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The Mackey home is significant because it is the only home built in the 1920’s that still stands in what was once a thriving area of the Black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Its very existence demonstrates that the working class Black family was, in some instances, able to rise above the racial discrimination, to build a substantial home that would parallel its counterparts in the elite white neighborhoods.

In 1926 the Mackey’s had a stately two-story brick home built that became a symbol for Blacks as they tried to gain their share of economic resources. The home became an integral part of the community as it was the site for social events, weddings, etc. It was difficult for Blacks to obtain home financing from local lending institutions; the Mackey’s probably obtained financing from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The first home occupied by the Sam Mackey family was a frame structure located at 327 North Greenwood. During the Tulsa Race Riot of June 1921, the house was destroyed by fire. In a 1967 interview with the Oklahoma Eagle, Tulsa’s only remaining Black newspaper, Mrs. Vernon Wilson Prince, the Mackey’s only child, recalled the days of the Riot. Her mother’s brother, Barney Cleaver, what was the first and only (to that point) Black peace officer, was the only Black who could safely walk the streets during the Riot. Mr. Cleaver came to warn the Mackey’s of the approaching whites. The Mackey’s, fearing for their safety, left their home.

Upon returning the next day, the Mackey’s found only ashes left of their home. Many homeowners who had insurance learned that in their time of need, the insurance company wouldn’t cover their losses, because in the words of the insurance company, the policy contained no “riot clause”. In spite of this and other barriers in financing, the Mackey’s said they would build another house, and did.

The researcher cannot determine the name of the architect who designed the Mackey home, but according to a newspaper account he was one of Tulsa’s most talented. He won a $1,000.00 architectural prize for the design of the home. The house included a number of unusual features for that time, for example, the lights could be turned on at the foot of the stairs and turned off at the top. There are also spacious walk-in closets.

It should be noted that the Mackeys were not famous people. They were indeed ordinary working people who made their living by doing domestic work and yard work for prominent local people. While Tulsa’s White elite such as the Skellys, the LaFortunes and Gettys were building their homes in the prestigious Maple Ridge area of Tulsa, the Mackey’s demonstrated that the same could be done by working class Blacks. 

Although Mr. and Mrs. Mackey are deceased, their home is viewed as one of the last vestiges of Black history in North Tulsa. Most of the initial structures in the area have been torn down by the Urban Renewal Authority in an effort to modernize the inner city. The house is currently maintained by the Greenwood Cultural Center. Guided tours are available by appointment.  

Plan Your Visit

M–F • 9am – 5pm

322 N Greenwood Ave
Tulsa, OK 74120