Black History Profile--Black Wall Street
Black History Profile:
Black Wall Street (1906-1921)
--40 acres founded in northeastern Tulsa in 1906 by O.W. Gurley (a wealthy black landowner from Arkansas) and J.B. Stradford
--Stradford believed that black people had a better chance of economic progress if they pooled their resources, worked together and supported each other's businesses; they bought large tracts of real estate in the northeastern part of Tulsa, which they had subdivided and sold exclusively to other blacks
--the city was named Greenwood after it's first street, Greenwood Avenue, which was named after a city in Mississippi--which became very popular with people fleeing racism in Mississippi
--as other blacks soon followed suit, buying area around Tulsa near what became Greenwood; Stradford later built the Stradford Hotel on Greenwood Avenue, where blacks could enjoy the amenities of the downtown hotels who served only whites; was designated only for "colored people" even though black ownership was unheard of
--when Tulsa became a booming and rather well noted town in the United States, many people considered Tulsa to be two separate cities rather than one city of united communities; white residents of Tulsa referred to the area north of the Frisco railroad tracks as "Little Africa".
--at it's height, Greenwood was home to about 10,000 black residents
--one of it's most prominent streets, Detroit Avenue, contained a number of expensive houses belonging to doctors, lawyers, and other business owners. The buildings on Greenwood Avenue housed the offices of almost all of Tulsa's black lawyers, realtors, doctors, heaters, grocery stores, nightclubs, drug stores, churches, funeral homes, restaurants, banks, hotels and and other professionals--along with two airports; there were fifteen well-known black American physicians, one of whom, Dr. A.C. Jackson, was considered the "most able Negro surgeon in America"
--because blacks were so prosperous in the city, the KKK membership around Tulsa ballooned to 3200 members immediately after WWI, using the belief that blacks were stealing prosperity from whites
--On May 30th, 1921 Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old shoe shiner took the elevator at nearby building to use the restroom where 17-year-old Sarah Page accused him of sexual assault----which was later believed to be an excuse and justification for the klan to rile up their white base
-- although she never pressed charges, the story made the front page of the Tulsa Tribune with the headline “Nab Negro for attacking girl in elevator”, while rumors began circulating that a white lynch mob was searching for Rowland
--the incident further divided the town with one side believing Rowland raped Page and the other holding on to the belief that he simply tripped as he got onto the elevator and grabbed onto Page’s arm as he tried to catch his balance. Hundreds began to gather outside of the county jail that held Rowland. First, a group of armed whites, followed by a group of armed black men fearful of Rowland’s safety and determined to protect him.
--what happened next was terrorism: before dawn on June 1, 1921, police assisted white militia and klansmen in shooting black men, women and children indiscriminately, setting fires to homes, businesses and people and calling in the military to drop airplane bombs on the city to curb a "Negro uprising"--arresting 6000 and killing 300+ black people, including famed surgeon A.C. Jackson, who was shot in the back
--the riot was a means to put "niggers back in their place"
--until recently, the massacre was omitted from ANY state and local records
--though the city was rebuilt and flourished several times afterwards, none compared to the heights it had achieved immediately surrounding WWI