Tulsa's Black Wall Street, an Oklahoma Harlem of sorts, was home to a middle and upper class of 9,000 African-Americans. They were shop owners, doctors and entrepreneurs—some of them were freed slaves—and they thrived in those 35-square blocks. Then in 1921, over the course of roughly 16 hours, a race riot decimated the economic and cultural mecca. The tally of casualties seemed more in line with the aftermath of a military battle—300 dead, 800 wounded, more than 8,000 left homeless. Blacks rebuilt the area in the decades that followed, only to see their work wiped out during the so-called urban progress of the 1960s. Now, attempting to make good on failed hopes of an eventual renaissance, black leaders want to bring 100 businesses here by 2021, marking the race riot's 100th anniversary, the AP reports.
Those leading the NorthTulsa100 initiative acknowledge it's an ambitious, perhaps audacious, endeavor. Leaders here are seeking manufacturers, grocery store owners, and housing developers to, in the words of Sen. James Lankford, " re-engage a community that is still scarred years later." Counting existing businesses that have recently opened or are under construction and commitments secured to relocate here, the initiative's director estimates she's 20% of the way to the goal. A retired airline mechanic whose mother was 6 when the rioting began, said a turnaround in could remedy some of the blight that now pocks the community and give a younger generation reason to hope—and stay—in north Tulsa. "It's going to do something to help the black community; it's going to be something to help the kids," he said. (Read more Tulsa stories.)