On June 1, 1921, white rioters looted and burned the all-black Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Okla., known as Black Wall Street. Angry at the economic success of blacks in the area (which became known as “Black Wall Street” because of the number of successful businesses and wealthy black inhabitants), white Tulsans accused a black man of raping a girl and attacked the area.
While white citizens used dynamite and planes to bomb the city, leaving more than 8,000 people homeless, eyewitness accounts charge that the vast majority of the people killed (estimates range from 80 to 300) died because the city’s law enforcement officers deputized every able-bodied white man and handed out weapons from the city’s armory.
Tulsa’s Black Wall Street is often pointed to as the singular example of black economic empowerment and how black communities can create their own opportunity and wealth. But it is important to know that Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood is not the only historical example of the power and importance of African-American economic self-determination; it might not even be the most significant.
Between the Civil War and the end of Reconstruction, there were many black communities that thrived economically solely based on the black dollar. Here are a few.