The Lingering Legacies of Urban Renewal - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
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The Lingering Legacies of Urban Renewal

Join us February 1, 2024 at 7 p.m.
Oklahoma State University – Tulsa

See the full schedule here.

This event will cover chapters 16-20 of Built From the Fire

“The highway came through and actually took the heart of Greenwood out. It destroyed businesses like Smalls Hotel, Spann’s Pool Hall. All those businesses that had existed there prior to the 1921 massacre and afterwards. So the highway…it finished the job of what the 1921 massacre was trying to do – trying to destroy Greenwood.”

Greenwood photographer Don Thompson, in an interview with Victor Luckerson

Urban renewal radically changed Tulsa’s landscape in the 1960’s and ’70’s in ways that many residents were deeply opposed to. Author Victor Luckerson and Greenwood photographer Don Thompson will discuss the personal and policy impacts of urban renewal, juxtaposing visuals from government sources (redlining and urban renewal maps) with Thompson’s on-the-ground photography of how Greenwood residents experienced those tumultuous years. 

Key Chapters

“It was increasingly obvious that white people simply did not want to live near black people–no the poor renters in Greenwood, not the middle-class homeowners moving into neighborhoods farther north, not the blac children of every economic station enrolling at formerly all-white schools…fire-wielding mobsters hadn’t been able to destroy Greenwood, but urban planner sand real estate developers did it with ease. It was just a slower burn.” – Chapter 18, p. 327

Chapters 17 and 18 explain in detail how urban renewal and interstate construction devastated the Greenwood community. Readers will learn about how federal policies crafted in the nation’s capital disrupted the lives of everyday people in Tulsa. 

The Panelist

Don Thompson, Tulsa photographer

Don Thompson is a social justice photographer who has chronicled Greenwood’s story through images since the 1960’s. A California native, Thompson moved to Tulsa as a teenager and has called the city home ever since. His photography has been featured at the Philbrook Museum, OSU-Tulsa, and the Pathway to Hope connecting Greenwood Avenue to the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park.

Additional Reading


  • The Politics of Neglect: Urban Aid From Model Cities to Revenue Sharing by Bernard J. Frieden and Marshall Kaplan
  • Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership by Keeanga Yamhatta Taylor
  • Hush, Somebody’s Callin’ My Name – Don Thompson


Primary Sources

  • Segregation By Design – Instagram account featuring remastered historic photos of the destruction of communities of color by redlining and urban renewal
  • Mapping Inequality – 1930s Redlining maps for cities across the United States, including Tulsa

About the Venue

The OSU-Tulsa Library is home to the Ruth Sigler Avery Collection, which consists of photographs, audio interviews, transcripts, and handwritten drafts about the race massacre produced by Ruth Sigler Avery for her proposed book: Fear, The Fifth Horseman: A Documentary-Anthology of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot.

Address: 700 N Greenwood Ave, Tulsa, OK 74106

Parking on site