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WASHINGTON, D.C. — African Americans have a long history of resilience and success against all odds. Among these stories of strength shines the Historic Greenwood District, dubbed the Black Wall Street, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a legacy that’s overdue for a National Monument. Now the community is lobbying US Congress for that national recognition.
This area was once one of the most economically prosperous communities for Black Americans in the US, with its thriving business district setting an inspirational example to communities across the nation that Black people could create meaningful self-sufficiency and fulfillment even while facing institutionalized racism and oppression.
The hatred for Black Americans was underscored during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre when a mob of white people attacked the homes and businesses of Black people in the Greenwood District. Over the course of 18 hours, 36 blocks were destroyed. Upwards of 300 Blacks were senselessly murdered, many placed in mass graves. But through its resilience, the community rose from the ashes and rebuilt.
For decades, leaders from this historic community have sought to have this area federally recognized and protected. Last week, in Washington, D.C., the Black Wall Street National Monument Coalition embarked on a historical journey, lobbying the halls of US Congress and visiting the Department of Interior and the White House.
The group included some descendants of families who survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre descendants as well as current Greenwood community leaders and an elected official. The group also had a diverse intersection of young and older, Democrat and Republican, who came together for a noble cause.
The coalition achieved incredible success through the support of Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, Reuben Charles Gant, both descendants of families who survived the massacre, Cassidy & Associates and the Sierra Club. These important allies enabled them to attend over 100 meetings, making their cause known in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
The group appears to have gained bipartisan support, locally and nationally, from both political parties including Oklahoma delegates, who are all Republicans. Next, the Coalition plans to have a community meeting in the coming weeks to discuss what a national monument in the Greenwood District that honors Black Wall Street and commemorates those who died during the Massacre could look like.
While meeting with US Congress members, the Coalition stressed the sense of urgency because there are currently three known living survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre left: Lessie Benningfield Randle, 108, Viola Ford Fletcher, 108, Hughes Van Ellis, 102.
The National Parks Foundation pays tribute to African-American history with ten dedicated parks. For example, the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Park commemorates his legacy in Atlanta, Georgia – as does the pioneering Harriet Tubman’s Historical Park near Auburn, New York, and Chicago’s Pullman National Monument honoring employees of an iconic railway car factory organized a groundbreaking strike for better wages and working conditions in 1894!
Other national monuments include Tuskegee Airmen paying homage to WWII veterans from Alabama, plus seven more sites across America celebrating Black heritage worth exploring.
Black Wall Street in Tulsa could be the eleventh and Oklahoma’s first national park.