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The Tulsa Race Massacre

May 31, 1921

A tragedy unfolds...

The Tulsa Race Massacre, also known as the Tulsa Race Riot, occurred from May 31 to June 1, 1921, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It is one of the most devastating episodes of racial violence in U.S. history.

The violence took place in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, a prosperous African American community often referred to as "Black Wall Street" because of its thriving businesses and economic success. The trouble began on May 30, 1921, when a young Black man named Dick Rowland was accused of assaulting a young white woman named Sarah Page in an elevator. The details of the incident are unclear, but Rowland was arrested the next day.

Tensions quickly escalated as rumors of a lynching spread. A white mob gathered outside the courthouse where Rowland was being held. In response, a group of Black men, many of them World War I veterans, went to the courthouse to protect Rowland. A confrontation between the two groups ensued, leading to gunfire and violence.

The white mob, now numbering in the thousands, moved into the Greenwood District, looting, burning, and destroying homes, businesses, and churches. The violence continued throughout the night and into the next day. The Oklahoma National Guard was eventually called in to restore order, but by then, much of Greenwood had been reduced to ashes.

It is estimated that up to 300 people were killed, and thousands were left homeless. The survivors were interned in makeshift camps for days. The Tulsa Race Massacre was largely ignored and omitted from history books for many years.

On the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, we remember all those who were killed and the survivors who bravely continue to share their stories so that we never forget this painful part of our history.

Barack Obama,

44th President of the United States

"

Black Wall Street

"Black Wall Street" refers to the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, during the early 20th century. This area was one of the most prosperous African American communities in the United States at the time.

Greenwood was founded in 1906 and quickly developed into a thriving community. By the 1920s, it had a population of about 10,000 Black residents and was home to numerous successful businesses. These included grocery stores, clothing shops, barbershops, restaurants, theaters, and even a hospital. The district also had its own school system, libraries, and newspapers.

The success of Greenwood's businesses earned it the nickname "Black Wall Street." It was a rare example of African American economic success and self-sufficiency during a time of widespread racial segregation and discrimination in the United States.

However, the prosperity of Black Wall Street came to a tragic end during the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.

The destruction of Black Wall Street was a devastating blow to the African American community in Tulsa. Despite the efforts of survivors to rebuild, Greenwood never fully regained its former prosperity.

Black Wall Street memorial

Image  by Wesley Fryer on Flickr

The aftermath...

After the Tulsa Race Massacre, the Greenwood District was left in ruins. The immediate aftermath was devastating for the African American community in Tulsa. Sadly, the area never recovered and it's residents continued to deal with the destruction and loss 

Arrests and Internment

Following the violence, many Black residents were detained by the authorities and held in internment camps around the city for several days. These residents were only released if a white person vouched for them, and they were issued identification cards to ensure they did not return to Greenwood without permission.

Insurance Denied

Many residents of Greenwood filed insurance claims to recover their losses. However, insurance companies largely refused to pay out these claims, citing riot clauses that exempted them from liability for damages caused by riots.

Destruction and Loss

The massacre resulted in the destruction of over 1,000 homes and numerous businesses, churches, and schools. An estimated 300 people were killed, and thousands were left homeless. The total property damage was estimated at $1.5 million in 1921 dollars (equivalent to over $26 million today).

Lack of Justice

The perpetrators of the massacre were never held accountable. No one was prosecuted or convicted for the violence and destruction. This lack of justice further compounded the trauma experienced by the survivors and their descendants.

Rebuilding

Despite these challenges, the residents of Greenwood displayed incredible resilience. Many returned to the district and began the difficult process of rebuilding their homes and businesses. By the end of the 1920s, Greenwood had started to recover and once again became a vibrant community, though it never fully regained its pre-massacre prosperity.

The massacre had lasting effects on the African American community in Tulsa. It contributed to economic and social disparities that persisted for decades. Additionally, the event was largely ignored in history books and public discourse for many years, leading to a lack of awareness and understanding about what actually occurred.

Recent Recognition and Reparations Efforts

In recent years, there has been a growing movement to recognize and remember the Tulsa Race Massacre. In 1996, the Oklahoma state government established the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, which issued a detailed report on the massacre. In 2021, the 100th anniversary of the massacre was commemorated with events and memorials, including the dedication of the Greenwood Rising history center. There have also been discussions about reparations and other forms of restitution for the descendants of massacre victims.

History can provide powerful lessons or highlight our inability to learn from our past. We like to believe that as a human race, we take more steps forward than back. That can be difficult to see without the perspective of history.

Join us, as we highlight that great steps forward in human history and bring to light, the events that can help us to continue to grow.

As a Dad, I want my kids to learn, appreciate, and grow from being open and understanding of people, of our human differences. As a family, we use travel as a platform to better understand society, culture, and the difference we have. It's what makes travel so much fun. If every place we went looked and felt like our home, then it wouldn't be so special.

If you enjoy traveling and learning about history, join us. We have an app for families to track their travel and learn about the places and people that have shaped our world. It's currently free to join and will always be free for those that help us get off the ground.

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