Before Black Wall Street was burned down to the ground in the 1920s, it was a symbol of black excellence in the face of systematic oppression. Black business owners, bankers, doctors and other professionals thrived in the Greenwood area of Tulsa Oklahoma.
In 1921, the district succumbed to racial violence and mobs where 35 blocks were burned down and the hospitals, banks, and homes in the area were all destroyed because of white racial terror. Nearly 300 people died and 800 people were admitted to hospitals in the Tulsa race riot that would never be forgotten in annals of history.
But 33-year-old Nehemiah Frank remembers the district's former glory.“It was incredible. It was the jewel of the west,” Frank said of Greenwood. “When everyone else in the Jim Crow south was living in poverty that is equivalent to third-world countries, these people were driving cars. They were educated, sending people to college. They were doctors, lawyers.”
Frank launched The Black Wall Street Times in June to be a media outlet and company dedicated to telling the history of Greenwood and north Tulsa, its people and their aspirations.
“We need to have representation in the media and we don’t have that,” he said, later adding: “A lot of African-Americans are left out because they don’t have information. So talking about sickle cell, which is a disease that disproportionally impacts African-Americans, is something they know about. They’re not going to talk about sickle cell in mainstream media in Oklahoma. They’re going to talk about ALS. But that thing doesn’t affect us; this is what affects us.”
Tulsa has been a site of several high-profile police-involved shootings and still suffers from systematic racism. Ultimately, Frank hopes to use his new media company to heal racial wounds and keep people in Tulsa aware of the progress being made as Tulsa rebuilds.
The site is only one aspect of his media company. After receiving a grant, he is planning a black excellence series that will get young people involved in the history of Black Wall Street.