Many African Americans moved to Oklahoma in the years before and after 1907, which is the year Oklahoma became a state. Oklahoma represented change and provided a chance for African Americans to get away from slavery and the harsh racism of their previous homes. Most of them traveled from the states in the south where racism was very prevalent, and Oklahoma offered hope and provided all people with a chance to start over. They traveled to Oklahoma by wagons, horses, trains, and even on foot.

Many of the African Americans who traveled to Oklahoma had ancestors who could be traced back to Oklahoma. A lot of the settlers were relatives of African American slaves who had traveled on foot with the Five Civilized Tribes (Well, would you look at that? Turns out I *AM* civilized. Or at least partially.) along the Trail of Tears. Others were the descendants of runaway slaves who had fled to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) in an effort to escape lives of oppression.

During the oil boom of the 1910s, the area of northeast Oklahoma around Tulsa flourished, including the Greenwood neighborhood, which came to be known as “the Negro Wall Street” (now commonly referred to as “the Black Wall Street” …not to be confused with these guys) The area was home to several prominent black businessmen, many of them multimillionaires. Not only did African Americans want to contribute to the success of their own shops, but also the racial segregation laws prevented them from shopping anywhere other than Greenwood.

The buildings on Greenwood Avenue housed the offices of almost all of Tulsa’s black lawyers, realtors, doctors, and other professionals. In Tulsa at the time of the riot, there were fifteen well-known African American physicians, one of whom was considered the “most able Negro surgeon in America” by one of the Mayo (as in the Mayo Clinic) brothers. Greenwood published two newspapers, the Tulsa Star and the Oklahoma Sun, which covered not only Tulsa, but also state and national news and elections.

Greenwood boasted a variety of thriving businesses that were very successful up until the Tulsa Race Riot.

Post Riot, The community mobilized its resources and rebuilt the Greenwood area within five years of the Tulsa Race Riot and the neighborhood was a hotbed of jazz and blues in the 1920s. However, the neighborhood fell prey to an economic and population drain in the 1960s, and much of the area was leveled during urban renewal in the early 1970s to make way for a highway loop around the downtown district. Several blocks around the intersection of Greenwood Avenue and Archer Street were saved from demolition and have been restored, forming part of the Greenwood Historical District.

And this makes for today’s somewhat somber MOMENTS IN BLACK HISTORY-Ry-ry….

Just so I don’t leave you all sad and depressed on this gloomy Friday afternoon, here’s a fun fact:

The Gap Band , comprised brothers Charlie, Ronnie and Robert Wilson, the band first formed as the Greenwood, Archer and Pine Street Band in 1967 in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The group shortened its name to The Gap Band in 1973.

And lucky you. This fun fact also comes with a song! You’re welcome. Feel free to shake your groove thang.

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