National Geographic : 2000 Nov
very small town has a his tory. Boley, Oklahoma, has more than most. Founded in Indian Territory in 1903, the all-black town was started by people who believed that African Americans had a right to govern themselves. Potential citizens were recruited with ads mailed across the South. By 1911 Boley's population had reached 4,000. Booker T. Washington, one of many notables to visit, said of the town, "Boley is another chapter in the long struggle of the negro for moral, industrial, and political freedom." But that chapter had an unhappy ending. After gaining statehood in 1907, Oklahoma passed laws disenfranchising blacks. Then the Depression bankrupted local farms and businesses, and many people moved away. Still, some held on. Though just 900 live there today, the country's biggest black rodeo is held in Boley every Memorial Day weekend, and crowds gather to watch the town's "Rough Riders" (above) parade in cele bration. And some young people are moving back. Theo dora Banks (below) spent 13 years in Los Angeles but recently returned to help her uncle T. R. McCormick run the town cafe. "This is a peaceful place," says mayor Joan Matthews. Boley's last big crime occurred in 1932, when Pretty Boy Floyd's gang held up a local bank. Cashier H. C. McCor mick shot the robbers as they fled. H. C. was cafe owner T. R. McCor mick's cousin. It's a small town after all.