Branding Black Wall Street
Q&A with Trey Thaxton
Local graphic designer Trey Thaxton recently launched a project called Greenwood Ave. to celebrate the original pioneering entrepreneurs of Black Wall Street. The clothing company recreates vintage logos from the district’s long-gone businesses. Ten percent of proceeds from sales go toward arts and culture, economic development, and education in north Tulsa.
Mary Noble: How did you come up with the idea to start your company?
Trey Thaxton: I saw a need for a black-owned design agency and I always wanted to focus on projects that promoted life, promoted excellence, unity, creativity, and entrepreneurship. … A friend of mine [and I] were walking along Greenwood talking about how we can promote and celebrate what happened on Black Wall Street. A lot of the focus on 1921 is the [Massacre] but there were great things happening before and after that time, so we wanted to do something to really highlight and celebrate the entrepreneurs.
Noble: Tell me about the mission of the company.
Thaxton: My background is in branding and logo design, so the bulk of my work is in branding and identities for different companies. I was trying to think of a way that I could use my skills to do something to celebrate Black History Month and Black Wall Street, so I thought what if we took those names of the original shop owners and the original shops down there and reimagined the logos—and do it in an adventurous way, and put them on T-shirts to help tell some of those stories.
Along with the shirts, we also want to do a video series to kind of show the history of some of these companies: who started them, how they got started. We are looking into finding some of the descendants and really highlight how some of the black-owned businesses that are still on Greenwood today. This is me learning this history in real time, and I’m excited to share what I am finding out with others through this lens. … The crazy thing is I moved to Tulsa when I was 11 and I didn’t hear about Black Wall Street or Greenwood until I was 21.
I thought that it was a disservice that all these amazing entrepreneurs had businesses down there that were thriving and, as a black entrepreneur, I think it’s important to see that representation that it is possible. These people were doing it in 1921 with very little resources. With all that we have in 2019 we should be able to recreate
Noble: Why is it important to support black-owned businesses in Tulsa, especially on Greenwood?
Thaxton: I think it’s important anywhere, but especially in Greenwood because of that history. It’s unfortunate that it got swept under the rug, and it kind of still does. I know with the 2021 centennial coming up, I feel like all eyes will be on Tulsa—but it’s just sad that I lived here for 20 years and heard more about Black Wall Street from people coming into Tulsa than people living in Tulsa. So I think it’s a great opportunity to let people know, ‘Hey, this happened. It’s part of history.’ … We want to let people know what happened and hopefully get some healing and reconciliation from it. Hopefully this does help the conversation.