Of America’s many instances of violence against Black people, one of the more pointed examples of this took place during the summer of 1921 in Tulsa, Okla. The new HBO series Watchmen depicted the incidents of the 1921 Black Wall Street Massacre, also known as the Tulsa Race Riot, and many on Twitter are learning about the atrocity for the first time.
In 1916, Tulsa passed a city ordinance that enforced a rule that Black and white people could not live within one block of each other. As a result, the Greenwood neighborhood was formed and became a haven for Black business owners and thriving Black families.
Tensions flared in 1921 after an unconfirmed report of an assault of a white female 17-year-old elevator operator by a 19-year-old Black man began to spread. Although the young woman did not press charges, a local newspaper accused the man of the assault which led to his arrest. White residents demanded that the sheriff release the man for a lynching. Black citizens who lived in Greenwood were alerted of the lynching plan and went to the Tulsa courthouse armed and ready to defend the man.
While it has been debated heavily on who fired the first shot, it was widely reported that a Black man issued a skyward blast after he was ordered to hand over his weapon. A melee ensued with left several dead and the armed white mob, crazed with rage, stormed into the Greenwood district and chased down Black residents regardless of gender or age while also looting and firebombing homes.
The riots went on until June 1, this after the Oklahoma National Guard was called in to quell the clashes. The battle left many Greenwood residents homeless with official state numbers citing just 36 casualties although historians, combing through poorly kept or destroyed records and second-hand accounts estimated that close to 300 people perished.
In the Watchmen reenactment, planes are shown bombing Black Wall Street, which mirrors the chatter of the time that an aerial assault of the neighborhood took place, although like much else surrounding the riots, that too was unconfirmed.
The hashtag #BlackWallStreet has begun trending on Twitter in the wake of the Watchmen debut and we’ve got some of those reactions below.
Before you get upset with people over not knowing about #TulsaMassacre #BlackWallStreet, remember RIGHT NOW Texas and a bunch of other states are literally rewriting history by removing/reimagining slavery from text books. #hbowatchmen— What Up Steph (@whudupsteph) October 21, 2019
Any 104 students looking for a kick ass RQII topic should look no further. And anybody wondering why #hbowatchmen and #BlackWallStreet are trending should do some cool homework: watch the first episode and do some googling. You’re welcome. https://t.co/WgYqaO6k08— teacher lady (@leckie104) October 21, 2019
#TheWatchmenHBO opened up with a powerful scene on the #tulsamassacre I’m shocked so many ppl don’t know about it. I grew up in #Tulsa so I learned about it at a young age, but here’s video from a few years ago of my son Malcolm performing his poem #BlackWallStreet at our church pic.twitter.com/z75sZdr9c1— Etan Thomas (@etanthomas36) October 21, 2019
I'm getting a kick reading tweets from nerdy white liberals how they never knew about #BlackWallStreet You would think their identity politics obsession would have led them there at some point, your university overcharged lol #WatchmenHBO— RZA-GZA 2020 👐🏽 (@roc_digital) October 21, 2019
Watching surprise reactions about the Watchmen opening/Tulsa race massacre is pretty damning proof that the US education system is bad and racist #BlackWallStreet— Rani Molla (@ranimolla) October 21, 2019
I rep the fact that I'm from Tulsa and a product of #BlackWallStreet everyday. My mother and I own my great-grandmother's house 1 mile from the Greenwood district as well as my uncle's music company that was signed over to me after he passed.— JenMarie is minding the business that pays her. (@jenmarieinc) October 21, 2019