The events that destroyed a thriving Black Oklahoma community 93 years ago were much more than a ‘race riot’
By Gregg L Greer, Editor for One World
As one of the most successful and wealthiest African American communities in the United States during the early 20th Century, it was popularly known as America’s “Black Wall Street” until the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. The invasion was one of the most devastating massacres in the history of US race relations, destroying the once thriving Greenwood community.
The Riot and What HappenedThe riot began because of the alleged assault of a white elevator operator, 17-year old Sarah Page, by an African-American shoeshiner, 19-year old Dick Rowland (the case against Mr. Rowland was eventually dismissed). The Tulsa Tribune got word of the incident and chose to publish the story in the paper on May 31, 1921. Shortly after the newspaper article surfaced, there was news that a white lynch mob was going to take matters into its own hands and kill Dick Rowland. A group of armed white men congregated outside the jail and, subsequently, a group of African-American men joined the assembled crowd in order to protect Dick Rowland. There was an argument in which a white man tried to take a gun from a black man, and the gun fired a bullet up into the sky. This incident promoted many others to fire their guns, and the violence erupted on the evening of May 31, 1921. Whites flooded into the Greenwood district and destroyed the businesses and homes of African-American residents. No one was exempt from the violence of the white mobs; men, women, and even children were killed by the mobs. Troops were eventually deployed on the afternoon of June 1, but by that time there was not much left of the once thriving Greenwood district. Over 600 successful businesses were lost.
The AftermathWithin five years after the massacre, surviving residents who chose to remain in Tulsa rebuilt much of the district. They accomplished this despite the opposition of many white Tulsa political and business leaders. It resumed being a vital black community until segregation was overturned by the Federal Government during the 1950s and 1960s. Desegregation encouraged blacks to live and shop elsewhere in the city, causing Greenwood to lose much of its original vitality. Since then, city leaders have attempted to encourage other economic development activity nearby. “After the riot, black Tulsans, who were living in tents and forced… to wear green identification tags in order to work downtown, still managed to turn the tragedy into triumph. Without state help, they rebuilt Greenwood, and by 1942 the community had more than 240 black-owned businesses.”
What Economic Discrimination means?Investing in economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. We all must make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home in order to grow. But there also exist those who are disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and exploitation. Economic Discrimination means people often end up in insecure, low-wage jobs, and constitute a small minority of those in senior positions. It curtails access to economic assets such as land and loans for the many. It limits participation in shaping economic and social policies. And, because some have to perform the bulk of the work load, they often have little time left to pursue economic opportunities. – Together-We must learn from the past and work toward the future. Related Articles:http://www.ebony.com/black-history/the-destruction-of-black-wall-street-405#ixzz3FTqKfYYn
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