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(Photo credit: Jeremy Castro)

We Refuse to Forget

Caleb Gayle

Tuesday, October 25
Craft Talk — 4:30 p.m.
Multi-Purpose Room, Campus Center West Addition, University at Albany
Conversation — 7:30 p.m.
Huxley Theatre, NYS Museum, 222 Madison Avenue, Albany NY 12202
View map

Free and open to the public.

Caleb Gayle is the author of We Refuse to Forget: A True Story of Black Creeks, American Identity, and Power (2022), a landmark work that presents the extraordinary story of the Creek Nation in Oklahoma, a Native tribe that two centuries ago both owned slaves and accepted Black people as full citizens. 


In praise of Gayle’s writing, Kiese Laymon said the book, “reminds readers, on damn near every page, that we are collectively experiencing a brilliance we’ve seldom seen or imagined.” Jacqueline Woodson called it, “An important part of American history told with a clear-eyed and forceful brilliance.”


Gayle also wrote the much-discussed May 25, 2021 cover story for the New York Times Magazine on the 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Co-sponsored by the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education.

Caleb Gayle (Photo credit Jeremy Castro)

About Caleb Gayle

Caleb Gayle is an award-winning journalist who writes about race and identity. His writing has been recognized by the Matthew Power Literary Reporting Award, the PEN America Writing for Justice Fellowship, the Center for Fiction Emerging Writers Fellowship, the New America Fellowship, among others.

He has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, the Three Penny ReviewGuernica, the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic, the Harvard Review, Pacific Standard, the New Republic, The Boston GlobeLos Angeles Review of Books, The Root, the Daily Beast, and more. Caleb’s writing has been anthologized as a Notable Essay in the 2019 Best American Essays.

He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Oklahoma as a Truman Scholar. He also completed his graduate studies at the University of Oxford, and has an MBA and a master’s in public policy, both Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School respectively where he attended as a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow.

In addition to writing, Gayle serves as a Senior Fellow and Professor of Practice at Northeastern University as well as a Visiting Scholar at the Arthur Carter Journalism Institute at NYU.

Caleb lives in Boston with his wife, Ramone, and mini-goldendoodle, Asher.

More about We Refuse to Forget

In We Refuse to Forget, award-winning journalist Caleb Gayle tells the extraordinary story of the Creek Nation, a Native tribe that two centuries ago both owned slaves and accepted Black people as full citizens. Thanks to the efforts of Creek leaders like Cow Tom, a Black Creek citizen who rose to become chief, the U.S. government recognized Creek citizenship in 1866 for its Black members. Yet this equality was shredded in the 1970s when tribal leaders revoked the citizenship of Black Creeks, even those who could trace their history back generations—even to Cow Tom himself.

Why did this happen? How was the U.S. government involved? And what are Cow Tom’s descendants and other Black Creeks doing to regain their citizenship? These are some of the questions that Gayle explores in this provocative examination of racial and ethnic identity. By delving into the history and interviewing Black Creeks who are fighting to have their citizenship reinstated, he lays bare the racism and greed at the heart of this story. We Refuse to Forget is an eye-opening account that challenges our preconceptions of identity as it shines new light on the long shadows of white supremacy and marginalization that continue to hamper progress for Black Americans.

Praise for We Refuse to Forget

“When Caleb Gayle wrote this book, he reached back into history to find power. By telling the stories of elders like Cow Tom and other Black Creeks who refused to simplify our understanding of race, he amplified that our stories escape categories because our lives are rich and complex. In the end, he let us not forget that America can handle every part that makes us whole.” — Ibram X. Kendi
Caleb Gayle, We Refuse to Forget book cover
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