During the oil boom of the 1910s, the area of northeast Oklahoma around Tulsa flourished, including the Greenwood neighborhood, which came to be known as "the Negro Wall Street" (now commonly referred to as "the Black Wall Street"). The term "Negro Wall Street" was coined by none other than famed African-American author and educator, Booker T. Washington. At the time, the Greenwood District was home to dozens of prominent African-American businessmen. Greenwood boasted a variety of thriving businesses that were very successful up until the events known as the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. In fact, the district was so successful that a dollar would stay within the district an estimated nineteen months before being spend elsewhere. Not only did black Americans want to contribute to the success of their own shops, but there were also racial segregation laws that prevented them from shopping anywhere other than Greenwood.
Following the events known as the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, the area was rebuilt and thrived (with more than 100 MORE African-American businesses in place than there were before the riot itself) until the 1960s when desegregation allowed blacks to shop in areas from which they were previously restricted. Detroit Avenue, along the edge of Standpipe Hill, contained a number of expensive houses belonging to doctors, lawyers and business owners. The buildings on Greenwood Avenue housed the offices of almost all of Tulsa’s black lawyers, realtors, doctors, and other professionals. Deep Greenwood, as the area at the intersection of Greenwood and Archer Avenues was known, served as a model African-American community to towns worldwide. At the time of the riot, there were fifteen well-known black American physicians, one of whom, Dr. A.C. Jackson, was considered the "most able Negro surgeon in America" by the Mayo brothers.Dr. Jackson was shot to death as he surrendered on his porch during the unrest. Greenwood published two newspapers, the Tulsa Star and the Oklahoma Sun, which covered not only Tulsa, but also state and national news and elections. The buildings that housed the newspapers were destroyed during the destruction of Greenwood.
Greenwood was a very religiously active community. At the time of the racial violence there were more than two dozen black American churches and many Christian youth organizations and religious societies.
Tulsa Historical Society
Rudisill Library - African American Resource Center
1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission
Oklahoma Historical Society
OKLAHOMA HISTORICAL SOCIETY ORAL HISTORY COLLECTION
Bill Snodgrass interview, 5/9/1985 (H1985.092)
Bob Hower interview, 4/17/2003 (H2003.017)
Charles Davis interview, 1978 (H1987.053)
Earkysee Sutton interview, 5/14/1987 (H1982.029)
Ethelyn Gimlin interview, 5/13/1983 (H1983.109)
Henry James interview, 7/30/1986 (H19863.047)
Herman Padgett interview, 7/19/1988 (H1988.104)
James Harold Davis interview, 12/22/1988 (1988.142)
Jesse James interview, 7/29/1986 (H1986.042)
John E. Kirkpatrick interview, 6/22/1967 (LL 43, Living Legends Oral History Collection)
Maxine Horner interview, 7/7/1999 (H1999.081)
Ressie Rogers interview, 6/9/1986 (H1986.028)
Ruth Powers interview, 5/5/1983 (H1983.101)
Rosa Davis Skinner interview (H2012.099.014, North Tulsa Oral History Project)
Sally Nash interview (Indian-Pioneer Papers)
Waldo Jones interview (H2012.099.004, North Tulsa Oral History Project)
Dedicated during commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, the Black Wall Street Memorial lists the names of hundreds of Black-owned businesses once housed in the historic Greenwood District. The memorial stands as a symbol of Black entrepreneurship and excellence.
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