Oil and Blood: The Color of Wealth in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa highway map

Since 2015, the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University has embarked on research considering and documenting the modern racial wealth gap in six major U.S. cities.

This latest volume focuses on Tulsa, Oklahoma–a city still reeling from the aftermath of the massacre that decimated the black community 100 years ago, an event known today as the Tulsa Massacre.

“Oil and Blood: The Color of Wealth in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” details how this massacre–which is estimated to have killed 300 people and displaced nearly 10,000 more–destroyed the economic gains previously attained by blacks in Tulsa in the wake of the oil boom at the turn of the twentieth century. While Tulsa was once home to a thriving “Black Wall Street” in the Greenwood district, it now boasts the largest black-white wealth gap in the six cities the Center has studied.

Key Findings

  • Like previous Cook Center studies that analyzed the economic gaps in Boston, Washington D.C., Miami, Los Angeles, and Baltimore, this report used the National Asset Scorecard for Communities of Color (NASCC) survey to document and understand the wealth and income gaps between different racial-ethnic groups in Tulsa.
  • Critically, the report finds that black ($19,033), Hispanic ($73,975), and Muscogee ($66,438) households have significantly lower levels of wealth than white households, with the black-white gap yawning the widest. The average white household in Tulsa has $232,560 in wealth, meaning the average black household possesses just 9% of the wealth of whites.
  • Moreover, it concludes that the specific black-white wealth gap in Tulsa stems largely from differences in the rate of entrepreneurship and homeownership between the two groups. In other words, the 1921 Tulsa Massacre destroyed many businesses and homes in the predominantly black Greenwood district, and the effects of this violent attack are still being felt today.