America’s Black Wallstreet — Greenwood — Tulsa Series

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Black Wall Street (Greenwood) Memorial in Tulsa, OK

In my last Tulsa Series blog post, I explained that because of black gold – oil – Tulsa became known as the Magic City.  Later to be known as The Oil Capital of the World. Promotion and civic pride abounded. However, there was one little problem.  That was the thriving black community to the north known as Greenwood, named after the main street located in the community. For many Tulsa business people, the presence of so many successful black businesses was a thorn in their side.

J.B. Stradford

One black businessman by the name of J.B. Stradford, the son of a freed Kentucky slave, came to the area in 1899. It was his dream for blacks to pool their resources and work together to support one another’s businesses. To this end, he purchased large tracts of land just north of Tulsa. From there he subdivided and sold only to other black business men and women.

Later he built the Stradford Hotel on Greenwood Avenue, which was the largest black-owned hotel in the nation.

Black Wall Street

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The Dreamland Movie Theater, located in Greenwood before being destroyed the Riot

This is why Greenwood was made up of independent entrepreneurs who owned their own businesses – laundry, hair salon, taxi service, grocery store, barber shop, dry goods, movie theater – you name it, the community offered it.  A dollar bill could be circulated in Greenwood many times before ever leaving. The area covered over 40 square blocks. The neighborhoods were similar to any neighborhood of that era with stylish wood-frame homes, sidewalks, and manicured lawns.

Few of the citizens of Greenwood had any need to go into downtown Tulsa except to go to work. Many were employed by the wealthy oil barons living there, all of whom needed domestic help. (I stated previously that in 1921 the city of Tulsa boasted over 50 millionaires.)

Now you can understand why the black community of Greenwood was known as the Black Wall Street of America. It stood as a sterling example of American ingenuity, enterprise, and resourcefulness.

In the spring of 1921, all of the peace and prosperity that Greenwood had enjoyed for decades was about to come to a horrific end.

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Book #1 (Tulsa Tempest)

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Book #2 (Tulsa Turning),

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