Tulsa Celebrates Greenwood, Juneteenth

Courtesy photo
REMEMBERING: Black Wall Street is remembered in the historical Greenwood District of Tulsa.

The United States actually has two Independence Days. The first is July 4 when our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence declaring our independence from Great Britain. Family, fireworks and backyard barbeques define this day for many of us.
But the second Independence Day is just as important. It’s June 19, or Juneteenth, when we celebrate the abolition of slavery in the United States.
As Tulsa passed the 99th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre on June 1, I can’t help but think about the conversation that is happening nationally on race, policing and equality. To fully understand why this conversation is so important today, we must face the realities of our checkered history so we don’t repeat the same injustices.
Hotels, flourishing black-owned businesses, churches, grocery stores and movie theatres – many of these were destroyed by a mob of angry white citizens when they descended on Greenwood in 1921.
Greenwood boasted one of the richest black communities in the United States. Back then, Shop Local was more evident than ever. Many of the dollars spent in Greenwood stayed in Greenwood and contributed to the prosperity of its residents and the flourishing of its businesses.
Sadly, racism, greed and jealousy overtook much of the white population at that time and contributed to what is now known as one of the largest incidents of racial violence in American history.
Today, the Greenwood District is one of Tulsa’s most historical places. Announced in June, the Greenwood District was named one of Tulsa’s Destination Districts, now sitting alongside Kendall-Whittier Main Street, Route 66 Main Street and East Tulsa Main Street. It now has a platform to lay bare its history and culture to show the nation what Tulsa was, how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go when it comes to equality for all in Tulsa.
To many, the Greenwood story was never told. It wasn’t until recently that teaching it in Oklahoma schools was required.
As it stands today, my administration has opened an investigation into possible mass graves from the massacre. Once the dangers of COVID-19 subside, we’ll pick up where we left off and resume the excavations that were planned for Oaklawn Cemetery. To learn more about our search for what happened there, I encourage you to visit cityoftulsa.org/1921graves.
To build a more equitable Tulsa, we must have tough conversations. The more we talk to one another, the more we learn from one another. I encourage everyone to take part in a conversation, talk about Greenwood, talk about the injustices that we still see today, and work to create the type of city where we all want to live.