Black Wall Street: Tulsa, OK (1921)
The riot occurred in the racially and politically tense atmosphere of post-World War I (WWI) northeastern Oklahoma. The territory, which was declared a state on November 16, 1907, had received many settlers from the South who had been slaveholders before the American Civil War. In the early 20th century, lynchings were not uncommon in Oklahoma, as part of a continuing effort by whites to maintain social dominance. Between the declaration of statehood and the Tulsa race riot 13 years later, 31 persons were lynched in Oklahoma; 26 were black and most were men. During the twenty years following the riot, the number of lynchings statewide fell to 2.
The newly created state legislature had passed racial segregation laws, commonly known as Jim Crow laws, as one of its first orders of business. Its 1907 constitution and laws had voter registration rules that effectively disfranchised most blacks; this also barred them from serving on juries or in local office, a situation that lasted until federal civil rights legislation was passed by the US Congress in the mid-1960s. Tulsa passed an ordinance on August 16, 1916, forbidding blacks or whites from residing on any block where three-fourths or more of the residents were of the other race. This made residential segregation mandatory in the city. Even though the Supreme Court declared the ordinance unconstitutional in the next year, the ordinance remained on the books.
In the social disruption following WWI, as cities tried to absorb veterans into the labor market, there was social tension and anti-black sentiment. In what became known as "Red Summer" of 1919, numerous industrial cities across the Midwest and North had severe race riots, in which whites killed numerous blacks, and thousands of others were left homeless when property was destroyed, as in Chicago, Omaha, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia. Empowered by service in WWI, in cities such as Chicago, blacks fought back.
Northeastern Oklahoma had an economic slump that put men out of work. At this time, the Ku Klux Klan was growing in urban chapters across the Midwest; it made its first major appearance in Oklahoma later that year on August 12, 1921, less than three months after the riot. Historian Charles Alexander estimated that by the end of 1921, Tulsa had 3,200 residents in the Klan.
The traditionally black district of Greenwood in Tulsa had a commercial district so prosperous it was known as "the Negro Wall Street" (now commonly referred to as "the Black Wall Street"). Blacks had created their own businesses and services within the racially segregated enclave, including several groceries, two independent newspapers, two movie theaters, nightclubs, and numerous churches. Black doctors, dentists, lawyers and clergy served the community. Because of residential segregation, most classes lived together in Greenwood. They selected their own leaders, and there was capital formation within the community. In the surrounding areas of northeastern Oklahoma, blacks also enjoyed relative prosperity and participated in the oil boom.
Information Source: Wikipedia