The worst race riot in American history occurred in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921. The incident is also known as the Tulsa Race Massacre.
In the early 20th century, Tulsa was a prosperous city with a thriving oil industry. The Greenwood district was a predominantly African-American community and was referred to as “Black Wall Street” due to its economic success and thriving businesses.
On May 31, 1921, Dick Rowland, a black teenager, was accused of assaulting Sarah Page, a white elevator operator. He was arrested and taken to the Tulsa County Courthouse.
A mob of white residents gathered outside the courthouse demanding that Rowland be handed over to them. When they were denied access to Rowland by the sheriff’s deputies guarding him, tensions escalated.
The next day, on June 1st, a group of armed white men entered the Greenwood district and began attacking African-American businesses and homes. The violence quickly escalated into a full-blown riot with thousands of white residents joining in on the attack.
Over the course of two days, more than 35 blocks of Black Wall Street were destroyed by fire and looting. Many African-American residents were killed or injured in the violence.
Following the massacre, thousands of African-American residents were left homeless and their businesses destroyed. The official death toll was recorded at 36 but historians believe that number is much higher.
The event received little attention at the time and was largely covered up by local authorities. It wasn’t until decades later that efforts were made to uncover what had happened during those two days in Tulsa.
The Tulsa Race Massacre remains one of the most tragic events in American history. It serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of racism and the importance of working towards a more just and equitable society.