Black Wall Street

Black Wall Street was the nickname of a thriving population of wealthy Black Americans located in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. 1921 was a time of Jim Crow and open discrimination towards black people. Due to Jim Crow, the citizens of Greenwood had to establish their own resources and wealth as they were restricted in participating in White establishments by law.

Jim Crow and other segregation laws actually helped boost their economy rather than restrict it as the money circulated in Black communities. The people of Greenwood were becoming more educated, and the community was thriving in a way that would put them on level grounds with the neighboring white communities. The people also made strides in wages and working conditions in Greenwood. Although these accomplishments symbolized great things for Black communities, it brought feelings of worry to White American communities as the rise in Black Communities symbolized the loss of status for themselves in society. These feelings of fear within the White American Communities would eventually result to Tulsa Massacre of 1921.

Tulsa Massacre of 1921

On May 31, 1921, A black man, Dick Rowland, was reported by local newspaper Tulsa Tribune of attempting to rape a white woman, Sarah Paige, in an elevator. This article sparked outrage in White communities in Tulsa and Black communities from the Greenwood District. Instead of waiting for the police to conduct an investigation, both groups formed mobs and went to the courthouse to protest. A mob of angry White civilians arrived at the Tulsa courthouse to get justice on Black communities for disrespecting the virtue of a White female. A mob of angry Black civilians arrived in order to defend their brethren of the possible false accusation. Eventually a fight broke out amongst the crowds. The Black citizens of Greenwood found themselves outnumbered so they retreated back to their neighborhood. As they retreated, the white mob followed them and burned all buildings and houses on-sight. 

These riots occurred for 2 days and resulted in 35 city blocks burned, 300 casualties, and 800 people injured. 

The Tulsa Tribune recounted the massacre as the result of unrest by the Black community and justified the massacre by sensationalizing the notion of Black people as beings predisposed to criminal activities and in need of being controlled.

Racial tensions with Greenwood had been on the rise prior to the article’s release due to surrounding communities’ discontent with the success of Greenwood’s economy and their rise in class stature. Sociologists have theorized the Tulsa Tribunes’ newspaper gave a reason for White Americans to express their distaste in a way that was socially acceptable.

A promising community was burned but that a promising community was able to occur and was so powerful that it made people fear it because it was so great. Greenwood was a promising and thriving example of Black excellence and should be remembered as such.

As of today, no reparations have been paid to the civilians of Greenwood who lost their families and businesses.

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