By Craig Day, The News On 6
BOLEY, OK -- People living in one of Oklahoma's historic black towns are working to drum up support, awareness, and most of all, a plan to help improve the town.
Oklahoma once had more than two dozen predominantly black towns like Boley, attracting freedmen and migrants from the South looking for opportunity, acceptance and prosperity.
Although once prosperous, many of those towns have struggled over the years.
In Boley, in Okfuskee County, the streets are mostly empty.
About the only thing going on is the daily lunch served at the Boley Community Center. It's a place where historic pictures hang on the walls and where people are meeting each month to discuss not only the historic towns past but also its future.
"You know, (it's) my dream and my belief that Boley will come back," Boley resident Theola Cudjoe Jones said.
Jones is one of the people who grew up in Boley, moved away to find work and then retired back home. She hopes the once bustling city can be revitalized.
Many others do, too.
"It's about gone, and we need somebody to help us revive it, you know," resident Larnell Mobley said.
Boley is one of the surviving predominantly black towns established before statehood. It was once the largest and most well known of all.
"Boley is so beautiful," Jones said. "And the history is so beautiful of Boley."
While honoring that history, people in the town of less than 1,000 want to look toward the future, too.
The city is holding monthly meetings to form a strategy to revitalize the town.
"We can come together as a town to try to see what we can do to rebuild our town," Boley trustee Katrina Richardson said.
"I would just like to see business brought back here, kind of keep our kids out of trouble, you know," Mobley said.
Most of the old buildings in Boley were built back in the 1920s. People who live here or who are from Boley say the city has too much history for these buildings to be boarded up, empty and forgotten.
The town, established in 1903, hopes to attract state or federal dollars or private investment to help a place special to so many not only survive but also thrive.
"I don't know what it is, there is just something about Boley," Jones said.
The next meeting at the Boley Community Center is 6 p.m. April 17.