Black Wall Street: An Intro for Black Children | Investing Series
If you haven’t tuned in before, the goal of my Investing Series on YouTube is to make investing and building wealth a realistic goal that anyone can achieve — no matter how much money you have right now.
And in my last video, I spoke about not leaving out people who feel they’re starting at the very bottom, who feel unmotivated to start.
I think that group includes teens and young adults.
If you’re a teenager growing up in a home where you see your parents working extra hard to make sure you have all that you need, or if you’re growing up in a home where you feel neglected or doubt your family could every be wealthy, I want you to pay EXTRA attention to this.
Sadly, we adults failed you. We didn’t do a good job giving you the history lessons you need to know that becoming wealthy IS AN OPTION for you.
We also don’t do a good job of teaching you how to set goals — because the goal isn’t to get rich. The goal is to build prosperity through community.
Maybe you’re watching TV shows like “The Watchmen” or “Lovecraft Country” that gave you a brief introduction into what was called Black Wall Street.
If you haven’t heard of Black Wall Street until just now, please sit down and read this entire post! (Video coming soon.) Because I want to show you what you — YES YOU — can do even without your parents’ help to start building a better future for yourself financially.
Let’s start with Black Wall Street. What was it? Where was it? And why was it important?
Over 100 years ago (which really isn’t that long ago), a city called Tulsa, OK had a lot of oil that a lot of people wanted to get in order to sell and make themselves rich.
One of those people was named O.W. Gurley. He was born to former slaves, which meant he started from the BOTTOM BOTTOM with no money, and no education (except for what he taught himself).
After being a teacher and a small business owner in another town, Perry, he moved west to Tulsa to grab some of the land in this oil-rich town.
When he got there, he bought land where he turned a couple of grocery stores into 35 blocks of stores, hair salons, apartment buildings, and much more.
I’ll probably do a separate video on O.W. Gurley, the founder of Black Wall Street, later in this series. But for now it’s enough to know that he created the town where over 9,000 Black people were able to live decent lives by either starting their own businesses or working for the businesses other people started.
Now into our lesson: you may think you would want to be the person starting the business rather than working for someone else’s business but that’s the wrong attitude to have. It’s important to learn about Tulsa, OK (or Black Wall Street) not just because they had Black entrepreneurs who became rich.
What’s more important is that this city was a perfect example of group economics.
Here’s one definition for group economics: when groups of people pool their resources (like money) together to accomplish something that would be harder to do by themselves.
In Tulsa, O.W. Gurley made sure there were bank loans for people in his community who wanted to start a business. Of course, this was money you had to pay back, so if you took the loan you had to have a good plan for how to make money from your business. But at least someone was there who was willing to give you the trust and tools you needed to get started.
I don’t know how old you are reading this, but you don’t have to wait until “you’re an adult” to do this.
Let’s start at step one: you can become the person who lends money to others by first getting a part-time job. In some cities or states, you can do this by the time you turn 14 or16 years old.
So one option is to find a job working anywhere (McDonald’s, a summer camp, or at the mall) and start putting money aside for the goals you have. You should watch the video I posted to learn more about setting up goals for your savings, whether to start a business or create a side hustle to earn more money.
As you’re putting your money aside, make sure you ask your parents to help you open both a checking and savings account. Unfortunately, that part you can’t do by yourself until you’re an adult.
If you do get their permission and have a bank account, make sure your job automatically sends your paycheck to your bank account using something called “direct deposit” or an ACH deposit.
Once your money is in a bank account, you can connect with your friends to start a savings group that lends a specific amount of money to one another at a certain date for specific goals. Word of advice: I would wait until you’re 18 (a.k.a an adult) to set this up, using your time before then to save up funds through your part-time job.
Then, it’s a good idea to set this up only with people you’ve known for a long time and can trust, and use apps on your phone like Zirtue or Esusu to hold each other accountable for paying back money borrowed.
When you’re borrowing money from each other, you should make sure you have (a) a clear goal for how you’re going to use the money, (b) a clear goal of how your business idea or plan will help you earn more money than you borrowed.
This is why I say you should watch this video, but I’ll also create another video soon on what it looks like to create a smart money-making business plan. Make sure you’re subscribed to this channel so you don’t miss it.
Now, there is a second lesson from Black Wall Street that can give you a hint on how you can make sure you make a smart plan for the money you now have through your savings group.
In Tulsa, young people your age were learning skills at school that we don’t teach in most schools today. In high school, Black Wall Street teenagers had classes like bookkeeping and learning what are called trades (jobs that involve specific skills like mechanics, hairdressing, or becoming a chef).
They took these classes while also learning about business either by watching the people in their neighborhood, or learning about it in classes like economics. Whether or not you want to be a plumber for the rest of your life, learning a trade and doing it very well over time will give you the reputation you need to eventually start a plumbing business, if you want. Then, you can hire and train other people to do the work for the customers you’ve helped in the past and start building the wealth you want for yourself and your future family.
Think about which skills come naturally to you, or that you’re interested in learning more about, and start taking classes either at school, or with someone in your neighborhood willing to teach you when you visit their shop. But don’t forget to also learn the business side — how they manage their money and how they make sure they don’t spend more than they earn.
Which brings me to our last lesson from Black Wall Street: diversification and compound interest.
We live in a country with a history of racism and violence. Black Wall Street was burned down because of this history.
We won’t go into detail about why or how it happened that day on May 31, 1921. But TLDR, all the businesses that Black people took 20 years to build, worth over $50 million today, was burned to the ground.
John W. Rogers Jr. is the great-grandson of one of the richest men who lived in Black Wall Street, J.B. Stradford. He said in an interview four months ago that if more people like his great-grandfather put their money in different types of investments, they would have made more money from the money they gained doing business in Tulsa. At that time, the way to diversify and build interest on money would be through buying government bonds, or investing in more real estate or new businesses.
From my research, it looks like Black people weren’t able to invest in the stock market until 1949, when the first Black salesman for the stock exchange was hired. But I’m still looking for more evidence, so feel free to fact-check me.
Regardless, today you have many more options available to you to diversify where your money is coming from, and make money from the funds you already have through compound interest. A great way is to invest in government or corporate bonds and stocks, which are lessons I have and will go over in videos that are a part of this Investing series.
So for more advice, make sure you hit the subscribe & notification button on my YouTube channel so that you get alerts when the next video is uploaded for you to watch FOR FREE and get real about your journey to financial stability.
You are our future, so hope to see you again soon.