What Startup Communities Can Learn From The Black Wall Street

Update: This post actually turned into a Ted Talk. Watch above.

It’s almost common language in the tech community now that you don’t need Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs are taking a different route by creating the community they dream to be part of, right where they live. I’m aiming to do this with Newark, NJ. Using examples from those such as Brad Feld, Tony Hsieh, and of course history.

In 1906 a wealthy African American named O.W. Gurley moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma in hopes of buying some new land. He successfully acquired 40 acres and started one of the most unknown business movements in American history with the new Greenwood district. I invite you to read up on it. I want to focus on how they grew.

First it started with a rooming house, then 3 two story office buildings, and before you knew it over 600 successful business were being incubated in this self-sustaining district with 10,000 African American residents. According to research these included: 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores, 2 movie theaters, a hospital, a bank, a Post Office, libraries, schools, law offices, bus systems, and much more.

So what are 3 takeaways we can use when building our own startup communities?

Make Your Weakness Your Strength

Because of the intense segregation, many of the blacks migrating used the business from the Greenwood district. You would think not having access to certain services would slow growth, but it forced them to provide for themselves. Taking advantage of the competitions prejudice was a big part of their success. Get creative and find out ways you can flip the bad into good for your community.

Keep The Money In The Area

They only used services from each other. Barbers, cabs, etc. So before you go on the internet or go out of town see if you can source the needs of your business locally. One of my favorite startups to watch is ZeroCater. ZeroCater allows businesses to cater lunch to their employees from local restaurants. We should take that model, and use it for more than just food.


Creating their own schools was a huge part of their success. Some schools required travel through the racist parts of town and didn’t provide a quality education. So they kept the schools in the district. Today educating your community has become easier than ever with platforms such as Skillshare and Eventbrite. Teaching the young and old new skills, helps companies keep their employee skill levels high. It also helps new entrepreneurs gain the tools and the know how to start a new venture.

So as you build a community in your town remember to take your biggest weaknesses head on, use and promote local services first, and teach others new skills constantly. If everyone in the community did those three things I’m sure you will start to see a difference over time.

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  • TB

    This was an amazing post, Anthony! Much props. It resonates on so many levels. The money that us black folk spend, as well as the skills we possess, don’t circulate within our own community to help it grow. I think it’s one of our main problems as a people. We’ve always had the hustle spirit in us – due to a lot of different factors it diminished. We could learn a great deal from Black Wall Street – our people or anyone else with big ideas. You draw a great parallel on this.

    • Anthony Frasier

      Thank you!

  • Peter

    Good advice. My deepest ambition is to once again create a black wall street. Not for the desire to segregate african americans, but to empower us to thrive in our communities. Recirculate the money in our communities.

  • Great suggestions…..we are struggling here in the UK with getting our community to see and utilise our collective (economic power and social capital), but as things get tougher for us here, it is beginning to dawn on us that we need to innovate…Thanks

  • viv ahmun

    I am familiar with your ideas and understand the concept completely. the issue in the UK is the lack of numbers and the lack of a single black experience and belief system to draw on. We do not have strong church leaders and black people in the UK come from the four corners of the globe….it is significantly harder to achieve in the terms you describe, not an excuse not to try, but definitely good reason to ensure we come up with solutions that fit our particular circumstances in the UK

  • Do we have any groups of Black people in this day and age who are interested incoming together to form a new Black Wall Street somewhere in the US? I have been doing some research in areas in states where a large amount of land is cheap, there are no personal or business state taxes, and potential to build a new place.

    • Sabii


      • Does that mean you are interested?

        • PoetX

          I’m interested. I currently reside in NYC.

          • Thanks for the reply PoetX. I will keep in touch when I create a forum for interested parties to discuss.

          • PoetX

            Do you need any contact info from me? What is the best way to reach you?

          • Can you give me your email and I will build an email list with interested people.

          • PoetX

            Hi Jason. Check your Facebook account. I sent you a private message.

          • I think I got it.

        • Sabii


    • Artesha Mcghee

      Jason V. Holmes I’m interested as well. Contact me at http://www.arteshamcghee101@gmail.com


    • Kay Bodude

      I am interested, I presently reside in Peoria, Arizona. email: kbodude@gmail.com. the black wall street will happen again, I hope sooner than later.

    • Kim

      I’m interested

    • outordinary

      I would not mind putting time into this. Contact me at darksword55@gmail.com

    • Christina Wade

      With what’s going on today it would be a great thing to have a Balck Wall Street in as many communities as possible. Doing for ourselves and not letting others dictate what’s done to us. Very Interested.