O.W. Gurley, Dora Wells, and Solomon Sir Jones aren’t household names. But Claudia Walker, founder and CEO of an award-winning publishing company based in Oakland, California, called HBCU Prep School aims to change that. In her new book, The ABCs of Black Wall Street, she takes children on a nostalgic trip through the heart of the historic Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The first children’s book of its kind, it transports readers back to the early 1900s to visit iconic establishments like Osborne Monroe’s Roller Skating Rink, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and Williams Dreamland Theater and Candy Store. As they read and journey along Greenwood Avenue, children get to “meet” O.W. Gurley, a real estate mogul, Dora Wells, a fashion designer, and Solomon Sir Jones, a filmmaker — just to name a few.
For decades, the story of Black Wall Street, a wealthy Black community that was founded by the descendants of enslaved people, didn’t make the headlines. In The ABCs of Black Wall Street, Walker celebrates trailblazers who have been purposefully omitted from history books.
“So often, conversations around Black Wall Street focus on the destruction of the community and the loss of life at the hands of white supremacists,” says Walker. “I intentionally decided to tell a story that wasn’t centered on tragedy and trauma but instead highlights the triumphs of this vibrant, enterprising neighborhood.”
Walker, a former Wall Street analyst turned teacher, created a buzz around the book’s launch by gifting stock to African American children. She is using her platform to spark conversations around wealth building in the Black community.
“What I love about the story of Black Wall Street is that despite the virulent racism they faced, people like O.W. Gurley and J.B. Stradford dared to build and create for not only themselves but for their entire community,” said Walker, who also authored the children’s book series, The ABCs of HBCUs. “And that’s what HBCU Prep School is all about — educating and building for the next generation of world changers.”
HBCU Prep School is a family-owned, multimedia education company that amplifies Black joy through children’s literature, videos, and apparel. Founded by Claudia Walker in 2020, the company is deeply committed to showcasing and celebrating stories that mainstream publications overlook. HBCU Prep School’s books unapologetically celebrate the Black experience and encourage children to see themselves as part of the rich tapestry of Black history.