OKLAHOMA CITY (April 8, 2011) – Under legislation approved by a Senate committee, state historical sites associated with the African-American freedom and civil rights movement would be incorporated into an official Oklahoma Freedom Trail.
House Bill 1979, by state Rep. Anastasia A. Pittman and state Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre, would direct the state historical society, tourism and transportation department, and film and music commission to establish and promote the Oklahoma Freedom Trail.
“Oklahoma has a unique part in the history of the African-American freedom and civil rights movements,” said Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. “The state has historic all-black towns that were formed as part of a movement to make Oklahoma an all-black state. We had the Buffalo soldiers and our own chapter of the civil rights movement. There are visitors from all over the nation who come here to learn more about that history and experience it firsthand. The landmarks and historic all-black towns in Oklahoma should be a part of the state’s tourism promotion and that’s why I authored this legislation. I am delighted to see it pass its first hurdle in the Senate.”
“The history of African-Americans in this state includes so many stories that you just can’t find in other states,” said Eason McIntyre, D-Tulsa. “I am excited to see that there is support for an Oklahoma Freedom Trail among my fellow senators. I think it will be a source of pride and tourism.”
An amendment was added to the legislation in committee that would require the Legislature to approve the Department of Tourism’s closing of multiple state parks. State Sen. Harry Coates said he was grateful for their support of the amendment.
“Keeping our state parks open is a priority and I thank Representative Pittman and Senator McIntyre for their support of Senator Jerry Ellis’s amendment,” said Coates, R-Seminole. “The parks that are planned for closure are all in rural Oklahoma and are vital to the local economies of the areas they serve.”
House Bill 1979 now proceeds to the Senate floor for consideration.
The bill states that each site along the Oklahoma Freedom Trail may be designated with a marker selected by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, with a suitable permanent marker placed on a highway by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation or with adding site information to an existing highway sign placed on a highway by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.