Monday, June 20, 2011

Rescued From the Memory Hole: Tulsa Race War of 1921

"The Tulsa Race War of 1921"/R. Halliburton, Jr.
In today's New York Times there is a fascinating story about a small piece of recovered history.
With their guns firing, a mob of white men charged across the train tracks that cut a racial border through this city. A 4-year-old boy named Wess Young fled into the darkness with his mother and sister in search of safety, returning the next day to discover that their once-thriving black community had burned to the ground.
This event, known as the Tulsa Race War, was literally "forgotten" by Oklahomans and it was never recorded in the history of the state or the nation.  Think about that.  Less than 100 years ago, in the racially charged 1920s a whole African-American community was literally burned to the ground, 300 people murdered and it was "disappeared" from American history.
About 40 blocks were destroyed, including 1,256 homes, many of which had been looted before they were set alight. The death toll, most likely never to be fully determined, was estimated in the state report at 100 to 300. Survivors were rounded up and interned by the National Guard. Many of the homeless spent the following year living in tents pitched in the ruins of the neighborhood.

A grand jury at the time blamed the black community for the riot. No one was convicted of participating in the riot; no one was compensated for lost property. Soon after, the story essentially disappeared — buried so deeply that people who lived their entire lives here, including prominent leaders like mayors and district attorneys, said they had never heard of the riot until recent decades.
I really wonder how many of those who claim never to have heard about it are really being honest...  Denial is a powerful psychological force.

Read more about the race riot at the Greenwood Cultural Center.

No comments:

Post a Comment