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  • Writer's pictureUmar Muhajjir

All Because We Thrived - Black Wall Street By Umar Muhajjir

Updated: Feb 25, 2023

Black History Report

Greenwood District Tulsa Oklahoma Before Race Riots Happened 1921.


Today I want to talk about a city not many of us know about but has a wealth of history and black history; that city is Tulsa, Oklahoma. When I first began my research of the town, fully knowing what I was looking for, it showed many times that it was the second largest city in its state. The analysis also revealed to deliver the pros and cons of living in this city, the top ten things to do, and a beautiful above shot of the metropolitan area, but not until I scrolled down did it mention anything about the 1921 Race Massacre and burning of what was known as "Black Wall Street."


During the early 1900s, the black residents of Tulsa took the potential they saw in a small strip of land and began to develop an area that would eventually become a goldmine. By 1905 that same strip of land would be named Greenwood and the host of many Black-owned businesses. African-Americans thrived during the early 19th century. Tulsa also began to build a sense of community and trust amongst the black community. Life for the black demographic had boomed from a total valuation of $8,696 in property owned in 1890 to only 30 years later owning an astounding $4,298,067. This could've been the match that set Black independence aflame; however, history didn't work out in favor of good forces.


On May 31, 1921, white rioters, many of whom were law enforcement, rampaged and burned 35 square blocks of Black-owned businesses and homes. The Massacre began after a young Black man named Dick Rowland was falsely accused of rape by a white woman with whom he rode the elevator. Although he was arrested hours later, a group of Black men tried to intervene in his lynching, coming to his aid and defending his namesake. Still, things began to escalate, and one of the white deputies opened fire on the group of men. It wasn't long before more men were on the run, and the chase led the murderous white mob straight to Black Wall Street. Members of the mob went door to door, looting and burning everything in their path. Billows of black smoke loomed over the city sky, and blood ran thick through the streets of Greenwood.

Greenwood District Set A Flame 1921


There were also reports of fleeing residents being shot dead in front of their families, and even though only 36 deaths were reported, sources say there were well over 300 killed on that fateful day. Millions were done in property damage, but the emotional toll and loss of human life far outweigh the monetary loss our predecessors may have faced. Many African-Americans fled Tulsa after the race massacre leaving behind everything they had built and lost in a matter of hours. Still, some residents stayed and immediately began to rebuild with no help from the city whatsoever. Many remained in Red Cross tents until they could rebuild their homes, and by 1922, only a year later, a massive reconstruction of the district was completed. It continued to thrive again, even throughout the great depression.


Still, by the 1950s, over half of the black businesses had closed, and desegregation allowed whites to own commercial property, which in turn took away opportunities for their black counterparts. Although this Massacre is far removed from today's history, it is imperative we bring awareness to this issue, not only so the next generation won't go without acknowledging our unsung heroes in the Black race, but also to fight for reparations that may be due to victims and descendants of these trailblazers of Black business and culture.

Lastly,

It wasn't only the fact that business owners on " Black Wall Street" were, in fact, survivors of African chattel enslavement. Still, the biggest reason their legacy was taken away was that they were Black citizens and also because they thrived in a world where the Whiteman thought it wasn't their right to do so.



By Umar Muhajjir COURTESY OF ENDEP ENTERTAINMENT

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