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First Glimpse of Proposed Jewel Theatre Restoration

(Provided by Jewel Foundation)

As time passes by, I am often reminded that younger generations don't quite grasp the extent of discrimination and bigotry black Oklahomans faced throughout the first half our city's history. Consider that when the state legislature convened after statehood, their very first bill to be signed by the governor established the dreaded Jim Crow barriers against where African Americans could live, work, worship, receive medical treatment, go to school, dine and simply enjoy life.

This is not ancient history. This is a situation that continued even after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, well into the 1970s. And sadly, we know racial strife and discrimination is still with us today.

The era of Jim Crow, however, did result in the emergence of strong and proud black communities that included Deep Deuce and less remembered NE 4. No race riot destroyed this area like Greenwood in Tulsa. Instead, the forces of blight, Urban Renewal and civic neglect led to the loss of some amazing architecture and history.

The photo at the start of this blog post is not that old. I remember this stretch of NE 4. Slowly, building by building, all but the Jewel disappeared.

In my story in today's Oklahoman, we learn that efforts are advancing to raise money to restore the last surviving former African American theater, the Jewel at 904 NE 4.  The idea of bringing back this gem as the surrounding neighborhood is on the comeback provides hope that this story won't be forgotten.

The following renderings are conceptual, but provide a glimpse of what is to follow. They are provided by Catherine Montgomery and the Preservation and Design Studio:

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Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›

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