Black Wall Street

the movie

When 7,500 White American racist neighbors amassed to enter and destroy the neighborhood of Black Wall Street, 150 Black Americans who lived there some decorated WWI veterans - Businessman J.B.Stradford, Vet O.B. Mann and their neighbors organized and fought fearlessly. Until the airplanes came.

The Defenders


A Black real estate entrepreneur and lawyer, came to live in Greenwood, a segregated Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1901. Oil had been discovered in Oklahoma in 1897 and had rapidly created a very wealthy White Tulsa which supported a burgeoning Black Tulsa workforce, living in Greenwood. Stradford and several other Black entrepreneurs bought land, financed, supported and shaped the increasingly successful Greenwood enclave of Black citizens over the next 2 decades. The backed and built restaurants, movie theaters, Ice rinks, haberdasheries, grocery stores, eventually a library and schools, Blacks only. It was a make-your-money-"over there"- spend -it-here principle. It was an exciting idea: establish an economically self-sustaining, successful Black community in the Jim Crow era. Greenwood Avenue, the center of it all, was lauded as Negro Wall Street by Booker T Washington. Stradford was accepted as the leader of the community.

The second richest Black man on Black Wall Street. He owned a number of rental units and the Gurley Hotel. He, along with J.B. Stradford strategized to keep the earnings of the black workers within their community and help it to grow some independence. Gurley was a strong advocate of Booker T. Washington’s accommodationist approach to dealing with segregation and it often put him at odds with Stradford.

The recognized leader of the Tulsa Black World War I Veterans who fought in France with the tenaciuos 93rd Black Regiment called “Hell Fighters” by the Germans. (They were assigned to fight under the French officers; The White American officers feared mixing them with their White troops.) When they returned home they were not treated as the returning war heroes they were nor welcomed in the victorious marches and parades. This had a profound effect on O.B.Mann. He became a defiant, outspoken, black leader in Tulsa and rode his white stallion down the center of the white Main Street to deposit his money in the White Bank every Friday. He subtly told White Tulsa he and the other vets would fight racists as tenaciously as they fought the Germans.
A veteran of the Spanish American War having lost his leg in the battle there. He was a close associate of O.B. Mann and took great pride in being a veteran who would not tolerate any kind of overt oppression.


One of the proud owners of a number of successful businesses on Black Wall Street. He initially made his money repairing cars for the rich. He was an outstanding mechanic. He leveraged his money well and built the Williams Confectionery, and the Dreamland Theater. The Confectionery was a popular place for young adults to meet and it was said that more engagements happened there than any where else in the community. The Dreamland Theater held over 700 moviegoers and showed movies by Black film-directors like Oscar Micheaux. Williams was an avid duck hunter and a superb sharp-shooter. He was one of J.B. Stratford's best friends and a good buddy with O.B. Mann.

Moved to Tulsa from the Black community of Olney, Oklahoma. She was only 17 at the time and her mother predicted that she would be working the streets of the big city within a year. Instead Mabel took a job as a maid in a White hotel, saved her money for 7 years, and with a small loan from Stradford, opened the Little Rose Beauty Salon right in the heart of Black Wall Street. It became the place to go to get your hair done on Saturdays for the Sunday, church-going women …and, on Thursdays, for all the maids who got off work that afternoon to get ready to party on “Maids Night Out” because they had the day off on Friday. With her husband, Pressley, she also owned the Little Bell Café, a place to go for lunch not only among Blacks but for whites who snuck over to Greenwood for the smothered steak.
One of the very few black police officers working for Police Chief John Gustafson. His job was to monitor activities in the segregated black community of the city

The owner of the most prominent Black owned newspaper, Tulsa Star, with offices located in the heart of Black Wall Street on Greenwood Avenue. Smitherman’s newspaper was a no-nonsense paper and he had no problems attacking segregation. His motto that appeared in every edition of the paper was, “The motto of every Negro should be: You push me and I push you.” He and Stradford were best friends and supported W.E.B.DuBois’ advocacy of protest and the willingness to fight against White oppression. They both rejected Booker T. Washington’s accommodationist approach.

In the Middle


A good-looking, tall 19 year old black charmer worked at the shoe shine stand in the Drexel, a white office building in White Tulsa. He was well-liked and well-tipped and he bought a diamond ring to flash around Greenwood (knowing better than to flash it in White Tulsa), earning the nick-name Diamond Dick. He had been an orphan living on the streets with his two sisters in Vinita, Oklahoma. Damie Rowland took the six year- old in and they moved to Tulsa where she ran a boarding house and Dick did odd jobs and could go to school. By his teenage years, Dick was known as quite a dancer and quite a playboy. He liked the women both white and black. He had spotted Sarah Page as soon as she got to Tulsa.
A 17 year old, very pretty, self-absorbed white girl who had just divorced her husband in Kansas City and moved to Tulsa where she took the job as elevator operator in the Drexel Building. She spotted Dick Rowland right off. Dick and Sarah became a well-known couple in the evenings at Pretty Belle’s Juke joint and Jewell’s Road house. They excelled at quarrelling in public.

The Antagonists

Close to the criminal element in Tulsa often looking the other way at the happenings at places like Pretty Belle’s. He was also a known racists and policemen on his squad had close ties to the Ku Klux Klan.
A local attorney with close ties to the Ku Klux Klan and took the lead in helping the Klan to get organized in Tulsa.
When first elected, announced that there would be no lynching under his watch. It could have been in reference to the lynching of a white man in a nearby town. But for a while he had an uneasy but polite relationship with Black Greenwood. As tensions began to build between the races, he attempted to mediate. His deputy was a Black man, Barney Cleaver, who served as his liaison into the black community. McCullough had, for instance, a cordial relationship with J. B. Stradford. But none with OB Mann.
Elected in 1920 was only interested in keeping his white constituents happy so that he would be assured of remaining in office. He took no positive or strong stand against the Klan as they moved into Tulsa.
The owner of the Tulsa Tribune, the afternoon newspaper that specialized in sensationalism when reporting the news. He termed the Black community as Little Africa and Niggertown. He wrote against the crime and the deleterious effects of the Negro community on the good name of Tulsa.
The Black Deputy Sheriff who was directed to monitor activities in the Black community for Sheriff Willard McCullough. A very close friend of O. W. Gurley.
Composite Character-Hal Richards is a fictionalized character of what was known as a Kleagle. Kleagles were active recruiters for the Klan all over the country. By 1920, the Klan had made good inroads into Oklahoma City and wanted to expand to Tulsa, a city determined ripe and ready for recruitment. Hal Richards was sent to Tulsa to begin recruiting at churches, barbershops, fraternal lodges and in the oil fields.. Hal instigated for violence because he knew a confrontation with Blacks would happen if the Black World War I Veterans and other leaders of Black Wall Street felt threatened of an invasion. With the assistance of Wash Hudson a local attorney and Detective Henry Carmichael, he was successful. After the invasion, the Klan exploded in size, and over the next five years became so large in Tulsa they even had a Women's Branch.
2020 copyright