The Tulsa area of ​​Greenwood flourished after the 1921 genocide. Then came the highway.

"The plot to take it has happened - it just didn't happen in 1921," said a researcher in the former Greenwood region.


Carlos Moreno was standing on the Archer Street bridge across the U.S. Highway 75 northeast of Tulsa, pointing west as it gazes at the sun. Like the wind on the bridge, the underground traffic was very noisy, and there was no shadow in the heat of May. But here it is, he said, where you can see what was taken.

"Unless you're standing here, you don't get the idea of ​​destruction," said Moreno, a writer and illustrator who moved to Tulsa in the late 90's.

By the end of May, it will be a century since a white mob plundered, burned and killed the Tulsa area of ​​Greenwood, then known as Black Wall Street, killed hundreds and chased thousands more. With just a few days to go, many are turning their attention to violence. But that is not the whole story of Greenwood, or its end.

Ruins of Greenwood County after Race Riots, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA, in the American National Red Cross Photograph collection, June 1921

The Greenwood region lay in ruins after the 1921 genocide. Location History / Getty Photos

In his new book to be released next week, “The Victory of Greenwood,” Moreno looks at how the area underwent a second Black Tulsans-led revival after the genocide, a major reconstruction. It was not the bloodshed that eventually destroyed most of the Greenwoods, however; rather, it was, he said, pointing to the spaghetti crossroads to the south and the road leading north.

“Black Tulsa is a happy city. It has new clothes. She is young and gay and strong, ”W.E.B. Dubois wrote after a visit in 1926. “Five years ago, fires and bloodshed and looting destroyed. Scars exist, but the city is neither sharp nor noisy. It believes in itself. Thank God for the pain of Black Tulsa. ”

By the 1950s and ʼ60s, Greenwood had grown into one of the most successful Black communities in the country. At its height, Black business owners used 40 grocery stores and dozens of confectionary wards across the community using 35 blocks.

The intersection of East Archer Street and North Greenwood Avenue in 1938.

The view of Greenwood Avenue faces north in 1938. Greenwood Cultural Center / Getty Photos

Photo: Looking north near Greenwood Ave.

Looking north along Greenwood Avenue, one block of business is left in Greenwood. Christopher Creese / of NBC News

“Now what do you see?” Moreno asked as he stood above the road. “Only highways, that's all. Nothing else. ”

Remaining in the historic prosperity of the neighborhoods are one black business and the Vernon Chapel AME Church, where many of the survivors found refuge in the violence, placed between a small league baseball stadium and a long Interstate 244 concrete block. industrial. Reconstruction has increased near Greenwood from the city center for decades, and the recent explosions in the city's art district - including high-end restaurants, posh bars and pavilions - have rebuilt what used to be west of Greenwood.

"These new developments are as stressful as python," said Freeman Culver III, president and CEO of Greenwood Chamber of Commerce.

While the Biden administration wants to address the systematic discrimination in institutions, government officials are very clear about how the government has used it for generations, urban regeneration and a prominent base to give more scales to people of color. Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg acknowledged how government-subsidized highways cut into colored areas, evicted residents and destroyed homes in those who managed to stay.