Grocers helped build Black Wall Street in Tulsa. A century ago a white mob razed it, the food companies and everything.

In 1920, there were plenty of places to stay, eat and drink within 35 blocks of the neighborhood. Lawyer Jean-Baptiste (JB) Stradford had arrived in town after graduating from law school in 1906, and like his sometimes partner Gurley, he knew how to turn a dollar.

On June 1, 1918, he opened the Stradford Hotel at 301 N. Greenwood Ave. It was one of the few black-owned luxury hotels in the United States. It consisted of a dining room, a café, a games room, a living room and a large reception room, not to mention 54 suites; the the property was valued at over $ 2.5 million in today’s dollars. The hotel was the place to stay if you travel black in Tulsa; four other hotels were operating in Greenwood at the same time, but none were as opulent as the Stradford.

By design, Greenwood was a destination for Blacks traveling to and from the West, offering dining options ranging from dining, home cooked meals, and groceries for train travelers. Markets and restaurants line the streets, and residents made money as owners, workers and producers of traditional foods. From 1919 to 1921, the Star of Tulsa, one of two Greenwood newspapers, ran ads for the following market owners: CL Anderson, PM Smith, The Williamses, Henderson Brothers, EL Lewis, Arthur Bell and others.

A Mrs. Josie Daniels sold homemade meals direct to customers and wholesale. A fish market sold local catch and shellfish commercially and to the public. There were barbecue restaurants, chili parlors, juke joints, butchers, drugstores and miscellaneous stores, confectionery, ice cream parlors, and bakeries. Stradford, Gurley and other enterprising businessmen had created a community with a sustainable and highly functioning food system.

It was destroyed for two terrible days in 1921.

About William W.

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