The History of Black Wall Street

Black Wall Street | OneUnited Bank

Black Wall Street has a special place in American history as a platform that paved the way for Black communities and businesses to thrive. Not too long ago Black men and women were not allowed to own property. We faced violence and freedom restrictions, such as being stripped of the right to vote, and endured other forms of racial segregation and race-based legislation. Despite this, a sense of community and faith bloomed among Black neighborhoods where isolation and segregation was the norm. Black people gave each other a place for community, safety, and economic support. A hundred years later, Black communities were thriving and economic strength was established. A perfect example of this progress was Black Wall Street, located in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Black Wall Street was a thriving community in Greenwood in the early 1900s. This was a community that had bustling Black owned businesses, theaters, schools, social health, and a strong distribution of wealth among its middle and upper classes. Reports estimate the community had more than 10,000 African American residents, and most of them were thriving. Black Wall Street was the epitome of a self-sustaining community and strength. Black people supported each other, which allowed for easier access to resources, savings, housing, jobs, education, and health. Black Wall Street was just one of many thriving communities in the United States, but it also became a site that would serve as an example of the violence and hatred that grew out of greed from white financial interests.

As Black Wall Street thrived and grew, so did greed in oil-thirsty America. In 1897, just a few years before Black Wall Street was established, Oklahoma got its first oil well. While this discovery is praised for establishing economic wealth and stability in Oklahoma during the Great Depression, it attracted scores of exploration companies in the 1920s. This oil discovery gave Black people the economic opportunity they needed. We weren’t allowed to shop at white owned stores and businesses, so the money we spent went right back into our own communities. Oil gave rise to opportunities and economic freedoms for Black people despite Oklahoma’s status as a segregated state. As you can imagine, envy and jealousy thrived. The thought of second-class citizens receiving better economic opportunities than their white neighbors infuriated white Oklahoma residents. They retaliated against the Black community, spreading hatred and accusing them of crimes. Many white people were full of loathing and wanted to bring Black communities down.

An accusation of sexual assault was the match that ignited the smoldering hatred and resentment of the thriving Black Wall Street community. The accusation inspired a lynch mob, which included nearly 2,000 Ku Klux Klan members who wanted to get “justice.” Everything came crashing down on Black Wall Street on May 31, 1921. In just 16 hours, police had arrested 60% of Black residents living in Black Wall Street. Mobs burned Black owned businesses and homes, and murdered hundreds of Black citizens. When Black men joined forces to protect their homes, they were ultimately driven out in fear for their lives. By today’s estimates, the dreadful and murderous 16 hours caused more than $30 million in damages. The residents of Greenwood were blamed for the death and destruction, and the government made it nearly impossible to rebuild. But we can rebuild a new Black Wall Street now by working together.

The massacre at Black Wall Street was one of the largest massacres of Black citizens in America. It is important not to forget the pride and opportunity that Black Wall Street awarded African Americans. We worked hard, built a strong community, and supported each other. Circulating Black dollars within our community and doing business with one another is critical for our community’s financial and economic strength.

We have a need for that today, which is why OneUnited Bank is supporting the #BankBlack Movement. Banking Black gives citizens more opportunities than they would have anywhere else, and it puts our hard-earned dollars back where they belong – in the Black community – so we can build the “new Black Wall Street.” We owe it to our ancestors who lost their lives and community that day. Black Wall Street gave us the drive and the power to our own financial institutions and allowed Black citizens to invest in each other. We at OneUnited can make that happen again. #BankBlack

OneUnited Bank

OneUnited Bank, the nation’s largest Black-owned bank and FDIC insured, understands we have to focus on money and technology to close the racial wealth gap. With your support, by simply opening and actively using a OneUnited Bank account, we will continue to accomplish our mission!

  • Sharon A Bryant
    February 28, 2017 Reply
  • Sharon A Bryant
    Amen God is Good
    February 28, 2017 Reply
    • Black Wall Deet
      I have got to agree
      February 12, 2018 Reply
  • Timothy Eddins
    I just opened an account and I believe everyone else should through this bank.
    February 28, 2017 Reply
  • George Plaskett
    In the process of urging my daughter to take her funds out of Marsico Funds in Wisconsin and the Bank of America in Bronx, NY to bank with OneUnitedBank Stay tuned! Peace and many blessings to you and your family!
    February 28, 2017 Reply
  • Byron Jackson
    This is a great Black History lesson our young people need to know. My grandmother was from Oklahoma. She taught all of us about this. We can build a Black Wall Street again, starting with our dollars in our own Black bank.
    February 28, 2017 Reply
  • Zoe
    Three years ago during a cross county road trip, my sisters and I went to Tulsa, Oklahoma to specifically visit the area and Museum. It is sad what happened to our ancestors. Not much has changed economically for us in this county since the bombing of Black Wall Street; it is time overdue for us to make a change collectively. I will be opening an account very soon. Peace and Love Family
    February 28, 2017 Reply
  • Ken Davis
    Tragic. And it has continued up to this day. The greatest danger to blacks are their disconnection from the past. We keep allowing it to be repeated because we think these things are new. So many blacks are conditioned to believe that they have nothing, so therefore thdy have no power or say as to the type of community that they can have. So sad.
    February 28, 2017 Reply
  • D.W.
    All in, together WE stand devised WE what ....still I rise!
    February 28, 2017 Reply
  • Abby Murrell
    I opened an account 6 months and I am a satisfied customer.
    March 2, 2017 Reply
    • Eric Pledge
      I'm thinking about opening a account as well.
      March 28, 2017 Reply
  • carol carter
    Great article. Thanks.
    March 5, 2017 Reply
  • Jeremiah Carter
    We need to build BLACK WALL STREET COMMUNITIES across the nation...starting today! Let's get it done!
    March 6, 2017 Reply
  • Lift Every Voice and Sing Gospel Festival and Fair
    I will be promoting "THE PROSPERITY FOUNDATION" at our next Family and Friends Gathering and will encourage them to do likewise..
    March 6, 2017 Reply
  • Derk Green
    The historical facts are PAINFUL. One has to seek divine guidance not to seek revenge, to build resolve for communal TRUST, and to be willing to work hard and smart TOGETHER. This will entail not only economic communal support, but, also political discernment and voting sensibilities. Let us learn from the Jews who are galvanlized by their common historical experience, because we have such an experience too. Let us CEASE being VOTING SLAVES to any one politically established political party and lets BARGIN the POWER of our vote. Bottom line: Trust, Togetherness, Economic Support and Voting Power. I drive 26 miles (one way) to my OneUnited Bank in Miami. Why? because I think it is a NOBLE thing to support the black financial enterprise and "Noble things are Difficult"
    March 7, 2017 Reply
  • TeeBone
    Right On Let's Get!
    March 8, 2017 Reply
  • Kris Renee
    March 8, 2017 Reply
    Time for GreatNess
    March 9, 2017 Reply
  • Selina Lee
    Absolutely Powerful!
    March 13, 2017 Reply
  • Syarrah
    July 5, 2017 Reply
  • Louis Thomas
    It is very clear that the most high hates to Idea of us mimicking the concept of white Wallstreet and calling it black. It was a curse when we created a community the first time to mimic white wall street it will be a curse the second time. Have we forgotten that the first thing sold on Wallstreet was us (slaves). Why would "freed" slaves during Jim crow then turn around and start a black wall street, can you say, "Stockholm syndrome". If this is the primise for starting a black bank we are no better off. Remember that the type banking system in America was engineered to oppress us before and after slavery. The banking model that we are seeking to adopt will never be a blessing to us. The very Idea is simply another tenticle of Stockholm syndrome and white supremacy in disguise as black economic enpowerment.
    September 13, 2017 Reply
    • Curtis Stowers
      So what should we be doing? Louis
      November 16, 2017 Reply
      January 30, 2018 Reply
    • T. Brown
      So what do you recommend we call it and what solutions can you offer instead of traditional banking? I'd love to read your responses.
      November 26, 2018 Reply
  • Anthony Brogdon
    There's now a documentary out that examines the rise of black business in America, its called Business in the Black. Released May 2017 it has toured the country receiving rave reviews. It covers how slaves went to college, what racists did to destroy black business districts, names black millionaires in the 1800's, slaves who bought their freedom, interviews with people whose family owned a business in the early 1900's and so much more. Its available on amazon.
    December 12, 2017 Reply
  • Dolvy D
    Its pretty cool
    February 8, 2018 Reply
  • Clay Mosez
    While I agree that this is a great thing. We as a people have to stop telegraphing our punches so to speak. We organize, give legendary speeches, and March. Black wall street became what it was because it was under the radar. An entire community prospered through education and support, the likes of which is all but extinguished in black communities today. We have become a community of renters and welfare recipients. Education passed down through recent generations is dictated by the success of our immediate elders. If they don't trust banks and know nothing of credit utilization, how can later generations get ahead? We learn our way of life through the eyes of our parents and guardians, while most aspects of our culture is rich and diverse, our financial culture is sparse. Sadly we have become a show me culture, blinded by the disparity in our faces from day to day it is nearly impossible to see years down the road of Life. Thus intensifies the need for instant gratification or windfall to make life easy. Far too often do I see black neighborhoods as run down,unkempt, and dilapidated. That is until other organized representatives from other ethnic backgrounds "swoop" in and buy and rebuild OUR communities we have lived in for decades. They rebuild and rent to us. It's 2018 now, we have all the knowledge and financial maneuvers at our disposal. It's time we do what is being done to us, organize behind closed doors, coordinate with the most savvy financial minds in our communities and POUNCE on banks and real estate agencies taking back and truly rebuilding BLACK WALL STREET.
    April 2, 2018 Reply
  • Robert Nash Jr
    Like to now more
    May 17, 2018 Reply
  • Tina Ruiz
    I would like to educate myself more.....I'm loving to understand my culture better.
    August 16, 2018 Reply
  • Maureen Fraser
    I would like to know more
    September 12, 2018 Reply
  • Eliah Lively
    im a white male and ive always been against racism I would love to be a active part of rebuilding the Black Wall Street to honor my brothers and sisters of GOD!!!
    September 17, 2018 Reply

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