Residents like Henrietta Holloway Hicks are fighting to preserve Boley, Oklahoma and its history. Boley is one of 13 all-Black towns that still exist in the state.
“We are Black history, we are Oklahoma history, we are American history. We are ‘Boley Strong,’” Karen Ekuban said.
“Everything here was built, made, and owned by -- you call them African Americans now. They called them colored people then,” Holloway Hicks said. “This very building is one of the first car dealership for Black folks in the world.”
What once was a vibrant town of thousands of people now has approximately 500 residents, and the streets are quiet.
Boley does not have a grocery store. Schools are shut down, but residents said movement in the area are changing.
Boley is the only spot in Oklahoma to showcase the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibit highlighting rural America right now.
State Senator Roger Thompson hopes having Boley in the spotlight will also bring tourists.
“We got parts of our history that are good,” Thompson said. “We got parts of our history that are terrible. They are parts of our history. Let's tell our history as factual as we can tell our history. Let's learn from the mistakes we've made to be better people in the future.”
The state funded $65,000 to get the exhibit here to Oklahoma. Holloway Hicks sees this as a step in the right direction to revitalizing the all-Black town.
“What we're going to do in the future will be greater,” Holloway Hicks said.
The exhibit will be here until June 25.
Below is a list of events around the exhibit:
Thursdays through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sundays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
PROGRAM: Rural Identity
2 p.m. Saturday, May 21
Boley Community Center
11 West Grant Street
Speaker: Judge Henrietta Hicks
May 26-29 on Main Street
Big Screen Outdoor Production @ Dusk (May 28 will be shown in community center at noon only; not at night due to the rodeo)
Bring your lawn chairs and blankets for outdoor production.
Parade at 3 p.m. and Rodeo at 7:30 p.m.
5 p.m. on Main Street
Soul Food Sunday