Early in the twentieth century, Tulsa’s black community—the “Greenwood District”—became a nationally renowned entrepreneurial center, giving rise to the term “Black Wall Street.”
Since then, in the face of racism and segregation, Black Wall Street has long been a symbol of economic hope and success, thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit demonstrated by Greenwood residents who thrived together at a time when it was unusual.
The Greenwood Cultural Center, which opened in the late 1970s, became a tourist attraction in the area by addressing African American culture, working to improve race relations in the city, and preserving Black Wall Street.
Why is Black Wall Street such an important player in the global economy?
Black Wall Street is home to the world’s largest stock exchanges, and the largest financial firms such as The Greenwood, and employs thousands of people. Wall Street, as the trading hub of the world’s largest economy, has a lasting impact not only on the American economy but also on the global economy.
What businesses were on Black Wall Street, and how many are still surviving today?
With a population of 15,000 African Americans, Black Wall Street encompassed over 600 businesses and 36 square blocks. The businesses started reducing over time after the devastating race massacre that took place in June of 1921.
Black Wall Street was, however, fueled by the efforts of two businesses that still exist today: NC Mutual Life Insurance Company and Mechanics & Farmers Bank. NC Mutual Life Insurance Company is now the world’s largest Black-owned insurance company.
The revival of Black Wall Street
Black Wall Street’s spirit is alive and thriving in cities across the country 100 years after the massacre. Despite, it still faces structural, systemic, and institutional challenges related to race, it embraces a positive mindset in economics and entrepreneurship by drawing on the incredible icons of the past.
Given the increased awareness of Wall Street banks’ long history of discriminatory lending over the last century, there have been efforts to invest in Black-controlled financial institutions. Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo all announced multi-million-dollar investments in minority depository institutions last year as part of efforts to rebuild trust and renew commitments to racial equality.
It’s Black History Month season and we want to honor and celebrate all black businesses. We’ve highlighted Black Wall Street because it was one of the most successful African-American communities in the United States at the time. Some of the black entrepreneurs we celebrate today have made an impact on Black Wall Street making it self-sustaining and prosperous.
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