Today marks the 95th anniversary of the Black Wall Street Race Massacre. During the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma Race Massacre, the U.S. National Guard and the Ku Klux Klan worked hand in hand to destroy Black Wall Street.

So why have many black people never heard of Black Wall Street?

Well, most likely because the Tulsa Race Massacre “was the site of one of the most devastating massacres in the entire history of United States race relations. It was a massacre so ghastly, many chose to forget it and it was hidden from textbooks and even oral histories for decades.”

As we commemorate the resilience and brilliance of our people, take a look at a few interesting Black Wall Street facts below. Let this be the beginning of your research and share this post with a friend.

1. A Black Man Was Falsely Accused of Raping a White Woman and This Allegation Prompted the Massacre

“It’s never been fully settled exactly what happened between a black man named Dick Rowland, a shoe shine, and Sarah Page, an elevator operator at the Drexel Building in downtown Tulsa, but some of the few people working on May 30, 1921—Memorial Day–heard a scream and then saw Rowland rushing away from the building…

What is clear is that her scream was interpreted as a sign that Rowland “assaulted” her. It was a claim which she denied to the police upon being questioned.

What did happen was that the afternoon paper, the Tulsa Tribune, ran the headline, “Nab Negro For Attacking Girl In An Elevator.” The local police, aware that such an allegation could mean Rowland would fall victim to a lynch mob, took Rowland into protective custody at the top floor of the Tulsa County Courthouse.

Word spread and soon hundreds of whites gathered outside of the courthouse with guns and torches.” – Brandon Weber 

2. What Happened in Tulsa, Wasn’t a Race Riot

“The term “race riot” does not adequately describe the events of May 31—June 1, 1921 in Greenwood, a black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In fact, the term itself implies that both blacks and whites might be equally to blame for the lawlessness and violence. The historical record documents a sustained and murderous assault on black lives and property…

During the night and day of the riot, deputized whites killed more than 300 African Americans. They looted and burned to the ground 40 square blocks of 1,265 African American homes, including hospitals, schools, and churches, and destroyed 150 businesses.

White deputies and members of the National Guard arrested and detained 6,000 black Tulsans who were released only upon being vouched for by a white employer or other white citizen. Nine thousand African Americans were left homeless and lived in tents well into the winter of 1921.” – Linda Christensen

3. Money Stayed Inside the Community

“The dollar circulated 36 to 100 times in this tight-knit community, according to sfbayview.com. A single dollar might have stayed in Tulsa for almost a year before leaving the Black community.

Comparatively in modern times, a dollar can circulate in Asian communities for a month, Jewish communities for 20 days and white communities for 17, but it leaves the modern-day Black community in six hours, according to reports from the NAACP.” -Atlanta Black Star

4. People in Tulsa Were Leading in Luxury Possessions

“In a time when the entire state of Oklahoma had only two airports, six Black families owned their own planes. The average income for a Black family was well over what minimum wage is today. Dr. Simon Berry, who owned the bus system in Tulsa, recalls that in 1910 his average income was around $500 a day, according to reports from sfbayview.com.” -Atlanta Black Star

5. Desegregation Killed the Resurgence of Black Wall Street

“Within five years after the massacre, surviving residents who chose to remain in Tulsa rebuilt much of the district. They accomplished this despite the opposition of many white Tulsa political and business leaders. It resumed being a vital black community until segregation was overturned by the Federal Government during the 1950s and 1960s.

Desegregation encouraged blacks to live and shop elsewhere in the city, causing Greenwood to lose much of its original vitality. Since then, city leaders have attempted to encourage other economic development activity nearby.” – Mr. Militant Negro

Black Wall Street

Reflection Questions: What do you think was our biggest mistake when it came to Black Wall Street? What do you think it’ll take for us to build a community exclusively for us?

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  • Jamie Rockymore

    This is so deep. I’ve heard of the story and knew of Black Wall Street but the way you put it in the blog is unimaginable. Thank you for the sources and revealing this story. I feel not enough people know about this , but to know the US National Guard had something to do with this makes me look at our military so differently. I mean I couldn’t imagine being in the military but knowing they were against us at this time is outraging.