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Tatums Oil Boom

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

Tatums in northwestern Carter County was an all-black town that prospered from industry.

Tatums (Carter County, Oklahoma) is one of the few 'all black towns' still extant in Oklahoma. It shared its location at Wildhorse Creek near the Garvin County line with nearby Homer, another all-black-town that is no longer considered an active settlement (not to be confused with Homer on the east side of Ada).

Ida B. Wells and Booker T. Washington, civil rights giants of the Reconstruction and Progressive eras (1866-1900s), supported black independence movements. Both encouraged settlement into Indian Territory, as some tribal nations, like the Creeks and Seminoles, were welcoming to African Americans. Further, the land allotments that originated under the Dawes Commission did not place racial restrictions on eligibility. Prior to the Civil War, homesteading schemes that offered "free" land to those who could improve it were limited to whites only.

Tatums' economy rested on farming and oil. Surrounded by oil fields, Tatums experienced an oil boom as the home to the first African-American owned oil operation, the Ardmore Oil Lubricating Company, which was founded in 1918 with an investment of $50,000. The company encouraged black investment and viewed itself as a community builder, too. I believe it was eventually subsumed by larger oil companies and is now under the Noble Corporation's umbrella.

Newspaper ad
An ad from the Black Dispatch of 1918 looking for investors in the Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company.

Newspaper article.
Booker T. Washington visited several all-black towns on his lecture tour of Indian Territory in 1905, including Tatums.

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