Vinita exhibit remembers all-black towns in Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA — From the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s, Oklahoma was known as a state with a large population of black towns nationwide.

What happened to these towns?

Over the years they dwindled down from 50 towns, now they’re only 13 left.

But their impact in communities are still cherished today.

All black Oklahoma towns are a piece of history in the sooner state that many have forgotten.

The towns emerged in Oklahoma during the 1890’s and flourished until the 1930’s.

Now only 13 all black towns remain in the sooner state.

The concept of all black towns began with Booker T. Washington.

He believed African Americans should become economically secure in these towns to help them gain political and social rights.

Dr. Bill Corbett, Professional Historian, said, “What happens is people came to these towns they established their own banks their own business. The best example is Boli, Oklahoma which is found in Okfusti County and it became the largest black town in American with about 7,000 people at one time.”

Although only 13 remain, Corbett hopes people remember the legacy of what these towns meant to so many.

“These black towns to a great extent are a product of segregation even though some of them flourished and did well its a reflection. the ideas of Booker T. Washington to create economic security that actually worked for awhile.”

The Oklahoma Historical Society has been gathering material on this topic for decades.

Photos and narratives can be found in a traveling exhibit which is in Vinita for Black History Month.

The exhibit will be available for public viewing at Vinita High School for a week and then will be in the lobby of Vinita First National Bank for about 10 days.

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