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The Devastation of Black Wall Street

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

In 1921, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District, known at the time as Black Wall Street used to be one of the most prosperous African-American communities in all the United States of America but on May 31 of that year, the Tulsa Tribune reported that a black man, Dick Rowland, tried to rape a white woman who went by the name of Sarah Page.

White people in the local vicinity refused to wait for the investigative processes to play out, sparking two days of great racial violence. Thirty-five metropolis blocks went up in flames, 300 people reportedly died, and they had a report of the injured hit at least 800. Defense of white women was the expressed motivation for the collective racial violence.

Accounts fluctuate on what exceeded off between Page and Rowland in the elevator of the Drexel Building. Yet because of the Tulsa Tribune’s racially inflammatory report, black and white-armed mobs arrived at the courthouse. Scuffles broke out, and they had burned pictures.

Since they have outnumbered the blacks, they headed once more to Greenwood. But the enraged whites who were more of a senseless mob had not a method behind the looting and burning of groups and properties alongside the way.

Nine thousand human beings became homeless, Josie Pickens writes in Ebony. This “modern, majestic, sophisticated, and unapologetically black” local community boasted of “banks, hotels, cafés, clothiers, movie theaters, and present-day homes.” Not to mention luxuries, such as “indoor plumbing and a notable college system that superiorly trained black children.”

Undoubtedly, the less affluent white neighbors also resented their upper-class lifestyle. Because of a jealous choice “to put progressive, high-achieving African-Americans in their place,” a wave of home white terrorism brought on black dispossession.

The creation of the fantastic black community viewed as Black Wall Street was once intentional. “In 1906, O.W. Gurley, a wealthy African-American from Arkansas, moved to Tulsa and purchased over forty acres of land that he made sure was only sold to African-Americans,” writes Christina Montford in the Atlanta Black Star. Gurley furnished a chance for these migrating “from the harsh oppression of Mississippi.” The common income of black families in the location exceeded “what minimum wage is today.”

Because of segregation, a “dollar circulated 36 to a hundred times” and remained in Greenwood “almost a yr earlier than leaving.” Even greater impressive was that at the time, the state of Oklahoma had solely two airports, however, despite that, six black households owned their very, very own planes. This speaks multitudes concerning how prosperous these people were becoming over such a short time.

Greenwood survivors recount horrifying details about what surely passed off that night. Eyewitnesses declare “the vicinity used to be bombed with kerosene and/or nitroglycerin,” inflicting the inferno to rage more aggressively. Official bills kingdom that personal planes “were on reconnaissance missions, they had been surveying the location to see what happened.”

Despite all the economic damage, Hannibal Johnson, creator of Black Wall Street: From Riot to Renaissance in Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District, explains that neither the survivors nor their households ever got the reparations counseled through the Tulsa Race Riot Commission.

The commission encouraged reparations for “people who misplaced property” and proposed the institution of a scholarship fund—that happened, for a short time. The institution also proposed initiatives for the monetary revitalization of the Greenwood community. Despite the tragic events, these grand thoughts in no way manifested into a tangible reality.