In Oklahoma Territory, African-Americans from the Old South took part in the April 22, 1889, Land Run, when more than 50,000 settlers raced to a claim a piece of the more than 2 million acres of unassigned land in “Indian Territory” that was opened to settlers. The African-Americans settled near each other following the Land Run, creating their own towns, Dell said. Altogether, African-Americans — Land Run settlers and freedmen — created more than 50 identifiable towns and settlements between 1865 and 1920.
Over the years, the towns struggled to survive due to several factors. Many were dependent on railroads that stopped operating. When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, many African-Americans migrated out of the state because the Legislature passed Jim Crow laws, O’Dell said. Another exodus of African-Americans took place during World War II, when they headed to big cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles.