The remains of the legendary Black Wall Street will undergo a facelift.
The Greenwood Chamber of Commerce announced a $500,000 grant from the National Park Service will be used to renovate a block of historic buildings in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, district. The grant is part of some $14 million in awards the federal agency is disbursing to historic Black projects and sites through its African American Civil Rights Historic Preservation Fund. The Greenwood buildings will get new roofs and other repairs to their exteriors. These renovations would be the first since the early 1980s.
“We hope that it’s obvious we’re committed to preserving the history our ancestors left us,” Chamber President Freeman Culver said to the Tulsa World.
The ten buildings comprise Greenwood Centre and were built in the early 20th century. They are located in what used to be known as Black Wall Street, a bustling predominately Black commercial and residential district in Tulsa. The area used to stretch 40 blocks and housed more than 10,000 Black people. There were scores of Black-owned businesses, including banks, restaurants, and theaters.
The prosperity was interrupted on May 31, 1921, when a group of white men snatched a young Black man out of jail with the intention of lynching him. When other Black men intervened, a conflict ensued and one gunshot rang out. What followed was 48 hours of terror as white mobs killed Black people and burned more than 1,200 buildings to the ground. When the violence finally ended, some 300 Black people were dead and thousands were left homeless. Those two days are known as the Tulsa Race Riots.
“Before my grandmother died, I asked her what happened,” Tulsa City Councilwoman Vanessa Hall-Harper recalled to The Washington Post in 2018. “She began to whisper. She said, ‘They was killing black people and running them out of the city.’ I didn’t even know about the massacre until I was an adult. And I was raised here. It wasn’t taught about in the schools. It was taboo to speak about it.”
In the decades since, there have been attempts to resurrect Black Wall Street, but the district never returned to its original glory.
A timeline for the renovations has not been announced.