If Black Wall Street is All You Know About Blacks in Oklahoma - At Least Get the Story Straight

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Hello All:

Just when you think it's all right to breathe a sigh of relief about the mis-information about Black Wall Street, yet another expert steps up to the plate.  I really resent the appellation "Black Wall Street" when that area had always been known as "LITTLE AFRICA," because it was 99.9% Black and Indian.

I'm not going to be judgmental.  I will admit that I have not seen the curriculum that has been put together by Dr. Boyce Watkins.  But I just want to make a commentary here - because of the plethora of mis information already crowding the media:

Image result for Oklahoma
Oklahoma State Flag

On Sun, Aug 28, 2016 at 3:59 AM, I wrote this response to Boyce Watkins commentary on Black Wall Street:

"Uh, Boyce - the reason the people of  Greenwood, OK had no idea about the atrocities may have been because their grandparents and great grandparents totally rebuilt the city 6 months after the incident - not because of the "system" - and the town thrived until the mid 60's early 70's when "dis" integration hit, and the Black businesses began to lose support because folks started trying to patronize white businesses.  That's what killed the town, as well as most of the other thriving Black businesses across the US. "

They literally  threw out the baby with the bathwater - and for your information - Black schools in Oklahoma had one of the best educational systems  in the US - we learned Black history from Kindergarten through high school, as well as "native American History", US history, physics, chemistry, math, sciences, as well as commercial, academic and vocational curriculii - I am a  proud product of an Oklahoma education - from  Oklahoma City - with ALL BLACK SCHOOLS, TEACHERS, COMMUNITIES, BUSINESSES, VENUES, ETC.   Greenwood, which is near Tulsa, also had all Black schools with excellent Black teachers, administrators, etc.

Our parents and grand parents, and great grand parents also owned their own land - homes, farms, etc.  from the early 1800s (or at least since the Trail of Tears - when many of them came with the Cherokee Nation on that tragic forced march, which wiped out so many with small pox infected blankets and a cruel winter). The other smart slaves stole away from the plantations across the borders from Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, into Oklahoma, because it was the one place that whites were not allowed to go - since it was set aside by the government specifically for the Indian Nations.

No it was not the system - it was disintegration,  and then the system.
I really hate it when folks try to typecast us with the rest of the situation.  There were no plantations, or chains.  Now, I'm not saying that there was no slavery - it was just that those who were held as "slaves" in Oklahoma in the different Indian nations, almost always ended up being spouses.  The reason for the forced march of many Indians out of the south to begin with was because they chose to marry the "slaves" after a period of time; and racist whites would have hissy fits because it  was against what they stood for.  Additionally, they wanted all that arable land the Indians had owned and cultivated.

 Most of us who resided in Oklahoma emanated from folks who came there during the time that it was still a territory and whites could not go there .  Like our native American brothers and sisters,  we thrived.  Whites in neighboring states had already depleated their lands and were jealous of our prosperity - it was those rednecks who invaded during the Oklahoma Ruin which took place on April 22, 1889 - stealing all the land from Indians, Blacks,  and Black Indians - and putting it into the hands of racist rednecks, reversing all that we had done - that ushered in an era of white delusion of supremacy.  (Note:they got the land, but were so backwards and stupid, they had nearly completely stripped it of its nutrient, and by the 1920's had started running to California because of the so-called dust bowls.  You remember John Steinbeck's book, "The Grapes of Wrath?" about the Joads - and the movie of the same name?  That's what that was about. Guess who wasn't running to California?  Blacks and Indians !!  because we honored the land and knew how to cultivate it. LOL) Whites surrounding the communities of "LITTLE AFRICA" were jealous and frustrated - and they used any excuse to hassle prosperous Black families.

However, even then we had 67 All Black towns of which 13 are still in existence.  There was a great deal of Black and Indian intermarriage, of which my family is a product; and there were Black families who came there after the Civil War and settled in Oklahoma to get away from the vengeance of white racist rednecks. 

The reason we never knew about so-called "Black Wall Street" is because it was a name made up by the documentarian who first did the program on PBS.  Blacks in Oklahoma had their own Banks, Schools, Businesses, and investment programs because we knew how to work and build together - AND WE HAD GUNS, KNEW HOW TO USE THEM, AND WEREN'T AFRAID TO DO SO - and still do.  The whites dropped the bombs because they were losing. 
Image result for Black wall street, Oklahoma

Image result for Black wall street, Oklahoma


NOTE:  A post on the  aftermath of Black Wall Street is included below.

 That's why when you start talking about "Black Wall Street," and not "LITTLE AFRICA," WE look at you like you had two heads and a tail.  We have always maintained our own identity.  We were not subjected to what people on the outside called it.  Read the Book on the Simmons Family - "STAKING A CLAIM" - (where, by the way,  they detail the rebuilding of Greenwood) and  please, stop trying to make us conform to some one else's mis information!!!

NOTE:  (Mind you, the Oklahoma of today is nothing like the Oklahoma most of us grew up in.  The repuglycons have taken over, and there has been a diminution of the educational programs that we enjoyed - but I'm still Oklahoma proud - as are my many relatives and friends who live there.)

We love the fact that you are so focused on Oklahoma - but please, check out some of the great things and people who have emerged to make their mark on the world who are proud Oklahomans -  Nathan Hare, John Hope Franklin, Clara Luper, Ralph Ellison, Evelyn LaRue Pittman, the Hon. Diane Watson, Gloria Dulan-Wilson, John Starks, Adolf Dulan, Goldie Watkins-Bryant, Brenda Neal, The Hon. Anastasia Pittman,  Prentice Gault, Justice Juanita Kidd Stout - to name a few - do some deeper digging. 

Thanks so much.

Stay Blessed &


On Sat, Aug 27, 2016 at 6:53 PM, Dr Boyce Watkins wrote:
Hello everyone, I hope you’re doing well.
I was thinking the other day about my last trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I took a visit to the Greenwood section of the city, where Black Wall Street once resided.  To my dismay, I realized that many of the black people on that very same street HAD NO IDEA of the depth of the atrocities that occurred in the neighborhood in which they lived. 
Nationally, most of our children know nothing aobut the Black Wall Street massacre from 1921 and it's an absolute shame.  But it's no concidence that most of us had no idea what happened:  The system was designed that way. 
This is why The Black History School now has a curriculum that I have put together called "The Black Wall Street Study Guide.
The course comes with the following:
1)      One digital download of the film, “Resurrecting Black Wall Street: The Blueprint.”
2)      One digital download of the panel discussion that took place among experts at the film’s premier in Chicago
3)      A packaged workbook of discussion questions for you, your family and friends that will allow you to go over the concepts mentioned in the film
4)      A personal Blueprint workbook giving you the keys to building a Black Wall Street within your own family
5)      Additional resources consisting of mini-documentaries on key figures in The Black Wall Street massacre, as well as testimonies from relatives of the survivors
6)      A complete Black Wall Street study guide for adults
7)      A study guide for young adults, grades 11 – 12
8)      A study guide for youth grades 9 – 10
9)      A study guide for middle schoolers, grades 6 – 8
10)   A study guide for children, grades 3 – 5
This course was designed by a slew of experts from many walks of life, including myself.  This exhaustive effort was designed for us, by us, to ensure that this story is not only shared far and wide, but that we are able to learn from those who came before us.
The regular price of all this material is already set to be affordable for everyone, at $299.  But if you order with this special offer, you can get the entire Resurrecting Black Wall Street curriculum for just $149. 
This offer won’t last more than three days, and it only goes to the first 100 people who sign up.   Also, the offer comes with a 14-day, 100%, money-back guarantee if you are unsatisfied for any reason. 
You can take advantage of the offer by clicking here. 
It’s time for us to take control of the education of our children.  Teaching our own history in a safe environment is the best way for all of us to learn.  To my knowledge, there is nothing like this offered on any major college campus, and if it were to be offered, the cost would be in the thousands.  
You can take advantage of the offer by visiting this link.
Until we meet again, please stay strong, be blessed and be educated.
Dr Boyce Watkins
This offer expires Monday night at midnight and these materials will benefit your family for many years to come.  This curriculum is one of the first of its kind and we designed it just for our people.  You can take advantage of this limited-time only discount by visiting this link. 
As with all the plays, the movie that's coming out- the PBS documentary that appeared nearly 30 years ago that has fueled all this interest,  please proceed with caution and do your homework.


The Black Wall Street. Black History You Were NOT Taught.

Mr MilitantNegro™ Jueseppi B
Mr MilitantNegro™
Jueseppi B
The Black Wall Street may refer to:
  • Greenwood, Tulsa, Oklahoma, (aka “Black Wall Street”), home to many prominent black businessmen and location of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot of Whites against Blacks, “one of the most devastating massacres in the history of US race relations”
  • Jackson Ward, a thriving African-American business community in Richmond, Virginia
  • Parrish Street, in Durham, North Carolina, an area of successful black-owned businesses
In this case it refers to Greenwood is a neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As one of the most successful and wealthiest African American communities in the United States during the early 20th Century, it was popularly known as America’s “Black Wall Street” until the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. The invasion was one of the most devastating massacres in the history of US race relations, destroying the once thriving Greenwood community.

Within five years after the massacre, surviving residents who chose to remain in Tulsa rebuilt much of the district. They accomplished this despite the opposition of many white Tulsa political and business leaders. It resumed being a vital black community until segregation was overturned by the Federal Government during the 1950s and 1960s. Desegregation encouraged blacks to live and shop elsewhere in the city, causing Greenwood to lose much of its original vitality. Since then, city leaders have attempted to encourage other economic development activity nearby.

A child rescuer on June 1, 1921 – with Whites out to kill them, Blacks could rely on no one but each other.
A child rescuer on June 1, 1921 – with Whites out to kill them, Blacks could rely on no one but each other.

Black Wall Street, the name fittingly given to one of the most affluent all-Black communities in America, was bombed from the air and burned to the ground by mobs of envious Whites. In a period spanning fewer than 12 hours, a once thriving Black business district in northern Tulsa lay smoldering – a model community destroyed and a major African-American economic movement resoundingly defused.

The night’s carnage left some 3,000 African Americans dead and over 600 successful businesses lost. Among these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half dozen private airplanes and even a bus system. As could have been expected, the impetus behind it all was the infamous Ku Klux Klan, working in consort with ranking city officials and many other sympathizers.

The best description of Black Wall Street, or Little Africa as it was also known, would be to compare it to a mini Beverly Hills. It was the golden door of the Black community during the early 1900s, and it proved that African Americans could create a successful infrastructure. That’s what Black Wall Street was all about.

Black America’s most prosperous community, Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, went up in flames June 1, 1921, in the KKK-led Tulsa Race Riot. According to Wikipedia, “During the 16 hours of the assault, over 800 people were admitted to local hospitals with injuries, an estimated 10,000 were left homeless, and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire caused by bombing.”
Black America’s most prosperous community, Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, went up in flames June 1, 1921, in the KKK-led Tulsa Race Riot. According to Wikipedia, “During the 16 hours of the assault, over 800 people were admitted to local hospitals with injuries, an estimated 10,000 were left homeless, and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire caused by bombing.”

The dollar circulated 36 to 100 times, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community. Now a dollar leaves the Black community in 15 minutes. As for resources, there were Ph.D.s residing in Little Africa, Black attorneys and doctors. One doctor was Dr. Berry, who owned the bus system. His average income was $500 a day, hefty pocket change in 1910.

t was a time when the entire state of Oklahoma had only two airports, yet six Blacks owned their own planes. It was a very fascinating community.

The mainstay of the community was to educate every child. Nepotism was the one word they believed in. And that’s what we need to get back to. The main thoroughfare was Greenwood Avenue, and it was intersected by Archer and Pine Streets. From the first letters in each of those three names you get G.A.P. And that’s where the renowned R&B music group the GAP Band got its name. They’re from Tulsa.

Black Wall Street was a prime example of the typical Black community in America that did business, but it was in an unusual location. You see, at the time, Oklahoma was set aside to be a Black and Indian state. There were over 28 Black townships there. One third of the people who traveled in the terrifying “Trail of Tears” alongside the Indians between 1830 and 1842 were Black people. The citizens of this proposed Indian and Black state chose a Black governor, a treasurer from Kansas named McDade. But the Ku Klux Klan said that if he assumed office that they would kill him within 48 hours.

Here, the businesses that had been the economic engine of this most prosperous Black community in the U.S. are identified.
A lot of Blacks owned farmland, and many of them had gone into the oil business.

At the end of the day, June 1, 1921, this is what remained of Black Wall Street. Lost forever were over 600 successful businesses, including 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores, two movie theaters, a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half dozen private airplanes and a bus system.
At the end of the day, June 1, 1921, this is what remained of Black Wall Street. Lost forever were over 600 successful businesses, including 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores, two movie theaters, a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half dozen private airplanes and a bus system.

The community was so tight and wealthy because they traded dollars hand to hand and because they were dependent upon one another as a result of the Jim Crow laws. It was not unusual that if a resident’s home accidentally burned down, it could be rebuilt within a few weeks by neighbors. This was the type of scenario that was going on day to day on Black Wall Street.

When Blacks intermarried into the Indian culture, some of them received their promised “40 acres and a mule” and with that came whatever oil was later found on the properties. On Black Wall Street, a lot of global business was conducted.

The community flourished from the early 1900s until June 1, 1921. That’s when the largest massacre of nonmilitary Americans in the history of this country took place, and it was led by the Ku Klux Klan. Imagine walking out of your front door and seeing 1,500 homes being burned. It must have been amazing.

Survivors we interviewed think that the whole thing was planned, because during the time that all of this was going on, White families with their children stood around the borders of their community and watched the massacre – the looting and everything – much in the same manner they would watch a lynching. The riots weren’t caused by anything Black or White. They were caused by jealousy.
A lot of White folks had come back from World War I and they were poor. When they looked over into the Black communities and realized that Black men who fought in the war had come home heroes, that helped trigger the destruction. It cost the Black community everything, and not a single dime of restitution – no insurance claims – has been awarded the victims to this day. Nonetheless, they rebuilt.

We estimate 1,500 to 3,000 people were killed, and we know that a lot of them were buried in mass graves all around the city. Some were thrown into the river. As a matter of fact, at 21st Street and Yale Avenue, where there now stands a Sears parking lot, that corner used to be a coal mine. They threw a lot of the bodies into the shafts.

‘The gun went off, the riot was on’

[excerpts from a CNN report]
On the night of May 31,1921, mobs called for the lynching of Dick Rowland, a Black man who shined shoes, after hearing reports that on the previous day he had assaulted Sarah Page, a White woman, in the elevator she operated in a downtown building.

A local newspaper had printed a fabricated story that Rowland tried to rape Page. In an editorial, the same newspaper said a hanging was planned for that night. As groups of both Blacks and Whites converged on the Tulsa Courthouse, a White man in the crowd confronted an armed Black man, a war veteran, who had joined with other Blacks to protect Rowland.

Eddie Faye Gates, a member of the Tulsa Race Riot Commission, formed several years ago to determine exactly what happened, told CNN what happened next.

“This White man,” she said, asked the Black man, “What are you doing with this gun?” “I’m going to use it if I have to,” the Black man said, according to Gates, “and (the White man) said, ‘No, you’re not. Give it to me,’ and he tried to take it. The gun went off, the White man was dead, the riot was on.”

Truckloads of Whites set fires and shot Blacks on sight. When the smoke lifted the next day, more than 1,400 homes and businesses in Tulsa’s Greenwood District, a prosperous area known as the “Black Wall Street,” lay in ruins. Today, only a single block of the original buildings remains standing in the area. Experts now estimate that at least 3,000 died.

‘We’re in a heck of a lot of trouble’

Beulah Smith was 14 years old the night of the riot. A neighbor named Frenchie came pounding on her family’s door in a Tulsa neighborhood known as “Little Africa” that also went up in flames.
“Get your families out of here because they’re killing Niggers uptown,” she remembers Frenchie saying. “We hid in the weeds in the hog pen,” Smith told CNN.

People in a mob that came to Kenny Booker’s house asked, “Nigger, do you have a gun?” he told CNN. Booker, then a teenager, hid with his family in their attic until the home was torched. “When we got downstairs, things were burning. My sister asked me, ‘Kenny, is the world on fire?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but we’re in a heck of a lot of trouble, baby.’”

Another riot survivor, Ruth Avery, who was 7 at the time, gives an account matched by others who told of bombs dropped from small airplanes passing overhead.

The explosive devices may have been dynamite or Molotov cocktails – gasoline-filled bottles set afire and thrown as grenades. “They’d throw it down and when it’d hit, it would burst into flames,” Avery said.

Only a single block remains of the 1,400 homes and businesses that made up the area known as Black Wall Street.

Unmarked graves

Many of the survivors mentioned bodies were stacked like cord wood, says Richard Warner of the Tulsa Historical Society.
As fires set by white rioters raged, claiming all they held dear, Black men who fought back to protect their families, homes and businesses were arrested and killed. There were outnumbered 10 to one. Here, a white man with a shotgun guards the body of a Black man and several prisoners outside Tulsa’s Convention Hall.
As fires set by white rioters raged, claiming all they held dear, Black men who fought back to protect their families, homes and businesses were arrested and killed. There were outnumbered 10 to one. Here, a white man with a shotgun guards the body of a Black man and several prisoners outside Tulsa’s Convention Hall.

In its search for the facts, the commission has literally been trying to dig up the truth.

Two headstones at Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery indicate that riot victims are buried there. In an effort to determine how many, archeological experts used ground-piercing radar and other equipment to test the soil in a search for unmarked graves.

The test picked up indications that hundreds of people have been buried in an area just outside the cemetery.

Editor’s note: The Tulsa Race Riot Commission, formed in 1997 to determine exactly what happened and what should be done now, delivered its final report in 2001, calling for substantial restitution. “In June 2001,” according to Wikipedia, “the Oklahoma state legislature passed the ‘1921 Tulsa Race Riot Reconciliation Act.’ While falling short of the commission’s recommendations, it provided for more than 300 college scholarships for descendants of Greenwood residents, mandated the creation of a memorial to those who died in the riot, and called for new efforts to promote economic development in Greenwood. A documentary, “Before They Die!” has been made about the survivors and their quest for justice. It chronicles efforts in Oklahoma to gain reparations for the survivors. And watch the video “One Day in May!” at www.BeforeTheyDieMovie.com.

This story comes from the Ujamaa Network, which can be reached at mikehouse@ujamaanetwork.biz. They add these words of wisdom: “We must buy from ourselves in order to re-circulate Black dollars. If we want our dollars to return, we must spend them within our own community. 2011 will be our year if we decide it will be. Make a commitment to yourself to do as much of your spending within our community as possible.”

Thank you San Francisco Bayview
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JOIN THE MOVEMENT To Get Justice for the Survivors
It was the worst race riot in the history of the United States; however, most people have never heard of it. Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921, in less than 24 hours the prosperous African-American section of Greenwood, also known as “Black Wall Street,” was completely destroyed. An estimated 300 were killed and over 10,000 people displaced,  as a 42 square block area of their homes and businesses were burned to the ground by a white mob that had been deputized by the sheriff.

This documentary is the story of the survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot and their quest for justice. There are only 45 survivors still alive today.
This is a story about the struggle for the soul of America and efforts to right a wrong that is long past due.
JOIN THE MOVEMENT To Get Justice for the Survivors

Ressurrecting Black Wall Street Trailer: A film you MUST see


Greenwood (Tulsa)

Many Black Americans moved to Oklahoma in the years before and after 1907, which is the year Oklahoma became a state. Oklahoma represented change and provided a chance for black Americans to get away from slavery and the harsh racism of their previous homes. Most of them traveled from other states in the south where racism was very prevalent, and Oklahoma offered hope and provided all people with a chance to start over. They traveled to Oklahoma by wagons, horses, trains, and even on foot.

Many of the black Americans who traveled to Oklahoma had ancestors who could be traced back to Oklahoma. A lot of the settlers were relatives of black American slaves who had traveled on foot with the Five Civilized Tribes along the Trail of Tears. Others were the descendants of runaway slaves who had fled to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) in an effort to escape lives of oppression. The Emancipation Proclamation freed all of these former slaves in 1863. Many who had been owned by the Creeks and Seminoles were adopted into those tribes. They were thus able to live freely in the Oklahoma Territory.

When Tulsa became a booming and rather well noted town in the United States, the residents and government attempted to leave out important aspects of the city. Many people considered Tulsa to be two separate cities rather than one city of united communities. The white residents of Tulsa referred to the area north of the Frisco railroad tracks as “Little Africa” and other derogatory names. This community later acquired the name Greenwood and by 1921 it was home to about 10,000 black American men, women, and children.

Greenwood was centered on a street known as Greenwood Avenue. This street was important because it ran north for over a mile from the Frisco Railroad yards, and it was one of the few streets that did not cross through both black and white neighborhoods. The citizens of Greenwood took pride in this fact because it was something they had all to themselves and did not have to share with the white community of Tulsa. Greenwood Avenue was home to the black American commercial district with many red brick buildings. These buildings belonged to black Americans and they were thriving businesses, including grocery stores, banks, libraries, and much more. Greenwood was one of the most affluent communities and it became known as “Black Wall Street.”

The Black Wall Street

During the oil boom of the 1910s, the area of northeast Oklahoma around Tulsa flourished, including the Greenwood neighborhood, which came to be known as “the Negro Wall Street” (now commonly referred to as “the Black Wall Street”). The area was home to several prominent black businessmen, many of them multimillionaires. Greenwood boasted a variety of thriving businesses that were very successful up until the Tulsa Race Riot. Not only did black Americans want to contribute to the success of their own shops, but there were also racial segregation laws that prevented them from shopping anywhere other than Greenwood. Following the riots, the area was rebuilt and thrived until the 1960s when desegregation allowed blacks to shop in areas that were restricted before.
Detroit Avenue, along the edge of Standpipe Hill, contained a number of higher-end houses belonging to doctors, lawyers and business owners. Also, the buildings on Greenwood Avenue housed the offices of almost all of Tulsa’s black lawyers, realtors, doctors, and other professionals. In Tulsa at the time of the riot, there were fifteen well-known black American physicians, one of whom, Dr. A.C. Jackson, was considered the “most able Negro surgeon in America” by one of the Mayo brothers. Dr. Jackson was shot to death as he left his house during the unrest. Greenwood published two newspapers, the Tulsa Star and the Oklahoma Sun, which covered not only Tulsa, but also state and national news and elections. Buildings housing the two papers were destroyed during the destruction of Greenwood.

Greenwood was a very religiously active community. At the time of the racial violence there were more than a dozen black American churches and many Christian youth organizations and religious societies.

In northeastern Oklahoma, as elsewhere in America, the prosperity of minorities emerged amidst racial and political tension. The Ku Klux Klan made its first major appearance in Oklahoma shortly before one of the worst race riots in history. It is estimated that there were about 3,200 members of the Klan in Tulsa in 1921.

O.W. Gurley (Founder)

Around the start of the 20th century O.W. Gurley, a wealthy African American land-owner from Arkansas, traversed the United States to participate in the Oklahoma Land run of 1889. The young entrepreneur had just resigned from a presidential appointment under president Grover Cleveland in order to strike out on his own.”

In 1906, Gurley moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma where he purchased 40 acres of land which was “only to be sold to colored”. Black ownership was unheard of at that time.

Among Gurley’s first businesses was a rooming house which was located on a dusty trail near the railroad tracks. This road was given the name Greenwood Avenue, named for a city in Mississippi. The area became very popular among African American migrants fleeing the oppression in Mississippi. They would find refuge in Gurley’s building, as the racial persecution from the south was non-existent on Greenwood Avenue.

In addition to his rooming house, Gurley built three two-story buildings and five residences and bought an 80-acre (320,000 m2) farm in Rogers County. Gurley also founded what is today Vernon AME Church.

This implementation of “colored” segregation set the Greenwood boundaries of separateness that exist to this day: Pine Street to the North, Archer Street and the Frisco tracks to the South, Cincinnati Street on the West, and Lansing Street on the East. The segregation is pronounced in subtle landmarks. South of Archer, Greenwood Avenue does not exist in white neighborhoods.

Another African American entrepreneur, J.B. Stradford, arrived in Tulsa in 1899. He believed that black people had a better chance of economic progress if they pooled their resources, worked together and supported each other’s businesses. He bought large tracts of real estate in the northeastern part of Tulsa, which he had subdivided and sold exclusively to other African Americans. Gurley and a number of other blacks soon followed suit. Stradford later built the Stradford Hotel on Greenwood, where blacks could enjoy the amenities of the downtown hotels who served only whites. It was said to be the largest black-owned hotel in the United States.

Gurley’s prominence and wealth were short lived. In a matter of moments, he lost everything. During the race riot, The Gurley Hotel at 112 N. Greenwood, the street’s first commercial enterprise, valued at $55,000, was lost, and with it Brunswick Billiard Parlor and Dock Eastmand & Hughes Cafe. Gurley also owned a two-story building at 119 N. Greenwood. It housed Carter’s Barbershop, Hardy Rooms, a pool hall, and cigar store. All were reduced to ruins. By his account and court records, he lost nearly $200,000 in the 1921 race riot.

Because of his leadership role in creating this self-sustaining exclusive black “enclave“, it had been falsely rumored that Gurley was lynched by a white mob and buried in an unmarked grave. However, according to the memoirs of Greenwood pioneer, B.C. Franklin, Gurley exiled himself to California. The founder of the most successful African American community of his time vanished from the history books and drifted into obscurity. He is now being honored in a 2008 documentary film called, Before They Die! The Road to Reparations for the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Survivors.

The Tulsa Race Riot

One of the nation’s worst acts of American racial violence, the Tulsa Race Riot occurred there in late May and early June 1921, when 35 square blocks of homes and businesses were torched by mobs of angry whites.

The riot began because of the alleged assault of a white elevator operator, 17-year old Sarah Page, by an African American shoeshiner, 19-year old Dick Rowland (the case against Mr. Rowland was eventually dismissed). The Tulsa Tribune got word of the incident and chose to publish the story in the paper on May 31, 1921. Shortly after the newspaper article surfaced, there was news that a white lynch mob was going to take matters into its own hands and kill Dick Rowland.

A group of armed white men congregated outside the jail and, subsequently, a group of African American men joined the assembled crowd in order to protect Dick Rowland. There was an argument in which a white man tried to take a gun from a black man, and the gun fired a bullet up into the sky. This incident prompted many others to fire their guns, and the violence erupted on the evening of May 31, 1921. Whites flooded into the Greenwood district and destroyed the businesses and homes of African American residents. No one was exempt from the violence of the white mobs; men, women, and even children were killed by the mobs.

Troops were eventually deployed on the afternoon of June 1, but by that time there was not much left of the once thriving Greenwood district. Over 600 successful businesses were lost. Among these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half-dozen private airplanes and a bus system. Note—It was a time when the entire state of Oklahoma had only two airports, yet six blacks owned their own planes.
It was suspected by many black people that the entire thing was planned because many white men, women and children stood on the borders of the city and watched as black men, women and children were shot, burned and lynched. In addition, some of the black-owned airplanes were stolen by the white mob and used to throw cocktail bombs & dynamite sticks from the sky. Although the official death toll claimed that 26 blacks and 13 whites died during the fighting, most estimates are considerably higher. At the time of the riot, the American Red Cross estimated that over 300 persons were killed. The Red Cross also listed 8,624 persons in need of assistance, in excess of 1,000 homes and businesses destroyed, and the delivery of several stillborn infants.

Post riot

The community mobilized its resources and rebuilt the Greenwood area within five years of the Tulsa Race Riot and the neighborhood was a hotbed of jazz and blues in the 1920s. However, the neighborhood fell prey to an economic and population drain in the 1960s, and much of the area was leveled during urban renewal in the early 1970s to make way for a highway loop around the downtown district. Several blocks around the intersection of Greenwood Avenue and Archer Street were saved from demolition and have been restored, forming part of the Greenwood Historical District.

Modern Greenwood

Greenwood Historical District

Greenwood Cultural Center
Greenwood Cultural Center
The Greenwood Historical District comprises an area bounded by the Crosstown Expressway (I-244) on the north, Elgin Avenue on the west, Greenwood Avenue on the east and the Frisco tracks on the south.


Revitalization and preservation efforts in the 1990s and 2000s resulted in tourism initiatives and memorials. John Hope Franklin Greenwood Reconciliation Park and the Greenwood Cultural Center honor the victims of the Tulsa Race Riot, although the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce plans a larger museum to be built with participation from the National Park Service.
In 2008, Tulsa announced that it sought to move the city’s minor league baseball team, the Tulsa Drillers, to a new stadium, now known as ONEOK Field to be constructed in the Greenwood District. The proposed development includes a hotel, baseball stadium, and an expanded mixed-use district.Along with the new stadium, there will be extra development for the city blocks that surround the stadium. This project will bring Greenwood Historical District out front and center and attract not only tourists but also Tulsa residents to North Tulsa.

Greenwood Cultural Center

The Greenwood Cultural Center, dedicated on October 22, 1995, was created as a tribute to Greenwood’s history and as a symbol of hope for the community’s future. The center has a museum, an African American art gallery, a large banquet hall, and housed the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame until 2007. The total cost of the center was almost $3 million. The cultural center is a very important part of the reconstruction and unity of the Greenwood Historical District.

The Greenwood Cultural Center sponsors and promotes education and cultural events preserving African American heritage. It also provides positive images of North Tulsa to the community, attracting a wide variety of visitors, not only to the center itself, but also to the city of Tulsa as a whole.

In 2011, the Greenwood Cultural Center lost 100% of its funding from the State of Oklahoma. As a result, the center may be forced to close its doors. A fundraising campaign is now underway to try to raise private funds to keep the educational and cultural facility open.

Application for NRHP Status

The City of Tulsa submitted an application to the U.S. Department of the Interior, for the “Greenwood Historic District” on September 29, 2011. On August 8, 2012, the Coordinator of the National Register Program wrote the Tulsa Preservation Commission that the proposed District would be renamed as the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. As of November 2014, the proposed Historic District had not been implemented.

John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park

Ground was broken in 2008 at 415 North Detroit Avenue for a proposed Reconciliation Park to commemorate the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. John Hope Franklin, son of B. C. Franklin and a notable hisorian, attended the groundbreaking ceremony. After his death in 2009, the park was renamed John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park. Attractions include two sculptures and a dozen bronze informational plaques. It is a park primarily designed for education and reflection, and does not contain facilities for sports or other recreation.

Originally funded by the State of Oklahoma, City of Tulsa and private donors, it is now owned by the city and managed by the non-profit corporation, John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation.

See also

This presentation from Michael Imhotep host of “The Michael Imhotep Show” and “The African History Network” deals with a lot of the little known history of North Tulsa, Oklahoma and it’s African American business district called The Greenwood District or “Black Wall Street”. We had 35 blocks of over 600 businesses in the early 1900s. The real history of Black Wall Street is not very well known and even lesser known is the fact that inspite of insurmountable odds, we rebuilt Black Wall Street after the Race Riot of June 1921. Topics Covered in this presentation: – A Timeline of history leading up to June 1921. – The origins of Tulasa, Oklahoma which was settled by Creek Indians around 1836. – The Black Freedmen Indian Treaty of 1866. This treaty is being enforced for White Indians but not for Africans Americans who qualify. – Did you know that all “5 Civilized Tribes of Native Americans” owned Black Slaves? – Black Wall Street was rebuilt after 1921. – What really destroyed Black Wall Street? It was not the Race Riot. Look out for the new documentary on “Resurrecting Black Wall Street” from Your Black World Films in January 2015 featuring Michael Imhotep of The African History Network.

Black Wall Street • Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921 Full Documentary “We will NEVER FORGET”


Published on Jan 2, 2015
The Tulsa race riot was a large-scale, racially motivated conflict on May 31 and June 1, 1921, in which a group of white people attacked the black community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It resulted in the Greenwood District, also known as ‘the Black Wall Street’ and the wealthiest black community in the United States, being burned to the ground.

During the 16 hours of the assault, more than 800 people were admitted to local white hospitals with injuries (the two black hospitals were burned down), and police arrested and detained more than 6,000 black Greenwood residents at three local facilities. An estimated 10,000 blacks were left homeless, and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire. The official count of the dead by the Oklahoma Department of Vital Statistics was 39, but other estimates of black fatalities varied from 55 to about 300.

The events of the riot were long omitted from local and state histories. “The Tulsa race riot of 1921 was rarely mentioned in history books, classrooms or even in private. Blacks and whites alike grew into middle age unaware of what had taken place.”[3] With the number of survivors declining, in 1996, the state legislature commissioned a report to establish the historical record of the events, and acknowledge the victims and damages to the black community. Released in 2001, the report included the commission’s recommendations for some compensatory actions, most of which were not implemented by the state and city governments. The state has passed legislation to establish some scholarships for descendants of survivors, economic development of Greenwood, and a memorial park to the victims in Tulsa. The latter was dedicated in 2010.


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