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African American Oral History Resources: Boley, Oklahoma

About the Collection

The Boley, Oklahoma Collection is a series of 9 interviews focused on the community of the historic All-Black town of Boley including former students and teachers of the now closed school. You can view the materials for the collection here.

Topics covered

All-black towns, Boley, Oklahoma, Boley rodeo, Business education, Childhood, College administration, Community development, Country life, Creek heritage, Education, Families, Local government, Occupations, Race relations, Restaurant management, Rural education, School desegregation, Small towns, Social life and customs, Soil Conservation Service, Teachers, Universities and colleges, Vocational education

Select interviews from the Boley, Oklahoma Collection

  • David Lee - David Lee, a 1980 graduate of Boley High School, recalls his youth in Boley, Oklahoma. He talks about his family’s place in the Boley community and describes the town as it was when he was growing up. Lee discusses the importance of understanding history, both for this area and for his family. He mentions his educational and career path including his decision to work in the field of social services. He also describes some of the changes in the town and community through the years.
  • Ernest Holloway - Ernest Holloway, a 1948 graduate and former teacher of Boley High School, talks about his childhood and living in the many different communities surrounding Boley. He describes what the area was like when he was growing up in comparison to it today. He explains his educational path and his career as a teacher and higher education administrator. Holloway discusses the various classes and projects he has been involved with over the years. He comments on the history of the Boley area and how the community appears to be progressing. He points out the importance of education at all levels. He tells many stories about his life's work and his time in Boley. He briefly mentions his role in higher education administration at Langston University where he served as president from 1979 until 2005.
  • Francis Shelton - Francis Shelton, a resident of Boley, Oklahoma, recalls her childhood and the many different activities she participated in in the town of Boley. She talks about her education and her decision to pursue a career in science that took her away from the Boley area for a while. Shelton describes the town of her youth and how the town has changed. She acknowledges the challenges this community has gone through and notes the efforts underway to preserve the town and its history. Shelton also discusses her family and comments on career following earning a master’s and a doctorate from Oklahoma State University.
  • Henrietta Hicks - Henrietta Hicks, a 1953 graduate of Boley High School and the historian for Boley, Oklahoma, talks about her childhood and growing up in an all-black community. She describes her education and career path and the decision to return to Boley in 1972. Hicks tells stories about the history of Boley and the surrounding communities. She goes into detail about the many traditions they have in the community and comments on the changes she has seen over the years. She also briefly talks about serving as the town judge for a while and about being involved in economic development efforts.
  • Homer Lee Reynolds - Homer Lee Reynolds, a 1979 graduate of Boley High School, talks about his connections to the community of Boley Oklahoma. He talks about his childhood and growing up in the areas around Boley. He describes what the town was like during his youth and notes how much education was emphasized. Reynolds discusses the closeness of the community and explains his career path. He mentions the role of church and his family's involvement. He also comments on the changes in the community he has noticed over the years.
  • Mary JoAnn Matthews - Mary JoAnn Matthews, a 1963 graduate of Boley High School, returned to Boley, Oklahoma, following a career as a psychologist for the Oklahoma State Department of education. She talks about her childhood and growing up in a close-knit community near Boley. She explains her educational path and the emphasis placed on education in the town. Matthews describes the community when she was growing up and compares it to the town today. She also talks about serving as mayor of Boley and discusses efforts underway to help preserve the community and its history.
  • Theola Cudjoe Jones - Theola Cudjoe Jones, a resident of Boley, Oklahoma, recalls her childhood in communities near Boley. She describes the town then and now, and she shares her thoughts on the efforts lately to development the area. Jones provides a history of her family in the area and mentions some of the history of Boley. She also talks about the decision to retire and return to Boley.
  • Violet Patterson - Violet Patterson, former resident of Boley, Oklahoma, has witnessed many changes over the years in the African American community in Oklahoma, especially in Boley. She talks about her childhood and growing up in a close-knit community. Patterson describes her education from grade school through college at Langston University. She recalls her career as a business and vocational educator. She provides details about the town of Boley and its historical significance as well as its influence on other African American communities in Oklahoma. Patterson also comments on the differences she has seen over the years in the area.
  • William Hunt - William Hunt, a graduate of Boley High School, grew up in the area around Boley, Oklahoma. He talks about his youth and about how the children were collectively raised by the community. He explains his educational path and his long career with the Soil Conservation Service. Hunt describes the town of Boley as it was in his childhood and as it is today, noting the many differences and changes over the years. He discusses some of the challenges that he personally faced and that the community dealt with because of race. Hunt mentions some of the monumental events that affected him and the Boley community. He also gives his opinion on the direction of the town and his suggestions for altering that direction.

Interviews featured in a podcast

Nestled in Okfuskee County is Boley, Oklahoma, a quiet town that was once referred to as "the largest and wealthiest exclusive Negro city in the world." This episode of Amplified Oklahoma features the history of Boley and how the town influenced and affected its residents. We'll hear oral history interview excerpts from Henrietta Hicks and the late William Hunt. Dr. Lynne Simpson from the Oklahoma State University Library also joins us to discuss the history of Boley and the importance of education within the community.