In the early 1920’s, Black Americans were under the siege of direct and indirect racial violence with widespread lynchings, Jim Crow laws, and race riots across the country. And yet the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma was thriving. Its streets were lined with successful Black-owned businesses and Black professionals. The district was so successful that the area was dubbed “Black Wall Street.”
But 100 years ago, on May 31, 1921, a white mob of several thousand murdered up to 300 Black residents, and destroyed almost every Black business, church, and home in the 35-square-block neighborhood.
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What followed the massacre was a national forgetting: no reckoning, no justice, and no accountability. Black property owners were never compensated, and neither the city nor the state committed money toward rebuilding Greenwood in the aftermath. In fact, up until recently, the massacre was hardly taught or discussed at all.
Tulsa historian and prolific author and lawyer, Hannibal B. Johnson, joined us on At Liberty this week to mark the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre and discuss its legacy. Johnson is the chair of the Education Committee of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, which is hosting educational and memorial events in honor of the centennial.