Black Wall Street's Second Destruction

After the Tulsa Race Massacre, Greenwood rebuilt strong. Then came "urban renewal."

Read Time: 1 minute

June 1, 2021, 11:00 AM PDT

By rkaufman


Black Wall Street

Svineyard / Shutterstock

The Tulsa Daily World’s June 2, 1921 morning edition headline read: “Dead Estimated at 100: City is Quiet. $2000 to Start Fund for Relief. Negros Gladly Accept Guards. 5,000 Negro Refugees Guarded in Camp at County Fairgrounds.”

Fewer than 24 hours after Ku Klux Klan leaders — along with the Tulsa Police Department and the Oklahoma National Guard — carried out the nation’s deadliest and most destructive massacre, Tulsa’s paper of record was already at work crafting a narrative that would shape the way that the city would think about the massacre in Greenwood for the next 100 years.

Thanks to recent scholarship and pop culture depictions of the massacre in Greenwood, more and more Americans are coming to know the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre that destroyed Black Wall Street. But the common narrative — that the massacre destroyed the neighborhood and it never recovered — is incorrect. In fact, Greenwood’s resilient residents rebuilt their community almost immediately after the massacre — in defiance of hastily-enacted racist zoning codes — giving rise to the popular use of the neighborhood’s moniker of Black Wall Street after, not before, the massacre. And while a price cannot be put on the 300 lives lost, the violence that really destroyed Black Wall Street wasn’t physical, but structural.

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