HISTORY OF
HISTORIC GREENWOOD
DISTRICT

HISTORIC GREENWOOD

During the oil boom of the 1910s, the area of northeast Oklahoma around Tulsa flourished, including the Greenwood neighborhood, which came to be known as “the Negro Wall Street” (now commonly referred to as Black Wall Street”). The term “Negro Wall Street” was coined by none other than fames African-American author and educator Booker T. Washington. At the time, the Greenwood District was home to dozens of prominent African-American businessman. Two of Greenwood’s most prominent businessman were Black Wall Street architects J.B. Stradford and O.W. Gurley. J.B Stradford arrived in Tulsa in 1899, he believed that black people had a better chance of economic progress if they pooled their resources, worked together and supported each other’s business. He later built the Stradford Hotel on Greenwood, by 1921 it was said to be the largest black-owned hotel in the United States. In 1906 O.W. Gurley moved to Tulsa, among his first businesses was a rooming house which was located on a dusty trail road. This road was given the name Greenwood Avenue, named for city in Mississippi. In addition to his rooming house, Gurley built three two-story buildings and five residences, and found what is today Vernon AME church. In addition to Gurley and Stradford contributions Greenwood boasted a variety of thriving businesses that were successful. In fact, the district was so successful that the dollar would stay within the community an estimated nineteen months before being spent elsewhere. This allowed for Greenwood to become a safe, self -contained and self-sufficient community for African-Americans.

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