Monday, March 25, 2013

Tulsa, Oklahoma "The Black Wall Street"

The Black Wall Street refers to a neighborhood in the Greenwood Village of Tulsa. It was the wealthiest black community in the US during its time and arguably to date. Declared a state in 1907, the community was designed to be a safe heaven for blacks to thrive off of their own successes. Over a 16 hour period of race riots the entire community was burned down in 1921. Given the time period of racial segregation and racial tension, the city of Tulsa was not prepared to control the riots nor protect the people of the community. Hundreds of black people were left wounded and without medical attention. The black hospital was burned down and they certainly weren't welcomed into the white hospital. Over 6000 black residents were detained by police and brought to jails in an effort to diffuse the riot. Apparently Tulsa officials thought it was the best way to "protect" the residents at the time. The police department received significant backlash for their this decision. Black people were often arrested for crimes they didn't commit and idea of bringing black people to prison for protection has a long history of negative racial connotations. Out of respect for the residents they should have been brought to a location for temporary shelter and medical attention. The largely successful neighborhood was under constant attack by the surrounding white communities. The attacks were intentional to stunt the growth and progress of the community. After the riots the community was left in shambles with out resources to rebuild it. Tulsa did nothing to assist the residents to rebuild their lives, instead they were left to fend for themselves. I chose to write about Greenwood because it deserve recognition not solely because of the massacre that occurred but because a group of black people were able to successful develop their own sustainable community without relying on white business owners. They established a community that respected black people and their needs. Up until last year I have never heard about this community. It would have been a good lesson to learn as a child the possibilities of success for black people and the power of unifying as a community. I encourage everyone to learn more about the Black Wall Street community. The existence of this community deserves to be to taught in schools.


  1. Denise, I have never heard about this community or the horrific events that you wrote about above. Thank you for bringing it to our attention, it definitely seems like an important part of black history that should be recognized. As you said, there are two sides to this coin- it can be remembered as a positive movement for the black community, but it can also be discussed as another way the white community tried to prevent black progression. I think that the way you presented "Black Wall Street" perfectly recognizes both aspects with balance.

    I am also glad this brings up the topic of police brutality and conspiracies towards black people throughout history. In my presentation on Freedom Summer, many cases of violence were ignored and even caused by the Mississippi police. The argument still holds true today in cities across America. Looking at New Orleans, a city with a large black population, following Hurricane Katrina, the NOPD was involved with much corruption and unjust treatment towards citizens.

  2. Denise,

    Thanks for this post. You provided very interesting history for the class to consider, particularly following our discussions of Brian Ward's argument about the role of black capitalism in the recording industry as well as Peniel Joseph's discussion of self-determination and funding for Black Arts institutions. You pose some interesting ideas here that bear further consideration by the class. One is why isn't this history, of the massacre and of the establishment of an enclave for black economic growth and welfare. The violence seems to have taken place amidst a great deal of contestation over the city's neighborhoods and real estate. The violence also occurred in 1921. 1919 through 1921 saw an increase in the number of (reported) lynch crimes against black Americans as well as violence in many cities across the country. As Molly notes, the police are often implicated in racially motivated violence. Thus, in order to understand this history more fully, you are right to point us in ways to understand the conditions that make both the possibility for achievement and creating a better life as well as those conditions that seek to limit those successes.


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