By Torrance Stephens
In his memoir, My Life and An Era, attorney Buck Franklin, a survivor of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre who represented other Greenwood families in court after the tragedy, describes firsthand his memories of that horrific time. He also notes how prosperous the Black community was prior to the events of May 31, 2021.
There were many Black towns that evolved after the Civil War. Consequently, they were able to amass land and wealth. With segregation at its peak, Blacks had to develop and start their own banks, stores, businesses, schools, hotels and hospitals. It is very hard to find a complete list of all-Black towns and communities in America during this era, but below are a few similar to the Greenwood district of Tulsa.
Mound Bayou, Mississippi — founded in 1887
Boley, Oklahoma — founded in 1903 and incorporated in 1905
Formed after the Great Migration, Boley was founded on land that was owned by a Black woman — Abigail Burnett McCormick — also Boley’s mayor. According to the African American registry, it was one of the wealthiest Black towns in the country. Located in Oklahoma’s Okfuskee County, during its heyday in the 1920s, Blacks owned oil wells, banks, refineries and other major businesses. It is reported that this all-Black town produced more than 3000 barrels of oil daily.
Nicodemus, Kansas — founded in 1877
History denotes that Nicodemus was the first “and is the only predominantly Black community west of the Mississippi that remains a living community today.” It is said to have had a baseball team, post office, ice cream parlor, and two newspapers. As it grew so did its political power, boasting the first Black politicians elected in both county and State offices.
Blackdom, New Mexico — founded in 1903
Located 15 miles south of Roswell, New Mexico, Blackdom was incorporated by thirteen African Americans via the Blackdom Townsite Company with $10,000 in combined assets. One of the town’s most famous landowners was a woman named Mattie Moore Wilson who owned 640 acres of land. The residents built and owned stores, churches, an office building and a water pumping plant. They also formed the Blackdom Oil Company, which controlled lease rights to perhaps 10,000 acres. Unfortunately, Blackdom did not survive the Great Depression.
Bronzeville Community (Chicago)
From the 1920s through the 1950s, the Bronzeville community was the center for African American culture and business. Blacks built their own businesses like the Regal Theater and Provident Hospital. Being home to one the nation’s first Black-owned banks and two newspapers, it had more capital than most neighborhoods in the state. Currently, 43 percent of the residents in Bronzeville live in low-income households with an annual earning of less than $25,000 per year.
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