HBO’s excellent Watchmen series opened with the Black Wall Street massacre, largely known as the Tulsa Massacre and alternatively, the Tulsa Race Massacre. The term Tulsa Massacre began trending on Twitter on Wednesday (October 27) with users sharing when was the first time they learned of the tragic event that took place a century ago in Oklahoma.
Here is what we wrote of the Tulsa Race Massacre in 2019:
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.
The massacre was also depicted briefly in HBO’s science fiction and horror-thriller Lovecraft Country, and there has been renewed interest in retelling the story of the tragic event.
Note from D.L. Chandler
I rarely inject my personal thoughts into these stories but I didn’t learn about the Tulsa Race Massacre until 2016 when I was doing Black history writing and reports. I wouldn’t have discovered this horrific event if it weren’t tied to me doing deep research on such events and was troubled to learn that there were several more riots of similar sort across the nation that have been buried under the weight of American history.
On Twitter, users are sharing their first time learning of the Tulsa Massacre and pondering aloud why it isn’t being discussed more in schools. With conservative leaders and others looking to do away with the teaching of Critical Race Theory, which would undoubtedly cover what happened in the Greenwood district, this important piece of American history could potentially be buried but it appears a number of people won’t allow that to pass.
Check out the discussion below.