Smithsonian Acquires Rare “Black Wall Street” Film

October 17, 2010
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History recently acquired a collection of home movies filmed by the Rev. Harold M. Anderson of Tulsa, Okla. Dating from 1948-1952, the 16 mm film reel shot by the original camera over many years documents Tulsa’s Black Wall Street neighborhood. That section of Tulsa was devastated by a 1921 race riot that left 85 people dead and many buildings destroyed. The Rev. Anderson captured a vibrant and entrepreneurial African American community, revived and thriving almost 30 years after the riot.

Called Black Wall Street because of its prominence within the community, the footage highlights the African American-owned businesses, schools and community organizations that fostered prosperity and promoted pride among the citizens of the neighborhood. The film was donated by the Rev. Anderson’s family through his daughter Pat Sanders. It will be preserved in the museum’s Archives Center, alongside other collections documenting the African American experience, including the extensive collection of materials from the Scurlock photo studio of Washington, D.C. After conservation treatment the film will be available to researchers and scholars.

“This footage is especially important because it looks at the Black Wall Street community through a personal lens,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. “It is rare because so few African American home movies from that time period exist, and it provides viewers with less-mediated footage and an insight into the interdependence of this community.”

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. To mark the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro lunch counter sit-in, the museum explores stories of freedom and justice, both in Washington and online. To learn more about the museum, check http://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).