This year marks 100 years of the destruction of a once-thriving African American neighborhood in Tulsa decimated by deadly white violence that has received growing recognition during America’s reckoning over police brutality and racial violence. There was Tulsa. And Black prosperity was taking roots in Tulsa. This was the famous “Black Wall Street.” That prosperity was obliterated by envy and evil unleashed against Blacks by White supremacists.
Tulsa, Oklahoma marked the centennial remembrance of this massacre. And, the world, and Africans especially, remembers and mourns.
The massacre began during the Memorial Day weekend after 19-year-old Dick Rowland, a Black shoe-shiner, was accused of assaulting Sarah Page, the 17-year-old White elevator operator in the nearby Drexel building.
Emmy Award-winning actress and Tulsa native Alfre Woodard and U.S. Sen. James Lankford both delivered remarks via video to a small crowd that gathered in chilly, snowy weather at the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park.
State Sen. Kevin Matthews, who represents the North Tulsa area where the massacre happened 100 years ago said the park, named in honor of Oklahoma native and noted American historian John Hope Franklin, provided the perfect backdrop for a message of reconciliation.
“We can be a beacon of reconciliation around the world,” Matthews said. “And ultimately, we can revive the spirit of Black Wall Street and cooperative economics that once lived here and that we want to see in a greater way in the future.”
Violence erupted May 31 and June 1 in 1921, when a white mob killed an estimated 300 people and wounded 800 while burning 30 blocks of Black-owned businesses and homes and neighborhood churches in the Greenwood neighborhood, also known as “Black Wall Street.” Planes were even used to drop projectiles on the area, burning it to the ground.
Tulsa and the race massacre received new national interest over the summer when President Donald Trump picked the city for the first of his signature campaign rallies of the coronavirus era. His initial plan to hold the rally on Juneteenth — the day the last enslaved African Americans learned they had been freed in 1865 — also sparked interest in Tulsa’s turbulent racial legacy, although Trump later changed the date of his rally.
The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Commission has more centennial events planned throughout 2021.