For many, Black History Month is the history of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights Movement, and other classic stories. While it is important to be reminded of these very important people and events from the past, it is also good to expand our horizons even more. On this #BlackHistoryMonth post, we bring you an event that is rarely spoken or taught in schools, but is a very important moment in Black History.
In the early 1900's, there was a place referred to as the Black Wall Street. It was Black America's most prosperous community, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The all-black community was full of businesses, churches, schools, and so much more. The dollar circulated around 36-100 times each year before it left the community. Many who resided in Tulsa were attorneys and doctors with PhD. Tulsa represented grit, devotion, and perseverance.
After everything that happened before the 1900's, from the beginning of slavery until then, this community proved that even when some are given absolutely no opportunity and stripped of everything possession, it is still possible to thrive. It is especially hard for Blacks to not take this repeating cycle of history and use it to define their worth and how much they can accomplish.
Although Tulsa was a community that many saw as a positive outcome of the unfortunate events from before the 1900's, many saw The Black Wall Street as a threat.
On June 1, 1921, the largest massacre of nonmilitary Americans in the history of this country took place. The Ku Klux Klan led the rioting and destruction of Black Wall Street. Many historians believe that this hateful destruction was based on jealousy because of the outcomes of World War I. Blacks who fought in the war put a lot on the line, where most lost all that they had. However, in Tulsa, they were able to rebuild and start again. This angered many people and raised jealousy in different communities.
The riots started when a white woman was allegedly attacked by a black man, which then made it to the local newspaper, leading to tensions and the fall of this black empire. Around 1,500 homes were burned, along with businesses, institutions and churches. To this very day, only one block of Tulsa from before June 1, 1921 remains untouched. It is estimated that a devastating 2,000 to 3,000 people were killed, all of whom were innocent. Bombs were dropped from the sky, along with the Ku Klux Klan attacking and killing all the citizens in Tulsa. Bodies were thrown in the river, mass graves, ditches and even mine shafts.
It is heartbreaking and mind blowing to hear that such events could happen, after all that Blacks had been through already. However, those who survived this day in Tulsa, Oklahoma did not allow such devastation to control and manipulate them. Slowly, but surely, the process of rebuilding the community was and still is going. It may not be the Black Wall Street it used to be today, but it shows that grit is the true secret ingredient to success. This goes to show that when you get knocked down you have to get back up, and when you get knocked down twice, you have to get back up once again. This community didn't let bigots define their perseverance and grit, they just utilized it to strengthen the community and their insight on the world.
Mahal Williams, Head Producer and Black History Month Content Curator