5 Reasons Why Black Wall Street Was Successful
Black Wall Street was a small community in Northern Tulsa, Oklahoma that held a concentration of Black American wealth. This community was able to become economically self-sufficient only 50 years after slaves were emancipated. This post reviews my top 5 reasons why Black Wall Street was successful.
Discrimination in Tulsa
The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, declaring that all slaves in the Southern United States be freed. In 1897, when Black Wall Street was in its beginning stages, Black Americans were still highly discriminated against. They were denied entry into formal Doctors’ offices, service in restaurants, and proper treatment in schools. This increased the demand for businesses with quality Black customer service. Black Tulsans began to start their own businesses to serve their communities including schools, movie theatres, hotels, and a bus system.
Tulsa OilWhen oil deposits were found in Tulsa, this created an economic foundation for both Black and White Tulsans. The Oil industry created several millionaires, but more importantly, it created a somewhat stable “middle class” that had excess money to consume luxury items. While Black Wall Street is known for its concentration of Black Entrepreneurs, the working and middle class played a huge role in maintaining the economy of Black Tulsa. Similar to today, the middle class was the primary consumer of goods.
Personally, I believe having “woke entrepreneurs” was the most important factor in Black Wall Street’s success. A philanthropist or nonprofit organization puts in the effort to help the community without expecting anything in return. An entrepreneur begins a business venture with the intent to make a profit. I define a “Woke Entrepreneur” as an individual with a business venture that makes a profit AND intentionally helps the greater good of the community. This concept is not new. O.W Gurley is a prime example of a woke entrepreneur. He bought 40 acres of land in Tulsa and intentionally sold to Black Families. He also owned a boarding house he made available to those fleeing from the violent Mississippi area. People like O.W Gurley, with the resources and determination for business in addition to the heart and soul for philanthropy, laid a strong foundation for Black Wall Street to grow.
Community Value of Education
Another major factor in the success of Black Wall Street was the high value placed on education. During this time, schools were forced, by federal law, to be integrated but the education Black students received was minimal. The Black community of Tulsa took the education of their children into their own hands and built two schools within the district. Valuing education translates into valuing the future. The community was willing to invest in their children, build them a school, and hired teachers they felt would equip their children for success.
Another strong factor as to why Black Wall Street was so successful, was the long period of time the black dollar stayed circulating amongst the community. This somewhat connects to the previously mentioned reason, Discrimination in Tulsa. Due to Black consumers not being allowed or welcomed in white businesses, black dollars were able to circulate within the community for almost a full year. To put this into perspective, today money leaves the Black Community within 6 hours. In short, the Black citizens of Tulsa put their money where their mouth was. They realized the power of their Black Dollar and invested in their own community.