Oklahoma Senate Unanimously Approves Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail

KOKH - March 15, 2023 7:03 am

Sen. Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City and Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa

The Senate unanimously approved a bill that would create the Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail.

Senate Bill (SB) 509, authored by Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, and Sen. Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City, will connect all-Black towns and locations significant the civil rights movement, including many Native American sites of historical significance. The trail will help stimulate tourism, foster entrepreneurship, and promote economic development within these communities.

“Oklahoma originally had more than 50 Black towns, 13 of which still exist today and are important to the overall story of our state’s history and its role in the U.S. Civil Rights movement,” Matthews said. “Those efforts to recognize and secure the fundamental rights of all our citizens should be showcased for the positive force they represent. I want to thank my co-author, Senator Coleman, for his work with me on this important legislation. I also want to thank our fellow members for their support of this measure.”

The Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail will begin at Standing Bear Park, Museum and Education Center in Ponca City, then proceed to the site of the 1920s “Osage Reign of Terror” in Fairfax. Coleman represents both communities in the State.

“Having a Civil Rights Trail will help not only Oklahomans, but the world share in celebrating our African American and Native American heroes, whose courageous actions forever changed our state and nation,” Coleman said. “This trail will shine a light on both the tragedies and triumphs throughout our state’s history, all of which make up the fabric of Oklahoma’s diverse and inspiring heritage.”

After Ponca City and Fairfax, the Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail will continue through the State’s all Black communities, which include Boley, Brooksville, Clearview, Grayson, Langston, Lima, Red Bird, Rentiesville, Summit, Taft, Tatums, Tullahassee and Vernon. The trail will then move to Greenwood Rising and the Pathway to Hope in Tulsa before coming to an end at the Clara Luper Center, which is to be constructed in Oklahoma City.

SB 509 creates the Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail revolving fund, which would be administered by the Oklahoma Historical Society, into which Sate and federal funds as well as gifts and donations would be deposited to provide grant funding for the development of the trail and related attractions.

The bill now moves on to the House of Representatives for further consideration.


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