Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tulsa's Former Black Wall Street Tries to Remake Itself

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tulsa's Former Black Wall Street Tries to Remake Itself

Article excerpt

TULSA, Okla. * Not far from a gleaming $183 million arena and other signs of a midsize city striving to become something more, smooth pavement gives way to potholes, rusted fences and shuttered storefronts. They're the remnants of what was once known as Tulsa's Black Wall Street, before one of the worst race riots in U.S. history.

Businesses that are still open in this north-side section that some locals are adamant about reviving the off-brand gas-and-go stores, the thrift shops and salvage yards are often separated from the next open place by gnarled weeds, rusted fencing and vacant lots.

Much of this 35 square blocks of it comprised the Black Wall Street, a southwestern Harlem of sorts and home to a middle and upper class of 9,000 African-Americans. Here, shop owners, doctors and entrepreneurs some of them freed slaves looking for a new start in the recently incorporated oil boom town thrived in Tulsa.

In 1921, over the course of roughly 16 hours, whites attacked and decimated the economic and cultural mecca. The tally of casualties seemed more in line with the aftermath of a military battle 300 dead, 800 wounded, more than 8,000 left homeless.

Blacks rebuilt the area in the decades that followed, only to see their work wiped out during the so-called urban progress of the 1960s.

Attempting to make good on failed hopes of an eventual renaissance, black leaders want to bring 100 businesses here by 2021, marking the riot's 100th anniversary.

"How can we pay homage by building this community back up to what Black Wall Street was and embracing diversity?" said Reggie Ivey, who grew up in the area and is chief operating officer at the Tulsa Health Department.

Those leading the NorthTulsa100 initiative acknowledge it's an ambitious, perhaps audacious, endeavor. The project is sure to be met with difficulties, as cities around the country confront similar challenges with getting businesses to move back into predominantly African-American areas, particularly poorer ones.

Leaders here are seeking manufacturers, grocery store owners and housing developers. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., among the project's higher-profile supporters, said the initiative was "not looking just for black businesses" but commercial development in general "to re-engage a community that is still scarred years later. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.