Ninety Nine Years Ago This All Black Community of Tulsa Was Burned to The Ground

The deadliest race riot in American history occurred 99 years ago today. Almost a century later, Americans are still seeking justice and protection from the violence against Blacks embedded in the very fabric of this country.

Today marks the sixth day of protests over the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man who died after a white police officer, Devin Chauvin, forced his knee into the apprehended man’s neck as he laid on the ground.

Recorded on camera phones, what the world witnessed was a lynch mentality. The same lynch mentality that propelled and simultaneously protected hundreds of whites as they stormed Greenwood Tulsa, Oklahoma, killing 300 Blacks, burned down 35 sq. blocks and set fire and destroyed over 1200 homes. 

What sparked the race riot?

An elevator incident.

Sarah Page, a 17-year-old white elevator operator knew Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old black teen who would use the elevator almost every day. Page initially claimed Brown slapped her butt one particular day in the elevator. Historic accounts claimed Rowland tripped leaving the elevator, grabbed Page’s arm, she screamed and an onlooker went to authorities. Page never pressed charges, but authorities did, and by the end of the day, the rumor was that Page had been raped.

A mob of white men came to the courthouse to lynch Rowland. A group of Black men met them at the courthouse and refused to let them have him. Shots were eventually fired, and outnumbered, Blacks retreated the Greenwood District of Tulsa, where their community lived.

Whites in Tulsa, already known to have a distain for Greenwood, (dubbed Black Wall Street for its successes and self efficiency), stormed the district the next morning. In just 24 hours, the district was burnt down alongside mass violence to black families, leaving hundreds and hundreds dead.

Greenwood Riot Aftermath

“There was a great shadow in the sky and upon a second look, we discerned that this cloud was caused by fast approaching aeroplanes. It then dawned upon us that the enemy had organized in the night and was invading our district the same as the Germans invaded France and Belgium.” – Mary Jones Parrish, “Events of the Tulsa Disaster”

What often isn’t reported is that thousands of Black Tulsans were also marched through the streets and detained at camps after the riot.

Blacks held at detainment camps falling Greenwood Masscare

Men, women and children were taken in to these detainment camps, remaining there for days, even weeks.

According to the rioters, gathering up Black residents helped identify those who surrendered without fighting back. The action also opened up the passageway for marauding whites to burn and loot and shoot any blacks remaining in the neighborhood.

99 Years Later

99 years to the day, Black death at the hands of inconsequential white lynching still plagues our country. Now-ex-officer, Derek Chauvin, had the same ego, privilege and hate in his heart that the rioters in Tulsa possessed as they brutally ransacked the town, without any care in the world of being held accountable for their murders.

It’s actually ludicrous and audacious. This venomous unchecked power has got to be stop in its tracks. All men are created equal under the law and should be tried as show.

As protestors make their way into streets in cities around the globe, protesting yet another cold, deliberate lynching from those in power, we must ask ourselves… what action steps are we going to take to eradicate this poisonous injustice? 99 years later, their hearts are still same. So we must not focus so much in changing those set in their hateful ways, as we need to change the laws that allow them to freely do so.

Men hellbent on racial violence need to know they can not be protected from the consequences of their actions.

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