When it comes to little known African American history, I would say the Tulsa Race Massacre is at the top of the list. Most people don’t know this, but following World War I, the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a mecca for Black wealth and home to a thriving community of upper- and middle-class Black families.
Like most cities in the United States in 1921 (and even today), Tulsa’s communities were divided by race. The central hub of the Greenwood District became known as “Black Wall Street” for its economic strength and influence. Black-owned businesses, banks, and schools ensured that the local economy was not only thriving, but was also reflective of the community in which they served.
Because of racism and the practice of segregation in Tulsa, Black dollars were spent solely in Black communities at Black-owned establishments. The result was the transformation of Black Wall Street into a powerful and highly influential example of what could happen if Blacks bought Black exclusively. We’re talking generational wealth be created within the Black community.
This growing influence and progress was halted when a 19-year-old Black shoeshine named Dick Rowland was accused by a white store clerk of sexually assaulting a white, 17-year-old elevator operator named Sarah Page. What followed was an unimaginable deadly attack on an entire community.
From May 31st to June 1, 1921, white rioters (many of them deputized and given weapons by city officials) set fire to the Greenwood District and began looting businesses and killing as many as 300 Black residents, leaving thousands more without shelter.
The following are photos that only scratch the surface of what occurred during the bloody two-day attack.