Today, the name “Black Wall Street” is associated with tragedy. The Tulsa, Oklahoma, suburb of Greenwood became the site of one of the bloodiest racial massacres in U.S. history when angry white Tulsans targeted it in 1921. But before it was destroyed, the neighborhood was a thriving example of Black prosperity in the early 20th century. The video below offers a rare glimpse at Black Wall Street before the night that made it infamous.
This historical footage of Tulsa's Greenwood district was captured by Baptist pastor and amateur filmmaker Solomon Sir Jones. Due to segregation laws, Tulsa's Black residents were forbidden from shopping in white parts of town, so instead they reinvested their money into their neighborhood. This helped Greenwood grow into one of the economic and cultural capitals of Black America. The self-sustaining community was home to a library branch, movie houses, two newspapers, and a bustling business district.
Greenwood's progress was erased literally overnight between May 31 and June 1, 1921. That's when white residents—enraged by a Black teenager's alleged transgression against a white woman—mobbed the neighborhood. The rioters burned down 1200 houses and buildings and killed between 50 and 300 people. In the years following the massacre, there was a concerted effort to erase it from newspapers and history books. Only recently has this tragic chapter in American history become mainstream knowledge.
In addition to footage from Greenwood's golden age, the video also includes rare clips of the massacre and its aftermath. (Some of it is graphic, so watch with discretion). You can read more facts about Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre here.