Black History is Oklahoma History

This page is a work in progress, created to share resources about the Black experience in Oklahoma.

As an educational organization and a dedicated community partner, the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) has long believed that one important step toward ending racism and injustice is a better understanding of our shared history. By providing resources that give context for the Black experience in Oklahoma, we hope to spark civil discourse and open dialogue about the role of race in the history of our state. While these conversations about our past may not be comfortable, they are necessary to understand where we have been and how we can best move forward together.

Since 1893, the Oklahoma Historical Society has collected and shared the story of Oklahoma. In the 1980s, the OHS began a concerted effort to engage with Oklahoma’s Black community—to listen to their stories and share their experiences. While we have made both mistakes and significant strides, we will continue to do better and do more. As new voices call for change, the OHS stands committed to our mission to collect, preserve, and share the history and culture of all Oklahomans. Learn more and browse free resources related to the Black experience in Oklahoma below.


Freedmen and the Territorial Era

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

African Americans
African American Newspapers
Battles of Cabin Creek
Battle of Honey Springs
Buffalo Soldiers
Civil War Era

Civil War Refugees Freedmen
Freedmen Schools
Juneteenth
Reconstruction Treaties
Slave Revolt of 1842
Slavery


Researching Freedmen History
View images, learn about Dawes Rolls, and find sources for Freedmen records on our Freedmen History page.



“From Tulsa to Beyond: African American Genealogy in the Indian Territory and Oklahoma,” Nicka Smith
Discover how to research the lives of your ancestors using tribal records (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, and Seminole), federal records, newspapers, college/university collections, historical society records, and more!

The Chronicles of Oklahoma
“‘The Golden Days’: Taylor and Mary Ealy, Citizenship, and the Freedmen of Chickasaw Indian Territory, 1874–77,” by Ellen Cain

“Reading Prestatehood Muskogee: Racial-Political Discourse in American Indian, African American, and White Newspapers, 1905–07,” by Angela M. Person

“West Edwards Days: African Americans in Territorial Edmond,” by Christopher P. Lehman

Podcast
“Slavery in Indian Territory,” BrainBox podcast, Oklahoma Humanities

“The Misremembered ‘Uncle’ Wallace and ‘Aunt’ Minerva,” Shelby Ward (2021)
“Uncle” Wallace and “Aunt” Minerva Willis contributed to the musical legacy of Oklahoma and beyond. They performed Negro spirituals during the antebellum Indian Territory period. While their talent has not been forgotten, the nature of their relationship has been misremembered. Hear their story in this presentation.


“Finding Isaac Rogers,” Nicka Sewell-Smith (2021)
Isaac Rogers was a well-known US Civil War veteran and deputy marshal who met his demise on a platform in Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, on April 21, 1897—but who was he outside of those titles and that singular event? Find out in this presentation.


Discover How Black Oklahomans Shaped Literature, Music, and Culture

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

African American Arts and Crafts
Blue Devils
Blues
Zelia Breaux
Charlie Christian
Dudley Henry Dickerson Jr.
Frenchy Edwards
Ralph Waldo Ellison
Ernie Fields
John Hope Franklin
Lowell Fulson

Gap Band
Juneteenth on Greenwood
Howard McGhee
D. C. Minner
Leona Mitchell
Oscar Pettiford
Jimmy Rushing
Wayman Tisdale
Melvin Tolson
Uncle Wallace and Aunt Minerva Willis

Sports History

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

African American Baseball
Prentice Gautt
Marques Haynes
Wilber “Bullet Joe” Rogan
Barry Sanders

Selmon Brothers
Billy Ray Sims
Willie “Pops” Stargell
Wayman Tisdale

Interview with Bobby Walton (2016)
Bobby Walton discusses breaking barriers in his attempt to be certified the first African American to register and participate as a player in the Oklahoma American Legion Baseball Tournament in 1954–55 in Enid, Oklahoma.

Black Writers

Learn about some of Oklahoma’s celebrated Black authors in the online exhibit Oklahoma Writers: A Literary Tableau.


Exhibits

Traveling Exhibits
Bring a traveling exhibit to your school, library, church, or local community center.



Visit Realizing the Dream, an exhibit about the Black experience in Oklahoma, at the Oklahoma History Center.


All-Black Towns and More


All-Black Towns of Oklahoma: Remembering Safe Havens

Join the State Historic Preservation Office on a journey through Oklahoma's All-Black Towns, where we will highlight the creativity, entrepreneurial spirits, and tenacity that helped build some of these Black safe havens.

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

African American Colleges
All-Black Towns
Boley
Brooksville
Clearview
Freedmen Schools
Greenwood District
Langston
Langston University
Lima

Lincoln City
Red Bird
Rentiesville
Rosenwald Schools
Second Street
Summit
Taft
Tatums
Tullahassee
Vernon



View map

“Oklahoma Bound,” the films of Reverend S. S. Jones
Watch selections from silent films created by Reverend S. S. Jones, who came to Oklahoma Territory in 1889. Scenes of traditionally All-Black towns of Oklahoma include Taft, Clearview, Melvin, and Boley in the 1920s.

Civil Rights in Oklahoma


Presented by the Oklahoma Historical Society, this documentary shares the history of sit-ins in Oklahoma City during the Civil Rights Movement. Through historic images and new interviews with sit-in participants, producers Joyce Jackson and Bruce Fisher tell the powerful story of this movement.


“The Good Fight,” Crossroads online publication

This issue presents an intimate look back at the struggle for civil rights in Oklahoma City.

Find more about Civil Rights Leaders and History
in The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

Green I. Currin
Drusilla Dunjee Houston
Roscoe Dunjee
Amos T. Hall
Ira DeVoyd Hall Sr.
Coody Johnson
Clara Luper
Frederick Moon
George Perkins
Melvin Porter
Jake Simmons Jr.
Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher
A. J. Smitherman
James Stewart
William Twine
I. W. Young

Civil Rights Movement
McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents (1950)
NAACP
Segregation
Senate Bill One

The Chronicles of Oklahoma
“An Unflinching Call for Freedom: Clara Luper’s Pedagogy at the Center of Sit-Ins,” by Rachel E. Watson

“Fitting In and Sitting In: Phillip Henry Porter and Memories of Integration Efforts in Enid, 1955–58,” by Aaron Preston

“Thurgood Marshall’s “Broom Closet”: The Structure of Segregation in McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents,” by Eric Lomazoff and Bailie Gregory

“Unforgotten Trailblazer: Nancy O. Randolph Davis,” by Gloria J. Pollard

Historic Places


“An Oklahoma Story of Place: Voices of Preservation” – Summit, Oklahoma
This video features interviews with descendants of Reverend L. W. Thomas, founder of the town of Summit, Oklahoma (Muskogee County). Summit was one of more than fifty All-Black towns established in present-day Oklahoma, and one of only thirteen still in existence today. The many businesses in Summit before World War II included a cotton gin, filling station, grocery, and garage.


“An Oklahoma Story of Place: Voices of Preservation” – Threatt Filling Station
This video features Reverend Allen Threatt III discussing the Threatt Filling Station, which was built in 1915. Owned and operated by his family, this service station was located along Route 66 near Luther, Oklahoma, and it served African American travelers and locals. This business is one that would typically be included in “The Travelers’ Green Book.”

National Register of Historic Places

Attucks Community Center, Ponca City
Attucks School, Vinita
Douglass High School (Old), Oklahoma City
Douglass School, Lawton
Dunbar Elementary School, Oklahoma City
Dunbar School, Dunbar
Edwards Heights Historic District, Oklahoma City
Excelsior Library, Guthrie
First Baptist Church (Colored), Anadarko
Jamison Cemetery, Okay vicinity
Jewel Theater, Oklahoma City
Langston University Cottage Row Historic District, Langston
Mount Zion Baptist Church, Tulsa
New Hope Baptist Church, Chickasha
Edward Richardson Building, Arcadia
Dr. W. H. Slaughter House, Oklahoma City
St. John Baptist Church and Rectory, Ponca City
St. Paul Baptist Church & Cemetery, Meeker vicinity
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Muskogee
St. Thomas Primitive Baptist Church, Summit
Reverend L. W. Thomas Homestead, Summit vicinity
Trinity United Presbyterian Church, Oklahoma City
Union School District 19 1/2, Newalla vicinity
Vernon A.M.E. Church, Tulsa

Tourism and Recreation

Explore events, landmarks, attractions, and more from the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.
www.travelok.com/long-road-to-liberty

View the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department’s Long Road to Liberty: Oklahoma’s African American History and Culture online or order your free copy at travelok.com