Greenwood Reawakened: Live at the Big 10 Ballroom - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
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Greenwood Reawakened: Live at the Big 10 Ballroom

Join us November 11, 2023 at 4 p.m.
The Historic Big 10 Ballroom

See the full schedule here

This event will cover chapters 9-15 of Built From the Fire.

“I played the Big 10 with T-Bone Walker and Guitar Slim, two blues players…It was just a great big room, man. They had a bandstand, and people just danced. It was basically a carbon copy of the Savoy Ballroom in New York City. For black people, music has always been a solidifying force. But also a lot of white folks came over there, because they couldn’t get it on that side of town. They came over here.”

Greenwood native Washington Rucker, in an interview with Victor Luckerson

The North Tulsa venue that once hosted Ray Charles, Etta James and B.B. King is back and better than ever. Hear from Greenwood musicians and artists who remember the neighborhood as a cultural mecca, then enjoy a live band performing the 1950s hits that once dominated the Big 10 stage.

Key Chapters

“Weekend revelers packed every bar and restaurant. Men who shined shoes in white country clubs by day became dance floor kings; women who spent hours tending to rich white families as maids were nwo queens lording over a court of would-be suitors. Bonded liquor bottles were sold discretely out of car trunks at all the popular naghouts, then literally applied to glasses of Coke or ginger ale to lubricate the weekly release.” – Chapter 15, p. 245

Chapters 12, 14, and 15 of Built From the Fire capture what the segregated world of Greenwood was like in the mid-20th century from a street-level perspective. Read what it was like to step into Greenwood’s storefronts, its schools and its many raucous night clubs. Chapter 15 in particular dives into the world of the Big 10 and similar hotspots for nightlife. 



Additional Reading


  • Going Back to T-Town: The Ernie Fields Territory Big Band by Carmen Fields
  • They Came Searching: How Blacks Sought the Promised Land in Tulsa by Eddie Faye Gates
  • The Chitlin’ Circuit: And the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll by Preston Lauerbach


Primary Sources

About the Venue

When the Big 10 Ballroom opened on Apache Street in North Tulsa in 1948, it was billed as “the toniest night club this side of Harlem.” Operated by black Tulsa police officer Lonnie Williams, the Big 10 welcomed all the biggest black acts acts, including many of the progenitors of modern rock and roll: Bo Diddley, Big Mama Thornton, Ray Charles. The venue closed in the 1960’s but was recently renovated and reopened by North Tulsa native and Booker T. Washington High School musical director Lester Shaw.

Address: 1624 E. Apache St., Tulsa, OK 74106

Parking on site