The History of Black Wall Street

Posted by Montana Branch on

Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma also known as ‘Black Wall Street’ was one of the most striking areas of Black businesses in the early 20th century. In fact, Tulsa held over 10,000 African American residents due to the rich oil fields. The street, Greenwood Ave, was one of the very few streets that did not cross over into the white neighborhoods. With Oklahoma having some of the most extreme Jim Crow laws, African Americans were forced to spend their money within their own community. This resulted in a massive influx of cash that enhanced the Greenwood area and allowed it to expand significantly.

On Black Wall Street, African Americans served as real estate agents, doctors, and entrepreneurs who offered their services back to their local city. White residents began to feel threatened by the success of Black Wall Street and reacted with hateful approaches.  May 30, 1921, Dick Rowland, a young black teenage boy was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a young white operator, Sarah Page. After rumors rapidly spread within the white community, various groups of white Tulsans committed violent crimes against African Americans and their businesses.

Two days later, white residents looted and burned businesses in the Greenwood District resulting in over 1,200 burned houses and a multitude of Black-owned business destroyed. The charges were dropped soon after and this notable event became known as the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst racial violent acts in U.S. history. Only an hour and a half away from Tulsa, Oklahoma is the only public HBCU in Oklahoma, Langston University. The university’s athletic teams are known as the blue and orange Lions and are members of the NAIA- Red River Athletic Conference.

Langston U is known for being a historic HBCU and being associated with prominent figures. For example, Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman pilot, attended the university as well as singer/actress, Jennifer Hudson.


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