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

Our community’s dream is now a reality! OneUnited Bank is fulfilling the hundred year old civil rights dream by garnering the savings power of our communities and channeling it back into urban communities for economic development. With your support by simply opening an FDIC insured account with great rates, we will continue to accomplish this dream everyday!

17 Comments
  • Sharon A Bryant
    Amen
    February 28, 2017 Reply
  • Sharon A Bryant
    Amen God is Good
    February 28, 2017 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
  • 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
    #proud
    March 8, 2017 Reply
  • NESTER NALL
    Time for GreatNess
    March 9, 2017 Reply
  • Selina Lee
    Absolutely Powerful!
    March 13, 2017 Reply

Leave a Comment

If you're ready to #BankBlack with OneUnited Bank, then open an account today!

Open an Account