Tulsa’s Former Black Wall Street to Be Modernized With Grant

Tulsa’s Former Black Wall Street to Be Modernized With Grant

Black Wall Street
Nearly a century after racists burned Tulsa’s renowned Greenwood District to the ground, Black Wall Street advocates have received funding to restore what’s left of it. Photo: Library of Congress, American National Red Cross

Nearly 100 years after racists burned Tulsa’s renowned Greenwood District to the ground – and murdered hundreds of its residents – advocates of the historic neighborhood commonly known as Black Wall Street have received funding to restore it.

The National Park service awarded The Greenwood Chamber of Commerce a $500,000 grant to renovate buildings in the area, according to The Associated Press (AP).

The group manages the Greenwood Centre, the one-block long business district on Greenwood Avenue north of Archer Street, the Tulsa World reported. Comprised of 10 buildings, the block is all that was left standing of the once 36-block thriving Black community after angry white mobs destroyed it in 1921.

According to Greenwood historian Scott Ellsworth, Black Wall Street boasted the following:

“The black population had grown to almost 11,000 and the community counted two black schools, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Booker T. Washington, one black hospital, and two black newspapers, The Tulsa Star and the Oklahoma Sun. [Greenwood] at the time had some thirteen churches and three fraternal lodges-Masonic, Knights of Pythias, and I.O.O.F.-plus two black theaters and a black public library… Along Detroit Avenue and certain other streets were the neat, sturdy homes of some of those Black Tulsans who owned businesses lining Greenwood Avenue, augmented by the houses of the city’s Black professional class. Within this elite group, some were rumored to have assets in excess of $100,000.”

The horrific massacre which happened May 31, 1921 was largely covered up and forgotten until efforts to obtain reparations for survivors ramped up again in the 2000s.

Those efforts have continued through the present, however, the story still remained largely unknown until it resurfaced again in pop culture when it served as the backdrop for HBO’s popular Watchmen series.

Oklahoma’s education department has also decided to add the Greenwood massacre to its curriculum.

“What we want to ensure is that … we are teaching in a grade-appropriate level those facts that have not been taught in a way they should have been taught in Oklahoma,” said state superintendent Joy Hofmeister. “This is … our history and we should know it.”

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The Chamber announced the funding Tuesday. President Freeman Culver hopes it is the beginning of a line of funding if they steward the money well.

“We hope that it’s obvious we’re committed to preserving the history our ancestors left us,” Culver said, noting they have applied to have the buildings included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Money will be used for roof repairs and rehabilitation projects. It is an answer to current tenants’ complaints that the buildings needed proper maintenance.