history · race relations · revolution

We Were a World on Fire before Minnesota Went Up in Flames.

Monday June 1, 2020.

On this day in history (1921)…

Photo from: The Atlantic
(All colored text contain links.)
Tulsa, Oklahoma experienced something we don’t read about in our American high school curricula.
Tulsa, Oklahoma was home to hundreds of successful and prosperous Black businesses referred to as “Black Wall Street.”
Black Wall Street was the epitome of “Black excellence” and many Black entrepreneurs flourished.
Photo from: The Melanin Project

“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.

One of the most prominent entrepreneurs was Lola T. Williams who owned The Dreamland Theatre and a small chain across Oklahoma.

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.”

Photo from: Official Black Wall Street

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.”

A mob of enraged white men stormed into the prosperous Black town of Greenwood to “defend” their women, to vindicate Sarah Page, to destroy Black lives and Black prosperity...
Photo from: Wear Your Voice magazine

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”

Action steps:
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.


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