TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa city councilors were expected to decide Thursday whether to rename a popular downtown street tied to a city founder who was involved with the Ku Klux Klan and possibly tied to a 1921 race riot in which hundreds of blacks were killed.
Before considering changing Brady Street's name at its Thursday night meeting, City Hall invited those who own property along the street to tell the City Council where they stand.
The street's namesake, Wyatt Tate Brady, was a shoe salesman who became a prominent Tulsa businessman. He signed the city's incorporation papers, started a newspaper and pumped his wealth into promoting Tulsa to the rest of the country.
But Brady, the son of a Confederate veteran, was also a member of the Klan. New questions arose after a magazine article looked at whether he was involved in the most notorious event in Tulsa history: a 1921 race riot that left some 300 black residents dead.
Thursday night's vote will be on whether to change Brady Street's name to Burlington Street – reflecting a recently discovered 1907 document on which someone crossed out Burlington Street and wrote Brady Street in its place.
Today, Brady Street cuts through the heart of the Brady Arts District, a glitzy downtown area that 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 music legend Woody Guthrie, who grew up in Okemah, about 50 miles south.
Supporters have been lobbying for the name change since 2011, when an article in the literary magazine This Land said Brady created an environment of racism that led to the 1921 riot that decimated a thriving district that historians have called Black Wall Street.
Those who want to leave the name alone, including Mayor Dewey Bartlett and a contingent of the Brady district's business owners, fear that changing one name could lead to a revisionist look into the pasts of other notable residents who have parks, buildings and streets named after them too.