On May 31, 1921, a mob of murderous whites descended on the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma dubbed Black Wall Street, and razed it to the ground. They dropped homemade bombs in the first ever domestic aerial attack on American soil, during the Tulsa Race Massacre following the end of World War I.
Over three hundred Blacks were murdered and hastily buried or burned. Police and other state officials were complicit; no one was ever charged for the crimes and insurance companies refused to honor Black business owner’s claims from the destruction of their livelihood and senseless slaughter of their friends, families, and community. A generation of wealth was wiped out overnight, with deep economic repercussions passing down to ensuing descendants.
The Confederates managed to memory hole the Tulsa Race Massacre event clean out of history for the most part, until the 100-year anniversary of the event — arriving at a time of perhaps maximum racial polarization and most extreme partisanship in this country since the civil rights era. Nor is it the only example of mass murder and destruction of Black property and assets — there are plenty others we’ve never heard about in school. That’s why it’s so important to bear witness, and to remember, and to tell and retell the stories of our past — even the painful ones. Especially the painful ones.