The Goodwin Family: Soaring with the Eagle

Associate Editor

OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Edward Lawrence Goodwin Sr. poses proudly in his Greenwood store.

Courtesy Greenwood Cultural Center

Editor’s Note: This article is the fourth in a Centennial year-long series saluting families who were in Oklahoma about the time of statehood and have contributed to the state’s well-being since.

After the Civil War, the failures of reconstruction prompted a mass exodus of African-Americans from the oppressive effects of racism reflected in the persistent Jim Crow laws of the postwar South. Newly emancipated slaves in search of better freedom headed north to the large industrial cities seeking employment and west in search of the opportunity to own land. The exodus continued beyond the turn of the century and much of the migration tracked across Oklahoma and in particular Tulsa. James Henri Goodwin with his wife Carlie Greer Goodwin left Mississippi and arrived in Tulsa as part of this migration.

They had come as many others at the invitation of Edward P. McCabe, founder of the African-American community of Langston and credited with procuring permission from the Territorial Legislature to build a “colored” university in the territory that would become Langston University. McCabe sent out the call for African-Americans to come to Oklahoma to escape racial bigotry and find a better life.

Consequently, African-American communities sprang up across Oklahoma Indian Territory before statehood. The territory hosted the most African-American incorporated townships in the United States adding to the speculation that Oklahoma was to become the first African-American state in the Union. All these factors worked to draw a vibrant community of hopeful, resourceful, ambitious African-American families. The communities thrived and Tulsa’s Greenwood area became the cultural and economic focal point of a flourishing culture. So much so that it earned the title Black Wall Street. Because Tulsa offered so much potential, Goodwin and his family set down roots and began to build a life.

He opened a haberdashery in the Greenwood area and the family of four began forming bonds in the community that would last for generations. In such a positive environment the Goodwins could not have seen the impending disaster coming that would dash so many dreams and leave Black Wall Street in shambles.

The infamous 1921 Tulsa Race Riot would destroy 35 city blocks of the once prosperous Greenwood area. In the space of 16 hours hundreds of African-Americans would lose their lives.
Many more would lose their life work and this would put the resilience and spirit of a devastated community to the ultimate test. It would most certainly test the Goodwin family’s commitment to remain in Tulsa.

But remain they did and as the slow recovery began the next generation of Goodwins took hold. Edward Lawrence Goodwin Sr., son of James and Carlie Goodwin, came forth to make his contribution to the community. Goodwin would later marry Jeanne Osby Goodwin, who passed away at 102 years old in 2006. Together, the couple had eight children.

The race riot undoubtedly had a profound effect on the younger Goodwin when he embarked on a quest in 1936. He purchased the African-American newspaper called the Star and renamed it The Oklahoma Eagle. On the masthead of the paper he placed the words, “We make America better when we aid our people.” His goal was to give voice to the minority community, a voice not afforded African-Americans by the prevailing media of the time. His name remained publisher until his death in 1978. His words remain on The Oklahoma Eagle masthead today.

Over the years the paper would serve as the glue of the Greenwood community. It would maintain an effective dialog between the minority community and city hall.

Before the many walls of segregation began to crumble, it was customary for visiting political or musical celebrities to seek out the hospitality of the local owners of minority newspapers when denied accommodations in white hotels. Over the years, the Goodwin family opened their home to many famous people passing through Tulsa. They would host the likes of George Washington Carver, Marian Anderson, William Warfield, Dinah Washington, Lena Horne, Lional Hampton, Joe Louis and others.

Next would come the third generation of Goodwins to carry on the legacy of The Oklahoma Eagle. Edward Lawrence Goodwin Jr. and James Goodwin would keep the newspaper on course serving the minority community with information and a voice for matters important to the community.

Today, the Oklahoma Eagle continues publishing due to the ongoing efforts of the Goodwin family. In addition to publishing the 71-year old Oklahoma Eagle, the fourth generation of Goodwins has taken its place throughout the greater Tulsa community pursuing a variety of careers and serving on various civic boards maintaining its legacy of community service.

The story of the Goodwin family parallels the story of the North Tulsa Greenwood community. It is one of commitment, perseverance and community spirit that exemplify the best of human qualities. Traits that make the Goodwins an exemplary Centennial Tulsa Family.

Updated 03-01-2007

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