TULSA, Okla. – It’s been 98 years since one of the worst race massacres on United States soil occurred.
The Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma was once called the “Black Wall Street,” a 35-block radius in the segregated community thriving with hundreds of businesses.
On June 1, 1921, the entire area was burned down as a result of a riot that began after a black man was accused of assaulting a white woman.
White residents attacked the community, killing hundreds of black residents and injuring 800 others.
“That night, all night long, May the thirty-first into June the first, America experienced one of its darkest moments. Twelve hundred homes were destroyed that night in Greenwood. Nine thousand people were left homeless. Six thousand African Americans were rounded up by the police in Tulsa and jailed ‘for their protection.’ But they were the ones that were held,” U.S. Sen. James Lankford said.
It occurred during the ‘Red Summer of 1919,’ a time that marked hundreds of deaths during race riots across the country.
Despite it being one of the worst instances of racial violence in the United States, the massacre was mostly swept under the rug.
In honor of the 98th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Lankford is speaking about the massacre and the aftermath.
“Two years from now, the entire country will probably pause for 24 hours and will look at Tulsa and will ask a simple question: ‘what has changed in a hundred years?’ It’s a fair question. I think Tulsa will stand up and say: not just ‘let me show you the structures that have changed but will show you the heart that has changed.’ Because Tulsa is a very different community now. We still have a ways to go, as do the rest of the state,” he said.
As the 100th-anniversary approaches, community leaders have pushed for justice for the dead. Recently, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum proposed using $100,000 from the city’s budget to search for the mass graves of the victims.
Bynum says crews will search Oaklawn Cemetery, Newblock Park and Rolling Oaks Memorial Gardens for possible mass graves.
“If we can identify a place where there are bodies, we have a responsibility to look into that,” Mayor G.T. Bynum told KJRH.