to form into one state of Oklahoma.

Shurden explained why she produced Oklahoma’s first graphic history book. “Books with pictures, and certainly comic books, were once regarded as frivolous and beneath the academic dignity of serious teachers and students. That began to change in about 1978 when comic artists were determined to prove that image literacies could appeal to a much larger audience and operate on a serious, literary level worthy of esteemed attention.”

“By 1978,” she said, “writers had set out to prove that the texts called the ‘graphic novel’ format have great value to the curriculum. In 1986, excitement exploded with Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus I, and in 1991 he released his Pulitzer Prize winning Maus II.”

“As I wrote and produced materials for teaching Local History, a friend introduced me to these graphic novels a few years ago and implored me to write graphic history for Oklahoma,” Shurden said. “I soon found that graphic novels, and graphic history, have been popular outside of the U.S. since the mid-1980s and they have really taken off here in the last few years. Graphic history is a Thing. It is time that we use it to engage learners in Oklahoma History education,” she said.

“Although From Many Nations to Oklahoma Statehood in Three, Two, One was written and produced as a supplemental textbook for Oklahoma History,” Shurden said, “many adults are buying and enjoying this book, too, as they learn more about Oklahoma’s unique story.”

Shurden, a fifth-generation Oklahoman, considers herself a perpetual student of history and has a passion for helping people learn about the historic places, events, and people who built their communities and how that history shapes who we are today.

 

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