The Massacre of Black Wall Street
November 27, 2019 5:56 AM   Subscribe

SLAtlantic: “The equality indicators released by the City of Tulsa every year continue to demonstrate that North Tulsans and South Tulsans are living completely different lives in what seems like two different cities"

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posted by bunderful (10 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
In case you're hesitant to click the link: the Watchmen TV series starts with the Massacre of Black Wall Street in Tulsa in 1921. The series is fiction, the massacre was not.

Despite being sponsored by HBO and created by a marketing team, this is an important, factual piece of US history.
posted by explosion at 6:14 AM on November 27, 2019 [12 favorites]

Tulsa was one of the biggest, but events like this were not at all uncommon in the late 19th and early 20th century. Black communities and areas that were considered too successful were razed by white mobs and land and property stolen. Check out the Red Summer. It happened in cities, it happened in little towns, and the conversation around the lack of black familial wealth can be pretty enraging because the effects of these raids on the ability of black people to build wealth is largely not covered. Black people, against all odds, were still able to succeed economically in American history--but that success was stolen on a huge scale through brutal acts of white violence.
posted by schroedinger at 6:15 AM on November 27, 2019 [29 favorites]

The Youtuber donoteat1 did an excellent video about Black Wall Street. I highly recommend watching it if you found the linked content interesting.
posted by Soi-hah at 6:36 AM on November 27, 2019 [9 favorites]

I found this article to be interesting, even if some of it is thinly sourced.

It pushes back on the narrative of the events in Tulsa being a "massacre" where Black people were mere victims, and emphasizes the role Blacks had in defending themselves.
posted by NBelarski at 6:55 AM on November 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

I grew up in Tulsa - well, in exurb-land Tulsa, at least. North Tulsa, to me, is entirely about race, but only a little about Greenwood, since I never went there. What I did see was lots of white power graffiti. Other neighborhoods of North Tulsa were a stronghold of 80s-flavored white nationalism and Nazi punks/skinheads. Docs, white shirt, red suspenders, you know the look. I remember being told by friends to run if you saw that combo. The skinheads and KKK members coalesced around a leader who kept his name in the news with a series of crazy stunts, which kept the recruits coming in. That worked until 1995, when two of their buddies from Elohim City bombed a Federal office building. As you'd expect, the leader hit the bricks, and the stuff seemed to melt away for a bit. Last time I saw this stuff personally, it was 2000, when some skinheads marched into a show I was at on 6th Street just to start a brawl with the first person that bumped into one of them. Not sure if this was a show of power, just them saying we still exist, or whatever. Fuck them regardless.

This is only a small part of the racial history of Tulsa, but as I understand it, it's representative of the total history, where racial tensions have been more overt than in other parts of the US. These groups almost certainly still exist, and post-2016, I would expect that they're feeling pretty good about their place in the world.

Growing up, you'd learn about the riots. It wasn't hidden. It was taught in schools. Thing is, that's all you would learn, and the picture you'd put together would be : there was a race riot, followed by 70 years of radio silence, and now it's the 90s and Things Are Better. That is obviously not the case.

This conversation should mostly be about Greenwood itself. They deserve it. But there's a lot going on here.
posted by suckerpunch at 7:32 AM on November 27, 2019 [13 favorites]

Sadly, since my time in Tulsa, I have come to find out that it wasn't all that exceptional, after all. At best, openly admitted somewhat earlier than some.

However, it is also exceptionally well documented, so we know without a doubt that a bunch of white people got pissed off they weren't being allowed to lynch a man, started driving around taking potshots at people in Greenwood, then used the people's defense against attempted murder as an excuse to set fire to nearly half the city, in some cases intentionally burning people alive.

But no, it wasn't entirely one sided, the people of Greenwood put up barriers, patrolled the perimeter, and organized a substantial defense of their community. That defense was even relatively effective until the military broke the perimeter, using the excuse they were quelling a riot, nevermind that it was the white people that were doing the rioting, not the people the soldiers were shooting at. After that, the genocide of the part of the population that hadn't, couldn't, or wouldn't flee began.

The only thing that isn't openly acknowledged is the death toll. When the only record of most of a family's existence is the family Bible that was conveniently burned in the orgy of killing and burning, most of that family isn't counted.

It's honestly hard for me to wrap my head around it when the euphemisms and soft wording are stripped away. I guess that's what having your cognitive dissonance crutches kicked out from under you feels like. It sounds so cartoonishly evil, yet it is no cartoon, it was reality. It is reality. It did happen here.
posted by wierdo at 10:21 AM on November 27, 2019 [18 favorites]

Dave Neiwert wrote a great Twitter thread today (warning: 150 tweets) on Red Summer, lynching history, and a lot of other context that surrounded the assault.
posted by rhizome at 2:55 PM on November 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

I feel I should elaborate a bit on the death toll thing. I don't want to dismiss the very real value in having a verifiable, records-based, count of people known to have died in the massacre. It establishes a well documented and unassailable minimum count of the dead.

There is use in that, but we must be mindful that it wasn't at all uncommon for births to go unrecorded except in personal or church records until surprisingly recently in the US. That state of affairs continues in large parts of the world to this day. People who aren't trying to mislead take this effect into account, but those who are often use it to obscure and discredit the very existence of events they find uncomfortable.
posted by wierdo at 10:40 PM on November 27, 2019

Youtube has an interview with Eldoris Mae McCondichie, a Greenwood resident who lived through the massacre.

I also found a film clip from the era, apparently taken by Solomon Sir Jones, here-- loud superfluous added music notwithstanding, it provides a glimpse of what the neighborhood looked like in the aftermath.

I'm not inclined to keep sifting through Youtube clips of dubious quality and provenance today, but The Tulsa Lynching of 1921: A Hidden Story seems to be a legitimate documentary.
posted by tyro urge at 9:18 PM on November 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's pretty easy to find the opening scene referenced in the article-- for now (Part 1 and Part 2).

And because I was thinking about John Singleton anyway, here's the trailer to his film Rosewood, about a similar incident in Florida. Here's John Singleton talking about that film with Charlie Rose, and here's Singleton's interview with the Television Academy Foundation. He talks about the context for the film and the reasons he decided to take it on. (Singleton died earlier this year, of a stroke.)
posted by tyro urge at 7:29 PM on December 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

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