The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000 Page: 530
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
level of professionalization throughout the decade attributable to reformist
Overall, Vyhnanek has produced an interesting and highly readable account
of crime operations and one southern city's efforts to combat them. In doing so,
he touches on many central themes of the period's history-the slow demise of
machine politics, immigration, the growing organization of criminal activities,
and social experimentation. When appropriate, he draws comparisons between
New Orleans and other southern cities. Historians interested in urban develop-
ment and social change in the South will find this a useful study.
Texas A&M University-Kingsville SUZANNE L. SUMMERS
Black Wall Street: From Riot to Renaissance in Tulsa's Historic Greenwood District. By
Hannibal B. Johnson. (Austin: Eakin Press, 1998. Pp vii+28o. Illustrations,
acknowledgments, prologue, appendices, epilogue, endnotes, index. ISBN
1-57168-221-X. $24.95, cloth.)
Treblinka and Tulsa are two towns that ought to tip the tongues of students of
comparative holocausts after a reading of Black Wall Street. Whether Hitler's
active racism in Germany or Warren Harding's passive racism over events on
Greenwood Avenue in 1921 were qualitatively any different might perhaps be
argued. But no one can argue that Hitler would have been discouraged from his
1930S and 1940s conduct by his observation of American cultural equivalents
such as that which occurred on Black Wall Street on the night of May 31/June 1,
1921: Oklahoma's Kristallnacht.
Black Wall Street, as Hannibal Johnson records, was a name applied to the
black business district in Tulsa. If Johnson is correct that it was Booker T.
Washington who alegendly (my neologism, not Johnson's) coined this term (p.
9), one is forced to wonder why. As the author himself states, "'The Black Main
Street of America' [is] a more historically accurate reflection of what once was"
(p. 145). Nevertheless, Johnson's use of Washington's alleged eponym provides
the perfect teaser of a title that will draw readers into a tale they might not oth-
erwise choose to read with a more staid but historically accurate title like Black
This tale is about what happened to the black merchants and ordinary black
citizens of Tulsa's Greenwood District in what Johnson says was "at that time the
worst race riot in American history" (p. 29). Whether it was or it wasn't doesn't
matter. Prompted by the alleged attack by a black man upon a white woman, it
was hell for twelve thousand people and the charred thirty-five city blocks many
once called home. Of all the valuable sources Johnson amasses to tell this very
disturbing story, the only significantly missing document is a screaming telegram
from chief law enforcement official Harding--whom some have alleged carried
black blood himself-demanding to know, "What in hell is going on in Tulsa?"
The lack of such a document among his presidential papers ought to be more
embarrassing to his legacy than the Teapot Dome or his similarly shaped mis-
tress, Nan Britton, over whom Harding never paid quite the price that Tulsa's
black alleged attacker paid. For as a Red Cross document in Johnson's very use-
ful appendices notes, "The consensus of opinion, after six months intervening
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000, periodical, 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/m1/586/: accessed October 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.