In the early 20th century, Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood was a thriving mecca of black business. The combination of the oil boom in Oklahoma saw wealth pouring into Greenwood and Jim Crow laws meant those dollars continued to circulate within the black community. The entrepreneurs of Greenwood believed black people had a better chance of economic progress if they pooled their resources, worked together, and supported each other’s businesses. Soon, people like Booker T. Washington spread word around the nation that Tulsa was the ‘promised land’ of opportunity for blacks in America and ‘Black Wall Street’ was born.
In 1921, white Tulsans with the backing of city leaders attacked Greenwood and burned 40 square blocks to the ground. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands lost their homes or businesses in one of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history. For years, this dark chapter was left out of textbooks as Tulsa attempted to erase this part of its past.
The Historic District Main Street Board is working to empower the business owners of the Greenwood District. Subscribe for the upcoming launch of our new website.