President Trump resumes his signature rallies tomorrow night with a gathering in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Initially the rally stirred controversy when it was scheduled for tonight — “Juneteenth,” the annual celebration marking when the last slaves were freed two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Trump’s rally was shifted to Saturday, but the timing and location still hit a nerve. This month marks the 99th anniversary of one of Black history’s most horrific events, a literal massacre, which occurred there in Tulsa.
I confess I don’t recall ever knowing about the events in Tulsa in June 1921. Turns out it’s a history that’s been largely forgotten even in Tulsa’s Black community, or at lest seldom mentioned. Most records of the event have been suppressed or destroyed. Even the total number killed is unclear. Current estimates run about 300 dead, most buried in mass unmarked graves whose locations and boundaries are not totally clear. It’s unimaginable.
On the evening of June 1, 1921, the Tulsa Tribune (shown here) reported a supposed assault or attempted rape in an elevator. Within hours of its publication there was talk of lynching and soon a full-blown attack against the entire Black community began. Blacks were forced or dragged from their homes, killed on the spot, and their homes looted and burned. Businesses were destroyed. There was even bombing from air! Over thirty-five square blocks were leveled.
The so-called “race riot” — it was truly a massacre — happened in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, north of downtown. Known as “Black Wall Street,” Greenwood was one of the most successful and affluent Black communities in the country. This was something white supremacists could not stomach. The elevator incident provided the pretext they needed to declare war.
There have been efforts in recent years to resurrect this history. Ironically, Trump’s rally in Tulsa tomorrow may end up advancing this effort by drawing attention. It got mine!
The videos here tell the story of Tulsa in 1921. Included are extended interviews with survivors, all now deceased since these recordings were made.
The Story of Tulsa 1921
This is a story that must be told. Tulsa, and the country, are scarred to this day. It gives clarity to the urgency of today’s protests under the banner of ‘Black Lives Matter.’
Survivor Accounts of the Massacre
These next videos feature interviews and oral histories by survivors of the Tulsa massacre. They were very young in 1921 and have died since these videos were recorded.
All images are in the Public Domain.
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