A local group hopes to raise $1 million to rebuild part of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, neighborhood that was known as “Black Wall Street” before it was brutally destroyed in a 1921 riot and massacre.
The Greenwood Chamber of Commerce started the fundraising effort on GoFundMe to rebuild Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood Commercial District.
The fundraiser was started by Stevyn Turner and Freeman Culver on behalf of the nonprofit organization Greenwood Community Development Corporation, one of three entities that are a part of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, according to the Chamber’s website.
The nonprofit’s goal is to “rebuild the North Tulsa community one business and one job at a time, empowering a disadvantaged and underserved community through the provision of small business development training and services,” according to Turner and Culver.
Black Wall Street was in the Greenwood district of North Tulsa and was home to more than 300 black-owned businesses. In segregated America, the district was home to black millionaires, doctors, pharmacists and even a pilot who owned his own private airplane.
The district was destroyed in a horrific 1921 riot that was recently recreated in the opening episode of HBO’s TV series “The Watchmen.” HBO is part of Warner Media, which is the parent company of CNN.
The success of African Americans caused some anger and jealousy from white people in the area, according to Mechelle Brown, director of programs at the Greenwood Cultural Center.
Tulsa race massacre
An encounter between a 19-year-old black man named Dick Rowland and a 17-year-old white girl named Sarah Page in an elevator sparked already building tension in the area. An angry mob demanded the lynching of Rowland, and a white resident was shot by a black resident during an argument, which eventually led to a massacre after an estimated 10,000 white citizens invaded the black neighborhood.
Thirty-five city blocks were burned to the ground, and at least 300 black people were killed during the massacre. Several thousand were left unaccounted for and many fled Tulsa, according to Brown.
The survivors were left with nothing after their homes were looted and $2.7 million in insurance claims were denied. The entire tragedy is documented in a 2001 state historical commission report.
Rebuilding Black Wall Street
The fundraiser focuses on the last 10 buildings of the original Black Wall Street on Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa, its GoFundMe page says. The fundraiser has a goal of $1 million for complete roof replacement on all the buildings, upgrading storefronts and signage, resurfacing parking lots and sidewalks, and more.
A portion of the funds will be used to host an international unity walk on the second Saturday in August 2020 and August 2021.
Some of the money will be used to support the Historic Greenwood Welcome Center and Guided Tours Program, the Greenwood Small Business Incubator Program, the Greenwood Upstart Funding Program for new businesses and the Greenwood Leadership 2021 Program.