The Destruction of Black Wall Street in 1921


On June 1, 1921, Black Wall Street was burned to the ground and bombed from the air by groups of angry white mobs fueled by hatred and encouraged by the Ku Klux Klan. In just a few hours, over 35 blocks in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District were destroyed. Over 1,200 homes were burned, leaving 10,000 people homeless. Scores of businesses were looted or destroyed, and 300 people were killed. It was one of the worst acts of racial violence in American history.

For years, the story of Black Wall Street was largely forgotten. But this tragic event has been getting more attention in recent years as historians and scholars have been working to document and preserve the history of this important American community.

Photo Credit: The Real Story of the Destruction of Black Wall Street | Black Then

he Greenwood District was a prosperous African-American community in Tulsa, Oklahoma that was also known as “Black Wall Street.” This vibrant neighborhood was home to dozens of black-owned businesses, including hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, clothing stores, and doctor’s offices.

The community also had its own school system, hospitals, and police and fire departments. In fact, Greenwood was so successful that it became known as “the Negro Capital of the World.”
However, all of that changed on May 31st, 1921 when a white mob attacked the Greenwood district, burning it to the ground.
The violence began after a black man was accused of assault after an altercation with a white woman in an elevator. A group of white men confronted the black man at his workplace—a shoeshine stand—and demanded that he be turned over to them for justice. When the black man refused, the white mob descended upon Greenwood, looting stores and setting fire to houses and businesses.
As the fires spread through the neighborhood, panicked residents took shelter in buildings like churches and schools. However, many were trapped and killed when these buildings were bombed by planes that were flown by some of the mob members.

Photo Credit: The Real Story of the Destruction of Black Wall Street | Black Then

By the end of June 1st, over 35 blocks in Greenwood had been destroyed and more than 1,200 homes had been burned. An estimated 300 people were killed and 10,000 others were left homeless. It is believed that upwards of $1 million dollars in property damage was done.
In just a matter of hours, one of America’s most prosperous black communities had been reduced to rubble. And sadly, most Americans today are not even aware that this tragic event ever took place.

The destruction of Black Wall Street is a tragic story that has been largely forgotten throughout history. However, thanks to the work of historians and scholars, this important part of American history is finally getting the attention it deserves. The events of May 31st and June 1st 1921 serve as a reminder of how quickly racial violence can erupt and how destructive it can be. Hopefully, by learning about this dark moment in our past we can help create a more peaceful future for all Americans.

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