Black Wall Street
The successful blacks of Tulsa, Oklahoma in the early 20th century were never in any history book I’ve read from Kindergarten to 12 grade. American history books seems to leave out African America history if it doesn’t pertain to Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X. Black Wall Street was before the Harlem Renaissance and way before the Civil Rights movement. How did the history books go from slavery straight to the Civil Rights movement? We have more history than that.
African Americans from Tulsa were ahead of their time. After the Reconstruction period blacks began to migrate out of the south to all areas of the United States. Around 1910 majority of blacks in Tulsa lived in a section call Greenwood. Greenwood was filled with black businessmen and women (lawyers, doctors, realtors and more) with many of them being millionaires. The affluence of blacks in Greenwood is similar to modern day Prince Georges County, Maryland or Baldwin Hills (a section of Los Angeles). The successes of the men and women in Greenwood coined the phrase “Black Wall Street.”
These successful African Americans were living the American Dream before there were actors, rappers and ball players. There was networking and a sense of togetherness in the community—which blacks seem to lack today. Some were taking trips to Italy every few months just to get customs clothes, putting there children through college and etc. They were living the life. Who would have thought that this was going on in the early 1900s; especially in a place like Oklahoma?
However, on June 1st 1921, all of the hard work and dreams of “Black Wall Street” was burned to the ground. The jealously of the white people of the town couldn’t see blacks succeed; especially the way “Black Wall Street” was flourishing. “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 even a bus system.”(Walter F. White, the Eruption of Tulsa.)
This is just a reminder of to the black youth that we can be successful without being actors, rappers and athletes. We can build and grow together by helping each other grow and build. We have to support black artist (musicians, painters and etc), businesses (blogs, magazines, dental offices) and more. Let’s support each other.
Despite the horrific ending of “Black Wall Street” it is an important part of African American history that is usually left out unless you’re an undergrad or grad student in college. Let us remember the great individuals of “Black Wall Street” and continue to live the “Black American Dream.”
by Antwain Jackson