TULSA, Okla. – A member of the Tulsa City Council says he will have the votes needed to rename a popular downtown street that currently honors a town founder with ties to the Ku Klux Klan and possibly a 1921 race riot.
Jack Henderson, the sole black member on the council, wants to change the name of Brady Street. The turn-of-the-20th Century business leader Wyatt Tate Brady helped build Tulsa, but several now question how to mark the legacy of this son of a Confederate veteran.
“It will be one of the hardest decisions some of the council’s ever going to make, but it boils down to doing what is right,” Henderson said Friday.
The councilman has been attempting to drum up support for the name change for months and believes he has enough support from his colleagues.
Brady signed Tulsa’s incorporation papers, started a newspaper and pumped his wealth into selling outsiders on what had become a thriving boomtown by the early 1900s. Brady Street cuts through the heart of the Brady Arts District, a glitzy downtown area that has rocketed to prominence in the past decade and represents arguably the most successful redevelopment project the city has ever pursued.
Boarded-up warehouses, overgrown lots and blight have been replaced with trendy bistros, a cigar bar and a museum and park honoring Dust Bowl balladeer Woody Guthrie.
The council was scheduled to vote on the name change at its Aug. 8 meeting at City Hall, after residents and property owners in the Brady district are given the chance to tell the council where they stand on the issue.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett and business owners in the district oppose the change, fearing that renaming Brady Street could lead some to challenge the names on other streets, parks and buildings because of who they might be named after.
“(The mayor) is very concerned about reacting to history,” said Bartlett’s press secretary, Lloyd Wright. “Are we going to have to take Andrew Jackson off the money because he was horrible to the Indians?
“Revisionist history does not advance our situation in Tulsa, in the mayor’s view,” Wright said. Henderson and others disagree, arguing that leaving the Brady name intact sends the wrong message to future generations of Tulsans that hate and racism are still tolerated here. “He’s got too many strikes against him,” Henderson said. “This whole city should be up in arms to make sure we take it off.” Brady’s Klan membership had been generally known but a 2011 magazine article prompted another look.
The article in This Land magazine said Brady created an environment of racism that led to the 1921 riot that decimated a thriving district that historians have called the Black Wall Street.
•Picture above is Jack Henderson.