D.C. Minner Rentiesville MUSEUM
Our traveling exhibit (created with support from the Oklahoma Humanities Council and shown at the OMHOF, OBHOF, Connors Library, Eufaula and Checotah Libraries, and the OBMAHOF in OKC) is now set up here in our own Museum:
how to FIND US: http://www.travelok.com/listings/view.profile/id.2339
We are now open as a museum on Sundays from 1 – 5 pm and by appointment!
In preparation for this, we have been going to archive workshops and joined the OK Museums Association to prepare for this growth – we had a report done by the Amigos Library Services assessing the archive which they agreed is an “important collection which should stay in Rentiesville.”
They visited and created a Site Survey Report for Archive Preservation and Development. (We have 75 photo albums, countless digital photos, hundreds of CDs from all the players on the festivals and all the fest applicants, D.C. Minner’s recording studio, all the out-takes of the many songs he wrote, posters, hats, clothes, and much more.) Our Vision has always focused on Education – we teach a lot of music here in Rentiesville and also teach through various libraries and organizations. We plan to include this important goal directly at the festival and will be adding pre-fest workshops from some of the performers before the festival next year.
Our Mission Statement: “To preserve and develop African American Music(s) Through Education and Entertainment.” This builds community.
KBA in Education w Selby 1999
Keeping the Blues Alive Handy Award
check out the LATEST http://www.travelok.com/rhythm-and-routes/artists/d-c-minner
D.C. Minner has his own new page at travel OK . com…. !!
TRIBUTE to D.C. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QsAubwHLjk
D.C. at the inductions into the hall of fame he and Selby started now overseen by FOR Blues Inc.
OMHOF induction video on D.C. Minner’s life story:
the Blues Foundation on the Blues in the Schools – BITS- w D.C .and Selby:
From an Alt Ed Blues in the Schools Residency student: “I just learned that DC died. I didn’t know he died in 08. I went to favor alternative in Guthrie Oklahoma, I played there with them all three years they came to our school. I’m the one with the black fender stratocaster. DC told me to never let anything get in my way and I can make it with music. Back then I didn’t really realize how lucky we were to have them come to our school like that, but now I do. He was awesome, made a huge impact on my life, and I’ll never forget him. RIP DC”
early footage – Juneteenth on Greenwood D.C. and Selby thanks to Leon Rollerson:
AND. . . click here for:
thanks to Hugh Foley and the OK Humanities Council we have these documents… the version without photos inserted is below them, … and click on the purple link above to get the complete pdf file of
D.C. Minner Story ORIGINS AND LEGACIES just above!!
From Black Towns…
The Oklahoma Black town movement is unique in American history. After the Civil War In the late 19th and early 20th century, the land that would become Oklahoma was still split into Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory. During this period, forty-four all-Black towns sprang up as hopeful locations for both freed slaves of the five southeastern tribes who had been removed to Indian Territory in the 1830s, as well as new Black migrants looking for better economic opportunities and to escape oppressive racist conditions of the post-Civil War South.
The Civil War’s presence in Indian Territory is directly related to Black pride in the area, as the Battle of Honey Springs, fought July 17, 1863, witnessed the first pitched combat by uniformed African-American troops, the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment, who fought alongside Anglo and American Indian troops. Fought just north of what is now Rentiesville, the battle has been called the “Gettysburg of the West,” because the Federal victory gave the Union Army dominion over the Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) Nations, the Arkansas River, and the north-south route through Indian Territory, the Texas Road, now known as U.S. Highway 69.
After the Civil War, freed Blacks settled in the rural areas around Muskogee, but it was not until the Dawes Commission began breaking up tribal lands and allotting 160 acres to both freedmen and tribal members that the idea of all-Black towns came about. As one of many territory all-Black towns such as Taft, Summit, Clearview, Boley, and Langston, the settlement of Rentiesville was established in 1904 by entrepreneur William Rentie, a mixed-blood Muscogee (Creek) and African-American. Rentie was born near Muskogee in February, 1863. A university graduate and public school teacher, Rentie also practiced law and served as a member of the House of Representatives in the Muscogee (Creek) Legislature. Due to his understanding of the complicated land policies that affected allotments, Rentie was one of the leaders of the Black town movement, placing notices in newspapers to promote the plan to provide African-Americans a place to prosper.
The excited tone of advertisements placed in Territory and Southern newspapers indicates the positive attitude leaders such as Rentie had for the Black towns and the future state. Placed one day before Oklahoma became a state on November 16, 1907, an ad ran in Muskogee’s Black newspaper, The Cimiter: “To our colored friends throughout the United States, we send you greetings. The Indian Territory and Oklahoma are now a new state. Thousands of our Native people are land holders, and have thousands of acres of rich lands to rent and lease. We prefer to rent and to lease our lands to colored people. Our terms will be found reasonable. You are invited to come and share and enjoy our lands and our prosperity in the new state of Oklahoma.”
Rentiesville itself was advertised in large ads that claimed it to be “The pick of the territory. No town to compare with it that is being promoted for colored people. It’s yours, an ideal location on the main line of the M.K. & T Railway, the best railway service in the Southwest; no better site anywhere, and backed by a section rich in industrial resources.” On the town’s founding, one of the Black town movement’s leaders, N.A. Robinson, said in a 1904 speech, “It has been the custom of the Negro race to follow the footprints of other races, but the time has come for the Negro to lay the foundation and grapple with great concerns like other people.” With a post office, public water well, railway passenger stop, two churches (Baptist and African Methodist Epicscopal), a school, and several “business houses” selling a variety of goods, Rentiesville was on its way to becoming an important town in the area. As the town’s size grew, and due to the publicity about the new opportunities for people of African descent in Indian Territory, word spread quickly about the Black town movement within and outside of the “Twin Territories.” One early family, led by attorney B.C. Franklin, relocated from Ardmore to Rentiesville to escape racist attitudes. This led to Rentiesville being the birthplace of Dr. John Hope Franklin, the premier African-American historian of the 20th century. Stories about the Black town movement also led D.C. Minner’s ancestors to make their way from Alabama to Rentiesville. Once in place, D.C.’s grandparents opened a grocery store that eventually became the Cozy Corner, a place where locals could listen to music, dance, and drink home-made Choc beer, or corn liquor, and which D.C. and Selby Minner would ultimately convert into the Dusk til Dawn Blues Club.
As a result of the economic hardships of the 1920s and 1930s, Rentiesville and other Black towns began to wither as no jobs existed to keep young people in the towns, and agricultural harvests were not enough to provide a tax base to provide basic public amenities to the people. As a result, many of the Black towns went bankrupt and converted into rural communities from which people traveled to larger nearby towns for goods, services, and public school education. Contemporarily, only a few of the Black towns still exist, to include Taft, Summit, Redbird, Clearview, Boley, Langston, and Rentiesville. When a person visits Rentiesville today, whether it is to see the Honey Springs Battlefield or the Down Home Blues Club, they are in touch with the diverse history of the first Oklahomans of the statehood year in 1907. Additionally, modern Oklahomans can see how the state evolved out of the shattered promises by the Federal government to American Indians; then, the state may have been one of the most progressive in the nation regarding the hopes of African Americans already here, and those on the way to what they perceived as a new beginning in the Black town movement. Finally, one can understand the resolute desire on the part of Anglo-Americans to create a brand new state that would be as great as any other, even if they were often misguided by prejudices handed down by their own ancestors. By understanding the totality of this history, modern Oklahomans can recognize the state’s uniqueness is directly related to its multi-cultural beginnings, and move forward educating future generations about the way in which people of differing backgrounds impact one another, for better or worse, as neighbors and fellow citizens.
Hugh W. Foley, Jr.
…to Blues Festivals:
The Life and Musical Career of D.C. Minner
Born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma, January 24, 1935, D.C. Minner was the only child of Helen Pearson Minner and Clarence Minner, but was raised by his grandmother, Lura Drennan, on family land where she operated a juke joint, speak-easy, grocery, and after-hours blues club beginning the early 20th century. His family came to Rentiesville from Alabama, with four Cherokee sisters and their black husbands settling in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation which was more hospitable to mixed-marriages between American Indians and Blacks of the period. Rentiesville was close enough to the Cherokee Nation so the sisters did not have far to go to visit their relatives. As a youngster, D.C. spent hours listening to the acoustic blues played by various traveling musicians in the club, often picking up their guitars during breaks between sets and then trying to imitate what he saw on stage.
After serving as an Army medic during the Korean War era where he learned to play Spanish-style guitar from fellow servicemen, he returned to Oklahoma and began playing bass for Larry Johnson and the New Breeds in Oklahoma City. Johnson and the New Breeds, with D.C. laying down the bass line, backed up well-known bluesmen O.V. Wright, Freddie King, Chuck Berry, Eddie Floyd and Bo Diddley through the early 1960s.
Desiring a change of artistic direction, and recognizing the country was going through some major social and cultural changes in the 1960s, Minner moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in California, and switched his primary instrument to guitar. While gigging around the same clubs in the Bay Area, he met Selby who was first a competitor for work, and then a collaborator in 1976. The two married in 1979 and toured for twelve years with different drummers throughout the United States as Blues on the Move.
After tiring of constant life on the road, in 1988, the couple returned to Rentiesville and converted Minner’s grandmother’s prohibition-era corn-whiskey hall, The Cozy Corner, into the after-hours club, The Down Home Blues Club. The club quickly became what it had been in the first half of the twentieth century, a favorite spot for after hours relaxing, socializing, dancing, and listening to blues, and rhythm and blues, played by D.C. and Selby.
In 1989, The Minners initiated their Blues in the Schools program through the Oklahoma Arts Council, performing music in classrooms and educating students about the blues’ history and instrumental techniques, as well as how to be a good team member and collaborator in a group. Additionally, children learned to express their creative ideas in a supportive environment, and communicate across generations, ethnicities, and genders by working with D.C. and Selby. For their educational efforts, the Minners won a W.C. Handy Award, and a Keeping the Blues Alive Award Memphis, Tennessee-based Blues Foundation.
In 1991, D.C. and Selby started the annual Dusk Til Dawn Blues Festival, held each Labor Day Weekend on three stages on the family property. While enduring a lot of ribbing from his neighbors about being a modern-day Noah building something whose future seemed dubious, D.C. did much of the construction for the club and stages himself, with the sporadic help of various volunteers. Since then, the event has grown into of the premier regional blues festival in the United States, featuring many artists whose authenticity often outweighs their lack of national exposure. The festival has always had a significant component aimed toward youth with many local bands, artists, and performers geared toward developing an appreciation for the blues as an art form among young people.
For his contributions to Oklahoma music, education, and bringing awareness to the state’s blues history, the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame inducted D.C. in 1999, and was the only person who lived in the state at the time of the induction. The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in Muskogee, Oklahoma, inducted D.C. in 2003, along with other significant Oklahoma artists such as Ronnie Dunn (of Brooks and Dunn), and D.C.’s long-time friend, Flash Terry. These accolades led Rentiesville townspeople to name the road running north and south by Minner’s property as D.C. Minner Street. Ironically, just ¼ mile north of the club sits the historic Honey Springs Civil War Battlefield where African-Americans, Anglo-Americans, American Indians, and Mexican-Americans fought against and among each other on July 17, 1863. Now, people of all ethnic backgrounds unite under the banner of the blues each Labor Day Weekend at the festival.
Before and during his illness up to his death on May 6, 2008, at home in Rentiesville, D.C. made many recordings in his Texas Road Studio in the club that will eventually released.
As of 2011, Selby Minner continues performing, recording, and teaching the blues in Oklahoma, regionally, and nationally. She also maintaines the Down Home Blues Club’s as both a historic and active musical venue, and coordinates inductions and celebrations for Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame. Founded and housed in the club by Selby and DC, the Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame seeks to create awareness about many lesser known Oklahoma blues musicians, as well as those who have made major contributions to the genre.