Boley

Boley, in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, is probably the best known of all of Oklahoma’s all-black towns.

“Boley, Indian Territory, is the youngest, most enterprising, and in many ways the most interesting of the Negro towns in the US.” — African-American activist, educator Booker T. Washington after a 1905 visit to the town.

Boley was settled by Creek Freedmen, whose ancestors had been held as slaves of the Creek at the time of the forceful Indian Removal in the 1830s. After the American Civil War, the United States negotiated new treaties with tribes that allied with the Confederacy. It required them to emancipate their slaves and give them membership in the tribes. These former slaves were called the Creek Freedmen and they set up independent townships, of which Boley was one.

W.H. Boley and Lake Moore created the town in 1903, with a stated goal of black self-governance. The town enjoyed early success with many grocery stores, businesses, hotels, and restaurants. Into the early 20th century, Boley claimed the first black bank and the first black-owned telephone and electric companies. By 1911, Boley also enjoyed the largest population of any black town in the United States with 7,000 inhabitants.

The town of Boley also became famous when black townsmen prevented the Pretty Boy Floyd gang from robbing the town’s only bank in 1932.

The town, which is decades away from its most vibrant economic times of the 1920s and 1930s, still hosts the nation’s oldest African American community-based rodeo every Memorial Day weekend. It is also the headquarters of the Smokaroma company.

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