An aging water tower stands in the historic all-black town of Boley in 2006. Matt Strasen/The Oklahoman file

“The most enterprising and in many ways the most interesting of the Negro towns in the United States.”

So proclaimed Booker T. Washington after a 1905 visit to Boley, which left the famed African-American leader duly impressed.

Founded just a couple of years earlier — and boosted by a massive publicity campaign, promising a place where blacks could live as free and equal citizens — Boley had grown quickly into one of the most prosperous predominantly black towns in the nation.

Before long, it would boast two banks, three cotton gins and two colleges.

But after peaking at more than 4,000 residents, the Great Depression and other factors would permanently stall Boley’s growth.

Today one of the state’s few remaining historic all-black towns, it’s best known as a cultural tourism destination and home to the nation’s oldest African-American community-based rodeo.

Tim Stanley


Twitter: @timstanleyTW

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