Greenwood Tulsa, OK
Tulsa much like every other town across the United States during much of its early history and even up until the current times has been a racially divided town. Not just in spirit, but also physically. In Tulsa, that dividing line has been Archer Street and the Frisco railroad. Pretty much anyone living to the north was black and anyone to the south was white. It’s not quite that evident today, but you can tell. What is unique though about Tulsa is that the black population had experienced substantial prosperity. Tulsa of course was an oil boom town scratched out of the Oklahoma dust. As the wells went up so did everyones standard of living; blacks included. The Greenwood section of Tulsa at the intersection of Archer and Greenwood streets was the epicenter for this prosperity. Not only prosperous black-owned businesses, but lawyers, doctors, and just about every other service and profession imaginable. Many blacks from across the US would specifically move to Tulsa and the Greenwood district to escape local prejudices, threats and violence. All of them hoping to get in on a piece of the prosperity. As
Greenwood’s prosperity increased some have reported that the rest of the city was not so excited about it all. In fact the more prosperous Greenwood became it seemed the more suspicious and nervous some of the rest of Tulsa became. That is until May 30, 1921…
You know as I reflect on this part of the Greenwood legacy I wonder if perhaps this might be the best arrangement. Carve out a piece of the town and allow that minority group or ethnic group to basically live there as if they own it and are in charge of it. I know that there are many urban locations like this. Italian, Chinese, Irish, they all have carved out notorious bits of famous large cities. So what if we encouraged this practice particularly among black dominated communities? Encouraging black-owned businesses to locate in areas specifically targeted to blacks? A kind of economic segregation. Would this only set us back in terms of race relations? Or would this be a better approach? What do you think?