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THE-BRIDGE-TULSA-MASSACRE

 

[ Black ]

Wall Street

A century ago, a prosperous Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Okla., perished at the hands of a violent white mob.

“I Remember You”
Bob Dylan
Empire Burlesque 
1985 Bob Dylan mourns the Tulsa Massacre.
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1985 LIVE AID (Mick Jagger & Tina Turner) We Are The World (Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Quincy Jones), Artists United Against Apartheid, Farm Aid, Miami Vice, Adrian Sherwood, On-U Sound, Fat’s Comet, Gary Clail, Bernard Meets Mick Jagger She’s The Boss. Jeff Beck Flash Jimmy Hall, Rod Stewart, Nile Rodgers and Arthur Baker (Production) Carmine Appice

 

The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 killed hundreds of residents, burned more than 1,250 homes and erased years of Black success.

Imagine a community of great possibilities and prosperity built by Black people for Black people. Places to work. Places to live. Places to learn and shop and play. Places to worship.

Now imagine it being ravaged by flames.

1921 In May, the Tulsa, Okla. neighborhood of Greenwood was a fully realized antidote to the racial oppression of the time. Built in the early part of the century in a northern pocket of the city, it was a thriving community of commerce and family life to its roughly 10,000 residents.

Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa, Okla., was the pulse of the Black business community. Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Brick and wood-frame homes dotted the landscape, along with blocks lined with grocery stores, hotels, nightclubs, billiard halls, theaters, doctor’s offices and churches.

Greenwood was so promising, so vibrant that it became home to what was known as America’s Black Wall Street. But what took years to build was erased in less than 24 hours by racial violence — sending the dead into mass graves and forever altering family trees.

Hundreds of Greenwood residents were brutally killed, their homes and businesses wiped out. They were casualties of a furious and heavily armed white mob of looters and arsonists. One factor that drove the violence: resentment toward the Black prosperity found in block after block of Greenwood.

The financial toll of the massacre is evident in the $1.8 million in property loss claims — $27 million in today’s dollars — detailed in a 2001 state commission report. For two decades, the report has been one of the most comprehensive accounts to reveal the horrific details of the massacre — among the worst racial terror attacks in the nation’s history — as well as the government’s culpability.

Greenwood Avenue, for years a thriving hub, was destroyed by racial violence in less than 24 hours. Tulsa Historical Society and Museum

The destruction of property is only one piece of the financial devastation that the massacre wrought. Much bigger is a sobering kind of inheritance: the incalculable and enduring loss of what could have been, and the generational wealth that might have shaped and secured the fortunes of Black children and grandchildren.

“What if we had been allowed to maintain our family business?” asked Brenda Nails-Alford, who is in her early 60s. The Greenwood Avenue shoe shop of her grandfather and his brother was destroyed. “If they had been allowed to carry on that legacy,” she said, “there’s no telling where we could be now.”

For decades, what happened in Greenwood was willfully buried in history. Piecing together archival maps and photographs, with guidance from historians, The New York Times constructed a 3-D model of the Greenwood neighborhood as it was before the destruction. The Times also analyzed census data, city directories, newspaper articles, and survivor tapes and testimonies from that time to show the types of people who made up the neighborhood and contributed to its vibrancy.

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