Derrick Smith

Derrick E.D. Smith Jr., organizer of the Black Towns Motorcycle Tour scheduled for Labor Day weekend, stands in front of the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tatums. The church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 

TATUMS – History lessons, rural Oklahoma scenery and a concluding celebration with live music are in store for participants in the first Black Towns Motorcycle Tour, set for Labor Day weekend.

Tour organizer Derrick E.D. Smith Jr. said the tour is designed to provide an enjoyable holiday weekend outing and help participants learn about the legacy and potential of the 13 remaining historically black towns in Oklahoma.

“I’m doing this to re-establish the foundation of black excellence in Oklahoma,” Smith said. “And the riders will be making a contribution to that with their participation.”

Riders can start in Langston and visit all 13 towns on Aug. 31, or start in Rentiesville and visit nine towns. Riders who take the Rentiesville leg can take advantage of the Dusk Till Dawn Blues Festival that starts Aug. 30.  

Hotel rooms have been reserved in Guthrie for riders who start from Langston, home of Langston University, the farthest west of the historically black colleges and universities. Rooms have also been reserved near Rentiesville and Tatums, where the tour concludes with a dinner and concert.

Registration is $40 through June 30 and $50 after that and includes lunch and dinner, the concert and a tour patch.

Riders who start at 9 a.m. in Langston will visit Boley, Clearview and Grayson during the morning. Ten minutes is provided for each stop, and most of the towns will provide information boards about points of interest. Boley is the home of the first nationally-chartered black-owned bank and home of the first black-owned telephone and electricity companies. Taft, another stop on the tour, is the home of the nation’s first black woman mayor, Lelia Foley-Davis, who was elected in 1973.

Lunch for both groups will be provided at the Honey Springs Battlefield Visitor Center. Honey Springs was the most racially diverse of the Civil War battles, with Native Americans fighting on both sides and the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry fighting for the north.

Riders can visit the Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame across the street from the battlefield before proceeding through Vernon, Lima and Brookville for a scheduled 6:30 p.m. arrival in Tatums, where the silent film “Black Gold,” featuring an all-black cast, was shot in 1927.

The evening program will include a concert by Lil G of the rhythm and blues group Silk and the jazz and blues sounds of the 411 Band. Free camping is available at the site, which is Smith’s family property. Non-riders are invited to sponsor a rider and to attend the evening event.

The ride will also help launch the Black Towns Leadership Foundation. Goals for the foundation include establishing Christmas light displays in each town and bringing together organizations to help with mowing, street and alley maintenance, building repairs and youth and senior citizen programs.

For more information call Smith at 833-344-8687 or email blacktownsmotorcycletours@gmail.com.

 

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