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A Walk Down Black Wall Street

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  • A Walk Down Black Wall Street

    The Ghosts of Greenwood Past

    A Walk Down Black Wall Street


    The Greenwood District, a prosperous African American entrepreneurial community in Tulsa, Oklahoma,
    in the early twentieth century, became known as the “Negro Wall Street” or “Black Wall Street.”

    Early in the twentieth century, the black community in Tulsa—the “Greenwood District” or simply “Greenwood”— became a nationally renowned entrepreneurial center. Legendary African American statesman and educator, Booker T. Washington, dubbed Greenwood Avenue, the nerve center of the community, “The Negro Wall Street” for its now-famous bustling business climate.

    Legal segregation forced black Tulsans to do business with one another. This economic detour—the diversion of black dollars away from the white community—allowed the thirty-five-square block Greenwood District to prosper. Dollars circulated repeatedly within the black community. Greenwood’s insular service economy rested on a foundation of necessity. This necessity, in turn, molded a talented cadre of African American businesspersons and entrepreneurs.

    The Greenwood pioneers parlayed Jim Crow into an economic advantage. They seized the opportunity to create a closed market system that defied Jim Crow’s fundamental premise: African American incompetence and inferiority. The success of the Greenwood District, given the prevailing racial pecking order, could scarcely be tolerated, let alone embraced, by the larger community.