“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” — Galatians 3:28
As we find our country facing a racial reckoning yet again, we learn and reflect on the many tragedies of the Tulsa Massacre, which took place exactly 100 years ago this week on May 31-June 1, 1921. Over the past week, seemingly every television channel has shared stories of successful Black-owned businesses bombed from planes or going up in flames!
Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black district, known as Greenwood, was attacked by a white mob, resulting in two days of bloodshed and destruction. The area had been considered one of the most affluent African American communities in the United States for the early part of the 20th century.
Between 1865 and 1920, African Americans were on a roll, founding more than 50 Black townships in the state, making it the largest number of Black townships after the Civil War. In fact, on Greenwood Avenue, they had built luxury shops, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, jewelry and clothing stores, movie theaters, barbershops and salons, a library, pool halls, nightclubs and offices for doctors, lawyers and dentists. Greenwood also had its own school system, post office, a savings and loan bank, hospital, and bus and taxi services, as well as the most successful hotel in the entire country.
In that community, African Americans spent entirely within their own shopping district. My research further showed how each dollar changed hands 19 times before it left the Black community, which is economic development in the highest denominator.
This community, known as “Black Wall Street,” accepted all types of African Americans. The affluent and the low-income residents were all welcomed and felt at home in Greenwood. The record shows how many were working in menial jobs as janitors, dishwashers, porters and domestic jobs. They made their money outside of Greenwood, yet they always brought that money home and spent it within the district.
So how did the destruction of this community begin in the first place? With jealousy leading the pack, it all started because of this lie: During the Memorial Day weekend after 19-year-old Dick Rowland, a Black shoe shiner, was accused of assaulting Sarah Page, the 17-year-old white elevator operator of the nearby Drexel Building, and taken into custody. After the arrest, rumors spread through the city that Rowland was to be lynched, and the rest is history. With so much hatred already moving through the area, and with Jim Crow still rearing its ugly head, it was only a matter of time before this organized raid included bombs dropping out the sky and Ku Klux Klan given sheriff badges and guns to go out to shoot, kill and destroy Black men, women and children in the community.
Just imagine what life would be like for us today if those businesses would have been able to continue to flourish. African Americans are some awfully intelligent people; for them to come right out of being enslaved and become so successful in such a short time is nothing short of amazing. This level of intelligence obviously frightened many whites here in America, who have always declared themselves superior. Enslaved were treated as if they were lower than animals, yet after the Emancipation Proclamation, there was a good number of African-Americans who became extremely successful and did so in such a way that disturbed whites, thus the need to put a stop to our success and push us back.
If only everyone would do what the above Scripture tells us where it says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Lyndia Grant is a speaker/writer living in the D.C. area. Her radio show, “Think on These Things,” airs Fridays at 6 p.m. on 1340 AM (WYCB), a Radio One station. To reach Grant, visit her website, www.lyndiagrant.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 240-602-6295. Follow her on Twitter @LyndiaGrant and on Facebook.