Growing up, my Granny and Papa would always tell me, “Know who you are and whose you are.” Black American history has always been important to me. Long before the mainstream media decided to focus on Tulsa, I knew about a neighborhood in the Greenwood area of Tulsa, known now as “Black Wall Street.”
What I most admired about the residents of Greenwood and other cities like Durham, North Carolina's Black Wall Street, was the ability for these black Americans to achieve so much by supporting each other, investing in each other and building a prosperous community, jobs, generational wealth and a sense of pride.
The Greenwood neighborhood was said to be coined, “Black Wall Street” by famed black Republican educator, entrepreneur, presidential advisor and leader, Booker T. Washington. According to the Greenwood Cultural Center, the district was so successful that a dollar would stay within the district an estimated 19 months before being spent outside the Tulsa area. They did not let the laws of the land prevent them from building a beautifully prosperous black oasis boasting their own stores, movie theaters, restaurants, realtors, banks, churches, physicians, lawyers, salons and modern homes.
When you think about black success, black generational wealth, black entrepreneurship, the American dream, it could be found in Greenwood. You had black families in this city back in the 1920’s, who owned their own private planes. This zone of opportunity and black wealth became the standard and envy of what black neighborhoods could become in America if given the opportunity to both thrive and survive.
Horrifically, that all came to a disgustingly brutal stop May 31 through June 1, 1921, when the legacy of this town became known more for the massacre rather than its majesty.
Linda Christensen wrote, “During the night and day of the riot, deputized whites killed more than 300 African Americans. They looted and burned to the ground 40 square blocks of 1,265 African American homes, including hospitals, schools and churches, and destroyed 150 businesses. White deputies and members of the National Guard arrested and detained 6,000 black Tulsans, who were released only upon being vouched for by a white employer or other white citizens. Nine thousand African Americans were left homeless and lived in tents well into the winter of 1921.”
Fast forward 99 years later to the day when I, like President Trump, and so many other Americans, watched black American cities literally being destroyed by lawless mobs after the tragic murder of George Floyd. I could not believe black-owned businesses in many cities run by Democrats, were allowed to burn along with the hopes and dreams of so many that were trying to have their own American dream, provide for their families and bring beacons of light to their communities.
President Donald Trump’s decision to hold his first campaign rally, since COVID-19 in Tulsa was not a mistake and is a good decision. The president knew about Black Wall Street before the announcement was made and understood the story and its significance, but it was not as widely known as it should have been. There is no doubt that President Trump has once again shined a major spotlight on an important point in American history. In 2016, it was Historically Black Colleges and Universities, when he invited over 60 HBCU presidents and chancellors to the White House. HBCUs have since received major mainstream news coverage and support like never before because of his unwavering public support for them. Not since the TV show “A Different World” have HBCU’s received so much attention.
When the Trump campaign announced the rally in Tulsa it gave the world an opportunity to learn more about and from Black Wall Street, not just the massacre but why it was so significant, why it was so unique and is an example for us 99 years later. President Trump is connecting the tragedy of the Tulsa riots to the tragedy of the Floyd riots because he is passionate and serious about building up, supporting and creating opportunities for black communities to thrive economically. The media would not be giving this town and historical moment this much attention if not for President Trump.
The rally in Tulsa will now happen on the Saturday because President Trump is a leader who listens and cares. The media will never give him credit for how responsive and intentional he is, certainly on issues of race and the black community. His decision to move the rally date from the official Juneteenth holiday celebration was out of respect. While it could have been an opportunity for him to highlight to the world the importance of that date to the Republican Party, the party of freedom and opportunity, along with its importance to the black community, he did not want to give the media the satisfaction of turning a positive into a negative, at his expense. This is because he respects the black community and those of us who are privileged enough to advise him and support him at the Republican National Committee, White House and campaign with Black Voices for Trump, to not take away from a really important American observance.
As a footnote, Black Wall Street was rebuilt and it came back stronger than ever with at least 100 more black-owned small businesses until the 1960s. I have no doubt that our nation, including our black communities, will come back stronger than ever and we will rebuild with President Trump as our leader. He may not get the credit he deserves today, but in the end, because of his leadership we will have a great American comeback!
Paris Dennard is a GOP political commentator, strategist, and Senior Communications Advisor for Black Media Affairs at the Republican National Committee. Follow him on Twitter at @PARISDENNARD.