The Western Migration
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Oklahoma Territory became the other major area for African-American migration. It was created in 1866 out of the western half of the original Indian Territory on land originally set aside for settlement by Native Americans, such as the Comanche and Cheyenne nations. Pressure from white prospective settlers persuaded the federal government to further reduce Indian lands, and open the surplus to homesteaders. The famous April 22, 1889 "run" for land claims followed.

Black Dreams and 'Free' Homes: The Oklahoma Territory, 1891-1894PhylonBlack Dreams and 'Free' Homes: The Oklahoma Territory, 1891-1894 from Phylon by Lonnie E. Underhil and Daniel F. Littlefield Jr.

For many African Americans, Oklahoma Territory represented the possibility of creating towns and colonies where black people would be free to exercise their political rights without interference. Edwin P. McCabe, who as State Auditor had been the most powerful black man in Kansas, arrived in Oklahoma in 1890. Through his newspaper, the Langston City Herald, McCabe declared the Territory the "paradise of Eden and the garden of the Gods." To African Americans growing restless under Southern segregation and lynch law, he added a special enticement: "Here the negro can rest from mob law, here he can be secure from every ill of the southern policies."

The McCabes, who owned most of the town lots, immediately began to advertise for purchasers through the Herald's network of readers in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Tennessee. By 1891, two hundred people lived in Langston City, including a doctor, a minister, and a schoolteacher.

Langston City's fate depended largely on homesteading in the region. Nearly a year before the Sac and Fox reservation was opened to settlers, Herald agents spread the word throughout the South. Hundreds of African Americans arrived in time for the September 22, 1891 opening, many of them armed and reputedly ready to secure a home "at any price." Six months later, thousands raced for the opening of the Cheyenne - Arapaho lands; and in 1893 many more staked claims in the Cherokee Strip.

Over time, a thriving farming population arose, which supported African-American business owners and professionals. By 1900, African American farmers owned 1.5 million acres valued at $11 million. Black land ownership peaked at the turn of the twentieth century. By 1910, it was in decline, and many of the children of the first generation of Exodusters now fell easy prey to the siren call of the cities.

The African-American migration to the Twin Territories produced thirty-two all-black towns. Boley, founded in the former Creek Nation in 1904, was the most famous. It was established by two white entrepreneurs; William Boley, a railroad manager, and Lake Moore, a former federal officeholder. They hired an African American, Tom Haynes, to promote the community. Booker T. Washington visited Boley in 1908. The town, he wrote,

is striking evidence of the progress made in thirty years.... The westward movement of the negro people has brought into these new lands, not a helpless and ignorant horde of black people, but land-seekers and home-builders, men who have come prepared to build up the country....

Boley, A Negro Town in the West, The Booker T. Washington Papers, vol. 9Boley, A Negro Town in the West, The Booker T. Washington Papers, vol. 9

Two years later, Boley's day in the sun was over. Agricultural prices plummeted; crops failed. In 1907, Oklahoma gained statehood, and the Democratic-dominated state legislature quickly disenfranchised black voters, and segregated public schools and accommodations. Jim Crow had come to Oklahoma.

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