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Paradise by Toni Morrison Historical Setting - Black Towns of Oklahoma: Getting Started

Boley Town Council, ca. 1910 Image

Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society

Black towns of Oklahoma - Maps and Historical Background

Morrison - Paradise


“Be courageous, brother, and forget the past — the great and mighty problem of the race has been solved at last. Boley is the salvation of the Negro race.”

Song composed by Boley resident in the early 1900s.




"From Haven a dreamtown in Oklahoma Territory, to Haven a ghost town in Oklahoma State. Freedmen who stood tall in 1889 dropped to their knees in 1934 and were stomach-crawling by 1948. That is why they are here in this Convent.
To make sure it never happens again. That nothing inside or out rots the one
all-black town worth the pain."  (Toni Morrison, Paradise)




Toni Morrison's Paradise


Author Toni Morrison created the African- American community of Ruby, Oklahoma as the setting for the novel Paradise. Ruby is a mythic representation of a prosperous, self-segregating all black town similar to the historic towns such as Boley and Langford that still exist today.

"I was interested in the kind of violent conflict that could happen as a result of efforts to establish a Paradise. Our view of Paradise is so limited: it requires you to think of yourself as the chosen people... Which means that your job is to isolate yourself from other people. That's the nature of Paradise: it's really defined by who is not there as well as who is. "  Toni Morrison

Interview by James Marcus, Amazon.