City Stories

Thug Town: The Heart of North Tulsa, Oklahoma

Thug Town:

The Short North Tulsa Ghetto Story

The second largest city in Oklahoma, Tulsa has long been associated with many stereotypes, the North Tulsa ghetto or Tulsa gangs, but it is more to a little city that has often been referred as Thug Town.

While during the mid-1980s, with a lack of employment, resources and reasonable opportunities, many people of the streets of the Tulsa ghetto began to adopt the Blood and Crip affiliations of Los Angeles by forming Tulsa gangs, like the Hoovers or the Neighborhood Crips Tulsa, in many of the city’s low-income sections.

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Hoover Crips, rival of the Neighborhood Crips, in the North Tulsa section of Towne Square

The streets of Tulsa lie directly in the heart of the North Tulsa community, a small section of Tulsa that is mostly based around M.L.K Boulevard, North Peoria Avenue, and North Lewis Avenue, while expanding from Pine Street to 56th Street North.

As one travels to North Tulsa it is quite easy to witness the large amounts of poverty, in an area of Tulsa that has the majority of the city’s public housing projects and massive rundown vacant and unkept homes.

Even though there is Tulsa gangs in East Tulsa, mostly in the city’s Hispanic community, an active section of South Tulsa around South Peoria and 61st, and housing projects in West Tulsa like Parkview Terrace, North Tulsa is still the heart of Tulsa.

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The Morning Star projects of the North Tulsa ghetto

With North Tulsa being the heart of the Tulsa’s streets, the heart of the North Tulsa ghetto is the housing projects like Vernon Manor, Comanche Park, Morning Star, Apache Manor, Mohawk Manor, Town Square, Seminole Hills, Sunset Plaza and Osage Hills.

Originally, the housing projects were built to help families get on their feet with affordable housing as a way to start a family’s process of becoming self-sufficient and self-reliable, but as years passed by the community within the projects changed.

By the 1990s, Tulsa’s housing projects became so bad that were constant police raids and around the clock foot patrol as numerous housing complexes became overtaken by the streets with Tulsa gangs and other aspects of the streets.

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Comanche Park of the North Tulsa ghetto

While not all the housing complexes had street activity that called for a large police presence, many others were at the center of controversy as owners would misuse federal funds or the complexes were being condemn for a lack of proper maintenance.

Eventually, most of Tulsa’s housing projects would become either gated communities that controlled the resident’s movement in and out of the neighborhood and limiting its visitors, sold to private investors or replaced with mixed-income apartments.

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North Tulsa was once a promising area of black excellence, businesses and an overall success within the black community as the Greenwood District became known as Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, as early as the 1800s.

With segregation, racism and discrimination, Tulsa’s black residents were forced to create and build their own community in an isolated part of Tulsa, just north of the city’s center that would later become the Greenwood District.

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Faded artwork in Tulsa’s Greenwood District

In Tulsa’s Greenwood community African-Americans supported each other, which helped build a number of self-owned businesses and entrepreneurs while also keeping the community’s economy booming and circulating as everyone had a chance to benefit.

With success comes jealousy as the Tulsa’s Greenwood District brought in much jealousy from other residents outside of the North Tulsa neighborhood, even though segregation and discrimination were the reasoning for the creation of the community in the first place.

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Memorial for the Tulsa’s 1921 Race Riot

On a day in the year of 1921, rumors went around that a black male from the Greenwood district raped a white woman, with hatred already for Greenwood mobs of people went into the community and attack citizens and destroyed homes and businesses.

At the end of Tulsa’s Race Riot, hundreds of people were killed and numerous of properties were vandalized by arson as days of violence made the National Guard to come in and restore order.

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Despite the destruction of the Greenwood District, the community would eventually make a comeback but by the 1960s urban renewal construction of Interstate – 244 once again destroyed the neighborhood, which would push the black population further into North Tulsa.

North Tulsa once had a large white population but after the construction of the highway and the housing projects the community of North Tulsa transformed as many left due to the fear of the stereotypes that public housing would bring, and as significant parts of the community were demolished.

After white flight and all the urban renewal construction, the North Side became separated and isolated from the rest of Tulsa, which would somewhat result in the large decline of most of the North Tulsa community.

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A vacant home in the heart of the North Tulsa ghetto

North Tulsa went from the Black Wall Street to becoming known as Thug Town as poverty in some of the North Tulsa communities reaches over 50% in a city where there is a total of 20% with an average income of $28,000.

While the vast majority of the people who live in North Tulsa are not involve with street activity or with being in Tulsa gangs like the Tulsa Bloods of the Red Mob, North Tulsa still has an undisputed reputation throughout the state of Oklahoma.

The above map is a ‘hood map which shows some of the areas of gangs in Tulsa, but the colors do not indicate any specific gang.

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*Note: All information is provided either through people of the community, outside sources, and/or research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.

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