The critically acclaimed Watchmen gave the new generation a glimpse into what transpired during the Tulsa Race Massacre. Black Wall Street—what the neighborhood of Greenwood was called because of the residents’ affluence—was destroyed in a matter of two days, leaving about 300 Black people dead and even more without shelter. Although Black Wall Street came to a tragic end in 1921, the effects of the massacre still linger on.
Alex Albright, Jeremy Cook, James Feigenbaum, Jason Long and Nathan Nunn—researchers for the Nation Bureau of Economic Research—released a working paper in July exploring the long term effects of the Tulsa Race Massacre on the Black community, Business Insider reports. The study found that the massive property destruction, segregation, and false media coverage became a hindrance for people of color to gain wealth in the years that followed the massacre.
The attacks in Greenwood discouraged many Black folks from owning homes and land for fear that it could be taken away immediately. With losses estimating up to $47 million dollars, some families never fully recovered.
“At the time, the massacre was the largest single episode of property destruction experienced by a Black community,” the researchers said in their July study. “It provided a warning of the danger of the accumulation of wealth through homeownership. In an instant, one’s home and possessions could be destroyed.”
Per Business Insider, here are some of the depressed rates of Black ownership after the massacre:
All told, the homeownership rate for Black household heads in Tulsa fell by 4.5% immediately after the Massacre. The rate of Black Americans living in a home owned by a family member dove by 6.3%, and the share of Black white-collar workers fell by 2.3%.
According to the Insider, a Black man named Dick Rowland was accused by a white female operator of sexual assault on May 30, 1921. The white residents in the area formed a mob, went to the courthouse where Rowland was being held and proceeded to burn down most of Greenwood.
News publications at that time created stories about the massacre that were more favorable to the white attackers, placing the blame on Rowland, along with other Black people. The bad press also allowed white folks to raise the property value in many parts of Oklahoma, making it difficult for people of color to afford homes in the area even up until the year 2000, according to the study.
“The massacre may have put Black Tulsans and some Black communities on a different trajectory, at least in terms of homeownership,” the researchers said.
More on how segregation affected homeownership in Tulsa and beyond, per the Insider report:
However, the segregation effect — the one seen in neighborhoods with segregation like Tulsa — was “noticeably smaller in magnitude” and did not persist, according to the team. That diminished effect could be explained by individual counties’ segregation trends, they added. As such, certain counties could still suffer from the segregation effect while others don’t.
While much of the 35-acre district of Greenwood was lost in the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, its negative effects on the Black community (continued bad press, overpriced housing, and segregation) take a toll to this day.