June 18, 2004

All-black towns play rich role in Oklahoma history

The Oklahoman
Matthew Brady
Jun 18 04

To a black person in the 1890s, Oklahoma Territory seemed a land of possibilities.
All-black towns sprang up overnight. Talk of creating an all-black state in the territory got as far as Congress.
The opportunities - fueled by newspaper ads from land speculators - attracted thousands of blacks nationwide eager to test the freedom that until then had been little more than words on paper.
"It was an opportunity for them to escape from the racism in the South, an opportunity to prove themselves to whites," said Hannibal B. Johnson, historian and author of Acres of Aspiration: The All-Black Towns in Oklahoma.
Johnson narrated a bus tour Saturday of three of Oklahoma's more than 50 historically all-black towns.
The tour, sponsored by the Tulsa City-County Library, is in its sixth year. That it taps into a hunger for black history is evident in the waiting list each year for one of about 90 seats on two charter buses.
Tour organizer Kim Johnson said she could fill three buses, but the towns they visit ?simply can't handle more than two ...
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