Tulsa woman remembers family legacy on Black Wall Street

TULSA, Okla. — A descendent of survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre is remembering her family history and reflecting of their legacy in the Greenwood District and the city of Tulsa.

Brenda Nails-Alford grew up knowing all about the entrepreneurial spirit of her family.

“I grew up knowing about our family businesses and of course was very proud of that,” said Brenda Nails-Alford.

Her grandparents, James and Vasinora Nails, along with her great uncle Henry Nails, ran a number of businesses in Greenwood. They owned “Nails Brothers Shoes” – along with a dance pavilion, skating rink, and a limo and taxi service,”

Brenda said, “I am just very proud of them for what they did and how they endured even after the race massacre.”

Brenda says she while she was well aware of the businesses, she had no idea of her family’s connection to the Tulsa Race Massacre. Brenda says in 2003, she was notified about a lawsuit for reparations for survivors and descendants of survivors of the massacre. That’s how she found out her family had survived the atrocities in Tulsa. Brenda tells FOX23′S Naomi Keitt, the news devastated her.

Brenda said, “to know that they had experienced this atrocity was absolutely horrible.”

She had grown up hearing stories that she couldn’t understand, like her grandmother having to hide in the basement of a church, and comments about Oaklawn cemetery. She says looking back, she can put the pieces together.

Brenda said, “So many years later I would come to understand what those conversations were about.”

For Brenda, her family legacy is all over the city including a mural at Lacy Park that depicts her grandparents and her aunt Dr. Cecelia Nails Palmer.

“I was always so very proud of her. I was in awe of her. I always felt like I was around a queen knowing I was around her because she was just so elegant but very very down to earth,” said Brenda.

Dr. Palmer was just 2 years old when the massacre happened in 1921 and survived it with her family. She went on to achieve several accomplishments including being the first black faculty member at the University of Tulsa.

As Brenda reflects on her family’s history and their contributions to Tulsa, she says there’s a specific lesson we can learn from the Nails Family.

“In spite of what we go through in life, never give up. Keep moving forward. That is what they taught us and that is what we will continue to do,” said Brenda.