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Traveling While Black: Tulsa, Oklahoma Black Owned Guide

Updated: Mar 19, 2023

Known as “the world's largest small town," Tulsa, Oklahoma offers a wonderful mix of both Native American and African American culture and history, plus a blend of Midwestern and Southern charm. It is rich in Black history from Black Wall Street to the Tulsa Race Massacre. Interestingly. it was also known as "the Oil Capital of the World" due to the the rapid growth of the oil industry. By 1920, Tulsa served as the base for over 400 petroleum companies.




DISCLAIMER: In an effort to shed light on a lens that I travel everywhere with, I decided that it was important for me to explicitly talk about My Black American Traveler Experience. I want to stress that everyone has their own experiences and biases traveling to any country. Therefore, my experience may not be your own. In specifying the Black American identity, I acknowledge that while there are some commonalities in experiences as Black people, there is also a privilege of being an American. I am supplementing my thoughts and experience with a context on demographics as I think it is important to paint the whole picture!


Some wonderings you may have that I hope this post helps to answer are:

  • What is the majority race in Tulsa?

  • Is Tulsa Oklahoma a good place to live?

  • What is Tulsa known for?

  • What is Tulsa Oklahoma like?

  • What is Tulsa Black Wall Street?

  • What percentage of Tulsa is Black?

  • Where are black owned restaurants in Tulsa?

  • What percentage of restaurants are black owned?

  • How many black owned businesses were in Black Wall Street?

  • What are top things to do in Tulsa?

  • What are fun things to do in Tulsa?

 

Table of Contents


What I Expected vs. My Reality // Treatment & Safety // Language // Vibe & Culture // Visibility // Demographics


Black Artists in Tulsa // Black Festivals in Tulsa // Black Musicians in Tulsa


Learn from a Tulsa resident her experience traveling while Black in Tulsa // 10+ Tulsa Black Creators & Entrepreneurs to Follow


Tulsa's Connection to the Black Experience // Locations to Learn Black History in Tulsa


Black Owned Businesses in Tulsa Oklahoma // Black Owned itinerary in Tulsa


Learn how to get access to a detailed itinerary so you do not have to do any planning for your trip




 

Part 1: Know BLACK

For More Information, Read Here.


What I Expected

I assumed Tulsa is White AF, so I did not think there was much a vibe for Black folk. I also assumed that I should have my guard up because Oklahoma has had some negative connotation for the Black community. I also thought Tulsa would have a limited about of things to do and that Tulsa is a not diverse city.



My Reality


A. Treatment & Safety

As a Black person, I felt very safe. I realized that Tulsa has a small, strong Black community. Everyone seems to know each other and there is a close-knit feel. While the Black community is concentrated in a very small area, its super welcoming. Non-Black people were also super welcoming, and often started conversations with me. I absolutely loved it!


For example, when I walked into Wanda J's Next Generation, I received such great hospitality. I loved seeing so many joyful, melanated folks in one place. I loved the conversations I had with the workers there about their experience in Tulsa and my experience living in New York. They were also very accommodating for my food allergies.


The best treatment I received was through my tour guide, Chief, from The Real Black Wall Street Tour. He gave me a personalized 1:1 tour of Black Wall Street, which included driving around to understand the scope of how large the Black community was prior to the Massacre. He treated me like an uncle, and recommended many Black-owned spots to check out. He also introduced me to people he knew while we were on this tour. I felt like I could move to Tulsa and be embraced in the Black community.



B. Language

In terms of language, it was easy to get around because everyone spoke English. However, there is definitely a distinct Tulsa and Oklahoma accent that was present.


C. Vibe & Culture

Issa Vibe! Tulsa has a LOT happening - -truly a whole cultural experience. I did not realize the extent of this until after I left Tulsa and connected with Tulsa residents on Instagram. I stumbled across Black artist network who were selling their art pieces at a local market event. I have since learned there are tons of events happening for the Black community on a weekly basis. Seeing these events on my feed, it makes me want to move there! While Tulsa is a small town, you will never be bored because there is always something happening that brings the Black community together.


D. Visibility

This has been an interesting experience for me. Knowing that Tulsa used to be center of one of the most thriving Black communities in the United States and Oklahoma was almost an all-Black state, it hurt me to see how Black Wall Street is now just a 2 block-strip. I noticed when I was flying to Tulsa, I was perhaps just one of 3 people on the flight. I did not really see Black people until I made my way to Greenwood Ave. This is where I saw all the Black people, but most of them were visitors from nearby states. Most of the Black community is isolated to North Tulsa, which is away from the tourist center of Tulsa.



E. Demographics of Tulsa - What percentage of Tulsa is Black?

  • Tulsa is 15.6% Black, the 2nd largest racial group.

  • Overall, the population is made up of:

    • 62.6% White American (57.9% Non-Hispanic Whites; 14.0% were of German, 13.6% British, 11.2% Irish, 3.0% French, 1.8% Scandinavian, and 1.7% Italian ancestries)

    • 15.6% African American

    • 5.3% Native American

    • 2.3% Asian American (0.5% Indian, 0.4% Vietnamese, 0.3% Chinese, 0.2% Hmong, 0.2% Korean, 0.2% Burmese)

    • 0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander

    • 14.1% Hispanic or Latino (11.5% Mexican, 0.4% Puerto Rican, 0.3% Guatemalan, 0.2% Spanish, 0.2% Honduran, 0.2% Salvadoran).

Amongst Tulsa's white population, according to American Community Survey 2011.[6]

  • Tulsa is the second largest city in the United States.


Overall: I felt like I was among family in the Black community of Tulsa. Black Tulsans know their history and super proud of it. It shows up in the energy of their Black owned businesses. Black people throughout the country are coming in droves to experience this energy. You should too!
 

Part 2: Celebrate BLACK


A. Black Artists in Tulsa


If you want to experience the beauty of Tulsa through the arts, there are many options. The arts community is strong in Tulsa.


1. Black Moon Collective


Website: LINK; For more information, check out HERE

My Local Plug 🔌: If you are looking to buy dope local Black art or you are an artist looking for a space space, check out this all Black artist collective. They host a variety of events each year. They sell at different street markets and pop up shops. They organize inclusive spaces for Black artists.


2. Philbrook Museum of Art


Website: LINK; For more information, check out HERE

My Local Plug 🔌: This museum is not your average museum, it's a breathtaking botanical gardens; family mansion; inclusive art museum with indigenous and Black art; and a walking experience. Considering this is a former family mansion of a white family rich from the oil boom, I was shocked to find this much Black art in this museum! While there, you should check out local artist Skip Hill's pieces including "Promiseland" and "Beauty Shop Aria."



B. Black Festivals in Tulsa


1. Tulsa's Juneteenth Festival


Website: LINK; For more information, watch this video!

Tulsa's Juneteenth festival is the largest in the country. This event attracted over 53,500 visitors from around the country from California, St. Louis, Atlanta. It is women and minority led by a small team of very brilliant Black women who spend the year planning, executing and investing. They offer art and tech workshops and a day of wellness.


2. Tulsa's Dreamland Festival


Website: For more information, watch this video!

This event celebrates music, art and culture in the original city of dreams, downtown Tulsa.



C. Black Musicians in Tulsa


There are many local Black musicians from Tulsa:

1. Fire in Little Africa: Hip-hop movement from #BlackWallStreet in Tulsa

3. Steph Simon: Executive producer for @fireinlittleafrica; Founder of Everything is Us™️, @dreamlandtulsa & @tulsamclainrecords

4. Emani: Musician and make up artist from Tulsa



 

Part 3: Amplify BLACK


Ep. 3: Traveling While Black: Tulsa Edition as part of the “Amplify BLACK” Series

FEATURING: Ray'Chel Wilson, a Tulsa resident who is a personal finance speaker and educator and the CEO of RTB Investments

  • BUY: Best Black-Owned businesses and restaurants

  • LEARN: Tips to be our best financial self entering 2023 through RTB investments

  • AMPLIFY: Experience being Black in Tulsa

  • CELEBRATE: local spots to experience the arts

  • KNOW: Everything you need to know to budget financially for your travels + experience being a Black woman in Tulsa



Tulsa Content Creators & Entrepreneurs to Follow: Read more Here

 

Part 4: Learn BLACK


Tulsa's Connection to the Black Experience

  • Tulsa Race Massacre: Not a Riot! Historically, it has been called the Tulsa Race Riot. Some say it was given that name at the time for insurance purposes. Designating it a riot prevented insurance companies from having to pay benefits to the people of Greenwood whose homes and businesses were destroyed.

  • Oklahoma as Almost 1st Black State: Did you know Federal legislation called “Negro Colonization,” got as far as a congressional committee, and McCabe discussed it with President Benjamin Harrison? Black towns thrived in Oklahoma from 1865 to 1920, and more than 50 remained. Even today, Oklahoma still has the most Black towns, with 14 remaining. Still to this day, hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid benefits are owed!


Locations to Learn Black History in Tulsa



 

Part 5: Buy BLACK


Some statistics on Black Owned Businesses in Tulsa

  • There are 40 Black owned businesses in Greenwood versus in 1921, the Greenwood section of Tulsa contained 108 Black-owned businesses, including 41 grocery and meat markets, 30 restaurants, 11 boarding and rooming houses, nine billiard halls and five hotels. In 1925, after the massacre, there was 242!

  • 80% of Black owned businesses in Greenwood are women owned.


Black Owned Businesses in Tulsa

 

Part 6: Detailed Itinerary


Looking to go to Tulsa? Check out my 11-page itinerary that contains:

  • Transportation: to get to location + while there

  • Links and contacts to all excursions & guides

  • Main attractions + hidden gems

  • Distance one location to next, organized to maximize time

  • Black-owned and/or local spots

  • Travel planner organizer for you to take your own notes




What has your experience been traveling while Black in Tulsa? What do you expect it to be if you haven’t?



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