Tulsa church at center of “Black Wall Street”

Black History Month

Vernon AME church in Tulsa, Oklahoma is full of history

TULSA, Okla. (NEXSTAR MEDIA WIRE) – It’s been 100 years since the Tulsa Race Massacre. Almost 300 Black people in Tulsa, Oklahoma were killed and buildings were burned.

Vernon AME church in Tulsa, Oklahoma is full of history. It has stood on Greenwood Avenue since 1908. It was the heart and soul of Black Wall Street.

“Greenwood during that time was like the Rodeo Drive of Beverly Hills. It was like Beale Street of Memphis. The Auburn Avenue of Atlanta. It was like Wall Street in New York,” said Rev. Dr. Robert Turner.

But 100 years ago the Tulsa Race Massacre destroyed everything on Greenwood including Vernon. Only the basement part of which stood above ground survived. The church that had been saving souls saved lives.

“People were in this very space, fearing for their life. Hearing bombs go off, hearing people scream. Hearing children scream, and not knowing if you would be next. And knowing that there is fire on the other side of this wall,” Turner said.

The wall made of thick brick and concrete protected them.

“The Rebuilding of this church still inspires me,” Turner said.

Turner says getting building supplies was tough. He said white-owned businesses were told to participate.

“The Local white owned businesses were told not to do business with us, because they don’t want to rebuild. So these stained glass windows came from a company the same that made the glass came from a company in Colorado,” Turner said.

And names of major donors are etched in the windows including one of the founding fathers of Black Wall Street, S.E. Berry and his wife. But now, this historical landmark is in need of major repairs totaling about $5 million.

“We have the first phase. It’s going to run us right at $880,000. That’s going to do the windows and fix up some other areas,” Turner said.

Once completed, Vernon AME Church can again carry its legacy into the next 100 years.

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