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Creating the Promised Land


Nick at the Historical Marker of Boley

As I was reading off the places I would be visiting this time, I came to Boley, Oklahoma. I had never heard of Boley, and I couldn't even find it on the map the first time I looked. Soon enough, though, I learned about Boley and its role in history.


Beale Street Blues

Boley, Oklahoma was an all black town completely run by African Americans at the turn of the century. They ran their own businesses; they had their own banks, two separate colleges, a newspaper, and city council. They even had the first electrical plant owned and operated by African Americans. How did this happen? Well, after the Civil War, freed slaves needed safe places to settle.

Main St. in Boley around 1910

The place where many found safety was in Indian Territory, where the Five Civilized Tribes lived. Freed slaves felt that the Indians would treat them better than whites, and they did. African-Americans migrated to Oklahoma from all over the country. The Creeks Indians gave the land on which Boley was settled to the freed slaves. The Creeks and Blacks coexisted together in a peaceful manner, sometimes trading amongst one another and intermarrying.

The Town Council Of Boley from 1907-1910

During Boley's glory days, times were good for the African-Americans. You could have your own business without being chased out by white settlers and businessman. You could be a very successful banker or farmer. There would be social gatherings in the city center, where you got to dance and socialize with others. The farmers would come into town, the people would get dressed up and the downtown businesses would be open longer hours. Boley was the most successful of the all black towns; it even was called the Black Wall Street at its peak and it had a population of 4500.

Irene just getting done feasting at Beverly's diner.

This success couldn't last forever, and the fall of Boley happened for many reasons. Congress passed laws to limit the voting power of Blacks. Soon, there were white people running an all black town. Segregation laws were passed, the Depression came, and people all across the country began to move from farms to the city.

The Health care center in Boley

By the 1920's Boley was nearly vacant. Only about 1000 people still lived there, and many left in the next few years. Boley still exists today, as well as thirteen other all black towns. Its population is about 900 people; 80% of them are retired.

The major businesses in Boley today are a Minimum-security prison, Mental Health Care Clinic and Smokehorama, a business that makes fast clean and easy pressure cookers. Those still in Boley would like to let the past about Boley be told to others. They continue to have their annual Rodeo, where some 45,000 guests come each year. They have plans to build a park and are working on improving their museum.

Nick at the Rodeo grounds in Boley

Boley and the black towns of Oklahoma were very successful on many different levels. Boley gave hope; it showed other blacks that they could be successful and have a good life after slavery. The fall of Boley and the other black towns showed people that there were still social injustices that the Blacks went through, and continue to go through today. We have to accept that fact and improve upon it as much as possible.

Always remember to
Keep The Peace


Please email me at: nick@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Stephen - "I'm African! No, I'm American! No, I'm African!" No, I'm American!
Stephanie - Poetry to stir the soul and inspire a nation
Stephanie - Two nations, one country