Labor Day Flyer 1915, Muskogee Oklahoma
Muskogee Cimeter, September 4, 1915, Vol. Page 3
Happy Labor Day!!
In 1915, the 1st Negro Independent State Fair took place. This first annual event would become the precursor to the many fairs and expos that we know of today.
In that inaugural year, the fair included everything from baby contests to electing the state fair queen. The fair also included an exposition of agriculture, livestock, and also of industrial wares. One of the biggest events was the large parade of wagons, floats and cars, as well as the daily horse races and automobile races.
Today for many of us, Labor Day is considered simply the last weekend of the summer season, and the last time for a backyard barbecue, or a trip to the beach, and the last time to fully unwind before a new season begins for school, work, and the anticipated change of seasons.
But I learned more about how Labor Day was spent by some of my Oklahoma ancestors, and it was truly a time of celebration of self, family and community. And what a wonderful thing to learn that the city of Muskogee kicked off this tradition in such grand style in 1915.
This should be remembered, because during these early days of statehood, there was much separation of races that had been put in place with the very first Senate Bill passed immediately after statehood. So, the African American community depended upon itself to survive and to thrive, and in September of 1915, it decided to show itself to the world by exposing their successes. The fair was widely received and embraced, because there was an industrious black community that was quite anxious to have a venue that would allow them to reflect its own accomplishments. The event lasted for several years, and for the next several decades, it would become an Oklahoma tradition.
These Negro state fairs events occur for many years in other Oklahoma towns, but the base was always Muskogee. In fact one of the Muskogee parades was captured several years later as well on film, and can be viewed on the Global Filmworks website. As the years passed, the Negro State Fair itself would in other Oklahoma cities and towns such as Wewoka, and it was moved eventually from a Labor Day event to an October event.
Flyer announcing Negro State Fair in Wewoka, Oklahoma in 1920
However, the origins of such events was the Labor Day event, and that event, became the precursor to many expos and events today. And the town of Muskogee can boast with pride that such event is deeply rooted on the streets of that city.
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