Elementary School Recreates Black Wall Street
The Students and staff at Fernwood Elementary School transformed their second floor into the historical Greenwood District in Tulsa, OK. Black Wall Street was known as one of the wealthiest Black communities in the U.S. at the time.
Before the area known as Black Wall Stret was the site of the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921, the Greenwood District was a thriving, bustling business district, with businesses owned and operated by Black people. To celebrate those people and recognize their accomplishments, Fernwood Elementary School made Black Wall Street the focus of its Black History Month celebration. This was the first year the school hosted a Black History Month celebration since COVID-19.
In 2019, Fernwood Elementary School’s Black History Month celebration focused on the Little Rock Nine, the group of African American students who enrolled at Little Rock Central High School, which was an all-white school, in 1957.
Heather Minyard, the assistant principal at Fernwood Elementary School, along with two other staff members came up with the idea to focus on Black Wall Street. According to Robert Towner, the principal at Fernwood Elementary School, every year the students are exposed to the information about the focus of the Black History remembrance, and on the last Friday, there is a celebration.
Minyard and Towner did their research to find out what businesses existed in the Greenwood District from 1913 to 1920. The teachers chose what businesses they wanted their classes to represent.
“We want them to actually step back in time. We want our parents, we want our guests, we want our students to feel as if they are stepping back in time. A lot of effort goes into guiding teachers into that direction. A lot of effort goes into how we’re going to design spaces,” Towner said, adding that it also is a competition between the classes.
The class that has the most points at the end, won a prize. The Carter's Barber Shop/Little Rose Beauty Salon, created by a fifth grade class, won first place and the Stratford Hotel, created by a second grade class, won second place. The biggest goal of the event is to celebrate Black Excellence.
Minyard said it took two to three weeks to create the elaborate set ups that decorated the second floor. The planning started in November 2023. The teachers started putting the displays together two weeks prior to the exhibition.
Towner and Minyard agreed that it was great to see the finished product. They are always amazed and pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
Seventh graders Marlow Williams and Johnathan Gresham participated in the Williams Dreamland Theatre exhibit. The movie theater was owned by John and Loula Williams and opened in 1914. It seated 750 people and showed theatrical and live musical revues.
“Nobody really talks about Black History as a whole, they talk about it in pieces, skipping over important parts. I never knew about Greenwood until this exhibit, so this is something new to me. I’m learning more about my history and how it can benefit me,” Williams said.
Treniya Hall, a fifth grader, participated in the beauty salon exhibit, portraying Mabel B. Little. Little was the owner and operator of Little Rose Beauty Salon, which opened in 1917.
“I think it’s really cool I get to portray someone that was part of history, I really love that,” Hall said.
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