Business

Meet 9 entrepreneurs who shaped Black Wall Street

Updated 10:52 PM ET, Fri May 14, 2021
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Described by historian Scott Ellsworth as the first Black Tulsans to own a car, John and Loula Williams built and operated an auto repair garage, a confections shop and a rooming house. They also built the famous Williams Dreamland Theatre, which featured live performances and films. The Dreamland was destroyed during the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. Tulsa Historical Society and Museum
Simon Berry started a jitney service that catered to Greenwood's Black community, which was barred from using other taxi services. He also owned a hotel and started a bus service and, as an experienced aviator, founded his own airline charter. After the 1921 race massacre, Berry built a park on 13 acres in the Greenwood District that included a swimming pool, dance hall and picnic grounds. Tulsa Historical Society and Museum
John D. Mann and his brothers, McKinley and O. B. Mann, were well-known grocers in the Greenwood District. J.D. is pictured here in the store he owned on North Greenwood Avenue. According to the Tulsa Historical Society, the store was destroyed in the 1921 race massacre. Tulsa Historical Society and Museum
Mary Elizabeth Jones Parrish, who was originally from Mississippi and moved to Tulsa around 1919, ran her own school and taught typing and shorthand. She was also a trained journalist, and her first-hand account of the massacre and her escape, "Events of the Tulsa Disaster," is being reprinted 100 years later. Tulsa Historical Society and Museum
Originally from Arkansas, businessman Ottawa W. Gurley (front row, second from left) moved to Tulsa circa 1905 and bought 40 acres of land that he subdivided and sold to Black buyers. That, followed by a grocery store and rooming house that he built, helped enable other entrepreneurial Tulsans to move to the community and open up shop in Greenwood. Tulsa Historical Society and Museum
A lawyer and a land speculator, E.P. McCabe was influential in recruiting Black settlers to pursue their dreams in the Oklahoma Territory at the turn of the 20th century. He was also an advocate for Black statehood for Oklahoma, seeking to make it an "all-Black state." His work also helped establish the Colored Agricultural and Normal College, which is known today as the historically Black college Langston University. Oklahoma Historical Society
Buck Colbert Franklin, the famed lawyer seated to the right in this photo, moved to Tulsa a few months before the 1921 massacre. Franklin's home and law office were destroyed and, in the days following the massacre, he set up a temporary law practice in a tent alongside attorney Isaiah H. Spears, left, and secretary Effie Thompson, center, to provide legal protection to vulnerable survivors. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Moving to Tulsa from Boley, Oklahoma, with little more than $1 to her name, Mabel B. Little turned her hairstyling talents into a popular business called the Little Rose Beauty Salon. She survived the Tulsa race massacre of 1921 and went on to become a matriarch of the community as it tried to rebuild and heal. She passed away in 2001 at the age of 104. courtesy Langston University