The Tulsa Race Riot was a large-scale, racially motivated conflict on May 31 and June 1, 1921, in which whites attacked the black community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It resulted in the Greenwood District, also known as ‘the Black Wall Street’ and the wealthiest black community in the United States, being burned to the ground. During the 16 hours of the assault, more than 800 whites were admitted to local white hospitals with injuries (the black hospital was burned down), and police arrested and detained more than 6,000 black Greenwood residents at three local facilities, in part for their protection.
An estimated 10,000 blacks were left homeless, and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire. The official count of the dead by the Oklahoma Department of Vital Statistics was 39, but other estimates of black fatalities have been up to about 300.
The events of the riot 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. The state has 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.