Friday, September 5, 2014

The Black Wall Street | Burning of Greenwood, Oklahoma - The Black Wall Street by Samuel Black
After the civil war many African-Americans settled in Oklahoma because of employment opportunities from the oil fields. Around 1908 the community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma was established. The Daily Tulsa Star was an African-American owned newspaper. Businesses owned by African-Americans flourished. Their communities were the best. Their schools were excellent. Greenwood was coined the Black Wall Street. However, because of jealousy, deceit, and discrimination, Greenwood was burned to the ground by white racists on June 1,1921.

Based on the growth of African-Americans in Greenwood, Jim Crow laws legalizing segregation were passed in 1908. However, following World War I, the United States Supreme Court declared the Jim Crow segregation laws unconstitutional in 1915. African-Americans progressed thereafter without restriction. Growth ensued. Consequently, the African-American community became subjected to harassment and other discriminatory actions from white mobs.

The gradual escalation of violence toward the African-American community of Greenwood did not cease. It only escalated. Two black prisoners were lynched by white mobs in 1919. On May 21, 1921, an African-American named Dick Rowland was arrested for allegedly assaulting Sarah Page, a white female elevator operator. However, Dick Rowland was never charged with a crime. Subsequently, inflammatory reporting generated by the white newspaper caused concern that Rowland may receive vigilante justice. This led to a series of confrontations between white mobs and the African-American community of Greenwood. As a result, on May 31, 1921 the outnumbered African-Americans were shot at by the angry white mobs. Several African-Americans died instantly including members of the white mob.

Following the shooting of several African-Americans on June 1, 1921, the white mob systematically burned a thirty-five square block area of Greenwood. Schools, churches, businesses, and homes were burned. The estimated property loss reached above $2.3 million. The estimated death tolls of African-Americans were in the hundreds. White vigilantes arrested thousands of African-Americans and held them for no apparent reasons. Approximately 4,300 African-Americans were left homeless, and Greenwood was left in smoke and ashes.

Several events followed the riots. Governor Robertson declared martial law, and the National Guardsmen established law and order. Mayor Evans converted the primary schools and a church into emergency hospitals. The Red Cross used the high school as its headquarters to support the residents of Greenwood. Sarah Page, the alleged white female who was allegedly assaulted by Dick Rowland left Tulsa, Oklahoma. The police chief was indicted and charged.

After the riots which destroyed Greenwood, businesses were rebuilt, churches and schools reestablished and homes reconstructed; however, Greenwood never regained its prominence as a Black Wall Street after it was destroyed by vigilante racist white mobs. Even today entire blocks of Greenwood are still vacant and awaiting revitalization of the area.

In 2003 a lawsuit for reparations was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma. The lawsuit seeks damages, restitution and reparations for the African-Americans of Greenwood and their descendants based on the following violations of the United States Constitution: 1) deprivation of life and liberty pursuant to the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment; 2) deprivation of property, privileges and immunities of United States Citizenship pursuant to the 14th Amendment; 3) violation of the Equal Protection Clause and the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment; negligence, and various civil rights violations pursuant to U. S. C. Sections 1981, 1983, and 1985.

What occurred in Greenwood, Oklahoma was a deliberate act of ultimate racial bigotry against the American-American population. Attorneys from across the nation have been assisting with this project to recover damages for the victims.

A Brief History
At the turn of the 20th century, African Americans had few opportunities to obtain financing for their business ventures or homes. There were equally few options for them to safely place money on deposit and earn interest, at least with established banking institutions. The founders had a dream for their community. The nine businessmen – the pioneers - who became the original incorporators of Mechanics and Farmers Bank were successful representatives of various professions, trades and crafts who shared a collective dream for their community and for their people. They were active community builders, and by the time M&F Bank was chartered on February 25, 1907, most of them had been involved in the establishment of numerous other institutions and organizations that formed the nucleus of a thriving business and residential district, anchored by what became known as “the Black Wall Street.”
The Bank’s mission is a commitment to promoting personal and community development. This mission is the core of our business, and we remain true to the values that have stood the test of time. Helping people build stronger lives, both personally and professionally, and helping businesses and community institutions grow and develop, are the philosophical tenets that inform our decisions and guide our actions. This is evidenced in the businesses, churches and universities that still operate today because of M&F Bank’s dedicated support.
A condensed timeline of M&F Bank’s history:
  • Founded February 25, 1907
  • Opened for business August 1908 at 112 W. Parrish St.
  • Merged with Fraternal Bank & Trust in 1921
  • Expanded to Raleigh in 1923
  • Became NC’s 1st lending institution to be certified by the FHA in 1935; the same year, assets exceeded $1 million
  • Expanded to Charlotte in 1962
  • Purchased 116 W. Parrish St. headquarters building in 1965
  • Expanded to Winston-Salem in 1981
  • Black Enterprise “Bank of the Year” in 1987
  • Assets exceeded $100 million in 1991
  • Purchased new headquarters building at 2634 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd. in 1999
  • Certified as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in 2002
  • Launched state-wide financial literacy program in 2002
  • Assets exceeded $200 million in 2003
  • Awarded Bank Enterprise Award (BEA) by the Community Development Financial Institution Fund of the US Treasury in 2002, 2004 for work done in providing financing in economically-distressed communities and promoting financial literacy
  • Celebrated 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bank on February 25, 2007
  • M&F Bank has been a profitable institution every year since opening its doors

Read about our past.

Learn about our founders.

Join us in celebration.


1 comment:

  1. Obama's history isn't passing the Constitutional Muster.