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"Black Wall Street" Tulsa Oklahoma

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This is an excellent documentary detailing the events of the Black Wall Street atrocities.

Sadly, this is little known history. Please pass it on.

A note about the documentary, it gets started around 5:50 time. I posted this one because it had the full version and not segments of it. The beginning is a little editorialized, but to go straight to the doc, just skip to 5:50 time.

BLACK WALLSTREET (From Davey D's Hip Hop Corner)

Please pass this on to the Iota Family. It's an important part of history that every Black person should know, if they don't know already.

Ron Wallace: co-author of Black Wallstreet: A Lost Dream Chronicles a little-known chapter of African-American History in Oklahoma as told to Ronald E. Childs. If anyone truly believes that the last April attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was the most tragic bombing ever to take place on United States soil, as the media has been widely reporting, they're wrong-plain and simple. That's because an even deadlier bomb occurred in that same state nearly 75 years ago.

Many people in high places would like to forget that it ever happened. Searching under the heading of "riots," "Oklahoma" and "Tulsa" in current editions of the World Book Encyclopedia, there is conspicuously no mention whatsoever of the Tulsa race riot of 1921, and this omission is by no means a surprise, or a rare case. The fact is, one would also be hard-pressed to find documentation of the incident, let alone an accurate accounting of it, in any other "scholarly" reference or American history book.

That's precisely the point that noted author, publisher and orator Ron Wallace, a Tulsa native, sought to make nearly five years ago when he began researching this riot, one of the worst incidents of violence ever visited upon people of African descent. Ultimately joined on the project by colleague Jay Jay Wilson of Los Angeles, the duo found and compiled indisputable evidence of what they now describe as "A Black Holocaust in America."

The date was June 1, 1921, when "Black Wallstreet," the name fittingly given to one of the most affluent all-black communities in America, was bombed from the air and burned to the ground by mobs of envious whites. In a period spanning fewer than 12 hours, a once thriving 36-black business district in northern Tulsa lay smoldering-A model community destroyed, and a major Africa-American economic movement resoundingly defused.

The night's carnage left some 3,000 African Americans dead, and over 600 successful businesses lost. Among these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half-dozen private airplanes and even a bus system. As could be expected, the impetus behind it all was the infamous Ku Klux Klan, working in consort with ranking city officials, and many other sympathizers. In their self-published book, Black Wallstreet: A lost Dream, and its companion video documentary, Black Wallstreet: A Black Holocaust in America!, the authors have chronicled for the very first time in the words of area historians and elderly survivors what really happened there on that fateful summer day in 1921 and why it happened. Wallace similarly explained to Black Elegance why this bloody event from the turn of the century seems to have had a recurring effect that is being felt in predominately Black neighborhoods even to this day. The best description of Black Wallstreet, or Little Africa as it was also known, would be to liken it to a mini-Beverly Hills. It was the golden door of the Black community during the early 1900s, and it proved that African Americans had successful infrastructure. That's what Black Wallstreet was about.

The dollar circulated 36 to 1000 times, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community. Now in 1995, a dollar leaves the Black community in 15 minutes. As far as resources, there were Ph.D's residing in Little Africa, Black attorneys and doctors. One doctor was Dr. Berry who also owned the bus system. His average income was $500 a day, a hefty pocket of change in 1910. During that era, physicians owned medical schools. There were also pawn shops everywhere, brothels, jewelry stores, 21 churches, 21 restaurants and two movie theaters. It was a time when the entire state of Oklahoma had only two airports, yet six blacks owned their own planes. It was a very fascinating community. The area encompassed over 600 businesses and 36 square blocks with a population of 15,000 African Americans. And when the lower-economic Europeans looked over and saw what the Black community created, many of them were jealous. When the average student went to school on Black Wallstreet, he wore a suit and tie because of the morals and respect they were taught at a young age.

The mainstay of the community was to educate every child. Nepotism was the one word they believed in. And that's what we need to get back to in 1995. The main thoroughfare was Greenwood Avenue, and it was intersected by Archer and Pine Streets. From the first letters in each of those names, you get G.A.P., and that's where the renowned R&B music group The GAP Band got its name. They're from Tulsa. Black Wallstreet was a prime example of the typical Black community in America that did business, but it was in an unusual location. You see, at the time, Oklahoma was set aside to be a Black and Indian state. There were over 28 Black townships there. One third of the people who traveled in the terrifying "Trail of Tears" along side the Indians between 1830 to 1842 were Black people. The citizens of this proposed Indian and Black state chose a Black governor, a treasurer from Kansas named McDade. But the Ku Klux Klan said that if he assumed office that they would kill him within 48 hours. A lot of Blacks owned farmland, and many of them had gone into the oil business. The community was so tight and wealthy because they traded dollars hand-to-hand, and because they were dependent upon one another as a result of the Jim Crow laws.

It was not unusual that if a resident's home accidentally burned down, it could be rebuilt within a few weeks by neighbors. This was the type of scenario that was going on day-to-day on Black Wallstreet. When Blacks intermarried into the Indian culture, some of them received their promised '40 acres and a Mule,' and with that came whatever oil was later found on the properties.

Just to show you how wealthy a lot of Black people were, there was a banker in a neighboring town who had a wife named California Taylor. Her father owned the largest cotton gin west of the Mississippi [River]. When California shopped, she would take a cruise to Paris every three months to have her clothes made. There was also a man named Mason in nearby Wagner County who had the largest potato farm west of the Mississippi. When he harvested, he would fill 100 boxcars a day. Another brother not far away had the same thing with a spinach farm. The typical family then was five children or more, though the typical farm family would have 10 kids or more who made up the nucleus of the labor.

On Black Wallstreet, a lot of global business was conducted. The community flourished from the early 1900s until June 1, 1921. That's when the largest massacre of non-military Americans in the history of this country took place, and it was lead by the Ku Klux Klan. Imagine walking out of your front door and seeing 1,500 homes being burned.

Survivors we interviewed think that the whole thing was planned because during the time that all of this was going on, white families with their children stood around on the borders of the community and watched the massacre, the looting and everything---much in the same manner they would watch a lynching. It cost the Black community everything, and not a single dime of restitution---no insurance claims-has been awarded to the victims to this day.

Nonetheless, they rebuilt. We estimate that 1,500 to 3,000 people were killed, and we know that a lot of them were buried in mass graves all around the city. Some were thrown in the river. As a matter of fact, at 21st Street and Yale Avenue, where there now stands a Sears parking lot, that corner used to be a coal mine. They threw a lot of the bodies into the shafts. Black Americans don't know about this story because we don't apply the word holocaust to our struggle. Jewish people use the word holocaust all the time. White people use the word holocaust. It's politically correct to use it. But when we Black folks use the word, people think we're being cry babies or that we're trying to bring up old issues. No one comes to our support. In 1910, our forefathers and mothers owned 13 million acres of land at the height of racism in this country, so the Black Wallstreet book and videotape prove to the naysayers and revisionists that we had our act together. Our mandate now is to begin to teach our children about our own, ongoing Black holocaust. They have to know when they look at our communities today that we don't come from this.

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Wow, that was just a few days ago. Wow. I didn't know.

Brother, it is really something to watch as these elders who survived this tell their story. You can see and hear the remnants of the trauma all in their faces and voices. To see the tears flow from an old man's eyes about an incident that was driven by hatred and jealousy is really something.

We'd better listen, too.. as closely as we can, because these post racial society myth pushers just can't wait til survivors of chapters that don't support the golden current myth or golden past myth just di e out. They be on some Norbit's wife, ""It NEVA happened!"

I hope that we have the courage to teach our children about the realities of both the past and the present. If we know it yet refuse to teach we are, in my humble opinion, a disgrace to our Ancestors.

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I'll be watched both of these tonight -- thanks for scheduling my nightly TV view the last two nights :-)

If you read the comments in the Washington Post article you learn that many people admitted to never hearing about the genocide in Tulsa -- folks who are presumably educated and from Tulsa.

A film about Rosewood, starring Ving Rhames as made sometime ago. I honestly can't remember if I ever saw it.

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I'm familiar with the incident in Tulsa and Rosewood. It was common during that time for poor white to take out their frustrations and limitations on successful blacks. One interesting thing about the black economy back in the day was that many blacks worked as servants for wealthy white people. Because of this they continued to work during economic downturns that hurt poor whites. The result was jealousy and eventually violence.

As far as the circulation of the black dollar, the author has to acknowledge the fact that as a consumer a black person back in the day had little choice but solicit black businesses. Now a black person can choose who he or she purchases from, which puts the black entrepreneur in a tough position. As a micro publisher I have learned that if you present a product on a competitive level to any business, black people will happily spend their money with you. However, you have to be competitive. We like good stuff, too.

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Milton I just want to elaborate on your statement "...if you present a product on a competitive level to any business, black people will happily spend their money with you. However, you have to be competitive. We like good stuff, too."

Of course your statement is perfectly rational and logical. But most people are not entirely rational when it comes to making purchases. Believing this will get you into trouble ;)

People (not just Black people) make purchasing decisions for reasons that often have nothing to do with the relative quality of the product being consumed. I can give numerous examples of people paying a premium for a lower quality products. I'm sure, if you thought about it, you could come up with you own examples. Why people make these irrational decisions has been studied and one can read all about it.

When you talk about Black people and Black products that adds a more complex dimension. Consider a Black school, a neighborhood, or a restaurant, some Black people will choose Black options over all else out of racial pride or a desire to "keep the money in the community". Other Black people would not live in a Black neighborhood if you paid them -- regardless of relative quality.

Books are a whole 'nother world. There are manuscripts written by Black people, which can't get published, but are "better" than books currently on the NY Times Bestsellers list. Even if those books were published they, unfortunately, would probably not likely make that best sellers list. As it is hard to be competitive in today's marketplace dominated by huge "greedy grabbing" corporations.

What makes a book "competitive" is not just the quality of the book itself. The book has to be marketed, promoted and supported otherwise it will not sell very well. There are manuscripts written by Black people that can't get a publishing deal, but are better than books currently on the NY Times best Sellers list.

In order for more Black books to be competitive we need an infrastructure to support them. I'm afraid we don't really have this for Black fiction. There a few awards, few places to get reviews, few magazines, few websites, few stores available to make a book competitive. The "competitive" books are the books with the largest audience and with the most promotion. With a few exceptions "quality" has little to do with competitiveness in today's world.

Of course I'm trying to change this with ABLE, AALBC.com, Huria, etc. It is an uphill battle but if books like yours are going to enjoy a large readership we have to build upon the current infrastructure.

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I agree with much of what you're saying Troy and I applaud and support your efforts. That's why I'm here. I'm aware of the many reasons black people will purchase. I've had people buy my books and refuse to take change. On the other hand I've had black people walk past me with a sideways glance. As a bookseller I can only concentrate on my process and focus on my goals. If I dwell too much on the inconsistencies I'll become stagnant.

I also agree with you on the issue of book publishing. The solution is to do our own. I don't focus on NYT Best Sellers list because I know it's part of the major publishing infrastructure. I focus on my personal sales and my business. There will come a time that black books of all kinds will penetrate the publishing glass ceiling, but right now we have work to do, and I'm happy to support workers like you and Amari.

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Milton you are absolutely correct; "we have work to do", and lot of it. We actually have more work than we did just 5 years ago. They are many individual success stories and I hope you are one of them, but collectively... we have a tough road ahead.

Speaking about the NY Times Best Sellers list there are efforts underway to re-introduce one out own. When I got started there as a list managed by Faye Childs called the Blackboard African American Bestsellers list. The list was eventually picked up by, then taken over by Essence Magazine, and eventually dropped. I think a new best sellers list will help reinvigorate Black Books. Stay Tuned!

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  • 8 years later...
On 5/28/2012 at 5:03 PM, Troy said:

Waterstar, did you read a gentleman who recently passed at the age of 109, was an 18 year old survivor of the riots! Can you image? Here is the article from the Washington Post


Otis G. Clark, who survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, died May 21 at age 109.



AfroAmericans seem to have some of the strongest genes on the planet!

Our brothers and sisters ROUTINELY live up into their 80s and 90s and even into the 100s!

Let me tell you how deceptive this media is.......
If you look it up RIGHT NOW who are the oldest people living they will show you somebody from Japan or Turkey, but 2 days later they'll show you an AfroAmerican man or woman who just passed away at an even HIGHER age and think everyone is not smart enough to catch the lie they just told.

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