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Blacks played key role in Oklahoma's history

Oklahoma Historical Society's All-Black Towns Project and other initiatives recognize key roles blacks have played in state history.
BY MAX NICHOLS Published: January 27, 2013
/articleid/3748994/1/pictures/1936321">Photo - A historic photo of members of the town council of a once-thriving Boley.  PHOTO PROVIDED
A historic photo of members of the town council of a once-thriving Boley. PHOTO PROVIDED

“Honey Springs was the first and largest battle in which Indians, blacks and whites fought with and against each other,” said Dickson. “It was the first major engagement where black troops carried the day, and perhaps the first where ex-slaves fought against their masters. Cherokees, Creeks and Seminoles filled the ranks of both armies, epitomizing a Civil War within a Civil War.”

A monument to the 1st Kansas was established by the Friends of Cabin Creek in a park overlooking Cabin Creek. Also, visitors to the All-Black Towns Exhibit can enjoy a 1st Kansas (Colored) Volunteer Infantry Regiment exhibit in the military section of the History Center.

The History Center's African American exhibit is the first and only permanent exhibit of the African-American experience in Oklahoma, said Bruce Fisher of the OHS staff. The exhibit presents rare artifacts that came from families that “had no idea they would be displayed in a museum,” said Fisher.

One is the judicial robe of Juanita Kidd Stout of Wewoka, who became the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court of any state in Pennsylvania. Another is the Medal of Honor of Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers of Tecumseh, one of seven African-Americans to receive the medal in World War II.

The All-Black Towns Tour features the lasting, historic and visible results of early black settlers in Oklahoma. Markers for visitors to the 13 surviving towns have been placed in Boley, Clearview, Tullahasee, Vernon, Langston, Grayson, Brooksville, Lima, Red Bird, Summit, Taft and Rentiesville, said Larry O'Dell, who reported the efforts of the All-Black Towns Project.

“The largest and most renowned of these was Boley,” said O'Dell. “Booker T. Washington, a nationally prominent African-American educator, visited Boley twice and submitted a positive article to Outlook magazine in 1908.”

In addition to the 13 surviving towns, Tolson listed Lincoln City, Liberty, Wellston Colony and Ferguson as All-Black Towns that were founded in Oklahoma Territory.

In Indian Territory, he listed North Fork Colored, Arkansas Colored, Canadian Colored, Gibson Station, Wybark, Marshalltown, Overton, Bailey, Foreman, Chase (Beland), Lewisville and Bookertee.

The All-Black Towns Tour, the African-American exhibit at the History Center and the Battle of Honey Springs Historic Site present spectacular opportunities for visitors to understand the significant role played by African-Americans in the history of Oklahoma.


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