As I continue my series on the subject of “The Boule, Steve Cokely and the Round Table”, one of the subjects covered on the recent episode was about the story of Black Wall Street.
This is an important piece of history that needs to be taught in U.S. public schools. Unfortunately like most of true American history on black people, the story never gets told.
In fact, while I was sharing the story about Black Wall Street during my broadcast, I received this email from a listener:
As a white guy listening to your show, I am amazed to hear about Black Wall Street. No surprize that I was never taught this in school! I pride myself on knowing a lot of hidden history, but I never knew a thing about this.
Thanks for educating!
This message is proof that we all can appreciate the truth about American history no matter what our racial ethnicity may be.
Here is an article that I found which was published February 9, 2011 in the San Francisco Bay View, which is a National Black Newspaper.
What happened to Black Wall Street on June 1, 1921?
Black Wall Street, the name fittingly given to one of the most affluent all-Black communities in America, was bombed from the air and burned to the ground by mobs of envious Whites. In a period spanning fewer than 12 hours, a once thriving Black business district in northern Tulsa lay smoldering – a model community destroyed and a major African-American economic movement resoundingly defused.
The night’s carnage left some 3,000 African Americans dead and over 600 successful businesses lost. Among these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half dozen private airplanes and even a bus system. As could have been expected, the impetus behind it all was the infamous Ku Klux Klan, working in consort with ranking city officials and many other sympathizers.
The best description of Black Wall Street, or Little Africa as it was also known, would be to compare it to a mini Beverly Hills. It was the golden door of the Black community during the early 1900s, and it proved that African Americans could create a successful infrastructure. That’s what Black Wall Street was all about.
The dollar circulated 36 to 100 times, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community. Now a dollar leaves the Black community in 15 minutes. As for resources, there were Ph.D.s residing in Little Africa, Black attorneys and doctors. One doctor was Dr. Berry, who owned the bus system. His average income was $500 a day, hefty pocket change in 1910.
It was a time when the entire stateof Oklahoma had only two airports, yet six Blacks owned their own planes. It was a very fascinating community.
The mainstay of the community was to educate every child. Nepotism was the one word they believed in. And that’s what we need to get back to. The main thoroughfare was Greenwood Avenue, and it was intersected by Archer and Pine Streets. From the first letters in each of those three names you get G.A.P. And that’s where the renowned R&B music group the GAP Band got its name. They’re from Tulsa.
Black Wall Street was a prime example of the typical Black community in America that did business, but it was in an unusual location. You see, at the time, Oklahoma was set aside to be a Black and Indian state. There were over 28 Black townships there. One third of the people who traveled in the terrifying “Trail of Tears” alongside the Indians between 1830 and 1842 were Black people. The citizens of this proposed Indian and Black state chose a Black governor, a treasurer from Kansas named McDade. But the Ku Klux Klan said that if he assumed office that they would kill him within 48 hours.
A lot of Blacks owned farmland, and many of them had gone into the oil business.
The community was so tight and wealthy because they traded dollars hand to hand and because they were dependent upon one another as a result of the Jim Crow laws. It was not unusual that if a resident’s home accidentally burned down, it could be rebuilt within a few weeks by neighbors. This was the type of scenario that was going on day to day on Black Wall Street.
When Blacks intermarried into the Indian culture, some of them received their promised “40 acres and a mule” and with that came whatever oil was later found on the properties. On Black Wall Street, a lot of global business was conducted.
The community flourished from the early 1900s until June 1, 1921. That’s when the largest massacre of nonmilitary Americans in the history of this country took place, and it was led by the Ku Klux Klan. Imagine walking out of your front door and seeing 1,500 homes being burned. It must have been amazing. (Read the full story here)