Portland State University. Department of History
Date of Award
Master of Arts (M.A.) in History
1 online resource (ix, 131 pages)
African Americans -- Oklahoma -- Tulsa -- History -- 20th century, African American neighborhoods -- Oklahoma -- Tulsa -- History -- 20th century, Race riots -- Oklahoma -- Tulsa -- 20th century, Urban renewal -- Oklahoma -- Tulsa, African Americans -- Oklahoma -- Tulsa -- Social conditions -- 20th century, Tulsa (Okla.) -- Race relations
Tulsa, Oklahoma's historically African American neighborhood of Greenwood in North Tulsa has long been contested terrain. Built by black settlers beginning in the late nineteenth-century, the neighborhood evolved into a vibrant community challenged by waves of violence--segregation at statehood in 1907, the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, ongoing disinvestment, and processes of urban renewal beginning in the late 1950s--that contributed to the erosion of the neighborhood and the eventual displacement of many area residents into remote housing projects further into North Tulsa. These waves of violence were propelled by Oklahoma lawmakers, local Tulsa government officials, members of the Ku Klux Klan, and private white citizens who worked to expand the city's color line by controlling the placement and visibility of black people in Tulsa and gain ownership of Greenwood--as the neighborhood was, and is, located on desirable land.
The people of Greenwood met these waves of violence with acts of resistance. They organized and lobbied against segregation at statehood, fought to save their community during the Tulsa Race Riot, and galvanized to rebuild almost immediately after. They maintained a culture of interdependence that contributed to strength in community and economy. Beginning in the late 1950s, they protested their displacement. However, by the late 1980s, the ravages of slum clearance and expressway building had rendered much of Greenwood unlivable and many residents had no choice but to relocate. The loss of historic place and increased distance between community members made it difficult to maintain their shared identity and culture of interdependence.
Taken altogether, these four waves of violence functioned as tools to carry out the city of Tulsa's longstanding agenda of reclaiming the prime urban real estate of Greenwood while broadening the area of land that segregated black & white Tulsa. At the root existed white supremacy: the belief in the inherent superiority of the white race and its fundamental right to dominate society.
Smith, Greta Katherine, ""The Battling Ground": Memory, Violence, and Resistance in Greenwood, North Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1907-1980" (2018). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4559.