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Black History Month/ 2022

Events on Campus

A document with a compiled list of events on campus for Black History Month.

The Vista Archive- Black History at Central

A document listing the events, titles, and moments surrounding Black History on campus, utilizing the Vista Archive, UCO's Student Voice since 1903.

Black History in Edmond, OK.

     In 1830, Andrew Jackson signed the "Indian Removal Act" which allowed for the forceable removable of Native Americans in the southeastern U.S. A portion of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase to the west of the Mississippi River was to become Indian Territory, present-day Oklahoma. The Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery in 1863, although it wasn't until 1866 when the U.S. government negotiated new treaties with the tribes, took back the western half of present-day Oklahoma, and required to free their slaves and extend tribal rights to them. 

     Following the Civil War and the abolition of slavery in the South, many African Americans made their way west to escape continued brutality, discrimination, and disenfranchisement. Between 1866 and 1888, colonization leaders such as Hannibal Carter in Illinois and James Turner in Missouri attempted to have the recently acquired Oklahoma Territory set aside as a resettlement zone for tribal freedmen and former slaves from the southern states. By the time of the Oklahoma Land Run in April of 1889, many states had instituted segregation laws. Emigration agents across the southern states urged African Americans to move to the newly-opened Oklahoma Territory. In an 1889 address to “The Colored People of the South,” Kansas politician W. L. Eagleson stated, “There never was a more favorable time than now for you to secure good homes in a land where you will be free and your rights respected. Oklahoma is now open for settlement…Make a new start. Give yourselves and your children new chances in a new land…”

     Edwin P. McCabe, a renowned black politician from Kansas, wrote in October 1890 to promote black immigration to the city of Langston, calling it “The Only Distinctively Negro City in America.” Similar to Carter and Turner twenty years prior, McCabe proposed that the Oklahoma Territory become a black state. His widely distributed newspaper, the Langston City Herald, stimulated much interest in the cause. Thanks in part to McCabe, extensive western migration resulted in the establishment of at least 26 black towns in Oklahoma. Just a couple of months after McCabe’s initial promotion of Langston, the first meeting of the Territorial Assembly gave counties the option to decide whether they wanted racially mixed or segregated schools. George W. Steele, the first governor of the Oklahoma Territory, was in favor of integrating schools. However, the majority of the counties chose to designate separate schools for black and white students.

     In Edmond, Oklahoma, 1892, the Oklahoma County Commissioners purchased two adjacent lots and the Tufte separate school opened in 1892 with 24 black children enrolled the first year. K. S. Smith was the school’s first teacher (1892-1894), followed by William Sulcer (1895-1896), Mattie Hamilton (1897-1898), and Charles D. Clem (1889-1905). While headmaster of Tufte, Charles Clem asked the community to help establish a library for the separate school. After receiving a great number of donated books, Clem wrote a thank-you note to the residents of Edmond that was published in the community newspaper, The Edmond-Sun Democrat (1903). Although Clem described the generosity of donors as progressivebenevolent, and fraternal, these kind-hearted residents of Edmond were far outnumbered by 1905 when Tuftime was forced to shutter and the remaining blacks were told to leave town.

The legality of the policy of racial segregation and the concept of “separate but equal” were established by the U.S. Supreme Court in the decision for the case Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. However, the separate schools for black students were far from equal to the white schools. Separate schools lacked resources and funding, and typically had outdated textbooks and crumbling facilities. With one of Tuftime’s headmasters William Sulcer at the forefront, educated blacks, and aspiring teachers organized the Ida M. Wells Teachers’ Association in 1893. In addition to promoting the professional advancement of African American teachers, the association hoped to secure improved school facilities. The Ida M. Wells Teachers’ Association included African American teachers in fourteen counties and twenty-six communities of Oklahoma Territory.

Ida B. Wells (1895-1931), Oklahoma Historical Society

Ida Wells was a civil rights activist and journalist during the late 19th century. 

She was also one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).


After 1889, John and Ophelia Gower homesteaded 160 acres on the southwest corner of Covell and Post Roads. They ceded part of their land to create Gower Cemetery, which is located on Covell between Douglass and Post Roads. The Gowers created the cemetery to enable their African American neighbors to bury their relatives, though they did not exclude anyone who was in need of a burial plot or those who could not pay for a plot. In 1992, it became known as Gower Memorial Cemetery and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Sons of John and Ophelia Gower, n.d.

Image Source: UCO Archives & Special Collections

In its first two decades, Edmond had three schoolhouses for white children and one for African American children. The whites-only schoolhouses consisted of Edmond’s first public schoolhouse built in 1889 that was in use until the Kingsley School (AKA Eastside School) was built in 1901, and the Lowell School (AKA Westside School) built in 1908.Edmond’s separate school opened in 1892 and was located at 21 West Edwards Street, just west of Broadway. It was approximately ½ mile from the majority school on East Second Street. The first territorial legislature, in 1890, provided for the establishment of a separate school for a minimum of eight students of either race. The predominant population for a district would be enrolled in the majority school, with the separate school being maintained for the minority group. Edmond’s separate school started with 22 African American students. Enrollment was reported at 15 students in 1899, the year that Kingsley school was built to accommodate the 232 white students who attended the majority school house. Victoria Saunders, the last teacher at the Edmond separate school, reported 16 students in December 1903.

*There are currently no known photos of a separate school in Edmond or the surrounding areas in the collection of the UCO Archives or Edmond Historical Society & Museum.

The Edmond separate school closed in 1905, reportedly due to a lack of available students. The separate school in Edmond was an important cultural center of Edmond’s early African American community. Its closure further showed that there were better opportunities elsewhere in Oklahoma. By 1920, the African American population in Edmond had fallen to zero.

Racially restrictive covenants contractually prohibited the purchase, lease, or occupation of a piece of property by a specific group of people, usually African Americans. Nationally, these restrictive covenants were in use as early as the first part of the twentieth century and became more and more prevalent from the 1920s until 1948 when the Supreme Court ruled that enforcement of these covenants violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The first housing addition platted in Edmond to include a racially restrictive covenant was the Highland Park Addition in 1907. Aside from Edmond Highway Addition in 1924, every addition platted in Edmond from 1911 until 1949 contained a racially restrictive covenant, which was ended with the Supreme Court Shelly v. Kraemer, 1948.

In the book “A Route 66 Companion” edited by David King Dunaway, Edmond Threatt, an African American, recounts growing up in the nearby town of Luther. He states that Edmond was, in fact, a sundown town, complete with a sign reading, “Don’t let the sun set on you in this town.” Recalling a visit to the Edmond train station to pick up his sister, Threatt attempted to order a sandwich at a café, but was told to go around back. Threatt opted to leave instead. The police stopped him on his way out of town and questioned him for “stirring up a little peace” and told him to get out of town. Threatt also stated that if African Americans had property in Edmond, “They would burn ‘em out and wouldn’t let them rebuild” or they would put a sign there that said, “We had the Health Department up to check your house, it’s not livable, you can’t live there no more’ and then, they give him a few dollars for it.”

In July of 1922 a radical terrorist organization known as the KKK staged a parade in Edmond that started at South Park (now Stephenson Park) and traveled to Broadway, then north and east to the Normal School (UCO) before returning to Stephenson Park. The parade was witnessed by “one of the largest crowds ever assembled on the streets of Edmond” with 104 Klansmen taking part.

The fight against school segregation in Oklahoma began in earnest with Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, a graduate with honors from Langston University who dreamed of becoming a lawyer. With the backing of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Fisher applied to attend the University of Oklahoma law school in 1946. She was denied on account of her race. With the help of a young lawyer named Thurgood Marshall, they challenged segregation within higher education. Her case went all the way to the supreme court, which ruled that the state must provide education for African Americans that is equal to whites. Fisher enrolled in the University of Oklahoma law school in 1949 and graduated in 1952. The case also paved the way for other monumental court cases, most notably, Brown v. Board of Education.

After the end of World War II, attitudes in Edmond towards segregation and race slowly began to change, with Central State College taking the lead. Oklahoma was a battleground in the fight to integrate higher education. UCO's Student Voice, The Vista published multiple articles beginning in the 1940s, which acknowledged that separate was not equal and advocated for equal educational opportunities for African American students.

Murray Samuel Butler III was one of the first African American undergraduate students to attend Central State College in 1955.

Dr. Paul Lehman was the first African American instructor at Central State College, teaching English in 1969 while pursuing his master’s degree. After receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Central State College, Lehman earned his Ph.D. from Lehigh University but returned to Edmond in 1976, when he became the first African American professor at Central State (UCO).

Image: Paul Lehman, Ph.D. was the first African American instructor at Central State, beginning in 1969.

Starting in the 1970s, African American families began to move back into Edmond. In 1974, Richard Turner became the first African American student to attend Edmond High School. While at EHS, Turner played both football and basketball. He would go on to play football at the University of Oklahoma and was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, playing three years in the NFL.

Source: Edmond Historical Society.

To view their full exhibit, African American History: Land Run to Integration, click here.