The Tulsa Race Riot, Buried in the Archives, Was Among the Worst Massacres in American History
When Stephen Paddock tragically murdered 58 people in Las Vegas at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on Oct. 1, 2017, it was called the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the history of the United States.
Perhaps the deadliest act of violence in the nation’s history not committed by just one individual occurred almost 100 years ago, and to this day it remains buried in history’s archives.
Back in 1921, Greenwood — a segregated part of Tulsa, Oklahoma — was flourishing due to a local oil boom. Greenwood was an African-African community, and as it continued to prosper it came to be known as the “Black Wall Street.”
This economic situation didn’t sit well with the white folks in the area, and after a young black man in Tulsa was accused of raping a white woman, tensions in the city rose to a dangerous level. When the suspected man was at the courthouse, an angry mob began to form. A shootout between African Americans and whites ensued, kicking off the Tulsa race riot.
The riot, which began on May 31, continued the following day when a mob of white people went to Greenwood and burned it to the ground.
In the initial aftermath of the riot, the official death toll was cited as 39, though the American Red Cross estimates that there were more like 300 fatalities. The Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, which was formed in 1996 on the riot’s 75th anniversary, released its final report in 2001. The report concluded that the city had conspired with the white mob in the violent acts against African Americans.
Of the roughly 300 black people who were murdered, it’s believed that most of them were killed by guns. An additional 800-plus people were injured in the massacre. More than 1,200 homes were burned and looted, leaving about 10,000 black residents homeless and helpless.
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