OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Legislation showcasing Oklahoma’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement has been signed into law.

Officials say Senate Bill 509, that would create the Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail, was signed into law on Thursday.

Senate Bill 509 signed into law. Image courtesy Oklahoma State Senate.
Senate Bill 509 signed into law. Image courtesy Oklahoma State Senate.

“We are deeply grateful and absolutely elated to see this bill become law. Oklahoma played a tremendous role in the Civil Rights Movement and this will help us tell that story to our citizens, the nation and the world,” Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, said. “I want to thank Senator Coleman, Representatives Lowe and Luttrell, our fellow members and Governor Stitt for their support of this important and historic legislation.”

Oklahoma initially had more than 50 Black towns, 13 of which are still around today. SB 509 will connect all-Black towns and areas important to the Civil Right Movement, including some Native American sites, encouraging tourism, promoting entrepreneurship and strengthening economic growth within those communities, according to officials.

According to the Oklahoma State Senate, the bill produces the Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail revolving fund, which will be managed by the Oklahoma Historical Society, and determines which state and federal funds as well as gifts and donations will be allocated to grant funding for the creation of the trail and affiliated attractions.

“I was so honored to be a part of this legislation, which recognizes both our African American and Native American heroes and their roles in supporting the equality of all human beings, as proclaimed by our founders in the Declaration of Independence,” Sen. Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City, said. “This bill will ensure the history of Oklahoma’s role in the Civil Rights Movement will be remembered and celebrated for generations to come.”

The Senate says the Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail will start at Standing Bear Park, Museum and Education Center in Ponca City, then continue to the site of the 1920s “Osage Reign of Terror,” in Fairfax.

The trail will then travel 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 go on to Greenwood Rising and the Pathway to Hope in Tulsa before ending at the Clara Luper Center, to be built in Oklahoma City.


Oklahoma Politics

“This is truly a historic piece of legislation. Black history is Oklahoma history. The Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail will connect all-Black towns and locations significant to the Civil Rights Movement, including many Native American sites of historical significance,” said Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City.

Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, and Sen. Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City are the bill’s Senate principal authors and Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Ken Luttrell, R-Ponca City are the House principal authors.

SB 509 will take affect on July 1, 2023.