1921 May 31

Tulsa Race Riot Devastates African-American Community


The 1921 Tulsa race riot was the worst incident of racial violence of the 192os, but similar to those of the 1900 to 1919 period, and the year 1919 in particular. In a massive assault on the African-American community by a mob of whites, the African-American hospital in Tulsa was destroyed, the wealthy African-American community was burned down, and 10,000 African-Americans were left homeless. Official records indicated that 39 people were killed, but informal estimates put the figure at 300 or more.

The riot originated from an alleged rape of a white woman by an African-American on May 30th, but the facts of the incident remain in dispute. The ensuing conflict involved shootings at each other by groups of whites and African-Americans, but there is no question that the destructive arson was committed by whites. The conflict was finally ended by the arrival of the Oklahoma National Guard on June 1st.

In 1996, the Oklahoma State Legislature established the Tulsa Race Riot Commission, which investigated the incident and delivered its report in 2001. That year, the legislature also passed the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Reconciliation Act, which provided over 300 college scholarships for African-American students, a public memorial for those killed in the riot, and a promise of economic development for the African-American residential area that was destroyed in the riot. The memorial was dedicated in 2010.

Visit John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park: http://www.jhfcenter.org/reconciliation-park/

Read about the riot: Tim Madigan, The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 (2001)

Watch a documentary on the Tulsa race riothttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYPVZw1S2Zs

Learn more about African American history: Henry Louis Gates, Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008 (2011)

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