Black Wall Street: The African American Haven That Burned and Then Rose From the Ashes

Editor’s note, June 1, 2020: Today is the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, when thousands of white Tulsa residents mobbed and attacked the black community in Oklahoma’s Greenwood district. This story about the history of Black Wall Street was originally published in June 2018. “Don’t you realize that Greenwood was Wakanda before Wakanda?” It’s a sweltering May evening in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a local poet named Phetote Mshairi is performing for a crowd of about three dozen onlookers. His large black T-shirt is emblazoned with a solemn picture of Barack Obama, the monochrome pattern of the illustration matching the wispy white tendrils flowing out of his dark beard. Above him, two street signs stacked atop each other offer dueling histories of the corner. This is Greenwood Avenue, a sleepy thoroughfare that winds past a new luxury apartment complex, through the Oklahoma State University–Tulsa campus, and into the northern half of the city.

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