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The More Things Change: Tulsa's Race Massacre That History Books Turned Into A Race "Riot"


The More Things Change: Tulsa's Race Massacre That History Books Turned Into A Race "Riot"

Last week marked the 97th anniversary of Tulsa's 1921 Race Massacre, wherein white mobs, abetted by complicit government leaders, looted, burned, bombed from the air and virtually destroyed the black, thriving, middle-class Greenwood community known as Negro Wall Street, killing at least 300 black residents. Despite duplicitous history books that ignored this country's worst domestic terror attack or reshaped it as a "race riot," many say that, especially today, it's time to call out "America's vast silence about the atrocities (performed) in the service of white history."


I never knew this! It’s sickening. The so-called “History” of the United States is marred with mud, deceit, lies, and of course, blood.

What is even more disturbing…it took nearly a century for all the facts to come out. How can any of us believe what we read in our books and newspapers when we KNOW everything is slanted to the advantage of MONEY! Advertisers win out over truth. Corporations dictate what happens to our food, our land, our water, our air, our homes.



I don’t know your age, but I am 56. We actually did learn about this in school, although not as graphically presented. To now alter the historical presentation so far after the fact is both telling and chilling.


I’m 71 and didn’t even get a hint of anything askew with the great, grand U.S…not even a thing about the massacre of Native Americans. We did learn about the Underground Railroad at least.


I never knew this either, but have frequent occasion to drive through (what remains) of Rosewood, Florida. I shudder each and every time, but am better for it, somehow. Hate and ignorance have largely been expunged from the (exceptional) American narrative. It is past time for that to change, as the country needs a whopping dose of humility now more than ever.


Rosewood is the first thing that came to mind for me. This is what undergirds the viciousness of the “exceptional” touted today.


The fact you knew of the Underground Railroad and not of this Raace Riot (and there were more of these across the USA where dozens of Blacks Murdered) tells me that the distorted view of History that is taught is to assure you that in that History there always Americans wanting to do the “right thing”. When they do not teach about all those Americans that did the WRONG thing, the view of history becomes a distortion.


Some books that will shed light on the missing US history:

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz

A Little Matter Of Genocide, Ward Churchill

The Counter Revolution of 1776, Gerald Horne

Devil in The Grove, Gilbert King


Florida had its share of such pogroms. One of the most racist states in the US with the highest number of lynchings.


Many things are written out of history.
Here is one list
New York City Draft Riot (1863)
On July 13, 1863, organized opposition broke out across the city. The protests soon morphed into a violent uprising against the city’s wealthy elite and its African-American residents.
The four-day draft riot was finally quelled by police cooperating with the 7th New York Regiment. Estimates vary greatly on the number of people killed, though most historians believe around 115 people lost their lives, including nearly a dozen Black men who were lynched after they were brutally beaten. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed causing millions of dollars in damage. Up to 50 of the damaged buildings had been burned to the ground by rioters, including the Colored Orphan Asylum, which housed more than 230 Black children.

Detroit Race (1863)
It occurred during the American Civil War on March 6, 1863 in the city of Detroit, Michigan. At the time, it was reported as “the bloodiest day that ever dawned upon Detroit.”

The Wilmington Massacre, (1898)
In 1898, Wilmington, North Carolina, located in eastern Carolina, where the Cape Fear River enters into the Atlantic Ocean, was a prosperous port town. Almost two-thirds of its population was black, with a small but significant middle class. Black businessmen dominated the restaurant and barbershop trade and owned tailor shops and drug stores. Many black people held jobs as firemen, policemen and civil servants. A good feeling between the races existed as long as white Democrats controlled the state politically. But when a coalition of predominately white Populists and black Republicans defeated the Democrats in 1896, and won political control of the state, Democrats vowed revenge in 1898. For many Democrats, black political power, no matter how limited, was intolerable. Daniel Schenck, a party leader, warned, “It will be the meanest, vilest, dirtiest campaign since 1876. The slogan of the Democratic Party from the mountains to the sea will be but one word … Nigger.” The Democrats launched their campaign by appealing to the deepest fear of whites – that white women were in danger from black males. Whites staged a coup d’etat and drove all black officeholders out of office. A mob set Manly’s newspaper office on fire and a riot erupted. Whites began to gun down blacks on the streets. By the next day, the killing ended. Officially, twenty-five blacks died. But hundreds more may have been killed, their bodies dumped into the river.

Atlanta Race Riot (1906)

On Sept. 22, 1906, Atlanta newspapers reported four alleged assaults on local white women. Soon, some 10,000 white men and boys began gathering, beating, and stabbing Blacks. It is estimated that there were between 25 and 40 African-American deaths; it was confirmed that there were only two white deaths.

The East St. Louis Massacre (1917)
During spring 1917 Blacks were arriving in St. Louis at the rate of 2,000 per week, with many of them finding work at the Aluminum Ore Company and the American Steel Company in East St. Louis.

In May, 3,000 white men gathered in downtown East St. Louis. The roving mob began burning buildings and attacking Black people. The Illinois governor called in the National Guard to prevent further rioting and conditions eased somewhat for a few weeks.
Then on July 1, white men driving a car through a Black neighborhood began shooting into houses, stores, and a church. A group of Black men organized themselves to defend against the attackers. As they gathered, they mistook an approaching car for the same one that had earlier driven through the neighborhood and they shot and killed both men in the car, who were, in fact, police detectives sent to calm the situation.
The shooting of the detectives incensed a growing crowd of white spectators who came the next day to examine the car. The crowd grew and turned into a mob that spent the day and the following night on a spree of violence targeting Black neighborhoods of East St. Louis. Again, guardsmen were called in but various accounts suggest they joined in attacking Black people rather than stopping the violence.
After the riot, varying estimates of the death toll circulated. The police chief estimated that 100 Blacks had been killed. The renowned journalist Ida B. Wells reported in The Chicago Defender that 40-150 black people were killed in the rioting. The NAACP estimated deaths at 100-200. Six thousand African-Americans were left homeless after their neighborhood was burned.

Chicago Race Riots (1919)
The “Red Summer” of 1919 marked the culmination of steadily growing tensions surrounding the great migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the cities of the North during World War I. Chicago was one of the northern cities that experienced violent race riots during that period.
Drawn by the city’s meatpacking houses, railway companies and steel mills, the African-American population in Chicago skyrocketed from 44,000 in 1910 to 235,000 in 1930. When the war ended in late 1918, thousands of white servicemen returned home from fighting in Europe to find that their jobs in factories, warehouses and mills had been filled by newly arrived Southern Blacks or immigrants.
On July 27, 1919, an African-American teenager drowned in Lake Michigan after he challenged the unofficial segregation of Chicago’s beaches and was stoned by a group of white youths.
His death, and the police refusal to arrest the men who caused it, sparked a week of race rioting between Black and white Chicagoans, with Black neighborhoods receiving the worst of the damage.
When the riots ended on Aug. 3, 15 whites and 23 Blacks had been killed and more than 500 people injured. An additional 1,000 Black families had lost their homes when they were torched by rioters.
President Woodrow Wilson castigated the “white race” as “the aggressor” in the Chicago uprising.

Washington, D.C. Race Riots (1919)
Postwar Washington, D.C., roughly 75 percent white, was a racial tinderbox. Housing was in short supply and jobs so scarce that ex-doughboys in uniform panhandled along Pennsylvania Avenue.
However, Washington’s Black community was then the largest and most prosperous in the country, with a small but impressive upper class of teachers, ministers, lawyers and businessmen concentrated in the LeDroit Park neighborhood near Howard University.
By the time the “Red Summer” was underway, unemployed whites bitterly envied the relatively few blacks who were fortunate enough to procure low-level government jobs. Many whites also resented the influx of African-Americans into previously segregated neighborhoods around Capitol Hill, Foggy Bottom and the old downtown.
In July 1919, white men, many in military uniforms, responded to the rumored arrest of a Black man for rape with four days of mob violence. They rioted, randomly beat Black people on the street and pulled others off streetcars in attacks. When police refused to intervene, the Black population fought back.
Troops tried to restore order as the city closed saloons and theaters to discourage assemblies. When the violence ended, 15 people had died: 10 whites, including two police officers; and five African-Americans. Fifty people were seriously wounded and another 100 less severely wounded. It was one of the few times when white fatalities outnumbered those of Blacks.

Knoxville, Tennessee Race Riots (1919)
In August 1919, a race riot in Knoxville, Tenn., broke out after a white mob mobilized in response to a Black man accused of murdering a white woman. The 5,000-strong mob stormed the county jail searching for the prisoner. They freed 16 white prisoners, including suspected murderers.
After looting the jail and sheriff’s house, the mob moved on and attacked the African-American business district. Many of the city’s Black residents, aware of the race riots that had occurred across the country that summer, had armed themselves, and barricaded the intersection of Vine and Central to defend their businesses.
Two platoons of the Tennessee National Guard’s 4th Infantry led by Adjutant General Edward Sweeney arrived, but they were unable to halt the chaos. The mob broke into stores and stole firearms and other weapons on their way to the Black business district. Upon their arrival the streets erupted in gunfire as Black snipers exchanged fire with both the rioters and the soldiers. The Tennessee National Guard at one point fired two machine guns indiscriminately into the neighborhood, eventually dispersing the rioters. Shooting continued sporadically for several hours. Outgunned, the Black defenders gradually fled, allowing the guardsmen to gain control of the area. Newspapers placed the death toll at just two, though eyewitness accounts suggest the dead were so many that the bodies were dumped into the Tennessee River, while others were buried in mass graves outside the city.

Omaha (1919)
Omaha, Nebraska, on September 28–29, 1919. The race riot resulted in the brutal lynching of Will Brown, a black worker. His lifeless body was hanging from a telephone post . Hundreds of revolvers and shotguns were fired at the corpse as it dangled in mid-air. Then, the rope was cut. Brown’s body was tied to the rear end of an automobile. It was dragged through the streets. Oil was poured on the corpse. It was burned. Members of the mob hauled the charred remains through the business district for several hours. Of the 120 persons indicted for involvement in the riot most were never successfully prosecuted, and all were eventually released after serving no term of imprisonment.

Greenwood , Tulsa, Oklahoma “Black Wall Street” (May 31 – June 1, 1921)
During the oil boom of the 1910s, the area of northeast Oklahoma around Tulsa flourished, including the Greenwood neighborhood, which came to be known as “the Black Wall Street.” The area was home to several lawyers, realtors, doctors, and prominent black Businessmen, many of them multimillionaires.
Greenwood boasted a variety of thriving businesses such as grocery stores, clothing stores, barbershops, banks, hotels, cafes, movie theaters, two newspapers, and many contemporary homes. Greenwood residents enjoyed many luxuries that their white neighbors did not, including indoor plumbing and a remarkable school system. The dollar circulated 36 to 100 times, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community.
The neighborhood was destroyed during a riot that broke out after a group men from Greenwood attempted to protect a young Black man from a lynch mob. On the night of May 31, 1921, a mob called for the lynching of Dick Rowland, a Black man who shined shoes, after reports spread that on the previous day he had assaulted Sarah Page, a white woman, in the elevator she operated in a downtown building.
In the early morning hours of June 1, 1921, Black Tulsa was looted, firebombed from the air and burned down by white rioters. The governor declared martial law, and National Guard troops arrived in Tulsa. Guardsmen assisted firemen in putting out fires, removed abducted African-Americans from the hands of white vigilantes, and imprisoned all Black Tulsans, not already confined, into a prison camp at the Convention Hall and the Fairgrounds, some for as long as eight days.
In the wake of the violence, 35 city blocks lay in charred ruins, over 800 people were treated for injuries and estimated 300 deaths occurred. According to a 2011 New York Times story on the subject, “The Tulsa race riot of 1921 was rarely mentioned in history books, classrooms or even in private… an episode so brutal that this city, in a bout of collective amnesia that extended more than a half-century, simply chose to forget it ever happened.”

Rosewood Massacre (1923)
Rosewood was a quiet, self-sufficient whistle-stop on the Seaboard Air Line Railway in Florida. By 1900 the population in Rosewood had become predominantly African-American. Some people farmed or worked in local businesses, including a sawmill in nearby Sumner, a predominantly white town.
In 1920, Rosewood Blacks had three churches, a school, a large Masonic Hall, turpentine mill, a sugarcane mill, a baseball team and a general store (a second one was white owned). The village had about two dozen plank two-story homes, some other small houses, as well as several small unoccupied plank structures.
Spurred by unsupported accusations that a white woman in Sumner had been beaten and possibly raped by a Black drifter, white men from a number of nearby towns lynched a Rosewood resident. When the Black citizens defended themselves against further attack, several hundred whites combed the countryside hunting Black people and burning almost every structure in Rosewood.
Survivors hid for several days in nearby swamps and were evacuated by train and car to larger towns. Although state and local authorities were aware of the violence, they made no arrests for the activities in Rosewood. At least six Blacks and two whites were killed, and the town was abandoned by Black residents during the attacks. None ever returned.

Detroit (1943)
The Detroit Riot broke out in Detroit, Michigan, in June,1943, and lasted for three days before Federal troops regained control. The rioting between blacks and whites began on Belle Isle on June 20, 1943, and continued until June 22, killing 34, of them, 25 were African–Americans, 17 of whom were killed by the police. Thirteen murders remain unsolved. Out of the approximately 600 injured, black people accounted for more than 75 percent and of the roughly 1,800 people who were arrested over the course of the three-day riots, black people accounted for 85 percent wounding 433, and destroying property valued at $2 million.