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Black Wall Street

Greenwood District Tulsa, Oklahoma

Before 1905, Tulsa was a minor, rural town with a small economic base. The discovery of large oil deposits in 1905 led to a tremendous financial boost to the city and created several millionaires including J. Paul Getty. By the time Oklahoma was admitted into the Union on November 16, 1907, it led the country in oil production. Wealth from oil wells went mostly to white owners but some of the money reached Blacks in the community. In 1921, the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Oklahoma was the business, entertainment, cultural and religious center of African American life for more than 11,000 people.

Racial segregation did not allow Blacks to shop or live downtown. As a result, the Black community thrived by establishing businesses and depending on itself. Everything they needed could be found in Greenwood. It contained more than 100 businesses, two theaters, a newspaper, two African American schools, drug stores, grocery stores, cleaners, hotels, automobile repair shops, lawyers, a hospital and 15 doctors’ offices. Most of Greenwood’s residents were homeowners. Approximately 17 of them were reported to be millionaires.

While on a trip to Tulsa, Booker T. Washington visited Greenwood and dubbed it “The Negro Wall Street.” During the Civil Rights era of the 1960’s the name was changed to "The Black Wall Street."

President Benjamin Harris opened Oklahoma to new settlements on April 22, 1889. Many of the settlers were Native Americans who along with freed slaves were forced to leave southern states. Their journey to Oklahoma was known as the “Trail of Tears”.

Blacks have been a part of Oklahoma's history since its acquisition as a part of the Louisiana Purchase.  They were cowboys, farmers, railroad workers, and laborers. In 1880, there were more than 44 Black towns established in Oklahoma. Almost a third of them are still in existence today. By the end of 1890, Oklahoma's Black population was about 3000. By 1900, it increased to approximately 55,000.

After becoming a state in November of 1907, the first bill passed by the Oklahoma Legislature was a law segregating the state. Senate Bill 1 known as the “Coach Law” established “separate but equal” accommodations for Blacks on all forms of rail transportation including railroads and streetcars.  Tulsa also had a Ku Klux Klan membership of more than 3000 members, and it was not long before racial tensions exploded.

PHOTOS
Top L, R:
 Street Sign. Intersection of Archer and Greenwood.

Second L: Dry Goods Store in Red Indian Territory 1890. The territory later became a part of Oklahoma. R: Dreamland Movie Theater prior to 1921. Owned by John and Loula Williams. 

Third L: Three-story office building owned by the Williams. It housed doctors, dentists, and attorney's offices, an ice cream and confectionery parlor, a rooming house, barbers and realtors. R: John Williams and family. The first Black family in Tulsa to own an automobile.  

Fourth L: Williams East-End Garage. R: First Greenwood business built by O.W. Gurley and his wife Emma. It contained a rooming house and a grocery store and was also the first home of Vernon AME Church. 

Bottom L: Vernon AME Church, founded in 1905 is one of Greenwood's oldest churches. The congregation was in the process of building a new church when the building was burned to the ground during the attack on  Tulsa in 1921. Determined to move forward, the congregation used existing funds and donations to rebuild the church's basement on the same site before the end of 1922. The church was completed in 1928 and still stands on the same location. R: Mt. Zion Baptist Church was organized in 1909. It held services in temporary locations before breaking ground for the church at Haskell Street and Elgin Avenue. The congregation raised funds and the church was finished in May of 1921, just two weeks before it was burned down in the burning and bombing of Tulsa. 

Photos taken December 22, 2008. Black and white photos courtesy of Greenwood Cultural Center.

SOURCES
Books

Appiah, Kwame, Anthony and Gates, Henry Louis, ed. "Africana The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience." 1st ed. New York: Civitas, 1999. Print.

Finkelman, Paul, Ed. "The Encyclopedia of African American History." Vol. 4. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

Johnson, Hannibal. "Up From the Ashes." Austin: Eakin Press, 2000.

Ross, Don, "A Century of African American Experience Greenwood Ruins, Resilience and Renaissance." Tulsa: Publisher Unk, 2003. Print.

Rucker, Walter and Upton, James Nathaniel, ed. "Encyclopedia of American Race Riots." Vol.2 N-Z, Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007.

Internet
Ellsworth, Scott. "The Tulsa Race Riot." tulsareparations.org/TulsaRiot.htm, Web. 16 Dec. 2008.

Lecture

Newman, Princetta. The History of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Various locations throughout Tulsa, Tulsa, OK. 22 Dec. 2008. Discussion/Tour.

Site Visits
Greenwood Cultural Center Tour. Tulsa, OK. 22 Dec. 2008.
Greenwood Tour. Tulsa, OK, 22 Dec. 2008.

Posted to website: December 29, 2008.

Continued next section.

The Burning and Bombing of Black Wall Street

Greenwood District Tulsa, Oklahoma

On May 30, 1921, Dick Rowland a Black 19-year-old, shining shoes in downtown Tulsa needed to use the bathroom. He had permission from the city’s white business owners he permission of the cities white business owners to use only one restroom in the area. It was located on the top floor of the Drexel Building. To get there, Rowland had to ride the elevator.

Accounts of what happened next differ. It was reported that on his way down to the main floor, Rowland stumbled getting off the elevator and brushed against Sarah Page, the white elevator operator. It was also reported that the elevator jolted and Rowland bumped against Page. Regardless of what happened, by the time Rowland got off the elevator, Page accused him of assaulting her.

Rumors quickly spread about a white girl being attacked by a Black man. At approximately 10:00 a.m. on May 31, Rowland was arrested and held downtown at the courthouse pending trial.

The local newspaper, Tulsa Tribune, ran a story titled, "Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in an Elevator.” The article described Rowland as “Diamond Dick” and told of a poor orphan girl working her way through college as an elevator operator. It said that he tore her clothes and it suggested that he tried to rape her. The article went on to state that her hands and face were scratched. Page did not have a scratch or torn clothes. In fact, she was not an orphan. She deserted her husband in Kansas City and was served with divorce papers two months prior to the alleged incident. Page later changed her story and told police that Dick Rowland accidentally bumped against her. By the time she corrected her story it was too late. Another article in the Tribune reported that a mob should gather in front of the courthouse and lynch Rowland.

The newspaper articles enraged the white residents of Tulsa. A crowd of some 400 hundred white men gathered at the courthouse and there was talk of hanging Rowland. Lynching in Tulsa was not uncommon. In Oklahoma, it was not considered a crime to kill a Black man. A few months before the alleged attack of Sarah Page, an accused killer was taken from jail, driven to a tree out in the county, and hanged. The procession of cars was estimated to be a mile long and the local police directed traffic. Seventy miles south of Tulsa in Holdenville, a man accused of attacking a white woman was dragged out of jail by a white mob, hanged from a telephone pole and shot numerous times.

Word of the growing all white crowd gathering at the courthouse spread to Greenwood. Armed Black, some of them World War I veterans took a stand and decided there would be no lynching. They rushed to the courthouse to ensure Dick Rowland’s safety. They offered to guard the jail but Sheriff Willard McCullough told them that Rowland would be safe. The Black men returned to Greenwood.

Hours later, the crowd grew to more than 2000 people, most of them armed. Again, the armed Black men returned to the courthouse and again they were told by the Sheriff that Rowland would be safe. As the men left, one of them was confronted by a white man who tried to take his gun. A fight ensued and shots were fired. The altercation began 17 hours of the racial violence.

The sheriff’s department deputized hundreds of white men. The only prerequisite was that they be white. Most of them were not even asked their name and address. Once deputized, the white men began shooting any Black person they saw downtown. Black men, women, and children tried to run to safety but they were met on all sides by gun fire. Many of them were killed.

The mobs of white men began burning the homes and businesses of Greenwood at about 1:00 a.m. on June 1. They marched to the north side of downtown. Shot every Black person they found. They burned every home and every business but not before first looting them. Large trucks were used to take pianos, furniture and other valuables left behind by Black families. They took everything of value.

The violence against Greenwood residents had little to do with avenging the alleged assault of Sarah Page. Its purpose was to send a message to Blacks that they are to stay in their place as second-class citizens and that they have no rights that whites are obligated to respect.

The mob of white men did not allow firemen to put out he fires nor did they allow medical staff to treat or transport wounded Blacks. Telephone and telegraph lines were cut and the railroad leading out of Tulsa was blocked. Communication with the outside world was cut off.

Before sunrise on June 1, more than a dozen planes went up and began dropping turpentine bombs on the homes of Blacks while white men with machine guns and other weapons fired on them from all directions. A Black man who did not believe that the white mob would kill a veteran, put on his uniform, and stood in front of his home. As the mob approached, they shot him and set his home on fire.

Governor, James B. A. Robinson called out the National Guard and placed the area under martial law. Black men were gathered

ded, arrested, or held in confinement.

In the days following the attack on Greenwood, Tulsa’s white businesses experienced an economic slow-down due to trauma inflicted on the most of the city’s Black labor force.  After several days, Black men were released but were not allowed on the streets unless they wore a badge authorized by their white employer and a city official.

Many cities across the country offered assistance but were turned away. Tulsa's city officials stated that they could handle the problem themselves. More than 1200 homes were destroyed. Over 4000 Blacks were left homeless and over 1000 Blacks spent the harsh winter in tents. Few Black Tulsans had insurance. The ones who did were denied their claims. 

Charges against Dick Rowland were dismissed and no one was ever imprisoned for the burning and bombing of Greenwood, The Black Wall Street.

Note:
 Princetta Newman, tour guide and direct descendant of Greenwood resident John Allen Cloman, took this writer on a tour of Greenwood. Her encyclopedic knowledge of the area made the visit a trip back in history to a time when Greenwood thrived. Black Wall Street Tour. Princetta R. Newman, The Voice of Black Wall Street, 322 North Greenwood, Tulsa, OK. 74120: Phone: 918-955-2689. Percy White, Site Historian.

PHOTOS
Top L:
 Greenwood burning. R: The aftermath. 

Second L:  White mob with guns participating in the destruction of Greenwood. R: Black man being detained.
Third L: 
Black man being detained. R: Black man killed during mob attack. 

Fourth L: Black man killed in the street. R: The body of a burned Black man.

Fifth: Panoramic view of Greenwood. 

Bottom L, R: The area believed to have been used as a mass grave site for the African Americans killed during the attack on Greenwood.  

Color photos taken December 22, 2008. Black and white photos courtesy of Greenwood Cultural Center.

SOURCES

DVD
Michael Wilkerson. "The Tulsa Lynching of 1921 - A Hidden Story.", Barrister Productions, L.C., 1999. DVD.

Books
Appiah, Kwame, Anthony and Gates, Henry Louis, ed. "Africana The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience." 1st ed. New York: Civitas, 1999. Print.

Finkelman, Paul, Ed. "The Encyclopedia of African American History." Vol. 4. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

Johnson, Hannibal. "Up From the Ashes." Austin: Eakin Press, 2000.

Ross, Don, "A Century of African American Experience Greenwood Ruins, Resilience and Renaissance." Tulsa: Publisher Unk, 2003. Print.

Rucker, Walter and Upton, James Nathaniel, ed. "Encyclopedia of American Race Riots." Vol.2 N-Z, Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007.

Internet
Ellsworth, Scott. "The Tulsa Race Riot." tulsareparations.org/TulsaRiot.htm, Web. 16 Dec. 2008.

Lecture
Newman, Princetta. The History of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Various locations throughout the Greenwood Section Tulsa, OK. 22 Dec. 2008. Discussion/Tour.

Site Visits
Greenwood Cultural Center Tour. Tulsa, OK. 22 Dec. 2008.
Greenwood Tour. Tulsa, OK. 22 Dec. 2008.

Posted to website: December 29, 2008.


Decoration Day/Memorial Day
Hampton Park
Charleston, SC

While doing research for a book, David W. Blight, professor at Yale University found documents indicating “Memorial Day” was originally known as “Decoration Day” and was first celebrated by African Americans.

In 1865, the last year of the civil war, Confederate soldiers detained Union prisoners in Charleston, SC at a makeshift prison on the grounds of Washington Race Course and Jockey Club. An estimated 257 Union captives died from exposure and disease while living in the prison's subhuman conditions. The dead were buried in a mass grave on the grounds of the race track.  After the Confederates evacuated Charleston, Black men dug new graves and reburied the Union soldiers.

On May 1, 1865, a gathering of approximately 3,500 people consisting of little Black girls carrying roses, Black women holding crosses and baskets of flowers, Black men walking in-step and marching union soldiers paraded to the cemetery. The children sang and preachers read from the bible. Afterwards, people ate and relaxed. The remembrance of fallen soldiers began as “Decoration Day” later known as “Memorial Day” and was first celebrated by African Americans.


PHOTOS
Former Washington Race Track and location for the first Decoration Day.  

Photos taken May 1, 2012.

SOURCES
Books
Kagan, Neil and Hyslop, Stephen G, ed. "Eyewitness to the Civil War - The Complete History From Secession to Reconstruction." Edition not provided. Publisher and Publish Date not provided. Print.

Internet
Blight, Davis W, "The First Decoration Day." davidwblight.com/memorial.htmWeb. 10 Feb. 2012.

"79. Washington Race Track 1792-1900." Holzman.com/Flash/window.asp?HMID=29, Web. 22 Jun. 2012.

Site Visit
Hampton Park. Charleston, SC. 1 May 2012.

Posted to website: October 8, 2012.



1.

Juneteenth and Ashton Villa
2328 Broadway Avenue J
Galveston, TX 77550
409-765-3402

On June 19, 1865, US Army General Gordon Granger informed the people of Galveston, TX, from the balcony of Ashton Villa, that an order from President Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, freed all enslaved people in Texas. It took more than two years for the message to reach Galveston. The president's order however, did not free enslaved people in states loyal to the Union. Juneteenth celebrations commemorating freedom for those formerly enslaved began in Galveston, TX and is now a state holiday in Virginia.


PHOTOS

Top L, R: The location of US Army General Gordon Granger's pronouncement that all enslaved people in Texas are free. 

Second: Plaque on Al Edwards statue.

Bottom: State Representative Al Edwards, overwhelmingly responsible for Juneteenth becoming a Texas state holiday in 1979.

RESOURCES
Internet
"Juneteenth" www.juneteenth.com/history.htm, Web. 19 Dec 2019.

"Why Juneteenth Is a Celebration OF Hope"  www.nationalgeographic.com/history/2020/06/juneteenth-celebration-hope/#close, Web. 19 Dec 2019.

"Galveston: Ashton Villa" https://texasindependencetrail.com/plan-your-adventure/historic-sites-and-cities/sites/ashton-villa, Web. 19 Dec 2019.

Site Visit
Ashton Villa, Galveston, TX. 19 Jun. 2019.

Posted to website: June  18, 2020. 


Jackson Ward
Richmond, VA

The following is inscribed on the Jackson Ward History Marker:

                                                                            Jackson Ward

Before the Civil War this neighborhood was home to free Blacks and enslaved individuals, along with European immigrants and Jewish residents. The area served as a city electoral district (1871-1903) and is still called Jackson Ward.  By the early 20th century it had become one of the premier centers of African American business, social, and residential life in the United States. Black-owned businesses such as the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, the Southern Aid Insurance Company, the Richmond Planet newspaper, and the Miller’s Hotel (later Eggleston Hotel) thrived during legalized racial segregation. In the 1950’s the new interstate highway bisected Jackson Ward. In 1978 the area became a National Historic Landmark. Also, see Maggie Walker and A.D. Price.

PHOTOS
L:
 Jackson Ward History Marker.  R. The Eggleston Hotel.
Photos taken May 31, 2014 and September 19, 2008.

SOURCES
Books
Plater, Michael A.  "Africana American Entrepreneurship in Richmond, 1890-1940 - The Story of R.C. Scott." 1st ed. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1996. Print.

Internet
"Jackson Ward Historic District." dig.library.vcu.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/jwh, Web. 31 May 2014.
                       
Site Visit
Jackson Ward, Richmond, VA. 31 May. 2014.

Posted to website: June 1, 2014.

The Rosewood Massacre

Rosewood, Florida

The following is inscribed on the Rosewood, Florida Historical Marker:

Racial violence erupted in the small and quiet Rosewood community January 1-7, 1923. Rosewood, a predominantly colored community, was home to the Bradley, Carrier, Carter, Goins and Hall families, among others. Residents supported a school taught by Mahulda “Gussie” Brown Carrier, three churches, and a Masonic lodge. Many of them owned their homes, some were business owners and others worked in nearby Sumner and at the Cummer Lumber Mill.

This quiet life came to an end on January 1, 1923, when a white Sumner woman accused a Black man of assaulting her. In the search for her alleged attacker, whites terrorized and killed Rosewood residents. In the days of fear and violence that followed, many Rosewood citizens sought refuge in the nearby woods. White merchant John M. Wright and other courageous whites sheltered some of the fleeing men, women and children. Whites burned Rosewood and looted livestock and property; two were killed while attacking a home. Five Blacks also lost their lives: Sam Carter, who was tortured for information and shot to death on January 1: Sarah Carrier: Lexie Gordon; James Carrier; and Mingo Williams. Those who survived were forever scarred.

Haunted by what happened, Rosewood residents took a vow of silence, lived in fear and never returned to claim their property. That silence was broken seventy-one years later. In 1994 survivors, including Minnie Lee Langley, Arnett Turner Goins and Wilson Hall, filed a claims bill in Florida Legislature. A Special Master, an expert appointed by the speaker of the House, ruled that the state had a “moral obligation” to compensate survivors for the loss of property, violation of constitutional rights, and mental anguish. On May 4, 1994, Governor Lawton Chiles signed a 2.1 million compensation bill. Nine survivors received $150,000 each for mental anguish, and a state university scholarship fund was established for families of Rosewood and their descendants. A fund was also established to compensate those Rosewood families who could demonstrate loss. This Historical marker was dedicated by Governor Jeb Bush in May, 2004. A Florida Heritage Landmark Sponsored by the Real Rosewood Foundation. Inc. and the Florida Department of State.

PHOTOS
Top L, R:
 Rosewood History Marker. 
Second L: History marker vandalized. Picture courtesy of Lizzie R. Jenkins, Real Rosewood Foundation Inc. P.O. Box 252, Archer, FL 32618. R: Lizzie PRB Jenkins, direct descendant of Rosewood resident Mahulda "Gussie" Brown Carrier. It was through her research, determination and knowledge of local history as well as the cooperation of former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush that the Rosewood History Marker was erected. 
Third L: Rosewood road sign. Notice the bullet holes. R: Former home of store owner John Wright. 
Fourth L: Home of the former Sheriff of Archer, Florida, Bob Ellis Walker.  
Bottom L, R:  Graves of Bob Walker and his wife. 
Photos taken December 23, 2009, except photo of vandalized history marker.

SOURCES
Books
Appiah, Kwame, Anthony and Gates, Henry Louis, ed. "Africana The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience." 1st ed. New York: Civitas, 1999. Print.

DVD
John Singleton. "Rosewood", Warner Brothers, 1997. DVD

Internet
"The Real Rosewood Foundation." rosewoodflorida.com/history.html, Web. 11 Dec. 2009.

Lecture
Jenkins, Lizzie R. The Rosewood Massacre. Various locations throughout Rosewood, FL. 23 Dec. 2009. Discussion/Tour

Site Visit
Rosewood. Rosewood, FL. 23 Dec. 2009.

Posted to website: December 26, 2009.

50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs, Justice and Freedom, August 28, 2013

On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 people peacefully demonstrated in Washington, DC for Jobs and Freedom. Speakers included: A. Phillip Randolph, John Lewis, Whitney M. Young Jr., Rabbi Joachim Prinz, Floyd McKissic for James Farmer, Roy Wilkens and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The March on Washington culminated in Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He stated,

"America has given the negro people a bad check which has come back marked insufficient funds. But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt."
                       

Eighteen days after the 1963 March on Washington, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Carol Denise McNair were killed by a bomb while attending 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. This action was seen by many in the civil rights community as retaliation against the 1963 March on Washington. 

On August 28, 2013, the 50th Anniversary March on Washington, DC was held to commemorate the 1963 march. There were many speakers including Presidents Carter, Clinton and keynote speaker President Obama.

PHOTOS
Top L: 
1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. R: The Washington Monument.  
Second L,R*Lincoln Memorial. 
Picture taken August 28, 2008, except black and white picture. *New Pictures, taken August 28, 2013.

SOURCES
Books
Appiah, Kwame, Anthony and Gates, Henry Louis, ed. "Africana The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience." 1st ed. New York: Civitas, 1999. Print.

Finkelman, Paul, Ed. "The Encyclopedia of African American History." Vol. 4. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

Site Visits

The United States Mall, Washington, DC. 28 Aug, 2013.
The United States Mall, Washington, DC. 28 Aug. 2008.

Posted to website: August 28, 2008. Updated August 31, 2013.

The Million Man March 1995

On October 16, 1995, the largest demonstration in the history of Washington, DC of more than one million Black men gathered on the National Mall. Inspired by event leader and organizer Minister Louis Farrakhan, participants were invited to atone for their behavior as men, accept responsibility for having a primary role in the family, and to proclaim their right to equal justice under the law.

Marchers pledged to support their families and end violence and abuse toward women. They made a solemn promise to abstain from the use of illegal drugs and alcohol and to build in their communities Black businesses and social/cultural institutions.


PHOTOS
Million Man March 1995.                       

SOURCES                        

Internet
"Million Man March, 1995." Blackpast.org/aah/million-man-march-1995, Web. 28 Sep. 2015.

"About the Million Man March - Glimps of Heaven." noi.org/about-million-man-march/, Web. 28 Sep. 2015.

 

Site Visit
The United States Mall, Washington, DC. 16 Oct. 1995.

Posted to website: September 28, 2015.


The Million Man March 2015 Justice or Else 20th Anniversary

As stated on the justiceorelse.com website under Vision:  

We want justice!  We want equal justice under the law.  We want justice applied equally regardless to creed or class or color.

The Demand

 

WE want Justice for Blacks in America who have given America 460 years of sweat and blood to make her rich and powerful.                   

We want an immediate end to police brutality and mob attacks.

WE want Justice for the Native American Indians.


We want Justice for the Mexican and Latinos.

We want Justice for Women.

We want Justice for the Poor.

We want Justice for the Incarcerated.

We want Justice for Veterans.

We want Land.

PHOTOS
The Million Man March October 10, 2015.


SOURCES

Internet
"Vision." justiceorelse.com, Web. 9 Oct. 2015.

 

Site Visits
The United States Mall, Washington, DC. 10 Oct. 2015.

Posted to website: October 11, 2015.


 

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