Discover OKC's Black History and Culture
Oklahoma City has a 13.8% Black population and is a vibrant hub of Black History and Culture, offering a wealth of experiences year-round. While Black History Month brings a spotlight to this heritage in February, our array of cultural events, celebrated Black-owned restaurants and significant historical sites ensure that the spirit of this community is alive and thriving in every season.
Black History & People in Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City boasts a profound and resonant Black history, with landmarks and luminaries that have shaped not just the city but the nation. The Calvary Baptist Church stands as a testament to this rich heritage, a place where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached and where Oklahoma City's Civil Rights movement found its voice and strength.
Journey through the Deep Deuce District, once the heart of African-American culture and commerce in the city, humming with jazz rhythms that defined an era. This neighborhood was a nurturing ground for the legendary Charlie Christian, an influential jazz guitarist whose music reached far beyond OKC's borders.
Another of Oklahoma City's native sons, Ralph Ellison, the acclaimed author of "Invisible Man," is celebrated at a local library and hotel named in his honor, serving as a beacon of inspiration and education. Civil Rights leader Clara Luper is celebrated through museum exhibitions and will soon have a bronze sculpture dedicated to the sit-in movement she led that originated at Katz Drug Store off of Robinson and Main.
In Oklahoma City, the culinary scene is nothing without its Black-owned restaurants found throughout Deep Deuce, the revitalized African-American community of the East End District and beyond.
Eastside Pizza House, owned by Emmy award-winning artist Jabee, stands out with its innovative black crust pizza, a must-try for any foodie. Another must-visit establishment is Florence’s Restaurant, where chef and owner Florence Jones, the first James Beard award winner in Oklahoma, serves up dishes that are as heartwarming as they are delicious.
For a high-end culinary experience, visit any of Chef Andrew Black's restaurants–Black Walnut, Grey Sweater or The Gilded Acorn. Chef Black, a James Beard award winner, is known for his incredible creativity and no visit to OKC is complete without dining at one of his restaurants.
Black Annual Events
Oklahoma City comes alive with Black events throughout the year, celebrating culture, history and community.
In January, the city honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with an inspiring MLK parade, a vibrant expression of unity and progress. June sees the jubilant celebrations of Juneteenth on the East, marking a significant moment in history with joyous festivities.
Additionally, during Black History Month in February, the OKC Black Restaurant Bingo becomes a highlight, inviting locals and visitors alike to explore and support Black-owned eateries.
You’ll also find temporary exhibitions, like the Descendants of the Black 1000, occurring now through April 1, 2024, at the Mary LeFlore Clements Oklahoma Gallery. The exhibit features photographs, archival material and audio recordings, which tell the story of Oklahoma’s Black communities' historical movement to Canada to seek refuge.
These events commemorate important milestones in Black history while fostering a sense of community and celebration in OKC.
We've only begun to explore the depth and diversity of Black history and culture in OKC, which also extends to the performing arts. While in town, you’ll want to check out the Black Liberated Arts Center, the Buffalo Soldier exhibit at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and the Oklahoma City Black Museum & Performing Arts Center, showcasing African-American culture and traditions. The Oklahoma History Center near the State Capitol Building also houses Realizing the Dream, an exhibit featuring significant African-American stories, artifacts and history such as a replica of Clara Luper’s living room, insights into Oklahoma’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, plus the state’s historic All-Black Towns.