If you follow us on Facebook and Twitter, you may have seen me put out a request recently for some happier history fare. I’d spent the weeks leading up to that request researching the Doctors’ Riot, the Battle of Blair Mountain and the subject of today’s episode – the Tulsa race riot of 1921, also known as the destruction of Black Wall Street. Holly and I have to pause our recording because we’ve become emotional often enough that it’s become kind of a running joke between us. This is the first time I’ve had to pause my research for that reason. I’d never heard of the event before listeners requested it, in part because it was deliberately swept under the rug for nearly half a century after it took place.
The population in and around Tulsa, Oklahoma, boomed prior to 1921, thanks to the discovery of oil in the area. The Tulsa suburb of Greenwood grew into a thriving African-American community thanks to a combination of segregation and black entrepreneurship. On May 31 and June 1, a mob of white Tulsa citizens, including sworn law enforcement and members of the National Guard, burned it down after being thwarted in their attempt to lynch a young black man for a crime he did not commit. Thousands lost their homes, and hundreds died.
Here’s a link to our notes and research.