The Tulsa Race Massacre

Jana Hofmann

Acceptance is key to a utopia that we all dream of as American citizens yet we sometimes keep certain parts of our history hidden to make our country more appealing. The Tulsa Race Massacre was one of those events in history that America has tried to cover up to better our reputation.

Black Wall Street, a neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma was one of the wealthiest black communities in 1921. Their population stood at a whopping 10,000 people before the massacre. In fact, Black Wall Street had working plumbing before any of the white neighborhoods around them and had better education systems. They had two popular newspapers and many black owned businesses that made them successful. Even though, they were living, walking proof that they were just as brilliant and resilient as the white race, it didn’t make a difference. The leading event that caused the massacre took place called The Drexel building. A 17-year-old, white woman named Sarah Page and a 19-year-old, black man named Dick Rowland were located in the Drexel building on the elevator on May 30, 1921. Although, we are not certain of what caused Page to scream in that elevator, some speculate that Rowland may have brushed against her or bumped into her. Rowland was arrested and charged with assault even when Page refused to cooperate with the prosecutors and refused to press charges. The next day after Rowlands arrest, he was on the top floor of the Tulsa County Courthouse when 1000 white men were protesting to lynch him and a few dozen black men came armed to provide Rowland with protection. The final straw that caused this massacre was during the protest when a white man attempted to take a black man’s gun and all hell broke loose.

The Tulsa Race Massacre was one of the most brutal events in American history. Hundreds of white men and airplanes were armed with weapons such as bombs and guns. They raided, looted, murdered and set fire to Black Wall Street. After, more than 300 people dead (mostly black) and thousands went missing. More than 1200 homes were destroyed and 35 blocks burned. The people of Black Wall Street had to live in tents until they rebuilt their home without government assistance. After the massacre, they began to cover up all evidence. Records about the Tulsa Race Massacre went missing; from city files to the “Elevator article” that was published the day following the event. In 2001, there was a report that released three locations as to where the missing bodies were buried but the government decided that it wasn’t worth the expenses to dig them up. The new mayor of Tulsa has an opinion on this matter which he states that he believes the people of Tulsa, Oklahoma should know about their history. He decided to put in the funding for digging up the bodies within a few years.

This historical event needs to be more recognized because this is a part of our history. Covering this learning experience up prevents us from growing and having a better understanding of the injustices that must be rationalized. This in fact, was one of the greatest conspiracies of silence in American history.