Tulsa’s Black Wall Street to be modernized thanks to grant

The National Park Service to give $500,000 to renovate buildings along the block where the infamous business district once thrived

The St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in Richmond was one of the first black-owned banks in the United States. Courtesy of National Park Service, Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site

Nearly 100 years after Black Wall Street was destroyed by an angry mob of white racists, the federal government is stepping in to restore some of the buildings on the famed Tulsa, Oklahoma block.

READ MORE: Nearly a century after Black Wall Street burning, Tulsa attempts to right wrongs

The National Park Service (NPS) is giving $500,000 in grant money to renovate buildings along Tulsa’s one-block North Greenwood Avenue business district known as the former Black Wall Street, announced the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, which manages the district. Chamber President Freeman Culver told the Associated Press that the money will go toward replacing roofs on 10 buildings as well as revamping the exteriors of the buildings.

Black Wall Street Memorial

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“We hope that it’s obvious we’re committed to preserving the history our ancestors left us,” Culver said, adding that the chamber submitted paperwork for the buildings to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1921, Black Wall Street, at one-time the most thriving Black business community in the United States, was destroyed in race riots resulting in more than 300 Black deaths and nearly 1,000 injuries at the hands of a white vigilante mob. The violence left 9,000 Black families homeless.

Black Wall Street theGrio.com

Smoke billowing over Tulsa, Oklahoma during 1921 race riots
Library of Congress

North Greenwood Avenue is all that remains from that once-affluent community. The 10 buildings were refurbished in the early 1980s, but have not had any major work done since that time period.

The NPS announced the Oklahoma project is one of $14 million in African American Civil Rights Historic Preservation Fund grants that the agency is giving to fund 51 projects in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

“These grants will fund important projects that document, interpret, and preserve sites that tell the stories of the African American experience in the pursuit of civil rights,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela in the press release announcing the grants. “Thanks to the coordination of public and private partners, these projects will help connect Americans to historic places that preserve American history.”

READ MORE: Don Cheadle and Regina Hall are Wall Street’s worst nightmares in ‘Black Monday’

But some residents want to see more done, according to The Black Wall Street Times.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the race riot in 2021, some Black leaders tell the newspaper they want to bring 100 businesses to the area.

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