Following the American Civil War, the Great Migration saw Black people move out of the Deep South and settle in other regions. One of these regions was still somewhat untamed Mid-South. One of the many settlements includes Boley, Oklahoma in Indian Territory’s Creek Nation.
The Establishment of Boley
This settlement had the early 20th century’s largest Black population at one point. While it was officially recognized as a town in 1903, the Creek Freedmen established the town years prior. The town was named for one of the founders, a White manager named John Boley. The other founders included the Black farmer and businessman Thomas M. Haynes and Lake Moore, a White lawyer.
Similar to Sarah Rector a couple of decades later, there was a significant amount of land in the name of Abigail Barnett. The founders of the town would purchase the land through her father James Barnett. As a result, this property made of the center of the town. Prior to 1907, the Black community thrived without interference and had an influence on governance, business, and society as a whole.
Issues began to arrive in the establishment with new White settlers changing the town’s demographic and political makeup. Around 1910, the Grandfather Clause saw political power tilt towards White citizens. Like many towns in the U.S., Boley was hit by the Great Depression and was the stage of population and economic decline. This started with the folding of the town’s paper the Boley Progress.
As of the 2010 census, Boley has a population of around 1,180 with over 54-percent of the population being Black.