Sunday, January 17, 2021

Before The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Greenwood Was a Wealthy Black Community

*Before Greenwood (Oklahoma) was destroyed in the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, it was probably one of the most well off Black communities in the country. Would you believe that is was even known as the Black Wall Street? This was because of the amount of concentrated wealth that could be found here.

Otis Granville Clark, a 105-year old survivor of the massacre, was featured in a documentary that was made in 2008 called “Before They Die!” Here you can see how Otis said that a lot of New Yorkers and folks from Chicago would come in to Greenwood for business. He even said that it seemed like an oil country back then and people here lived like it was Wall Street!

Before this massacre occurred, there were about 100,000 people living in Greenwood. There were many luxury shops, about 30 grocery stores, 21 restaurants, savings and loan offices, three luxurious hotels, clothing and jewelry stores and pool halls! Other than this, the community had a nationally recognized school system, two black newspapers, a bus and cab service and 6 private planes.  Even though the segregation laws kept the Black community inside Greenwood, these people managed to flourish and invest in their own well-being.

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This beautiful community, however, came to an end when the massacre began on the 31st of May in 1921. White mobs had begun to descend to Greenwood and they instantly started shooting Black people and burning down their houses. Some of these people were even burned alive while around forty square blocks of residential and commercial property was burned to smithereens. This property was estimated to be a cumulative worth of $1 million at the time!

This rampage had lasted for about 48 hours and more than 10,000 residents of this Black community were made homeless. Other than these people who made it out of this tragedy alive, 300 people were not as lucky. Witnesses of this massacre even recall that the white mobs were looting the homes of these Black people. They saw them pulling out all the leopard coats, mink, pianos, and intricately carved furniture before the houses were set on fire. After doing this, the angry mob was even reported to have thrown hundreds of the bodies in the Arkansas River while some were buried in mass graves.

The co-producer of this documentary Reggie Turner said, “Our goal for all the survivors, who were children at the time, was to try to use the lawsuit to get back something. . . . Our goal was to get people who lost their homes and entire wealth, to get them a certain amount of value back — for what their parents lost and ultimately, they lost.”

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