On this day in history (1921)…
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“The town was established in 1906 by entrepreneur O.W. Gurley, and by 1921 there were over 11,000 residents and hundreds of prosperous businesses, all owned and operated by black Tulsans and patronized by both whites and blacks.
Greenwood flourished and became a symbol of black wealth, pride, and unity. At its height, the business center boasted of various grocery stores, nightclubs, drug stores, churches, funeral homes, restaurants, banks, hotels, and the likes. The community was completely self-sufficient and became the home of many black multimillionaire entrepreneurs. With this growth and success came envy from white Tulsans. Many of the businesses in Greenwood (which they referred to as “Little Africa”) were more prosperous than those in the white community. Racial and economic tensions soon came to a boil in May of 1921.”
It all came to a climax when…
“Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old shoe shiner at a Main Street parlor took the elevator at nearby building to use the restroom. At the time, the white elevator operator on duty was 17-year-old Sarah Page.
What happened while the two were in the elevator remains unclear, yet it resulted in Page accusing Rowland of sexual assault. Although she never pressed charges, the damage was done. The story made the front page of the Tulsa Tribune with the headline “Nab Negro for attacking girl in elevator”, while rumors began circulating that a white lynch mob was searching for Rowland.
The incident further divided the town with one side believing Rowland raped Page and the other holding on to the belief that he simply tripped as he got onto the elevator and grabbed onto Page’s arm as he tried to catch his balance. Hundreds began to gather outside of the county jail that held Rowland. First, a group of armed whites, followed by a group of armed black men fearful of Rowland’s safety and determined to protect him.
What ensued was one of the most devastating riots in American history. An event that can only be characterized as terrorism.”
“…local officers who also participated in the riot. Hundreds of businesses and homes were ransacked and set afire. Black men, some who served in World War I, rallied together and armed themselves, ready to fight for their families and community. Whites indiscriminately shot and killed men, women, and children on foot and by car. As the number of casualties on both sides escalated, airplanes used in World War I were dispatched, firing rifles at residents and dropping fire bombs on the black community.Outnumbered and outgunned, the riot grew worse for black Tulsans. Countless families began to flee after being trapped between rampant flames and gunfire. By the end of the attack, close to 300 blacks were murdered, while many others were left injured, homeless and held in internment camps by local law enforcement. By 1942, remaining black Tulsans rebuilt Greenwood without any assistance from the state and saw a resurgence of over 240 businesses.”
This is not the first time Black people survived the fire, rose from the smoke, and were forced to start from scratch, but I hope we will do better by American Black people and Black communities moving forward. I hope there will be no more Black blood spilled, I hope we will Reconstruct and make it last. Be sure to sign up for my free email list and read my blog next week…
“Reconstruction 2.0: The New America”
1. There are black owned businesses in Minnesota that need YOUR help, now.2. In your home, how many items were created by a black entrepreneur? We make EVERYTHING. From clothes, shoes to eco-friendly products like detergents and other cleaning supplies, skincare, wine, beer, technology, etc.
3. It’s good to buy diverse books with cute brown characters but how many cookbooks do you own that are authored by nonwhite people? Diversify your book shelves and cookware too!📚🍴
4. Follow Shoppe Black.
5. If you’re international, you can still #BuyBlack.