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At one time, Oklahoma was home to more all-Black towns than any other state or territory. On September 23, organizers of the Black Towns of Oklahoma Bike Tour will guide tourists through several that remain.

In an effort to educate the community about this rich history and to help raise funds to support all-Black towns, visitors can register to cruise through Tullahassee, Red bird and Taft.

The tour begins at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23 at 205 Elgin Street in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

black towns of oklahoma
Courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society

Participants can select a 25-mile route through Tullahassee and Red bird, a 40-mile route through all three towns, or even longer routes. Both the 25-mile and 40-mile routes include a shuttle that takes participants back to Muskogee.

Black Towns of Oklahoma Bike Tours shows history you didn’t learn in class

According to event organizers, the goal is to show visitors the good and bad of Oklahoma’s history.

The area became home to the most all-Black towns of any state for two primary reasons.

First, after the Five Large Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw) were forced to liberate their Black enslaved members in 1866, many Black Freedmen were granted land allotments through the Dawes Commission.

Black Americans in every other state who were enslaved by whites were denied land reparations after the Civil War.

Yet Black Freedmen in Indian Territory were in a unique position where there tribal affiliation granted them access to land. As a result, between 1850 and 1920 over 50 all-Black towns sprung up from the soil.

black towns of oklahoma
Tullahassee Manual Labor School
(1553, Alice Robertson Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society).

Secondly, the federal government implement a program to give Americans free land to open up settlement in Indian Territory. Between 1889 and 1893 both white and Black settlers moved from other states to stake land claims.

The government called it land runs. Indigenous communities, however, were often pushed out as a result. Many Indigenous people refer to the events as land theft.

Black history faces hostile political climate

The Black Towns of Oklahoma Bike Tour comes amid a hostile political climate toward history and race in the classroom both statewide and national.

Continuing his tour of demonizing diversity and whitewashing history, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters has recently partnered with PragerU to bring optional “educational” videos to Oklahoma classrooms.

PragerU, which is a conservative nonprofit and not an accredited educational institution, has faced sharp criticism in Oklahoma and Florida for videos that downplay slavery and genocide of Indigenous people.

The state has already passed a law that limits critical discussion on race, gender and history in the classroom, with one of the co-authors of the bill, Rep. Sherrie Conley (R-20), admitting the goal was to prioritize the feelings of white children and parents.

Meanwhile, organizers for the Black Towns of Oklahoma Bike Ride seek to showcase the history of Black communities that remain today.

Building Back Black

One of the all-Black towns of Oklahoma on the tour, Tullahassee, has undergone an effort to transform and modernize its infrastructure in recent years. The roots of the community date back to 1850, when the Muscogee (Creek) Nation established a school there.

By 1881 the Tribal nation, which had enslaved Black people along with the other four Large Tribes, gave the school to Black (Muscogee) Creek Freedmen, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.

In the spring of 2021, The Black Wall Street Times joined a tour with architects, coders, lawyers, tax specialists and local officials who are working together to redevelop Tullahassee.

Tourists walk through the ruins of the Historic A.J. Mason Building. (Deon Osborne / The Black Wall Street Times)

Once boasting hundreds of residents and a few millionaires, the historically Black (Muscogee) Creek Freedmen town of Tullahassee stands at just 91 residents today.

But for the town’s mayor Keisha Currin, a third-generation resident, the renewed support gives her hope.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. Just overwhelmed with joy and pride because I love my community. It’s absolutely amazing and nothing short of coming from God,” Mayor Currin previously told The Black Wall Street Times.

Tullahassee Mayor Keisha Currin. (Deon Osborne / The Black Wall Street Times)

Support grows for Black Towns of Oklahoma

Taft continues to boast a population of several hundred residents over a century after its naming in 1904.

It was promoted throughout the South as the “fastest growing Colored community” in Oklahoma.

Taft Industrial School
(4071, Frederick S. Barde Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society).

Meanwhile, Red Bird also spread the news of its creation throughout the South after the first church was established there in 1889.

Both the high school and Red Bird City Hall are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

A scene in Red Bird
(2012.201.B1078.0824, Oklahoma Publishing Company Photography Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society)

Notably, despite some state officials seeking to limit discussions on Black history, Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell has embraced it.

Seeking to advance “cultural tourism”, Pinnell has partnered with the state’s all-Black towns to increase foot traffic and tourism dollars in their communities.

“I’m proud to be on the Tullahassee advisory commission and work with other leaders to foster equity and prosperity within this community,” Lt. Gov. Pinnell told The Black Wall Street Times in Sept. 2021.

 “I gave him the invitation letter and he didn’t even open it. He was like  ‘yes, absolutely.’ He just kept saying yes,” former Tullahassee City Manager Cymone Davis said.

As Black towns across the country struggle to maintain ownership and survival, the tour promises to highlight the productive prowess of trailblazing Black communities.

To register for the Black Towns of Oklahoma Bike Ride, visit or click here.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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