Reversing a Culture of Ignorance: Black Wall Street

The time we live in today is an ever-changing landscape. With explosion of technology information is gained and forgotten almost as soon as we receive it. The other day there was a news report in my hometown of St. Louis that talked about how it was the most dangerous city. Then a few days later two people were murdered at a funeral for a person being murdered. I was thinking damn is this the 1920’s Chicago or 1940’s New York or 2010 St. Louis? This is not only a St. Louis problem but a problem for most urban settings. Everywhere from Chicago who had 44 people shot in one weekend to Philadelphia and New Orleans who have competed for the highest murder rates for the last five years. Urban areas particularly African-American communities have been riddled with crime since crack cocaine was introduced.

As an African-American I have realized that within the culture there seems to be an embracing/celebration of ignorance. Everyone knows a family who has celebrated the release of a family member from prison than the cousin who graduated from Northwestern. Then there are people who can’t wait for the new Rick Ross album but don’t want to vote and don’t understand the history of what people went through to get the right to vote.  I understand the culture of ignorance is a deep embedded with in the culture all the way back into slavery. I will not sit here and negate that process but at the same time we have to take responsibility for what we do. The whole aspect of keeping it hood or keeping it gutter really needs to be evaluated and checked. What has keeping it hood done? The person running around always hollering “I’m keeping it hood!” Is the same person who has the lowest amount of self-confidence to want more out of life.

We can complain about the problem all day but now we need to find some solutions.I have concluded that maybe we don’t really teach other and our children about our history. I think maybe if we truly understood our past and where we came from that maybe we will have more pride and deter some of the aspects of the culture of ignorance. So one of my small ways of combating this will be a series of posts where I will highlight different aspects of African-American culture.

Black Wall Street

Many people think that Black Wall Street is something the rapper The Game came out with to call his record label. The truth is the term Black Wall Street was used to describe an area of Tulsa, Oklahoma called Greenwood.

During the oil boom of the 1910s, the area of northeast Oklahoma around Tulsa flourished—including the Greenwood neighborhood, which came to be known as “the Negro Wall Street” (aka “the Black Wall Street”)The area was home to several prominent black businessmen, many of them multimillionaires. Greenwood boasted a variety of thriving businesses that were very successful up until the Tulsa Race Riot. Not only did African Americans want to contribute to the success of their own shops, but also the racial segregation laws prevented them from shopping anywhere else other than Greenwood. Following the riots, the area was rebuilt and thrived until the 1960s when desegregation allowed blacks to shop in areas that were restricted before.

The buildings on Greenwood Avenue housed the offices of almost all of Tulsa’s black lawyers, realtors, doctors, and other professionals. In Tulsa at the time of the riot, there were fifteen well-known African-American physicians, one of whom was considered the “most able Negro surgeon in America” by one of the Mayo brothers.Greenwood published two newspapers, the Tulsa Star and the Oklahoma Sun, which covered not only Tulsa, but also state and national news and elections.

Greenwood was a very religiously active community. At the time of the riot there were more than a dozen African-American churches and many Christian youth organizations and religious societies.

In northeastern Oklahoma, as elsewhere in America, the prosperity of minorities emerged amidst racial and political tension. The Ku Klux Klan made its first major appearance in Oklahoma shortly before the worst race riot in history. It is estimated that there were about 3,200 members of the Klan in Tulsa in 1921.

One of the nation’s worst acts of racial violence—the Tulsa Race Riot—occurred there on June 1, 1921, when 35 square blocks of homes and businesses were torched by mobs of angry whites.

The riot began because of an alleged assault of a white woman, Sarah Page, by an African-American man, Dick Rowland. The Tulsa Tribune got word of the incident and published the story in the paper on May 31, 1921. Shortly after the newspaper article surfaced, there was news that a white lynch mob was going to take matters into its own hands and kill Dick Rowland.

African-American men began to arm themselves and join forces to protect Dick Rowland. Subsequently, white men armed themselves and confronted the group of African-American men. There was an argument in which a white man tried to take a gun from a black man, and the gun fired a bullet up into the sky. This incident promoted many others to fire their guns, and the violence erupted on the evening of May 31, 1921. Whites flooded into the Greenwood district and destroyed the businesses and homes of African-American residents. No one was exempt to the violence of the white mobs; men, women, and even children were killed by the mobs. In an effort to completely destroy the Greenwood District of Tulsa, firemen were held at gunpoint by whites making it impossible to put out the flames.

Troops were eventually deployed on the afternoon of June 1, but by that time there was not much left of the once thriving Greenwood district. Over 600 successful businesses were 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.Property damage totaled $1.5 million (1921). Although the official death toll claimed that 26 blacks and 13 whites died during the fighting, most estimates are considerably higher. At the time of the riot, the American Red Cross listed 8,624 persons in need of help, in excess of 1,000 homes and businesses destroyed, and the delivery of several stillborn infants. (Source)


I hope this post gives you some information that you can let swirl around in your head. I know that just understanding the past will not making everything better and necessarily change things over night but I do believe it can give one more confidence. Maybe we can reverse this culture of ignorance in not only the African-American community but culture as a whole by knowing and understanding our history.

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16 responses to “Reversing a Culture of Ignorance: Black Wall Street

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Reversing a Culture of Ignorance: Black Wall Street « From Ashy to Classy --·

  2. Once again I am in agreement with you!!! Another problem I see with this celebration ignorance in our communities is the joy of not learning. Many blacks do not want to learn!!! It really pisses me off!!! We (not all but most) want to look to the ignorance in the hip hop industry and portray that. Again it pisses me off!!! It seems in order for our people to learn things like what are doing has to be done through orally. If it is not mediatakeout, world star hip hop, the evening whirl or some gossip news media they aren’t going to read it.

  3. Dope post! Thanks for droppin the knowledge. We can’t always rely on schools to teach us things…especially about our own culture.

  4. On a sidenote, I definitely understand the prevalence of the culture of ignorance. It seems as each year goes by it gets stronger and stronger. This “popular” image of blacks and pseudo-African American culture has slowly but surely distorted the true spirit of the African American heritage, creating a false view and portrayal of not only who we are to the world, but to the new generation of black youth.


    I personally believe we need to be REMINDED of who we WERE. Yes, WHO WE WERE. Reading that piece on the Black Wall Street in Tulsa, OK lifted my spirits. It gave me an image that my soul thirsts to see on mainstream television and even within my own life. Images of progression, BLACK thriving neighborhoods, everyone prosperous and SHARING in their prosperity. Education. Integrity. Manhood. Womanhood. SELF RESPECT.

    Thanks Darryl for reminding us.

  5. Like other commenters before me, props, this is an insightful post. It would be one thing if being ‘hood’ or ‘gutter’ brought one to happiness and success in life but as it seems to lead one in the opposing direction then we need to critically question why we embrace it and then take a distance from or ‘rewrite’ the experience.

  6. You are so right! We are a strong people. We come from African Kings and Queens but that is Never celebrated. “What has keeping it hood really done for us?” Truth! I like the series of bringing stories from our history to the surface so we can Remember what a strong stock we come from and how we are a people worth celebrating. Two thumbs up D!!!

  7. Pingback: They Are Still Our Slaves Why: IGNORANCE, GREED, and SELFISHNESS….So, Now You Mad, Huh?? « From Ashy to Classy·

  8. Pingback: BlackPride » Blog Archive » They Are Still Our Slaves Why: IGNORANCE, GREED, and SELFISHNESS …·

  9. I didn’t get a chance to peep this one but you are really educating us people with this. I am loving the blog. Glad my girl sent me your link. I been check out your posts when I get some free moments

  10. WOW! I love this post! I didn’t know this…will learn more about it. Sad that it’s all gone. Tulsa’s predominantly Native American I thought. Great info. Keep teaching!

  11. I already knew about this story (my grandfather didn’t play about teaching us our history) but I remember in school that A LOT of my peers just were not aware! I was made to feel different (and much more ethnic) in middle and high school due to my knowledge and I remember becoming quiet and raising my hand less. Now I’m mad at myself for not bravely telling my classmates more about what I knew, but I definitely tell my daughter and share with her friends. She hates this because I’m always “teaching and preaching” when her friends come over and she gets embarrassed but I keep doing it because, sadly, many of them know more lyrics to a Nikki Minaj song than they know about what MLK and Malcolm X fought for, and those are Black men that even White people know about!!!

    I absolutely hate this culture of embraced ignorance and how young Black men and women are happy being stupid and unaccountable to their ancestors or for their (current) actions but I will keep doing my part. Thank you for doing yours! Great post!!

  12. This is truly a great article! This is my favorite piece you’ve penned. Your article provides a snapshot of evidence of the historical impact racism has on Blacks’ economic standing. More people certainly need to read this piece. Again, great job!

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