Black Wall Street 100

Black Wall Street & The Tulsa Race Massacre

One hundred years ago, the Greenwood district of Tulsa, OK, was a prosperous Black community with thriving businesses, including grocery stores, banks, libraries, and much more; one of the most affluent African-American communities in the country, leading to the nickname, "Black Wall Street."

The Tulsa race massacre took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, when mobs of white residents, many of them deputized and given weapons by city officials, attacked black residents and businesses. The event remains one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. history, and one of the least-known: News reports were largely squelched, despite the fact that hundreds of people were killed and thousands left homeless.

Urban Renewal did what the Massacre Could Not

What many people don't know is that despite the total destruction of Black Wall Street, it was rebuilt. Despite the progress that was made in rebuilding Greenwood, residents faced another massacre. This massacre did not happen overnight, but over decades. Just as with many other black communities throughout the country public policies during the 1950s to the 1980s have played decisive role in destroying those communities. The urban renewal movement was devastating to Greenwood. A mix of policies that included eminent domain, rezoning, and highway construction led to displacement and plunging property values. Thus, What remains of the 40 block neighborhood of Black Wall Street is one block sandwiched between a minor league baseball field and the towering concrete of Interstate 244. Urban Renewal polices did what the Massacre couldn’t take the land away from black people.

Why This Is Important

The United States has never fully accounted for the wrongs of slavery, Jim Crow, lynching and destruction of Black Communities throughout America. The mass protests stemming from pervasive racial inequality and unlawful killings of black people, like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, reflect the US failure to provide redress for this long history of abuse.