Sample English Essay on The Black Wall Street

The Black Wall Street

The Black Wall Street refers to the suburbs of the City of Tulsa, Greenwood neighborhood, in the state of Oklahoma. The area earned the name “Black Wall Street” in the early 1900s when it became home to high-flying and wealthy African Americans. According to Gates, Greenwood, Tulsa is among the regions with the most tragic cultural and historical experiences in America (3). As Gates narrates, the neighborhood was a site for one of America’s bloodiest race riots, which led to the deaths of 300 African Americans and massive destruction of the community’s possessions by their white rivals. The following is a look at the history of the Black Wall Street.

In the early 20th century, the American community was experiencing heightened levels of racism, especially the white’s intolerance of the minority African Americans. As a result, black people were living in secluded suburbs, with little or no interaction with white Americans. Tulsa, like other areas, was segregated into white and black settlements. African Americans occupied the northern part, while the whites dominated the southern areas of the city. In 1900s, the American economy experienced rapid growth following a boom in the oil industry. The African Americans were eager to exploit business opportunities in the industry. However, prevalent racism and slavery in most parts of the country hindered the community’s zeal to thrive economically. When Oklahoma became a free state in 1907, the state’s administration provided hope for the African Americans by allowing them to settle freely and invest in the available business opportunities. As a result, the State saw an increase in the number of African Americans operating successful businesses in the northern areas of Tulsa. By 1920, the northern Tulsa was home to approximately 100,000 African Americans. It earned several derogatory names including “Little Africa”,”the Negro Wall Street” and later Greenwood (Gates 19). The Greenwood area in Tulsa earned fame for hosting a variety of thriving business ventures, run by prominent black businessmen.Nonetheless, the flourishing neighborhood would nearly crash down following the eruption of racial riots.

The Tulsa race riots have been described as America’s worst racial violence of all time (Gate, 4). It began in May 31, 1921 when a young woman of white descent accused a young African American man of attempted rape; however, the case was dismissed for lack of material evidence. The case dismissal was followed by a frenzied protest by whites, who malevolently invaded the black settlement. With the aid of white police forces, the invaders burnt the black people’s houses and looted their businesses. Even though the African Americans resisted the attacks, they were immediately overwhelmed by the white majority. According to Gates, the riots took nearly 16 hours before the authorities contained the situation (17). However, 16 hours of active rampage were enough to tear down the previously flourishing Greenwood economy. In the aftermath, 300 African Americans lost their lives and several others were injured. As Gates wrote, over 600 businesses, including churches, grocery stores, restaurants, and theaters, were destroyed, and nearly 1200 homes were demolished, leaving nearly 10,000 people homeless (20).

Despite the devastating attack on the African American community, scholars note that there was action taken against the white rioters. Although the Tulsa’s grand Jury had found the then serving police chief guilty of negligence of his duties to protect the community, there was no legal action taken against him. Neither the police chief nor any other white official was ever sentenced to a jail term. Even though the police chief was arrested and removed from his position, he was later set free, and he continued to serve as a private detective. On the contrary, several African Americans were arrested and charged with various offenses, including inciting the riots. For instance, over 6000 black people were held at the  Fairgrounds and Convention Hall, where they were detained for days or even weeks (Gates 18).

Although the Greenwood, Tulsa was slowly rebuilt and eventually regained its glory, several victims never recovered from the disaster.  The violence resulted in the deep-rooted division between the black and the whites, the enmity that remained prevalent for years. In 1997, a commission of inquiry was formed to study and report on the riot and recommends the necessary reparations for the survivors.Even though some victims have since been compensated, the Aljazeera America found that some are still yet to be paid, nearly 95 years later (Mullins,

Even though the 1921 Tulsa race riot lasted for less than 24 hours, the attack has remained one of the worst cases of racial aggression in America. It led to loss of life, destruction of property, and an increase in the enmity between black and white communities. According to the analysts, the attack was purely motivated by the white’s envy, greed, and the notion of superiority. The whites were envious of the successful businesses run by black businessmen. As a result of the thriving economy of the Greenwood neighborhood, blacks enjoyed some of the luxuries that were out of reach for whites. However, the whites had traditionally considered themselves as superior to the blacks, and thus, did not expect the blacks to enjoy better livelihoods. The attack was, therefore, used as a short cut for the whites to undermine the blacks and destabilize their businesses.


Works Cited

Gates, Eddie Faye. Riot on Greenwood: The Total Destruction of Black Wall Street, 1921. Austin, Tex.: Sunbelt Eakins, 2003. Print.

Mullins, Dexter. “Survivors of infamous 1921 Tulsa race riot still hope for justice.” Aljazeera America. (July 19, 2014). Web. August 21, 2015.