In 1906, O.W. Gurley established an area in the northern part of Tulsa, Oklahoma that was soon inhabited by influential and wealthy black families. This area was teeming with black-owned businesses that were frequented by both blacks and whites. Because of the wealth amassed by those in the area of Greenwood Avenue, it became known as “Black Wall Street“.
As it was during this era of legal segregation, there was a he said/she said story between a young black man and a young white woman. Some say that the young man (age 19) tripped and accidentally grabbed her arm. She (the white girl, age 17) was an elevator operator, and did not press charges or file a complaint. Somehow this story turned into him sexually assaulting her, and was featured on the front page of the Tulsa Tribune.
And the fall out? The next time someone says that only black people riot, tell them this story. According to the Black Wall Street official page:
Before dawn, a mob of angry white men stormed into Greenwood armed with guns, some provided by local officers who also participated in the riot. Hundreds of businesses and homes were ransacked and set afire. Black men, some who served in World War I, rallied together and armed themselves, ready to fight for their families and community. Whites indiscriminately shot and killed men, women, and children on foot and by car. As the number of casualties on both sides escalated, airplanes used in World War I were dispatched, firing rifles at residents and dropping fire bombs on the black community.
About 300 black people died during that riot.