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All about history: Freeman Culver wants to preserve Greenwood's buildings

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Freeman Culver

Freeman Culver, the president of Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, is looking to promote the district of Greenwood.

Freeman Culver just wanted to fix North Greenwood Avenue.

In 2019, when people started riding the trendy e-scooters down the uneven, broken down street, many of them were simply falling down.

So Culver, the president of Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, went to the city of Tulsa and asked to be a part of the “Improve Our Tulsa” program — a $639 million budget devoted to street and infrastructure. Culver was only asking for less than $500,000, but Tulsa claimed it didn’t have the cash to make that happen.

Then, the words “Black Lives Matter” were painted on the road, the city scrambled and said it was ready to fix the roads.

Those are the types of things Freeman has to deal with.

“Everybody wants to be the president of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, but nobody wants to be the president of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce,” Culver said. “I knew it would be a spotlight, but I didn’t know it would be so hot. Even when you’re doing the right thing, it’s hot.”

Freeman has to deal with so many challenges, his job is difficult, but his passion for preserving the history that is Greenwood is so important to him.

A big part of Freeman’s job revolves around fundraising — he raised $600,000 for the chamber this year.

But it’s all going toward preserving the historic buildings in Greenwood. Because that’s what Freeman is all about.

“We want to be very historical because what happened down in Greenwood — good, bad or indifferent — that is American history,” Culver said. “Madam C.J. Walker, Booker T. Washington, all these successful Black entrepreneurs settling in this area, that’s American history. The tragedy that lasted only 18 hours, it was a race riot/massacre, that became American history.”

There are only 10 buildings left in the commercial Greenwood area, which Freeman hopes to preserve as historical landmarks.

He envisions Greenwood as a historical site, but one that could be a destination site, similar to Eureka Springs in Arkansas or Beale Street in Memphis.

But the most important thing for Freeman is to keep those buildings from being bulldozed down.

“If that happens, it would just be a story,” Culver siad. “You won’t see the cultural landscape, you won’t be able to touch the bricks, it would just be a story. To be honest with you, I’m a freedom-loving person, and I’m not going to let that happen, we’re not going to let that happen.”

Freeman wants to preserve “Black Wall Street,” the area where those 10 buildings are left but said people won’t give him the benefit of the doubt.

He isn’t looking for any recognition or praise, he just wants them to let him do his thing.

And he’s gotten much support from people and/or organizations outside of Tulsa, but Freeman would love to have support in Tulsa.

“The main thing is getting the story out there and preserving the buildings,” Freeman said. “You keep the buildings intact and people can’t say it didn’t happen. The buildings are very important. We’ve got to keep the buildings. I’m going to be a drum major for that justice. We get the buildings, keep them intact, preserve the businesses down there and everybody will know that Black Wall Street was once here.”

news.ed@ocolly.com