Red Bird, Oklahoma

cowin_964_1990

Unidentified Photographer, [Townspeople of Red Bird, Oklahoma, in front of railroad depot], ca. 1910
The Daniel Cowin Collection of African American Vernacular Photography

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, African Americans established at least 88, and perhaps as many as 200, all-black towns across the United States, the vast majority in the West following the end of Reconstruction. These incorporated communities—usually a commercial hub serving a hinterland of black farmers—attracted settlers with the promise of economic and political autonomy and escape from racial oppression. The Twin Territories—Oklahoma and Indian Territory—became the center of all-black town settlement; 32 all-black towns emerged in the region, including Red Bird, which was founded in 1902 a few miles south of Coweta, Oklahoma, by Arkansas preacher-turned-entrepreneur Elbert L. Barber (b. 1874). Barber formed the Red Bird Investment Company, which sent agents through Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas selling town lots. Black towns lost much of their appeal in 1907, when the Twin Territories became the state of Oklahoma and the ruling Democratic Party enacted Jim Crow laws and disenfranchised black voters. Political setbacks aside, the Great Depression spelled the end of most black towns. Red Bird, however, survived. Today, the small town of mostly black residents hosts educational tours organized by the Tulsa Rudisell Library through its program, “Historic All-Black Towns of Oklahoma.”

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11 Responses to Red Bird, Oklahoma

  1. shirley whitmore says:

    Thanks you. I am an avid genealogical buff and my husband and children descend from E.L. Barber’s sister, Loda Barber Whitmore Adams. Dennis and Loda were among the group of first settlers in Red Bird. Can you are anyone identify those pictured?

  2. Janet Cathey-Pugh says:

    I am trying to find out information about my grandfather. He was the first principal of William Miller High School in 1919 and we are trying to get some biographical information on him. He died when my father was about 11 and we don’t know anything about his family. If you have any information about Redbird during this time period, particularly about the school system, please let me know. Thanks.

  3. Pamela T. Barber-Freeman says:

    I am the youngest granddaughter of the late Rev. E.L. Barber and youngest child of Rev. L.E. Barber. I live in Houston, Texas and I’m a professor at Prairie View A&M University. I am composing a book, “The Barber-Evans Legacy.” My mother was an Evans. The daughter of Rev. Charles Evans.

  4. RITA D BURT GOODALL says:

    I AM THE GREAT GRANDDAUGHTER OF HILLIARD BURT, WHO I BELIEVED HE MOVED TO RED BIRD WITH HIS FAMILY AROUND 1910. I ATTENDED THE RED BIRD REUION IN 1995 WITH MY MOTHER, THE WIFE OF JOHN H BURT, THE SON OF ROBERT ALLEN BURT. HIS 2ND WIFE,MRS.W.BURT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST HIGH SCHOOL FACULTY TEACHER.I MET MY COUSIN BENJAMIN TRAYLOR IN MUSKOGEE, WHO STILL LIVES THERE. PLEASE INFORM ME OF ANY INFORMATION IN REFERENCE TO THE ABOVE MATTER.

  5. Darryl Lee says:

    I am the great Grandson of Mr. Henry Foster. My family still owns land in Red Bird. Can someone share information about Red Bird, OK with me?

    I have some historical documents about the founding of Red Bird.

    Darryl Lee

    • shirley says:

      contact me directly at shirleyroot2@gmail.com. Love to compare notes.

      • Dennis Tomlinson says:

        Was wondering if you might know the history of school closings and/or the school desegregation process for Red Bird public schools. Contact me at densooz@aol.com. Thanks for any help you can give me.

    • Lorraine says:

      Darryl, My Grandfather was Earnest Foster. Would love to speak with you. My Great great, grandparents were John and Sara Belle Chappelle and owned a store in Redbird we have a picture of the store and would love to get information on anything anyone could share.

  6. dorisjean23 says:

    My grandmother, Willie Mae King (maiden name) was born in Red Bird, Oklahoma in 1906, her parents were Richard King and Marly Hurley. I am trying to find records for them. Would they have been in the town of Red Bird or a more central place in Oklahoma? Did the church keep records?

    Sincerely,

    Jean

  7. esther says:

    Hi I am the daughter of Reverend T.J. Hale Jr. My dad’s father was a friend of E.L. Barber and owned a hotel with him as well as owned the dry goods store. How can we learn more about Red Bird history? The more information we can get on the history of Redbird our families history in Red Bird-could build an amazing network.

    Cherelle Hale (cherellehale21@yahoo.com)

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