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The Story of Black Wall Street and Why It Matters

The Burning of Black Wall Street - The Tulsa Massacre - Photo Credit: The Library of Congress

We here at The Center Right have always said, and will continue to say, that the best solution to the poverty and "plight" of Black America is for Black America to become the solution to their problem. This, we believe, is why it is so critically important to tell the story of Black Wall Street, what the Black American Community was able to successfully build there, and how this story provides better answers than failed governmental assistance programs (thank you Cloward and Piven).

After the end of the Civil War, starting in 1865, Oklahoma Native Americans, in conjunction with the Federal Government, gave their former black slaves (yes they owned them too) and other freed black slaves an area of land to begin their own community. This happened under the Dawes Act which allowed for land grants to specific individuals as opposed to entire communities. One of those men was a man by the name of O.W. Gurley, who set up a township named Greenwood, and who actively recruited other black Americans to join him in building his dream of a self sufficient and fully sustainable black American community.

Through hard work, sheer determination, and community willpower, Greenwood would build and operate a school system, a post office, a savings and loan bank, a hospital, bus and taxi services, a stock trading and investment market place, luxury shops, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, jewelry and clothing stories, movie theaters, barbershops and salons, a library, pool halls, nightclubs and offices for doctors, lawyers and dentists. It seemed that Gurley's dream had finally been realized and that serious and significant wealth creation was happening within the black community.

All of this work and development would, however, come to an end on May 31st, 1921 after a two year wave of Anti-Black Race Riots swept the nation. A 19 year old black man named Dick Rowland was accused of sexually assaulting a 17 year old white girl named Sarah Page, and the city of Tulsa went into an uproar over it. In fact, the furor was so terrible, that a literal lynch mob formed to force the Sheriff to turn over Rowland to them. It would grow to a full size of around 1,500 people.

That's right, no trial, no evidence, no ability for those black lawyers to offer a defense and evidence. Innocent until proven guilty? Justly facing your accuser in a court of law? The right to an attorney? Nope, not if you were black in Oklahoma.

A group of black men, some of whom had fought in WWI formed a line to defend the Sheriff and jail from this mob, yet the 75 of them were no match for the sheer numerical superiority of the mob. They ended up retreating to Greenwood after clashing with the mob, but the now enraged mob refused to allow them to retreat. The mob followed them to Greenwood and began to burn, break, loot, trash, kill, and destroy everything in sight. In the end, over 300 people were dead and over 800 were injured. Almost all had lost their possessions, wealth, incomes, and dreams.

Yet, lost in the details of the story is the fact that what had sparked the entire event was a desire to a) block the black community from integrating into the white community and b) to prevent the black community from forming its own self reliant community that freed them from the control of the white community. This, ultimately was the reason for the building of Greenwood, and it was also the reason for its destruction. All flash points aside.

But what in the world does that have to do with today? "Great history lesson, bub, but so what?" I can hear people calling out.

I'll tell you so what...

The biggest freedom that one can have is economic and societal freedom. Having not only the power to do what you want, but the means to carry it to achievement. This is a luxury that has been held within the white community from the very founding of our nation, and it was starting to be achieved by the black community as well, until it was destroyed.

The so what is that O.W. Gurley was right. He was an absolute visionary. He must have been well read, or at least well taught, as he followed Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" almost to the letter, and knew that the only path to freedom was self sufficiency. Freedom NEVER comes from someone else's handouts. To paraphrase Frederick Douglas, only the "massa" ever gives out bread for free.

So why don't we see this in Black America today? Why don't we have people attempting to build strong black communities? Why hasn't a modern visionary done a "GoFundMe" to buy one of those old abandoned towns that are for sale all over the country and invite black families to come and create their own future debt free and to create generational wealth?

You can only blame Cloward and Piven for so long. Yes, what they did decimated the black community, but at some point you have to take some responsibility for yourself and your situation and say, "This ends now, and it ends with me. My children will not know dependency."

The conservative message that desperately needs to be delivered to Black America is that they need to stop waiting for a "savior." They need to stop believing that the government truly wants to take care of them. They need to accept that, at least at the moment, the only community that they know that they can count on is their own, and then work to better it and to strengthen it.

Black box pictures on Facebook do nothing, but buying a T-Shirt from my friend Clarence Jones and his company Blaque Face will. Burning and looting cities won't bring anyone more wealth, but buying a cook-book and sharing recipes from my friend Marta Rivera-Diaz and her company Sense & Edibility will. Buying "cool" things and shoes won't build your wealth, but buying gold and other commodities from my friend Regi King will.

You see, that's the message of Black Wall Street. That's the message given by the visionary O.W. Gurley. Tearing down doesn't achieve anything, and it never achieves freedom, not true freedom anyway. These things only come when one controls their own destiny, and that only comes when you are the one in control.

To the Black American Community:


But most of all, you don't need me to tell you that. You just need to be reminded of your own history. I don't own this story, but I'm glad to be a small part of reminding you of your own greatness.

Build, succeed, grow, live! And maybe, save me a seat at the table when you do, because I'm coming for dinner. Especially if Marta is cooking.

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