The once thriving district of downtown Tulsa known as "Black Wall Street" has long ago turned into a rundown warehouse district. Recent efforts to return it to it's glory days have included massive infusions of government money. But federal, state, and local governments long ago turned their backs on the economic promise of Greenwood Avenue and the many entrepreneurs of Oklahoma's black communities.
Now, Salon magazine reports that FDR's depression era works projects deliberately avoided giving any assistance to the districts in many cities where the black community could benefit. The evidence exists in maps uncovered where zones were marked for exclusion.
Democrats Rewrite Narrative
The feds are not the only ones to blame. City officials in Tulsa and other areas also avoided funding projects in specific areas of concentrated black populations. Some of it appears directed more toward economic groups but coincidentally it impacted some ethnicities more than others. Urban renewal zones sometimes used eminent domain to condemn whole neighborhoods of low income families, then bulldoze and sell the land to shopping mall developers or general contractors, because they thought the location was attractive (but only if the riff-raff was gone). We saw this at Pine & Peoria, in north Tulsa. It had a few blocks of single family homes bulldozed, and the land bought by the Tulsa Development Authority and sold to the developers of Seminole Hills (now failed twice) shopping center. Central planning costs way more and does not respect market forces.
Out-of-town developers get 'wined & dined' by city officials luring them to put in new shopping centers. They get TIFs (tax increment funding) to cover the cost of infrastructure costs (roads, sewers, storm water, traffic lights, widened roads, etc) for that one development. Sales taxes collected from those new businesses go first to pay off that infrastructure BEFORE going to pay for general city government. This is the crony capitalism which picks winners and losers, often based upon campaign contributions.
Oklahoma has many Freedman(black slaves, previously owned by 'civilized' tribe members) enclaves which we seldom hear about. Some of them are ghost towns now. But some of them got consumed by larger cities which got zoned out of existence.
Alsuma was once an east Tulsa black community. They had their own school. It was part of Union School District. It was the black school with no air conditioning while the white school got all the amenities. When the city of Tulsa annexed it, they declared the whole area to be districted as warehouse and manufacturing. That meant no more residential development and eventually those black families got choked out and moved to where "their people" were welcome to live.
Alsuma school does not exist anymore. The region is now affluent and the Union School District is one of the wealthiest in the state, but the area lost part of it's history and black families from Alsuma no longer have the landmarks to identify with.
Another huge hit on black businesses was quite unintended. It came with the civil rights laws of the 60s and the integration which followed.
Once black consumers felt safe and accepted at the big department stores and shopping malls like Utica Square and Southland, they felt special about that social change. What they didn't realize is that many good businesses had faithfully served them for many decades. Black-owned shops suffered greatly when their patrons left them. The result was more devastating than they realized. Now the black community seems to have lost their comprehension for small business. They see retailers as the new white oppressors. And black children have lost role models in their ethnic community who can inspire them to become independent business leaders.