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For many Black travelers in the early 20th century, the Threatt station near Luther, Oklahoma, was more than a place to fill up their gas tanks along Route 66. The historic Black-owned and -operated property, which operated from 1915 until the 1970s, also provided respite for Black travelers, most of whom were prohibited from stopping to refuel or even use a restroom after sundown.
First reported by Kristi Eaton, the Threatt Family is now moving to restore their station, which also included a farm, a diamond for the Negro Baseball League, and a restaurant where patrons could drink and dance. According to Lynda Ozan, deputy state historic preservation officer, “In a state that was racially segregated, had many sundown towns, had neighborhoods that were deeded with restrictions on racial ownership, the Threatt family had a successful farm and business through the 20th century. As a location for Black travelers, the Threatt Filling Station was critical.”
The station was owned by Allen Threatt Sr, who managed to acquire 160 acres of land during a time when Black men and women faced oppression and laws enforcing white supremacy. In the early 1900s, Oklahoma had some of the most strict Jim Crow laws of any state in the country through the passage of SB 1 which prohibited Black people from sharing public spaces with their white counterparts.
The only Black-owned station on Route 66
According to Ed Threatt, one of Allen Threatt Sr’s grandchildren, “It’s a part of Black history within the state of Oklahoma. For him to acquire 160 acres of land in the Jim Crow era, that’s no small feat.”
And acquiring the land was not all that Allen Threatt Sr was able to do during that time. In addition to operating the station, the Threatt family also raised crops on their farm land and sold sandstone, engaging in Black entrepreneurship that lasted for decades.
According to Jennifer Sandy, field director for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “[The] impressive variety of services demonstrates a creative entrepreneurial spirit to succeed at a time when being Black and operating a successful business on Route 66 was not common.” In fact, in 1939, a newspaper listed the Threatt Filling Station as the only “negro station” in the country.
Rebuilding a legacy
Despite shuttering in the 1970s, the Threatt Filling Station made the 2021 list of National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Most Endangered Historic Places list. Such accolades can prevent a location from falling prey to modern developers, and can maintain the Threatt Station’s historic place among Black developments in the early 20th century. The Threatt station is also noted for using Oklahoma local materials to create its buildings.
Meanwhile, the Threatt family is trying to raise funds to restore the station to its original glory, with a price tag in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The family wants visitors to see more than just a gas station, but also a piece of Black history in Oklahoma. “It’s not just about us,” continued Ed Threatt. “It’s about Black people in general.