O.W. Gurley

In 1905, O.W Gurley and his wife sold their property in Noble County and moved 80 miles north to Tulsa, Oklahoma. While there they purchased 40 acres of land and opened a rooming house, on the road that eventually became Greenwood Avenue.

Gurley divided the land into commercial and residential lots. Renting several of them to smaller black business owners. Between the years of 1910 and 1920, the community’s population grew from 2,000 to 9.000 people. The expansion included 5 hotels, 8 doctor offices, 24 grocery stores, and 31 restaurants (amongst other things) . Booker T Washington dubbed the area as the Negro Wall Street. Which today we know as Black Wall Street.

The Riot.

On May 30th, 1921, a teenager named Dick Rowland entered the Drexel Building to use the bathroom. The colored-only bathroom was located on the top floor, so he had to use the elevator. As he approached the elevator, Rowland tripped and grabbed the arm of the elevator operator to break his fall. The elevator operator screamed, and Rowland ran from the scene before being arrested the following day. The elevator operator, a white women name Sarah Page, was working as elevator operator to pay her way through college.

A gang of whites immediately went to the courthouse after hearing no charges were going to be placed on Rowland. A group of blacks also went to the courthouse after hearing that the whites was going to the courthouse to lynch Rowland. A fight broke out that left 10 whites and 2 blacks died. The blacks fled into Greenwood, with the whites following

Once at Greenwood the group of whites committed what many would consider the worst act of domestic terrorism on U.S soil. The ordeal lasted 16 hours, with the whites setting fires and dropping fire bombs from airplanes. 35 blocks and over 1,200 properties was completely destroyed. Over 800 people was injured with an unaccountable amount of people ending up died.

O.W Gurley was arrested and charged with inciting the riot. He was bailed out by two black business owners before fleeing to Los Angeles and dying 14 years later.