Education Reform

The Tulsa Race Massacre: A Shameful Day in U.S. History

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The Washington Post published contemporary photographs and videos of the Tulsa Race Massacre. As many as 300 black people were killed.

On May 30, 1921, Greenwood was one of the wealthiest Black communities in the country, home to doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs.

It boasted restaurants, grocery stores, churches, a hospital, a savings and loan, a post office, three hotels, jewelry and clothing stores, two movie theaters, a library, pool halls, a bus and cab service, a highly regarded school system, six private airplanes and two Black newspapers, according to the Greenwood Cultural Center.

Two days later, it was all gone.

Inflamed by rumors that a young black man had assaulted a young white woman, a white mob in Tulsa set out to avenge the alleged event. Fighting broke out between whites and blacks, and a large section of black-owned businesses and homes was reduced to ashes. Hundreds of blacks were killed, and a 35-block area of residences, restaurants, professional offices, and theatre was leveled. Subsequently the black man in the incident was absolved.

Alan Singer of Hofstra University writes here about the day that whites in Tulsa burned down a thriving black community.

Singer writes:

That night, white rioters looted and burned over 1,200 buildings in the Greenwood District, which at the time was a prosperous Black business and residential neighborhood known as Black Wall Street. White mobs bombed, looted, and set fire to buildings and opened fire on Black residents who tried to defend their homes and businesses. A report in the Tulsa Tribune described that “machine guns were set up and for 20 minutes poured a stream of lead on the negroes who sought refuge behind buildings, telephone poles, and in ditches.”

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