In the darkened room of a new museum in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, visitors are taken back to the night of May 31, 1921. It was on this night and into the next morning that a mob of white residents ransacked the economically vibrant neighborhood known as Black Wall Street, beating Black men, women, and children; firing bullets on the street and from airplanes flying overhead.
It’s still unknown how many people died, but estimates suggest up to 300 residents lost their lives and many more were injured as the mob burned more than 1,200 homes and virtually all of the businesses, churches, and other civic buildings in Greenwood, according to a report✎ EditSign issued in 2001 by an Oklahoma state commission. In a relative instant, one of the country’s most prosperous Black neighborhoods was reduced to rubble.
The impact and aftermath of those events are part of the story being told at Greenwood Rising, a new $20 million museum memorializing the massacre. Greenwood Rising is a history center that shows how the neighborhood grew to prosperity for many of its 10,000 Black residents, and how that wealth was destroyed, stubbing out a source of generational wealth that would have grown to millions of dollars for the people of Greenwood in the subsequent decades.