Witness the Power of Black Wall Street

Witness the Power of Black Wall Street

By Matt Gleason
Mental Health Association Oklahoma

You’re invited to a special walking tour of the historic Greenwood area, also known as “Black Wall Street,” Thursday, October 5th from 6-7:30 pm.

As a part of our Zarrow Mental Health Symposium, this eye-opening tour will be led by Jean Neal, of the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation. It is free and open to the public. 

The walking tour will begin at the Greenwood Cultural Center, 322 North Greenwood Avenue, and ends at Reconciliation Park, 321 North Detroit Avenue.

Perhaps one of the best places to look through the lens of history is to step inside the gates of Tulsa’s John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park. It memorializes the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot that destroyed Greenwood, an African American multiracial community like no other in the country.

Spurred by the false accusation of an African American teenager assaulting a white woman, a white mob turned its wrath against Greenwood. As a Reconciliation marker declares, “By the end of the day, whites had burned down more than 1,000 of our homes and businesses, and more than 15 of our churches … our dead were buried in unmarked graves. Greenwood, it seemed, was gone.”

But Greenwood survived.

“Out of the ashes of intolerance and fires of hatred came new homes and businesses, schools and churches,” another Reconciliation marker explains.

There were so many atrocities during the race riot, but when Jean looks back, she likes to share that there were also acts of great compassion and love … like this one.

“There was a woman standing at her kitchen sink peeling potatoes for dinner,” Jean recalled. “She lived outside of Tulsa. Suddenly there was a man beating on her door, he was an African American Tulsan who escaped the Greenwood massacre.  She opened the door and there he stood, sweating and bleeding, he was screaming for her to help him. ‘Can you please, please, hide me? They are going to kill me!’ She opened the door, they went into the kitchen where she’d been standing peeling potatoes, and she hid him under the kitchen sink.

“Shortly after, a white mob came for the man, she tried to convince them that there was no one else there, “I am the only one here,” she said. They screamed, ‘We saw him come this way!’ Eventually, she let them come in and search her house for the man. Meanwhile, she stood in front of the sink and continued to peel her potatoes for dinner. When the mob completed their search and were unable to find him anywhere, they warned her of the tragedy that would come upon her if she was caught helping those coloreds. When she was sure the mob was gone, she opened the cabinet, let him out, fed him, let him bathe, gave him clothes and let him stay in her basement until the riot was over.

“There were other stories like that. Some Tulsans did have love and compassion for each other. However, their love was overshadowed by all the hatred. And, for me, the force behind the Tulsa race riot, was that hatred, jealousy, and envy. That much hatred arrested the hearts of so many Tulsans and turned them into cold-blooded murderers.

“We must learn from the tragedy of the Tulsa race riot, and build on the positive growth in Tulsa.  Each one of us can be witnesses of the lessons learned in our past history, be willing to teach others how important it is to love someone versus hating them.  Accept everyone, because we’re all one race — the human race.”

Who: Tour led by Jean Neal of the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation

What: You’re invited to a special walking tour of the historic Greenwood area, also known as “Black Wall Street.” It is free and open to the public

When: Thursday, October 5th from 6-7:30 pm

Where: The walking tour will begin at the Greenwood Cultural Center, 322 North Greenwood Avenue, and ends at Reconciliation Park, 321 North Detroit Avenue

To learn more about the Witness the Power of Black Wall Street walking tour, call us at 918.585.1213 or email us at info@mhaok.org.

 

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