Greenwood is a neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As one of the most successful and wealthiest African American communities in the United States during the early 20th Century, it was popularly known as America’s “Black Wall Street” until the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. During the oil boom of the 1910’s, the area of northeast Oklahoma around Tulsa flourished. The area was home to several prominent black businessmen, many of them multimillionaires. Greenwood boasted a variety of thriving businesses that were very successful up until the Tulsa Race Riot. 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. The Tulsa race riot was a large-scale, racially motivated conflict on May 31 and June 1, 1921, in which a group of white people attacked the black community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It resulted in the Greenwood District, also known as “the Black Wall Street” and the wealthiest black community in the United States, being burned to the ground.
During the 16 hours of the assault, more than 800 people were admitted to local white hospitals with injuries (the two black hospitals were burned down), and police arrested and detained more than 6,000 black Greenwood residents at three local facilities. An estimated 10,000 blacks were left homeless, and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire. The official count of the dead by the Oklahoma Department of Vital Statistics was 39, but other estimates of black fatalities vary from 55 to about 300.
The events of the riot were long omitted from local and state histories. “The Tulsa race riot of 1921 was rarely mentioned in history books, classrooms or even in private. Following the riots, the area was rebuilt and thrived until the 1960’s when desegregation allowed blacks to shop in areas that were restricted before.
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