What We Can Learn From “Black Wall Street”

To celebrate the end of a monumental term of America’s first Black president Barack Obama, I thought it would be appropriate to look back at one of the most significant times in the history of Black Business. In Tulsa, Oklahoma in the golden door of the Black business community in America back in the 1900s was best known as “Black Wall Street”. This was one of the most influential all-Black communities, ever, in America. Because of the “Jim Crow” laws, segregation, racism, jealousy, prejudice, and no other options for survival other than relying on one another, produced:

  • The state of Oklahoma was set aside to be a Black and Indian state in the late 1800s – early 1900s
  • Blacks owned and controlled 36 square blocks of homes and businesses
  • There were over 600 successful businesses in the community
  • There were 21 restaurants, 21 churches, 30 grocery stores, 2 movie theaters
  • There were law & doctor offices, a bank, a post office, a hospital, a half dozen private airplanes, a number of libraries & schools, and farmland
  • A Black doctor generated $500 per day by owning and operating a bus system
  • Many of them became millionaires
  • The dollar circulated 36 to 100 times, at times taking a year for currency to leave that community
  • The children were always well-dressed and eager to learn as education was the mainstay of the community

 There are some things we can learn from Black Wall Street to improve the financial conditions in the Black communities of America.  

  1. Black businesses need to congregate and build relationships and partnerships in their own communities that will help them grow and prosper. Other cultures such as the Jews and Asians are perfect examples of groups that help one another and in return control, operate, expand, and profit in communities where the people do not look like them.
  2. Blacks need to create entrepreneurial opportunities for themselves to serve and employ people in their own communities. The black unemployment rate will drop drastically if Blacks operate and run their own small businesses.
  3. Businesses and communities excel when the dollar circulates and exchange hands multiple times with those in the community. Ghettos form and properties deteriorates because there is no dollar exchange to help build the community. The money vastly leaves the community and spent elsewhere that’ll help all others who are non-Black. 
  4. Integration can be a good thing but Black Wall Street proved that culturally segregation increased the financial power and net worth of the business owners. Blacks have to understand that the power is in the network. If you have a network of skilled business owners in a variety of professions, everyone can obtain wealth as the dollar circulates amongst the group because everyone needs one another.
  5. Today, many Black business owners do not take advantage and don’t visualize the opportunity they have in promoting, building, and selling products to those in their exclusive niche market. There are over 42 million Blacks in America and we are simply at fault for not cultivating our own demographics.
  6. Education is extremely important and a conventional way to seek employment. But entrepreneurship gives us the greatest opportunity to create jobs and possibly live like no other in the process. We should be educating our children to becoming entrepreneurs, not just employees.
  7. We need to do away with the “crabs-in-the-barrel” mentality and take on the minds of the people who lived in the Black Wall Street community. The secret of their success was survival (or die) and the only choice was to work with their own people (or die) and possibly becoming a millionaire along the way.  

Almost 100 years has past since the incredible days of Black Wall Street. There have been serious attempts to duplicate or mirror the heroics of those days in Tulsa, Oklahoma all across major cities in the U.S., but there has never been anything quite like Black Wall Street. The lessons we can learn from the great people of that time are profound and we should be incorporating much of their strategies in our sales and marketing plans today. Just remember, your ideal client could be sitting right there in your own backyard. 

In closing, you probably want to know what actually happened to Black Wall Street and why doesn’t it exist today. Unfortunately, Black Wall Street was burned down and totally destroyed by the Ku Klux Klan and other nonmilitary Americans on June 1, 1921 our of envy, jealousy, and bigotry. Between 1500-3000 innocent Black people were killed in the massacre. 

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share this great Black History moment with you as the year 2016 come to a close.