Since the Civil War ended and Black people gained their freedom, there always seemed to be something or someone(s) that was trying to keep Black people down. One of the adversities Black people faced that threated their lives, was racial violence. On many occasions, the violence Black people faced from Whites included lynching; which took the form of shooting, hanging, or burning (alive). Lynching was so frequent that between 1900 and World War I, 1,100 Black individuals were lynched; and that only includes the reported instances resulting from accusations of alleged rape or murder. Another difficulty was they racial inequalities faced. The Homestead Act of 1862 was supposed to give unassigned land to freed Blacks. Unfortunately, it didn’t give Black people the restart they were looking for. The legislation was cost prohibitive because it required so much money to file a claim for the land, maintain and improve the land, and still pay rent.
While these struggles seemed great enough to keep Black people down, it didn’t. Black Americans knew something had to be done about the racial inequalities and violence they were experiencing. They needed a place to feel free of racial discrimination and persecution. At this same time, Whites were also looking for a way to rid themselves of their “negro problem.” Thus, the idea of an All-Black Town was considered. White officials were in serious doubt and critical about Black people’s ability to sustain their own independent communities. However, Black communities proved them wrong. Towns like Boley, which remains today, became the definition of the phrase, “against all odds.”
Boley was founded in 1903. By 1911, they had already amassed 7,000 citizens. Just a year later, they had already established several businesses including grocery stores, hotels, department stores, jewelry stores, and more; they had gained 54 businesses. During the Great Depression and agricultural depression, the town did struggle greatly remain afloat. Especially since many businesses depended on farmers. They lost consumers which meant many businesses were on the brink of closing. Things became so strenuous the town had to declare bankruptcy in 1939. But the community of Boley is a strong one; they surmounted their financial struggles by holding festivals, such as the Big Summer Carnival and annual rodeos, and bringing out celebrities to bring in more consumers. Boley is such a remarkable town with an amazing history because you get to learn and experience the strength of a community sticking together to build their town and then reap the rewards when the struggle is over.
Franklin, J. L. (1982). Journey toward hope: A history of blacks in Oklahoma. University of Oklahoma Press.
Johnson, H. B., Dyson, M. E., & Portis, C. (2002). Acres of aspiration: The all-black towns in Oklahoma. Eakin Press.
Roberts, A. E. (2021). I’ve been here all the while: Black Freedom on Native Land. University of Pennsylvania Press.
*Refer to second reference for pictures’ sources.