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(Courtesy Equal Justice Initiative) The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, (Courtesy Equal Justice Initiative) a Bryan Stevenson and Local Projects collaboration.

Published 07/12/19 | Reading Time: 2 mins 4 secs

By Nehemiah D. Frank, founder & editor in chief | Cormell Padillow, intern and junior writer 

Imagine stepping into an authentic space, thoughtfully conceived and methodically constructed to evoke feelings of nostalgia that simultaneously elicits feelings of dignity, sorrow, and resilience.

As you stand quietly in solace, as to give reverence, you hear the footsteps of the multitude, shuffling about in unfamiliar rhythms. You can tell the things that occupy their minds are thought-provoking.

You hear the meditative whispers of the spectators echoing respectively through the many corridors of this magnificent edifice erected to honor this nearly forgotten American story of the Black Wall Street and its unmoved people.


(Right) Project Director for the Black Wall Street Memorial and Museum at Local Projects L’Rai Arthur-Mensah; (Left) Founder and Director of Local Projects Jake Barton

Their history honored in a re-creation used with modern and interactive technologies to intentionally trigger uncomfortable feelings of racial and social consciousness. The experience is designed to make all who walk between its pillars to sway and emotionally transform into compassionate human beings.

A genius brilliance will be the aim for the renovation, and the future added additions, of the Greenwood Cultural Center by the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission (Centennial Commission). This new attraction is seemingly predicted to be a new unique experience, unlike anything else in the world.

The Centennial Commission has strategically selected Local Projects, the creators and brainchild of the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, NY and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and Legacy Museum in Montgomery, AL to be the design team for the Greenwood District’s as-yet-unnamed Memorial and Museum.  


(from left to right) Jake Barton, Hannibal Johnson, Sen. Kevin Matthews, L’Rai Arthur-Mensah, Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell, Selser Schaefer

The founder and director of Local Projects, Jake Barton, said, “We’ve done work at the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, AL. We have done work at the 9/11 Memorial — two of our signature projects — that take incredibly dark and challenging and even controversial stories of the past and make them relevant and meaningful for the present and the future, and that’s exactly what this interpretive experience should do.”

L’Rai Arthur Mensah is the Senior Project Manager at Local Projects. She was one of the lead creators of the Legacy Museum with Barton at Local Projects, and Bryan Stevenson of the EJI. Mensah and Barton are the lead design team for the Black Wall Street museum in collaboration with Selser Schaefer and team. 


Legacy Museum, Montgomery, AL 

The 10,000+ square foot Memorial and Museum’s exhibit and facility will feature immersive, interactive experiences designed to familiarize both locals and tourists with a robust, contextualized narrative around the history of Tulsa’s African American community. 

“There are aspects of the race massacre, even as its hundred years old, that are present today, and we’re all hoping together to make something that can both bring Tulsa together, but also move it forward, and frankly, move everyone who visits this experience, forward,” Barton explained to the Centennial Commission leaders and Oklahoma Lieutenant Matt Pinnell. 

The State of Oklahoma will contribute $1.5 million to the work of the Centennial Commission under the leadership of Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell, who is also Oklahoma Secretary of Tourism.


Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell

Lieutenant Gov. Pinnell said he’d like to see the museum designed in such a way that allows tourist to exit onto Greenwood Ave. so they can join the Black Wall Street story and patronize the black-owned storefront businesses. 

“I hope that they are exiting into commerce, into this entrepreneurship, into the storefronts shops and that they are spending money,” Lieutenant Gov. Pinnell said. 

The Centennial Commission’s facilities leadership team, also, entertained design proposals from four firms, ultimately retaining local architecture firm Selser Schaefer Architects (SSA) to lead the design work on the buildings. On behalf of the Centennial Commission, SSA issued a Request for Proposals this spring to five major, nationally-renowned firms with experience in designing museums.

“Memorials are away to make promises about the past to the future generations, and that’s actually what we should do here with this experience,” Barton concluded. 

The Museum of you” | Jake Barton’s TEDx 2013 


Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Black Wall Street Times, an educator, TEDx alum, blogger for EdPost, and Community Advisory Board Member for the Tulsa World. 

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Cormell J. Padillow is a junior writer and intern for the Black Wall Street Times. Padillow has been high school policy debater for 3-years and has competed at the National, State, and local levels. His words and pen have become the tool he uses to change the mind of the many.

The Black Wall Street Times is a news publication located in Tulsa, Okla. and Atlanta, Ga. At The BWSTimes, we focus on elevating the stories of our beloved Greenwood community, elevating the stories of...