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BLACK TOWNS IN THE OLD WEST

Oklahoma became a premier haven for African Americans moving Westward from 1865-1920. By 1890, Oklahoma could claim over 137,000 African American residents living in all black towns across Oklahoma.

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Oklahoma

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Oklahoma became a premier haven for African Americans moving Westward from 1865-1920. By 1890, Oklahoma could claim over 137,000 African American residents living in all black towns across Oklahoma.

By 1920, over fifty towns had been settled by African Americans seeking to escape the hardships and racial injustice so prevalent while living in the South after the Civil War (1861-1865). These early settlers discovered they could open businesses, govern their own communities, vote, and own homes while living in peace and harmony.

Recent research has now brought to light several prominent early-established Black Towns, in Oklahoma. They included Langston, Oklahoma.

When President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation "stating that the public lands in the Oklahoma District were opened to settlers at noon on April 22,1889," Edwin P. McCabe, an African American who served as the state auditor in Kansas for four years and as the state auditor in Oklahoma for ten years, decided to seize the moment of opportunity by purchasing 320 acres of land whereby the town of Langston, Oklahoma was established in 1890.

He named the town after John Mercer Langston (1829-1897), the first African American Congressman elected from Virginia in 1888. Edwin McCabe set up his own company - the McCabe Town Company in 1889 and sent his own agents into the South seeking to attract African Americans with new opportunities by settling in Langston. Mr. McCabe also set aside forty acres of land which provided for the Land Grant College called Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University in 1897. The University was later renamed Langston University in 1941.

Edwin P. McCabe:

Birth:   Oct. 10, 1850
Troy
Rensselaer County
New York, USA Death:   Mar. 12, 1920
Chicago
Cook County
Illinois, USA  
When President Benjamin Harrison issued a Proclamation "stating that the public lands in the Oklahoma District were opened to settlers at noon on April 22,1889," Edwin P. McCabe, an African American who served as the state auditor in Kansas for four years and as the state auditor in Oklahoma for ten years, decided to seize the moment of opportunity by purchasing 320 acres of land whereby the town of Langston, Oklahoma was established in 1890.
He named the town after John Mercer Langston (1829-1897), the first African American Congressman elected from Virginia in 1888. Edwin McCabe set up his own company - the McCabe Town Company in 1889 and sent his own agents into the South seeking to attract African Americans with new opportunities by settling in Langston. Mr. McCabe also set aside forty acres of land which provided for the Land Grant College called Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University in 1897. The University was later renamed Langston University in 1941.
  Burial:
Topeka Cemetery
Topeka
Shawnee County
Kansas, USA
Plot: Section 19

 

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NATIVE AND AFRICAN AMERICAN SETTLERS

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2 images

When more than 60,000 Native Americans were removed from their homes during the 1830s by U.S. Federal troops from the southeastern states of the United States - they were forced Westward to Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. This was called the "Trail of Tears." Many of these Native American tribes had previously embraced and either helped or kept numerous African Americans as slaves. African Americans and Native Americans created a mixed cultural blend depending upon the specific tribal group.

Many Native Americans welcomed African Americans into their villages. Even as slaves many African Americans became part of a family group, and many intermarried with Native Americans - thus many later became classified as Black Indians. Therefore Black Oklahoma evolved in many areas as biracial communities within Indian nations. This is a unique history, which developed in many of the western communities where the two groups came together.

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BUFFALO SOLDIERS AND THE OKLAHOMA TERRITORY

This famous group of all Black regiments earned their respect as U.S. Military men during the Civil War (1861-1865). They served the U.S. Army as the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry. For their heroism during the Civil War, twenty-two African Americans earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. The name Buffalo Soldiers came later when these troops served as scouts in the West. The Native Americans coined the name Buffalo Solders because of their mostly tightly curled hair, which was said to resemble the roaming buffalo of the Great Plains. They also saw these soldiers as being proud, brave, and strong and respected them just as they had respected their indigenous buffalo.

The Buffalo Soldiers acted as a protective force to keep "Boomers" off lands not assigned to them. Oklahoma was being designated as part Indian Territory, but the boomers kept coming. The 9th Cavalry of the Buffalo Soldiers kept the unassigned land clear since it had been set aside as places for reestablishing new homelands for Native Americans. The Buffalo Soldiers also acted as protectors of other settlers as their wagon trains moved westward. They acted as a peacemaking force keeping angry Native Americans at reason when they were thinking of War during 1880 to 1889. The Buffalo Soldiers also protected the mail routes and Railroad surveyors during this period. These soldiers were stationed at Fort Reno in El Reno, Oklahoma.

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TULSA, OKLAHOMA

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The Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma was a thriving and upwardly mobile Black community from 1900 until 1921. Greenwood was known as the "Black Wall Street" of America. An African American developer named O.W. Gurley started a community which grew to 35 blocks of homes, businesses, and churches in this all black district.


This all ended when, on May 30, 1921, a young black was accused of assaulting a young white woman. The accused was acquitted, but Tulsa, on May 31, 1921, became the place for one of America's worst race riots. Before Martial law could restore order, thousand of homes, businesses, and churches were destroyed and burned to the ground by out-of-control whites from the downtown district of Tulsa. Many died on this day of infamy in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The unique development of many all black towns grew after the Civil War (1861-1865). Oklahoma was a favorite among these new settlements.

The Federal Government during the Land Run of 1889 opened the Indian Territory to non-Indian settlers. Leading the list in Oklahoma was Boley, Oklahoma, which by 1905, had grown to over 5,000 African American residents.

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Kansas

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High on the list of desirable places to live for African Americans as the West expanded was Kansas. Benjamin "Pap" Singleton (1809-1882), a former slave from Tennessee, started "a movement" which steered 15,000 to 20,000 African Americans westward to Kansas from 1877-1879. His slogan was "Ho for Kansas!" Thus he spearheaded a Westward movement which was later named, the Exodus of 1879. Singleton's operation of the Edgefield Real Estate and Homestead Association was his business in Nashville, Tennessee for those seeking to move Westward and onward to Kansas. Nicondemus, Kansas became a popular place for new African American settlers.

Edward P. McCabe who was responsible for establishing Langston, Oklahoma? He also convinced many African Americans to live in Nicodemus, Kansas. His lure was an attractive offer of a "$5 fee to get any vacant lot in Nicodemus" which was established in 1877 on 160 acres of land. Nicodemus was a thriving town, but by 1888, the railroad changed its travel route, and people left Nicodemus and moved to the state of Nebraska and other developing area homesteads.

Nicodemus, Kansas is one example of what happened to many old all black western towns when the populations moved to other areas seeking new opportunities for their growing families. Suddenly these booming towns were left empty as ghost towns.

 

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Benjamin "Pap" Singleton

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Benjamin "Pap" Singleton (1809-1882), a former slave from Tennessee, started "a movement" which steered 15,000 to 20,000 African Americans westward to Kansas from 1877-1879. His slogan was "Ho for Kansas!" Thus he spearheaded a Westward movement which was later named, the Exodus of 1879. Singleton's operation of the Edgefield Real Estate and Homestead Association was his business in Nashville, Tennessee for those seeking to move Westward and onward to Kansas.
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