Forgotten History: ‘Black Wallstreet’

It’s February again and that means Black History Month. However, I believe that our history is more than Dr. King and the bus boycott of 1955.

So allow me to deviate from the norm and speak on a part of our history that deserves much attention.

Let me take you back to Tulsa, Okla. in the early 1900’s at the height of the Jim Crow era.

In the midst of segregation, according to Global Black News, black people in Tulsa were not only educated but they owned their own businesses and even had their own bus system.

The blacks there owned a hospital, bank, libraries, schools, law offices, 21 churches, 30 grocery stores, 2 movie theatres and 6 private planes.

“Black Wallstreet”, the term given to the affluent black community, encompassed about 36 blocks and was home to 15,000 African Americans.

The blacks within the area supported the businesses and in most cases money was circulated 36 to 100 times within the community before actually leaving it, which could sometimes take as long as a year.

That’s economic power.

Unfortunately, this power did not last long.

The Ku Klux Klan and a few city officials, acting in response to the lies of one white woman, ordered planes to fly over the area on June 21, 1921, and bombed the thriving community.

The bombing killed 3,000 people and destroyed 600 businesses and 1,500 homes.

In the span of 12 hours, everything that blacks within the community had worked to build was destroyed.

Sadly, this is something that has been overlooked and omitted by American history books and even forgotten during black history month.

“Black Wallstreet” and other occurrences like it, represent a part of history that white America would like for us to forget.

If we forget, then maybe along with it, we will forget the original purpose of Black History Month and in forgetting that, we forget who we are.

When Dr. Carter G. Woodson started black history week in 1926, it wasn’t to only highlight the positive people and happenings within our history, it was to educate a people on everything pertinent to their existence and evolution.

For Black History Month, pay tribute to our ancestors by not being content with what mainstream America says is our history.

Education is the only way to ensure that we grow as a people and that the past does not repeat itself.

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions.

You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door.

He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit.

His education makes it necessary.”

                                              – Dr. Carter G. Woodson, “The Miseducation of the Negro”

Amber Vaughan is a senior public relations major from Pensacola. She can be reached at