The Tulsa race riot was a large-scale, racially motivated pogrom on May 31 and June 1, 1921, in which a group of whites attacked the black community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Greenwood District, the wealthiest black community in the United States (now commonly referred to as “the Black Wall Street”), was burned to the ground. Over the course of 16 hours, more than 800 people were admitted to local white hospitals with injuries, the two black hospitals were burned down, and police arrested and detained more than 6,000 black Greenwood residents at three local facilities. An estimated 10,000 blacks were left homeless, and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire, resulting in over $26 million in damages. The official count of the dead by the Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics was 36, but other estimates of black fatalities vary from 55 to about 300.
The events of the massacre were long omitted from local and state histories: “The Tulsa race riot of 1921 was rarely mentioned in history books, classrooms or even in private. Blacks and whites alike grew into middle age unaware of what had taken place.” With the number of survivors declining, in 1996, the state legislature commissioned a report to establish the historical record of the events, and acknowledge the victims and damages to the black community. Released in 2001, the report included the commission’s recommendations for some compensatory actions, most of which were not implemented by the state and city governments. The state passed legislation to establish some scholarships for descendants of survivors, economic development of Greenwood, and a memorial park to the victims in Tulsa. The latter was dedicated in 2010.