- BLACK WALLSTREET
Ron Wallace: co-author of Black Wallstreet: A Lost Dream Chronicles a
little-known chapter of African-American History in Oklahoma as told to
Ronald E. Childs. If anyone truly believes that the last April attack on
the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was the most tragic
bombing ever to take place on United States soil, as the media has been
widely reporting, they're wrong-plain and simple. That's because an even
deadlier bomb occurred in that same state nearly 75 years ago.
Many people in high places would like to forget that it ever happened.
Searching under the heading of "riots," "Oklahoma" and "Tulsa" in
current editions of the World Book Encyclopedia, there is conspicuously
no mention whatsoever of the Tulsa race riot of 1921, and this omission
is by no means a surprise, or a rare case. The fact is, one would also
be hard-pressed to find documentation of the incident, let alone an
accurate accounting of it, in any other "scholarly" reference or
American history book.
That's precisely the point that noted author, publisher and orator Ron
Wallace, a Tulsa native, sought to make nearly five years ago when he
began researching this riot, one of the worst incidents of violence ever
visited upon people of African descent. Ultimately joined on the project
by colleague Jay Jay Wilson of Los Angeles, the duo found and compiled
indisputable evidence of what they now describe as "A Black Holocaust in
The date was June 1, 1921, when "Black Wallstreet," the name fittingly
given to one of the most affluent all-black communities in America, was
bombed from the air and burned to the ground by mobs of envious whites.
In a period spanning fewer than 12 hours, a once thriving 36-black
business district in northern Tulsa lay smoldering-A model community
destroyed, and a major Africa-American economic movement resoundingly
The night's carnage left some 3,000 African Americans dead, and over 600
successful businesses lost. Among these were 21 churches, 21
restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital,
a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half-dozen
private airplanes and even a bus system. As could be expected, the
impetus behind it all was the infamous Ku Klux Klan, working in consort
with ranking city officials, and many other sympathizers. In their
self-published book, Black Wallstreet: A lost Dream, and its companion
video documentary, Black Wallstreet: A Black Holocaust in America!, the
authors have chronicled for the very first time in the words of area
historians and elderly survivors what really happened there on that
fateful summer day in 1921 and why it happened. Wallace similarly
explained to Black Elegance why this bloody event from the turn of the
century seems to have had a recurring effect that is being felt in
predominately Black neighborhoods even to this day. The best description
of Black Wallstreet, or Little Africa as it was also known, would be to
liken it to a mini-Beverly Hills. It was the golden door of the Black
community during the early 1900s, and it proved that African Americans
had successful infrastructure. That's what Black Wallstreet was about.
The dollar circulated 36 to 1000 times, sometimes taking a year for
currency to leave the community. Now in 1995, a dollar leaves the Black
community in 15 minutes. As far as resources, there were Ph.D's residing
in Little Africa, Black attorneys and doctors. One doctor was Dr. Berry
who also owned the bus system. His average income was $500 a day, a
hefty pocket of change in 1910. During that era, physicians owned
medical schools. There were also pawn shops everywhere, brothels,
jewelry stores, 21 churches, 21 restaurants and two movie theaters. It
was a time when the entire state of Oklahoma had only two airports, yet
six blacks owned their own planes. It was a very fascinating community.
The area encompassed over 600 businesses and 36 square blocks with a
population of 15,000 African Americans. And when the lower-economic
Europeans looked over and saw what the Black community created, many of
them were jealous. When the average student went to school on Black
Wallstreet, he wore a suit and tie because of the morals and respect
they were taught at a young age.
The mainstay of the community was to educate every child. Nepotism was
the one word they believed in. And that's what we need to get back to in
1995. The main thoroughfare was Greenwood Avenue, and it was intersected
by Archer and Pine Streets. From the first letters in each of those
names, you get G.A.P., and that's where the renowned R&B music group The
GAP Band got its name. They're from Tulsa. Black Wallstreet was a prime
example of the typical Black community in America that did business, but
it was in an unusual location. You see, at the time, Oklahoma was set
aside to be a Black and Indian state. There were over 28 Black townships
there. One third of the people who traveled in the terrifying "Trail of
Tears" along side the Indians between 1830 to 1842 were Black people.
The citizens of this proposed Indian and Black state chose a Black
governor, a treasurer from Kansas named McDade. But the Ku Klux Klan
said that if he assumed office that they would kill him within 48 hours.
A lot of Blacks owned farmland, and many of them had gone into the oil
business. The community was so tight and wealthy because they traded
dollars hand-to-hand, and because they were dependent upon one another
as a result of the Jim Crow laws.
It was not unusual that if a resident's home accidentally burned down,
it could be rebuilt within a few weeks by neighbors. This was the type
of scenario that was going on day-to-day on Black Wallstreet. When
Blacks intermarried into the Indian culture, some of them received their
promised '40 acres and a Mule,' and with that came whatever oil was
later found on the properties.
Just to show you how wealthy a lot of Black people were, there was a
banker in a neighboring town who had a wife named California Taylor. Her
father owned the largest cotton gin west of the Mississippi [River].
When California shopped, she would take a cruise to Paris every three
months to have her clothes made. There was also a man named Mason in
nearby Wagner County who had the largest potato farm west of the
Mississippi. When he harvested, he would fill 100 boxcars a day. Another
brother not far away had the same thing with a spinach farm. The typical
family then was five children or more, though the typical farm family
would have 10 kids or more who made up the nucleus of the labor.
On Black Wallstreet, a lot of global business was conducted. The
community flourished from the early 1900s until June 1, 1921. That's
when the largest massacre of non-military Americans in the history of
this country took place, and it was lead by the Ku Klux Klan. Imagine
walking out of your front door and seeing 1,500 homes being burned. It
must have been amazing.
Survivors we interviewed think that the whole thing was planned because
during the time that all of this was going on, white families with their
children stood around on the borders of the community and watched the
massacre, the looting and everything---much in the same manner they
would watch a lynching.
In my lectures I ask people if they understand where the word "picnic"
comes from. It was typical to have a picnic on a Friday evening in
Oklahoma. The word was short for "pick a nigger" to lynch. They would
lynch a Black male and cut off body parts as souvenirs. This went on
every weekend in this country. That's where the term really came from.
The riots weren't caused by anything Black or white. It was caused by
jealousy. A lot of white folks had come back from World War I and they
were poor. When they looked over into the Black communities and realized
that Black men who fought in the war had come home heroes that helped
trigger the destruction. It cost the Black community everything, and not
a single dime of restitution---no insurance claims-has been awarded to
the victims to this day.
Nonetheless, they rebuilt. We estimate that 1,500 to 3,000 people were
killed, and we know that a lot of them were buried in mass graves all
around the city. Some were thrown in the river. As a matter of fact, at
21st Street and Yale Avenue, where there now stands a Sears parking lot,
that corner used to be a coal mine. They threw a lot of the bodies into
the shafts. Black Americans don't know about this story because we don't
apply the word holocaust to our struggle. Jewish people use the word
holocaust all the time. White people use the word holocaust. It's
politically correct to use it. But when we Black folks use the word,
people think we're being cry babies or that we're trying to bring up old
issues. No one comes to our support. In 1910, our forefathers and
mothers owned 13 million acres of land at the height of racism in this
country, so the Black Wallstreet book and videotape prove to the
naysayers and revisionists that we had our act together. Our mandate now
is to begin to teach our children about our own, ongoing Black
holocaust. They have to know when they look at our communities today
that we don't come from this.
To order a copy of Black Wallstreet, contact:
Duralon Entertainment, Inc.,
P.O. Box 2702, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74149
or call 1-800-682-7975
Black Wallstreet: A lost Dream $21.95
Black Wallstreet: A Black Holocaust in America! video
MAURICE "Crazy Dog" FRANCIS
Epsilon Chapter SP '87
(Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc)
I apologize but I have to put somewhat of a stop to this posting and
I appreciate Ron Wallace's initial desires to get this story out but
there are alot of facts and myths perpetuated in this consistently
forwarded post throughout the years.
I'm Kimberly Ellis, a doctoral student who's doing my dissertation on
the Tulsa Oklahoma Race Riot, War and Massacre (I graduate in May) and I
am also the national co-coordinator of the "All Eyes on Tulsa
Ron Wallace's book is HISTORICAL FICTION. Yet many people pass it off as
fact. This message is also many years old and Wallace has written
nothing else on the riots. Can you guess why?
The FACTS came out.
This is not to put the brother down but when one is involved in a
MOVEMENT, it is exceptionally important for everyone to have the facts
of the matter and not get caught up in mythmaking and bourgeois
If you want to read up on the FACTS for free, please visit the following
webpage. And, if you feel so inclined, please endorse the call for
support of the approximately 130 survivors of this tragedy who are
The people who lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 called their community
"Greenwood," more than likely after Greenwood, Mississippi not "Black
Wallstreet." It was once described as the "Negro's Wallstreet" by a
young Black woman journalist who had been visiting from Rochester, New
If you would like to see a FACTUAL, multimedia lecture/ presentation on
this issue, feel free to contact me at: kim.ellis.1@p... or call
Ultimately, I simply would like for people to have the facts and support
this issue on the basis of principle and righteousness, not a
We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest,
Kimberly C. Ellis