OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A senate bill to connect all-Black towns and locations significant to the civil rights movement and Native American sites is one step closer to becoming law. The Senate has unanimously approved the bill to create the Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail.

Senate Bill 509 by Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, and Sen. Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City, say the trail will also 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 is set to 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 Senate.

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 ending at the Clara Luper Center, 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, to continue donation efforts providing grant funding for the development of the trail and related attractions. 

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration. Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Ken Luttrell, R- Ponca City, are the House authors of the legislation.