NBA star Russell Westbrook is producing a new docu-series Terror In Tulsa: The Rise And Fall of Black Wall Street, Variety reports. The project is about “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history” — the Tulsa Race Massacre.
At the same time, President Trump is readying himself to hold a rightwing rally in Tulsa — seemingly completely oblivious to, or opting to ignore, the area's history. What's more, CNN reports that Trump is planning to hold the MAGA event on June 19 – or "Juneteenth" — black freedom day. "A beautiful new venue, brand new. We’re looking forward to it," he said during a White House event.
If you're not sure what happened in Tulsa, allow us to explain.
Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the massacre. An especially dark chapter in America's racist history, the event has been largely ignored by school curriculums and mainstream media. Amid nationwide anti-racist protests, the event has become even more poignant. Here's what you should know about it.
What was the Tulsa Race Massacre?
It is believed to be the single worst incident of racial violence in American history, the bloody 1921 outbreak destroyed one of the biggest, thriving black communities in the country. According to the Tulsa Historical Society, the racially-motivated attack on an affluent African American district left 10,000 people homeless and countless others were dead.
Westbrook's project will chronicle the deadly massacre, "It’s upsetting that the atrocities that transpired then are still so relevant today," he said in a statement. "It’s important we uncover the buried stories of African Americans in this country. We must amplify them now more than ever if we want to create change moving forward."
What was the Black Wall Street?
Following World War I, fuelled by oil money, Tulsa was a modern city with a population of more than 100,000, the majority of whom were black. However, Tulsa was severely segregated. Most of the city's black residents lived in a neighborhood called Greenwood, which included a thriving business district sometimes referred to as Black Wall Street.
How did the massacre happen?
Underlying racial tensions came to the surface when, on May 30, 1921, a young black teenager named Dick Rowland entered an elevator at the Drexel Building and stepped on a white woman's foot, causing her to scream. Rowland was arrested and accused of rape. The Tulsa Tribune reported the arrest in an article titled "To Lynch Negro Tonight." That evening, a lynch mob gathered at the jail and demanded that authorities hand over Rowland to them. The sheriff refused.
So, white Tulsans turned their rage elsewhere. During the course of eighteen terrible hours on May 31 and June 1, 1921, thousands of white citizens – some of whom were deputized and given weapons by city officials – poured into the Greenwood District. They looted, killed innocent civilians, and burned businesses over an area of 35 city blocks.
What happened next?
By the time that additional National Guard troops arrived in Tulsa at approximately 9 a.m. on the morning of June 1, most of Greenwood had already been burnt down. In the hours after the Tulsa Race Massacre, all charges against Dick Rowland were dropped. He left Tulsa the next morning and never returned.
Even though Rowland had been exonerated, an all-white grand jury blamed black Tulsans for the lawlessness that had occurred. And despite overwhelming evidence, no whites were ever sent to prison for the murders and arson that occurred.
The vast majority of Tulsa's black population had been made homeless and began the long and arduous process of rebuilding Greenwood, while themselves living in tents. While Greenwood was eventually rebuilt, the African American community never truly recovered from the disaster and Black Wall Street was no more.
For decades this horrific event was hidden. There were no public ceremonies, memorials for the dead, or any efforts to commemorate the events. Instead, there was a deliberate effort in the media to cover them up — which is why you'll often find the event referred to as Tulsa Race Riots, rather than the massacre it was. To this day there is no record of how many people were killed.
Learn more about the Tulsa massacre via the Vox below.