Built From The Fire : The Epic Story Of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, America’s Black Wall Street by Victor Luckerson

Built From The Fire : The Epic Story Of Tulsa's Greenwood District, America's Black Wall Street by Victor Luckerson

A multigenerational tale unfolds in the heart of Tulsa’s Greenwood district, famously known as “Black Wall Street.” Over the course of a century, this resilient community survived the devastating 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, urban renewal, and the threat of gentrification.

In 1914, Ed Goodwin and his family relocated to Greenwood, joining a thriving community poised to become a prominent hub of black culture. However, within seven years, their world would be shattered. On May 31, 1921, as a young teenager, Ed sought refuge in a bathtub while a violent white mob ravaged the neighborhood, decimating thirty-five blocks and claiming the lives of hundreds. The Tulsa Race Massacre stands as a harrowing testament to unbridled racist violence, aimed at suppressing the burgeoning sense of black empowerment within Greenwood.

Yet, the story of Greenwood is not solely one of destruction and despair. In the aftermath, the Goodwins and other residents rallied to rebuild their beloved community. Despite the challenges, Greenwood thrived and transformed into a vibrant enclave. Bustling nightlife venues, flourishing small businesses, and an underground economy coexisted alongside public storefronts. This dynamic mix of prosperity and poverty attracted a diverse assortment of inhabitants, from iconic figures like W.E.B. Du Bois and Muhammad Ali to everyday individuals encompassing various professions.

Ed Goodwin himself became a successful entrepreneur and acquired the Oklahoma Eagle newspaper, a platform that documented Greenwood’s revival and its ongoing struggles against racial prejudice. With his wife Jeanne, he raised an ambitious family, their son Jim taking up their impassioned cause as an attorney dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement.

However, the 1970s brought the onslaught of urban renewal policies, which nearly emptied Greenwood of its inhabitants. Despite valiant efforts by Jim and his neighbors to preserve the neighborhood, today, the legacy of Greenwood teeters precariously on the edge, threatened by encroaching gentrification and towering high-rises. Amidst this uncertain future, the Goodwins’ newspaper endures, and Regina, Ed’s granddaughter, lends her voice to the cause as she represents the neighborhood in the Oklahoma state legislature, collaborating with a new generation of local activists.

Victor Luckerson’s book, “Built from the Fire,” uncovers the layers behind the Black Wall Street mythos, delving into the intricate narrative of Greenwood. Through the perspectives of dozens of race massacre survivors and their descendants, Luckerson offers a poignant and honest portrayal of this symbol of black success and solidarity in American history. “Built from the Fire” weaves an epic tale of the neighborhood’s resilience and refusal to be erased, despite enduring countless racist policies imposed by the government.

Built from the Fire: Unearthing the Resilience of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street

In this article, we will discuss the tragic events that took place in Tulsa’s Greenwood District in 1921, commonly known as the Tulsa Massacre. Although history may be silent, it doesn’t mean these events didn’t occur. Darkness may hide many things, but it cannot erase them. The atrocities committed during this time were so horrific that they cannot be buried, no matter how hard people try.

President Biden recently marked the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, where a mob terrorized the thriving black business district known as Black Wall Street. History tells us that hundreds of people lost their lives, and over a thousand homes and businesses were burned.

Today, we have the privilege of speaking with journalist Victor Lucerson, the author of the book “Built from the Fire: The Epic Story of Tulsa’s Greenwood District – America’s Black Wall Street.” Victor spent three years in Tulsa immersing himself in the community, aiming to understand the people of Greenwood.

His focus was to capture the essence of the individuals affected by the tragedy, rather than just presenting statistics or highlighting trauma. Victor’s journey allowed him to meet remarkable individuals like the Goodwin family, who have been an integral part of Black Wall Street for over a century.

The Goodwin family has witnessed the rise and fall of their community. Ed Goodwin, a high school senior at the time of the massacre, saw his world crumble around him. Their home, business, and even the local hospital were destroyed. Despite the devastation, the Goodwin family and others like them were determined to rebuild and reclaim their legacy.

What makes the Goodwins truly remarkable is their multifaceted role in the community. From educators to attorneys to activists, they have fought tirelessly for justice and have contributed to the betterment of Greenwood.

Although much has changed in Greenwood since the massacre, with the presence of high-rises and a baseball stadium, there are still glimpses of the community’s history. The Oklahoma Eagle, a newspaper owned by the Goodwin family for over 80 years, remains a symbol of resilience.

Sharing the stories of the Goodwin family and other resilient families in Greenwood has been a blessing and a privilege for Victor Lucerson. Their narratives not only shed light on the events of the past but also inspire future generations to strive for justice and rebuild in the face of adversity.

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