To recognize the magnitude of what happened 100 years ago with the Tulsa Race Massacre, you need to understand the importance of the Greenwood area.
By 1921, the Greenwood community was home to a thriving business district, which was known as Black Wall Street.
Oklahoma's Own is looking back in time to show how this neighborhood thrived and how a chance encounter in a Tulsa elevator changed its history.
Plaques lining the sidewalks of Greenwood Avenue tell a story. It is a story of a of a once thriving community; a story of Black success which was known across the United States.
Tulsa historian Princetta Newman shared how bustling Greenwood was: “you could hear music; you could smell food. You could see anybody your wanted to; just stand on the corners long enough, and they would come by.”
Newman’s grandmother witnessed the neighborhood’s heyday up close.
“They couldn’t spend their money anywhere except in these 15 blocks,” Newman stated.
They worked for it wherever: in the oil fields, in other people’s homes, in businesses out of the neighborhood. But they had to bring it back into the neighborhood to spend it. No store outside of that 15 blocks would sell to them.”
100 years later, the plaques lining the sidewalks serve as a reminder of this community’s prosperous era.
Michael Reed grew up hearing the stories of Black Wall Street and worked with leaders to get the markers installed in the early 1990s. More plaques were added in the mid-2000s.
“We developed our community, and that is something I’m really proud of; and I want the world to know it,” Reed said. “Recognition of the pioneers; the historic value and contribution of the citizens that were here in the early 1900s.”
These markers represent something else, too: an ever-present reminder of what hate could destroy.