May 31 marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, believed to be the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.
On May 30, 1921, a young Black man named Dick Rowland was arrested for an alleged assault on a White woman in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The next morning, in retaliation, a mob of white residents attacked the Greenwood district, known as "Black Wall Street" at that time for its prosperity and thriving businesses. The shootings, looting and lynchings only ceased 24 hours later: dozens of city blocks were destroyed and an estimated 300 people were killed. In the wake of this violence, thousands of Black residents were displaced.
A black and white photograph, taken in June 1921, shows the extent of the damages in the Greenwood district.
The Tulsa Race Massacre had been absent from most history books and newspapers for decades and was long referred to as the "Tulsa Race Riot." But as the U.S. is engaging in a new reckoning with its history of racist violence, led by the Black Lives Matter movement, a new light has been shed on this particularly violent episode. In October 2020, an investigation launched two years before by Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum unearthed a mass grave believed to hold victims of the massacre at the Oaklawn Cemetery. A full excavation is scheduled on June 1, in the hopes that some of the victims of this massacre can finally be properly laid to rest .