Tulsa Race Massacre: What Happened, Why, And The Aftermath
By | November 3, 2019
Black Wall Street
Some acts and misdeeds are so horrendous that they're hidden from history until they're nearly forgotten. The Tulsa Race Massacre is one of those moments in time that's been shoved under the carpet with the hope that no one would discover the kinds of atrocities that man can commit. From May 31 to June 1, 1921, the white residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma attacked the black residents of the Greenwood District of the city and burned their homes and businesses to the ground. Not only is this one of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history, but its cover-up is also a deplorable and tragic act of racial expunging of the 20th century.
Before the events of the massacre can be broken down, it's important to first understand where the massacre took place. The Greenwood District housed the 10,000 black residents of Tulsa, which was an extremely segregated town in 1921. This neighborhood became the home of a thriving business district that was eventually known as "Black Wall Street." It existed as a kind of parallel to white Tulsa: There were movie theaters, grocers, clubs, and even two newspapers based in the area. People who lived in Greenwood even had their own elected officials, making the district its own town within a town.
A false claim sparked the massacre
There are no clear details about what exactly happened on May 31, 1921, to serve as a catalyst for the massacre, but what is known for certain is it had something to do with the alleged assault of a 17-year-old white girl named Sarah Page by 19-year-old Dick Rowland. Even though Page declined to press charges and the incident appeared to be a misunderstanding, Rowland was arrested on May 30, and an inflammatory article in the Tulsa Tribune sent the white people of Tulsa into a rage. Rowland was moved to a secure location at the top of the courthouse as Tulsa's white residents, including members of the Ku Klux Klan, squared off with the African-American residents of the Greenwood District on the street below. The situation grew heated, and shots were fired in a standoff that ended with 12 people dead. This was only the beginning of the trouble.