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Between 1838 and 1890, thousands of African Americans moved to Oklahoma, brought there as Cherokee slaves or drawn there by the promise of free land. Black pioneers established towns where African Americans could govern themselves and thrive in community together, and in time, Oklahoma became known as “The Promised Land” of freedom, dignity, and economic self-sufficiency. Out of this movement, the wealthiest African American community in the nation was born. By 1921, the Tulsa neighborhood of Greenwood had become such a hotspot of entrepreneurship that it became famous as “Negro Wall Street.”

But the Greenwood community lived uneasily in the racist, corrupt, lawless oil boomtown of Tulsa. On a hot May day in 1921, a young shoeshine boy would step into an elevator with a teenage white girl and accidentally spark the worst incident of racial violence in America -- a massacre that would be kept secret for decades.


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