Oklahoma City Archives - StoryCorps

“I Didn’t Know If I Really Belonged”: A Chickasaw Woman Finds Her Way Back to Oklahoma

Shelby Rowe works in suicide prevention and has dedicated her life to helping people struggling with mental health. But she came to StoryCorps with her best friend, Johnna James, to share her own story of overcoming hardship, and how she found belonging in her Chickasaw roots.

Shelby Rowe working on a commission piece in her home in Oklahoma City, OK, around June of 2018. Courtesy of Shelby Rowe.
Loom-stitched artwork by Shelby Rowe: 21st Century Chickasaw Hatchet Woman, 2020. Used with permission from Shelby Rowe.

 

Top Photo: Shelby Rowe and Johnna James at their StoryCorps interview in Oklahoma City, OK. on July 13, 2023. By Julia Kirschenbaum for StoryCorps.

 

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired October 13, 2023 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“On August 19, 1958, I Was Seven.” An Oklahoma City Woman Remembers Being a Child Activist

The sit-in movement was a cornerstone of the Civil Rights era, and perhaps best known for the Greensboro Four—a group of college students who sat in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in North Carolina in 1960. Rooted in nonviolence, sit-ins became a far-reaching advocacy strategy that spanned lunch counters, department stores, courtrooms, and the White House. 


Linda Benson, Ayanna Najuma, and Carolyn House (seated on the floor, left to right), staging a sit-in at Bishop’s Restaurant in Oklahoma City on May 31, 1963. Also pictured: Maurice Coffey, and Dwayne Cosby. Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society, John Melton Collection.

But while the Greensboro protest sparked the movement, one of the first sit-ins happened two years earlier at Katz Drug Store in Oklahoma City.


Church leaders and activists gathered in front of the Municipal Building in Oklahoma City in December 1960, with a sign reading, ‘I’m Doing My Christmas Shopping at Katz This Year.’  Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society, John Melton Collection

It was staged by children, and among them was 7-year-old Ayanna Najuma.  At StoryCorps, she remembered how it started with a NAACP Youth Council trip.

Top Photo: Ayanna Najuma (center) and other NAACP Youth Council staging a sit-in at Katz Drug Store in Oklahoma City on August 19, 1958. Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society, John Melton Collection.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired August 18, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Mother And Son Remember “Grandma Chief”

In 1985, Wilma Mankiller made history when she became the first woman to lead the Cherokee Nation, one of the largest Native American tribes in the United States.

She would lead for ten years, receiving numerous awards for her achievements, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998. In fact, in 2022 the U.S. Mint will feature Wilma Mankiller on a quarter.

During her tenure, enrollment to become a citizen of the Cherokee Tribe more than doubled, and she pushed to revitalize the tribe’s health care system.

She also helped broker a self-governance agreement in the 1990s, paving the way towards tribal sovereignty.

But at first, the transition into power wasn’t made easy for her. Her daughter and grandson, Gina Olaya and Kellen Quinton, came to StoryCorps to talk about how they remember her, and the challenges she faced when she first became Chief.

Gina Olaya and Kellen Quinton at their StoryCorps interview in Oklahoma City on September 27, 2021. By Castle Row Studios for StoryCorps.
Top Photo: Wilma Mankiller in June of 1992. Credit: Getty Images

Originally aired October 8, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

“Don’t Let Anybody Tell You That You Can’t:” GED Instructor Helps His Student Soar

Ngoc Nguyen was born in Saigon just a few years before the end of the Vietnam War. As a child, she had to work to support her family and ultimately dropped out of school. 

After immigrating to the U.S. in her early twenties, she continued working. It would be more than two decades before Nguyen would be able to continue her education.

At 45, she enrolled in a GED program at the Opportunities Industrialization Center in Oklahoma City. At StoryCorps, Nguyen sat down with her teacher, Christopher Myers, to thank him for the role he played in helping her earn her degree despite her obstacles.

Top Photo: Christopher Myers and Ngoc Nguyen at their StoryCorps interview in Oklahoma City on February 9, 2018. By Chelsea Aguilera for StoryCorps.

Originally aired Friday, January 22, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Love Interrupted By A Wrongful Conviction

Brandy Carpenter, 38, and De’Marchoe Carpenter, 41, began their romance in the summer of 1994. Brandy was 14 years old. De’Marchoe was 17. And Brandy had had a crush on him for years.

But before they had their first kiss, De’Marchoe was arrested for a murder he didn’t commit in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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De’Marchoe was eventually exonerated by the Oklahoma Innocence Project, and walked out of prison on May 9, 2016. He and Brandy got married 13 days later.

At StoryCorps, De’Marchoe and Brandy talked about the toll his incarceration took — and continues to take — on their relationship.

Top photo: Brandy and De’Marchoe Carpenter at their StoryCorps interview in Oklahoma City. Photo by Kevin Oliver for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: De’Marchoe and Brandy Carpenter (back left and right), along with Brandy’s kids, during a 2010 prison visit. Brandy had kids with someone else after she and De’Marchoe parted ways. Now that they’re reunited, he’s become a father figure to them. Photo Courtesy De’Marchoe Carpenter.

Originally aired July 20, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

‘We Never Spoke Of It Again’: Two Sisters On The Night That Changed Their Family

This is a conversation about witnessing something as a child, and not truly understanding what was seen until decades later.

Glennette Rozelle and her half-sister Jennifer Mack grew up in Del City, Oklahoma during the 1970s. They were used to hearing their parents fight. Then one night, everything changed for their family.

On February 14, 1977, their mom shot and killed Glennette’s dad — Jennifer’s step-dad. Glennette was seven years old and Jennifer was 10, and they were both home at the time. They came to StoryCorps to remember that night, and its aftermath.

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Top photo: Glennette Rozelle (left) and Jennifer Mack at their StoryCorps interview in Oklahoma City on May 3, 2018. By Kevin Oliver for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: Jennifer Mack (bottom left) and Glennette Rozelle (bottom right) with their older siblings in 1977, the first Christmas after their mom shot Glennette’s dad in self-defense. Courtesy of Jennifer Mack.

Originally aired June 22, 2018 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Willie Watson and PJ Allen

On the morning of April 19, 1995, a truck bomb exploded at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. It was the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.

The blast was equal to nearly 4000 pounds of TNT. It killed 168 people. Hundreds more were injured.

The federal office building also housed a day care center. The explosives-laden truck was parked directly beneath it.

Of the 21 children there that morning, only 6 survived.

PJ Allen was one of the survivors. He suffered broken bones, severe burns, and damage to his lungs from inhaling debris.

At StoryCorps in Oklahoma City, he spoke with his father, Willie Watson.

Listen to another survivor story here.

Originally aired April 17, 2015 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Phuong Nguyen and Christopher Nguyen

On the morning of April 19, 1995, a truck bomb exploded at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. At the time, it was the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.

The blast was equal to nearly 4000 pounds of TNT. It killed 168 people. Hundreds more were injured.

The federal office building also housed a day care center. The explosives-laden truck was parked directly beneath it.

Of the 21 children there that morning, only six survived.

Christopher Nguyen was one of the survivors. He was 4 years old at the time of the bombing and his mother, Phuong, worked nearby.

Click here to listen to another survivor’s story.

Originally aired April 17, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Rob Littlefield

Rob Littlefield remembers being bullied in junior high school for being gay.