Today In History 1921: The Tulsar Race Massacre

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31 March – 01 June 1921. The Tulsa race massacre of 1921 was one of the most severe incidents of racial violence in U.S. history. It occurred in TulsaOklahoma, beginning on May 31, 1921, and lasting for two days.

The massacre left somewhere between 30 and 300 people dead, mostly African Americans, and destroyed Tulsa’s prosperous Black neighborhood of Greenwood, known as “Black Wall Street.” More than 1,400 homes and businesses were burned, and nearly 10,000 people were left homeless.

Despite its severity and destructiveness, the Tulsa race massacre was barely mentioned in history books until the late 1990s, when a state commission was formed to document the incident.

The Tulsa race massacre of 1921 was one of the most severe incidents of racial violence in U.S. history. It occurred in TulsaOklahoma, beginning on May 31, 1921, and lasting for two days.

The massacre left somewhere between 30 and 300 people dead, mostly African Americans, and destroyed Tulsa’s prosperous Black neighborhood of Greenwood, known as “Black Wall Street.” More than 1,400 homes and businesses were burned, and nearly 10,000 people were left homeless.

Despite its severity and destructiveness, the Tulsa race massacre was barely mentioned in history books until the late 1990s, when a state commission was formed to document the incident.

On May 30, 1921, Dick Rowland, a young African American shoe shiner, was accused of assaulting a white elevator operator named Sarah Page in the elevator of a building in downtown Tulsa.

The next day the Tulsa Tribune printed a story saying that Rowland had tried to rape Page, with an accompanying editorial stating that a lynching was planned for that night. That evening mobs of both African Americans and whites descended on the courthouse where Rowland was being held.

When a confrontation between an armed African American man, there to protect Rowland, and a white protester resulted in the death of the latter, the white mob was incensed, and the Tulsa massacre was thus ignited.

Over the next two days, mobs of white people looted and set fire to African American businesses and homes throughout the city.

Many of the mob members were recently returned World War I veterans trained in the use of firearms and are said to have shot African Americans on sight. Some survivors even claimed that people in airplanes dropped incendiary bombs.