Before the Tulsa Race Massacre, Black business was booming in Greenwood

Savvy entrepreneurs flocked to the boomtown of Tulsa and built a wealthy community in the 1900s, before a white mob destroyed it all in one night in 1921.

Streets of Greenwood

Greenwood's streets were bustling with the energy of everyday life in a photograph taken before the events of May 31-June 1, 1921.
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Oil was booming in the United States in the 1900s, and so was Tul­sa, Oklahoma. The city grew as both the petro­leum industry and its residents—Black and white—flourished.

After Oklahoma officially became a state in 1907, the legislature soon en­acted Jim Crow laws and segregation policies; despite these obstacles, Tulsa became home to a vibrant 35­-square­ block neighborhood of Black Americans called Greenwood, also known as Black Wall Street. Greenwood was an econom­ic haven for African Americans, but this community was shattered between May 31 and June 1, 1921, when a white mob attacked the district in a horrific event known as the Tulsa race massacre.

Following the Civil War, waves of Afri­can Americans left the South to relocate to other parts of the United States. In 1889 Congress made lands available in Oklahoma for settlement, and many Black people saw this as a major opportunity. One of the main architects in securing land for Black citizens in Oklahoma was O.W. Gurley.

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