Thursday, February 29, 2024

Remembering Black Wall Street

November 16, 2020 by  
Filed under Feature

Remembering Black Wall Street

Black Wall Street burns in 1921

Hundreds of Black Americans died during a violent race riot that took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. And it happened in one of the largest, most prosperous Black communities in the United States: Black Wall Street. The riot ignited after a Black teen was falsely accused of assaulting a white woman and an armed white mob flooded the African-American district to loot and set homes, churches, and businesses on fire. When it was over, 35 square blocks of homes and businesses had been destroyed. A 2001 commission found that 168 people died in the violence, but other reports put the number as high as 300 with more than 800 wounded.

To date, a recent discovery of 11 bodies was made in Oklahoma City in an unmarked mass grave site at Tulsa cemetery, where investigators were searching for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Before 1921, most of Tulsa’s 10,000 African-American residents lived in the vibrant Greenwood District with flourishing black-owned businesses, two newspapers, several churches, a hotel and library. Many referred to Greenwood as “Black Wall Street.”

Black Wall Street was a self-sufficient community where black people ran prominent businesses. It was a thriving community in which centers of cultural institutions, banks, theaters, churches, schools and houses set the blueprint for Black people to create healthy and vibrant neighborhoods.

Black Wall Street was destroyed during the 1921 race riot, but rebounded and rebuilt the community. However, the civil rights movement gave Black people the option to shop at stores once reserved for whites, which meant they spent less money in their community. Unfortunately the district of Greenwood declined in the late 1960s and 1970s as urban renewal projects transformed the inner city.

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