Last week, America commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, in which hundreds of people were killed and the entire Greenwood District of Tulsa was burned to the ground. What is often left out of the story is what happened to Greenwood in the years afterward. The popular notion is that Greenwood never recovered from the riot, which it did, and that the riot occurred on “Black Wall Street,” which is a name that was only used after the 1921 massacre.
“They just were not going to be kept down. They were determined not to give up,” recalled Eunice Jackson, a survivor of the massacre, in an interview for Eddie Faye Gates’ 1997 book, They Came Searching. “So they rebuilt Greenwood and it was just wonderful. It became known as The Black Wall Street of America.”
Another survivor, Juanita Alexander Lewis Hopkins, told Gates, “The North Tulsa after the [massacre] was even more impressive than before…That is when Greenwood became known as ‘The Black Wall Street of America.’”
Film footage shot by Reverend Solomon Sir Jones from 1925-1928 shows a bustling, thriving Greenwood, confirming recent data collected by the Tulsa Historical Society showing that a few short years after the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Greenwood’s homes and businesses came back. It’s difficult to understate the scale of Greenwood’s recovery; unlike other disasters like the 1889 Johnstown Flood in Pennsylvania or San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake, Greenwood was left to rebuild entirely on its own.
However, the Greenwood neighborhood no longer exists in Tulsa. Read what eventually happened to it at Smithsonian.
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