Oklahoma's Black History: Influential People, Events

The month of February is also Black History Month, which is meant to highlight the history of Black people, as well as their cultural influences and racial struggles.

Thursday, February 1st 2024, 12:48 pm

By: News 9

The month of February is also Black History Month, which is meant to highlight the history of Black people, as well as their cultural influences and racial struggles.

Black Oklahomans have had, and continue to have, an impact on the state. Curated below is a look at influential Black Oklahomans and different things to do in Oklahoma to honor Black History Month.


Famous Black Oklahomans:

William “Bill” Pickett - Oklahoma’s Most Well Known Black Cowboy

(1807-1932) Ponca City

Bill Picket was a cowboy who established a horse breaking business with his brothers, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society. Pickett was a popular rodeo performer in the early 1900s.

Clara Luper - Civil Rights Leader and Teacher in Oklahoma

(1923-2011) Oklahoma City

Clara Luper was a teacher in Oklahoma during the Jim Crow era, according to OHS. She was one of the first people to organize a sit-in, which took place in Oklahoma City and eventually led to desegregation.

“The beauty of America is in the diversity of her people. I've never been concerned whether the school officials opposed what I was doing or not. I was black before I was a schoolteacher, and I'm retiring black.” - Clara Luper

Sarah Rector - Land Owner and Oil Millionaire


Sarah Rector was an African American and member of the Muscogee Nation, according to OHS. She received an allotment of land in Oklahoma which was discovered to be oil rich. She profited off the oil, became a millionaire and used her money to invest.

Dr. Wyatt H. Slaughter - Oklahoma City’s First Black Doctor

(1872-1952) Oklahoma City

Dr. Wyatt H. Slaughter was a doctor, entrepreneur, philanthropist and a leader in Oklahoma City among the black population, according to OHS. Dr. Slaughter opened his doctor's office in the Deep Deuce area, and historians are working to preserve his house to this day.

Green Currin - First African American To Serve Oklahoma Territorial Legislature

(1842-1918) Kingfisher

Green Currin moved to Oklahoma by staking a claim during the land run, according to OHS. He used his interest in politics to become a part of the House of Representatives in Kingfisher County and later joined the Legislative Assembly of Oklahoma Territory. Currin introduced Oklahoma's first civil rights legislation after he was beaten in a racist attack, according to OHS.

Drusilla Dunjee Houston - Owner and Editor of the Black Dispatch in Oklahoma City

(1876-1941) Oklahoma City

Drusilla Dunjee Houston worked on many newspapers, most notably the Black Dispatch for Oklahoma City. She also started schools for black girls and women, according to OHS.

Roscoe Dunjee - Editor of the Black Dispatch in Oklahoma City

(1883-1965) Oklahoma City

Roscoe Dunjee, brother to Drusilla, was an editor for the Black Dispatch, according to OHS. He worked in multiple civil rights groups and, endeavored "to interpret the mind, the aspiration, the object, and longing of his people" to the broader community, according to OHS.

Amos Hall - First African American Judge in Oklahoma

(1896-1971) Tulsa

Amos Hall was one of the most influential civil rights lawyers in Oklahoma, according to OHS. He also worked with the NAACP in Tulsa and nationally.

Ira DeVoyd Hall - Remembered For Contributions To Education and Civic Involvement

(1905-1989) Oklahoma City

Ira Hall contributed to education and civil involvement in Oklahoma and was the first superintendent of public education in Clearview, according to OHS. He was forced out of his home due to racially motivated laws and founded Hall Fidelity Real Estate Company to sell homes to black residents of Oklahoma City.

Coody Johnson a.k.a. ‘Black Panther’ - Prominent African American Attorney in Oklahoma

(1864-1972) Wewoka

Coody Johnson was a prominent attorney due to his familiarity with the language, laws and customs of the Creek and Seminole tribes, OHS says. He influenced post civil war laws dealing with freed slaves and tribal membership.

Frederick Moon - “Dean” of African American Education in Oklahoma City

(1896-1975) Oklahoma City

Frederick Moon was a prominent educator in Oklahoma, working to gain equality for black schools, according to OHS. Moon was the first African American president of the Oklahoma City Board of Education.

George Perkins - Owner and Editor of the Oklahoma Guide in Guthrie

(1842-1914) Guthrie

George Perkins was an active member of the Guthrie community and worked in many city positions. He purchased the Oklahoma Guide and used it to defend civil rights, OHS says.

Edward Porter - First African American Oklahoma State Senator

(1930-2016) Okmulgee

Edward Porter was a law school graduate who entered politics in Oklahoma to defend civil rights. He became a state senator in 1966 and introduced Oklahoma's Anti-Discrimination Act, according to OHS.

Jake Simmons Jr. - Oil Broker and Civil Rights Leader 

(1901-1981) Haskell

Jake Simmons was a descendent of the Creek Nation and served as a leader in both Native American and black communities. He brokered oil deals in eastern Oklahoma and sold land to African Americans, as well as African countries, according to OHS.

Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher - First Black Law Student at the University of Oklahoma

(1924-1995) Norman

Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher was an excellent student who had to fight both in the state and federally to receive an equal education. Eventually, Fisher was appointed to the Board of Regents for the University of Oklahoma, the same school that attempted to refuse her admission to their law school, according to OHS.

Andrew Smitherman - Owner of the Tulsa Star and Influence in Tulsa Race Massacre

(1885-1961) Tulsa

A.J. Smitherman published the Tulsa Star, which represented the democratic voice and call out mob violence, according to OHS. He was notorious for reporting on and participating in public racial conflicts, according to OHS. Smitherman's business was destroyed in the Tulsa Race Massacre, causing Smitherman to move to Massachusetts, OHS says.

James Stewart - Oklahoma City NAACP President and Public Servant

(1912-1997) Oklahoma City

James Stewart was the president of the Oklahoma City branch of the NAACP for 24 years and wrote for black newspapers, OHS says.

William Henry Twine a.k.a. ‘the Black Tiger’ - Civil Rights Lawyer and Editor of the Muskogee Cimeter

(1862-1933) Muskogee

William Henry Twine was a lawyer and editor for the Muskogee Cimeter, which defended the rights of African Americans in his community, OHS says. Twine was constantly threated by the KKK and groups like it, but he printed the threats and didn't avoid the fight, according to OHS.

I.W. Young a.k.a. ‘the Father of Black Democracy’ - Doctor and President of Langston University

(1874-1937) Boley

Isaac William Young was a two-term president at Langston University. He is often called 'the Father of Black Democracy' due to his influence in the black community, according to OHS.

Ralph Waldo Ellison - Author of Invisible Man

(1913-1994) Oklahoma City

Ralph Waldo Ellison is a well known author who primarily wrote about racial inequalities. His works highlight the issues of identity and cultural autonomy for minorities in America, OHS says.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” - Ralph Waldo Ellison

Events Across Oklahoma Highlighting Black History:

Black Restaurant Bingo

Freedom Fridays at Greenwood Rising History Center

Free Crowns Tea at Metropolitan Libraries

Explore The Code: Bill Pickett

Film Screening: Homecoming - A Story of African American Farmers

BLAC Inc. Presents: Ailey II

Second Saturday XL: Picturing Possibilities - Black History Month

Film Screening: We Are The Roots

Make and Take: Natural Hair Oil

Black History Month Through Film

Urban Poets - Black History Month


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