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Wanda J's features Southern comfort cuisine. Photo by Nancy Hermann.

Featured Article

Greenwood Going Forward

Cultural Tourism and Commercial Investment Hearken a New Era

The crowds and the President’s motorcade are gone. News crews have left Greenwood and Archer for other stories in other places. The spotlight on Tulsa’s 1921 Race Massacre may have dimmed, but the curtain has not closed on the ways atrocities have scarred a once-vibrant community. Still, there’s another story unfolding north of the railroad tracks in downtown Tulsa. Greenwood is rising. Commercial development, sports attractions and cultural offerings are enhancing the area’s appeal. “Build it and they will come”? Greenwood’s Chamber of Commerce is leaving nothing to chance.

Dr. Freeman Culver III holds the post of Director and CEO of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, located at 102 N. Greenwood Avenue. The organization supports 60,000 square feet of storefront and office space in downtown Tulsa. Greenwood businesses have grown in number to 40 under Culver’s leadership. Many welcomed a flourish of customers during the Centennial year of the Race Massacre, and also during the baseball season at the nearby ONEOK Field. In the long term, however, there needs to be more consistent foot traffic, local business owners say. “I think we’re on the right track,” offered Culver.

The Greenwood Chamber is working toward getting more lighting, better sidewalks, and improvements to the public courtyard that connects to the ONEOK baseball field. A new initiative of the Chamber is 25,000 square feet of commercial space dedicated to a technology hub called Greenwood Tech Alley. 

What do to in Greenwood? Visitors can savor Southern comfort cuisine at Wanda J’s or enjoy a meal at Fat Guys Burgers. Popsicles are a special treat at Frios Gourmet Pops. Drop by Tee’s Barber Shop for a haircut and conversation, and bring home gifts and keepsakes from Black Wall St. Tees & Souvenirs. The area is home to a health food store, insurance and financial management firms, bail bondsmen and a few attorneys. There are non-profit organizations, a gym, a jewelry store, artists’ lofts, an upholsterer and a store that sells medical scrubs. A speakeasy is slated to open in the near future. “We also have one of the largest mental health and counseling agencies in Tulsa,” added Culver. Greenwood is like “a beacon of hope,” Culver said of the district. “We have opportunity here.”  

A main attraction in Greenwood is the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, featuring three acres located across from ONEOK field. Visitors can stroll through the grounds from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, free of charge. The centerpiece of the park is the Tower of Reconciliation. 

“The overarching theme of the Tower is that regardless of our individual backgrounds and ethnicities, we can overcome our differences,” said the Center’s Executive Director Reuben Gant. “At the top of the Tower are discernible figures, and the symbolism is a man helping his fellow man or woman reach their aspirations and goals.”

Michelle Burdex, Program Coordinator and tour guide at the Greenwood Cultural Center, has experienced a year to remember. She was entrusted with giving President Biden a personal tour of the Cultural Center to mark the Race Massacre Centennial. He was the U.S. President to ever visit the district. 

Burdex pointed out some of the development that’s taking place in the Greenwood District with the coming of the BMX track and the opening of the Greenwood Rising Museum. The BMX track will hold competitions, and there will be housing for competitors, she said. “They expect to draw huge crowds of people to Tulsa who will be right next door to the Greenwood District and hopefully want to visit the different businesses that are here, along with learning about the history.” 

The Greenwood Rising museum, located at 23 N. Greenwood is the result of a $30 million campaign, a project of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission. $18.2 million was spent on the history center, which promotes heritage tourism, provides information about the Race Massacre, and creates sustainable entrepreneurism. Visitors to Greenwood are encouraged to walk the museum’s “Pathway to Hope,” which connects the Greenwood business district to the Reconciliation park.

"The Greenwood Rising project is a state-of-the-art gift to the world,” enthused the museum’s interim director, Phil Armstrong. “After decades of silence about our history, residents and visitors from all over the world will get a chance to learn about and experience the heart and soul of Greenwood, a cultural mecca of resilience and racial healing.”

  • Once a thriving business community, Greenwood is working to reclaim its past glory. Photo by Bill Hermann.
  • Greenwood businesses contributed $5 million to the Tulsa economy in 2020-21. Photo by Damon Platt.
  • Cyndi Cosper at Black Wall St. Tees and Souvenirs is hoping for more consistent foot traffic to sustain businesses. Photo by Nancy Hermann.
  • Shop owner Angela Robson and Kay Andrews greet customers at Black Wall Street Corner Store and More. Photo by Nancy Hermann.
  • Tee's Barber Shop, since 1985, is a place to get a haircut and have a chat. Pictured are barber Willie Sells and customer Henry Ellis. Photo by Nancy Hermann.
  • Wanda J's features Southern comfort cuisine. Photo by Nancy Hermann.
  • The Greenwood Chamber of Commerce is working to improve the area with better lighting and good sidewalks. Photo by Nancy Hermann.
  • The new Greenwood Rising museum pays homage to businesses and landmarks damaged or destroyed by the 1921 Race Massacre. Photo by Nancy Hermann.
  • Greenwood Rising was a $18.2 million project, part of a $30 campaign helmed by the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission. Photo by Nancy Hermann.
  • The "Pathway to Hope," which features photos by noted photographer Don Thompson, connects the Greenwood business district to Reconciliation Park. B. Hermann.
  • People helping each other reach their aspirations and goals is a scene that crows The Tower of Reconciliation. Photo by Nancy Hermann.
  • Colorful murals remind passers-by of a long-gone era. Photo by Nancy Hermann.
  • Interactive displays highlight the state-of-the-art Greenwood Rising museum. Photo by Nancy Hermann.
  • Greenwood Rising recounts the area's recovery from the devastating fires of 1921. Photo by Bill Hermann.
  • The Tower of Reconciliation is the centerpiece of the Reconciliation Park. Photo by Damon Platt.
  • Photo by Damon Platt
  • Take a stroll along the "Pathway to Hope" and enjoy celebrated photographer Don Thompson's (pictured) sensitive and telling photographs.