It’s the Anniversary of the Worst Terrorist Attack in the US Before 9/11 — And No One’s Heard Of It

black-wall-streetBy Claire Bernish

“Personal belongings and household goods had been removed from many homes and piled in the streets. On the steps of the few houses that remained sat feeble and gray Negro men and women and occasionally a small child. The look in their eyes was one of dejection and supplication. Judging from their attitude, it was not of material consequence to them whether they lived or died. Harmless themselves, they apparently could not conceive the brutality and fiendishness of men who would deliberately set fire to the homes of their friends and neighbors and just as deliberately shoot them down in their tracks,” the Tulsa Daily World described on June 2, 1921, following the obliteration of a thriving neighborhood that had come to be called Black Wall Street.

Prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001, the outright decimation of Black Wall Street, also known as Little Africa — which began the evening of May 31, 1921, and didn’t end until the following afternoon — had been considered the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil and the worst civil disturbance since the Civil War. Unfortunately, now 95 years later, the tragic annihilation of an entire neighborhood has almost been lost to the passing of time — indeed, the insufficiently-named “Tulsa Riots” have almost wholly vanished from school curriculae outside Oklahoma.

Credible estimates claim up to 400 people lost their lives, over 800 suffered injuries requiring admittance to area hospitals, “an estimated 10,000 were left homeless, 35 city blocks housing 1,256 residences were destroyed, and 600 successful businesses were lost, including 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores, two movie theaters and a hospital,” the Atlanta Black Star summarized in 2014.

Black Wall Street blossomed in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, as segregation laws — dictating neither white nor black Americans could live in a neighborhood with more than 75 percent population of the other race — ironically created a system which kept money from leaving the community. African-Americans, by law, could not shop in white-owned business, so every imaginable business — from groceries and clothiers to hospitals and theaters — became immensely profitable.

Schools offered superior educational opportunities, and homes and businesses in Little Africa were equipped with indoor plumbing before their white counterparts. An oil boom in the 1910s amplified the growth of the middle class. Greenwood, by all historical accounts, primarily consisted of the middle- and upper-classes — and by the time of the so-called riots, about 10,000 people lived and worked in Little Africa.

As Jim Crow laws increased around the country, the overwhelming success experienced by citizens of Greenwood acerbated nearby white populations. Tensions between those communities reached a boiling point when Dick Rowland, rich from the business of shining shoes, was thrown in jail after being accused of the rape of white elevator operator, Sarah Page.

“While it is still uncertain as to precisely what happened in the Drexel Building on May 30, 1921,” the Oklahoma Historical Society explains, “the most common explanation is that Rowland stepped on Page’s foot as he entered the elevator, causing her to scream.”

An irate lynch mob gathered on the courthouse steps the following evening, calling for Rowland to be handed over; but the sheriff refused. An armed group of about 25 black men, including many World War I veterans, offered to help the sheriff protect Rowland, but were denied.

Later, the furious white mob attempted to break into a National Guard armory, but the effort was thwarted. Chaos continued as a second group of about 75 black men returned to the courthouse — and were again turned away by authorities. As they left, according to the Historical Society, a white man moved to disarm a black vet, causing a shot to be fired into the air. Shortly thereafter, all hell broke loose.

While these events certainly sparked the civilian and law enforcement terror attacks on the affluent neighborhood, the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 published a startling finding in its report in February 2001:

At the time, many said that this was no spontaneous eruption of the rabble; it was planned and executed by the elite. Quite a few people — including some members of this commission — have studied the question and are persuaded that this is so, that the Tulsa race riot was the result of a conspiracy.

Though the opinion wasn’t unanimously concluded by the commission, many scholars and historians have argued the same. When examining the details of events variously called race riots and outright terror attacks, the determination that an embittered elite opportunistically enjoined the Ku Klux Klan in seeking to destroy prosperous Black Wall Street handily fills gaps in the account lost over time.

After the shot fired on the courthouse steps, some accounts say the black contingent returned to Greenwood, but generally, the situation in Tulsa devolved into mayhem. Though the sheriff had refused to turn Rowland over to be lynched, Tulsa law enforcement officers deputized a number of people who had comprised the white mob.

Over a period of hours, black Tulsans were randomly victimized and targeted in drive-by shootings; homes and businesses in Little Africa were looted; and a number of fires set to buildings on the perimeter of the neighborhood. Law enforcement simply did not protect the Greenwood neighborhood, nor any of the black population anywhere in Tulsa. Though the National Guard mobilized, ostensibly to stem the increasing atrocities, guard members instead protected white areas of the city against a nonexistent threat.

No body of law enforcement did anything to stop any violence perpetrated by the vicious white mob — and by some accounts, they performed mass arrests of Greenwood’s residents and even carried out atrocities. Little Africa’s tenacious residents defended their community for as long as possible, managing to stave off the hateful crowd for some time.

But by sunrise, hundreds lay siege to Black Wall Street — murdering, looting, and burning everything in sight. At least one machine gun was used. Most accounts of the attack say planes — identified murkily as either flown by police or authorities — repeatedly bombed the area.

By the time the violence ceased, Black Wall Street was effectively decimated — some 40 square blocks burned to the ground. Up to 300 people had been murdered, many buried in unmarked graves. In the time shortly after the riots, Greenwood began to rebuild — though many were forced to endure winter living in tents. Despite relatively successful reconstruction projects, the community never again thrived in quite the same way it had prior to the attack.

Astonishingly, not a single person was ever held accountable for any atrocity committed — not one murder, not one case of arson, not even robbery.

Debate over what actually occurred between Rowland and Page that ultimately led to the terrible events remains a matter of conjecture for two reasons.

First, no written record of Page’s account to police has ever materialized. Second, though the incident appears to be as plain as Rowland having accidentally stomped on Page’s foot, local newspaper the Tulsa Tribune reportedly first characterized it as a rape — though even that report doesn’t exist in hard copy. Microfilmed archives of the paper remain available, but according to the Commission’s report, “before the actual microfilming was done some years later, someone had deliberately torn out of the May 31, 1921 city edition both a front-page article and, in addition, nearly all of the editorial page.”

While those aspects might appear to be superficial details, they lend a degree of credibility to the idea the entire riot and subsequent destruction of Black Wall Street had been a carefully orchestrated plot.

Perhaps the greatest threat Black Wall Street posed to the elites — considering the Tulsa riots occurred during the historical period of ‘robber barons,’ monopolies, and economic stratification rivaled only today — wasn’t as much the neighborhood’s racial composition. Maybe, Black Wall Street’s insular and prosperous economy — a neighborhood thriving on its own accomplishments apart from the community and nation at large — constituted the larger menace to the aristocracy.

Though it’s reasonable to assume we will never definitively know every detail leading up to and surrounding the events of May 31 through June 1, 1921, it’s imperative not to allow the attacks to be lost to the passing of time.

Claire Bernish writes for TheFreeThoughtProject.com, where this article first appeared.

  • mortimer zilch

    what about the young man who packed a school house with TNT and blew up his mother who was the kindergarten teacher and all the kids in the school along with her? 275 of them more or less I seem to recall…I don’t know where it was, or exactly when but I think it was around 1912. !! nothing new to terror.

  • Tark McCoy

    Good history lesson. Thanks.

  • bonnielou

    “an estimated 10,000 were left homeless, 35 city blocks housing 1,256
    residences were destroyed, and 600 successful businesses were lost,
    including 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores, two movie theaters and a
    hospital,” the Atlanta Black Star summarized in 2014. How did Atlanta Black Star summarize in 2014 an event that happened in 1921?

    • PJ London

      The original report may have been 20 pages or two paragraphs. In 2014 the Atkanta Black Star wrote a story which summarised the original.
      There how difficult was that?
      For instance I could summarise your comment by saying bonnielou asked a really dumb question.
      See it is simple.

    • John_Smith001

      The US government has killed millions their insane quest to make sure that no one in the world is even slightly independent. Why is this estimate so hard to believe?

  • LudVanB

    The blowback of stupidity.

  • colinjames71

    I’m blown away I’ve never heard of this. There’s probably similar incidents list to history I’m guessing. Smaller scale most likely. Self-sufficiency made these people targets, race made them EASY targets. I’d love to see this event popularized; considering the current wave of ethnic revenge on whitey movies which glamorize violence and murder of white oppressors (Django, that recent slave rebellion Sundance Award Winning film)… Why hasn’t a black filmmaker depicted a successful and thriving black community that was literally destroyed? By white people no less. Oh wait there’s no revenge, no hero who’s a hero for murdering people. And as if tptb would allow the depiction of any community thriving on its own in America, much less a black one exceeding the neighbouring white communities.

  • disqus-ted

    Very interesting reading material. I barely remember ever even seeing reference(s) to ‘Tulsa Riots’ before, although I do recall seeing said reference. I don’t recall ever reading the whole story, which apparently has more to it than was published. How curious, the fact that someone chose to help cover it all up by not microfilming original published materials.

  • y3shuA imMANu3l

    “An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 2.6 shook Fremont Monday morning.

    The United States Geological Survey recorded the tremor at 2.5 miles northeast of Fremont at 10:29 a.m.”

  • y3shuA imMANu3l

    “TAIPEI – An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1 shook parts of Taiwan on Tuesday and was felt in the capital, Taipei, residents and officials said, but there were no immediate reports of damage.

    The U.S. Geological Survey originally recorded the quake, centered about 70 miles northeast of Taipei, with a magnitude of 6.4. Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau put the magnitude at 7.2.”

  • y3shuA imMANu3l

    LUTHER, Okla. (AP) — The U.S. Geological Survey says an earthquake has rattled central Oklahoma.

    The USGS says the 3.1 magnitude earthquake was recorded shortly before 6 a.m. less than 2 miles east-northeast of Luther in Oklahoma County, about 28 miles east of Oklahoma City. Geologists say the temblor was recorded at a depth of three miles.”

  • Amor Terra

    The Greenwood incident wasn’t a “riot.” If you look at it carefully, it was a massacre. Here’s a blurb from the archive at Oklahoma State University.

    “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.”

    Notice: 1) 6000 blacks arrested “for their protection.” Right. Protected them so the whites had the opportunity to burn down thousands of buildings with little resistance. 2) 800 whites hospitalized (no fatalities noted), while up to 300 blacks dead.
    3) No mention of the violence extending into nearby white neighborhoods.

    As usual, the “history” is a whitewash (no pun intended).

    • Mark

      Recall too that the Blacks of the early 20th century were persuaded by Judaic money to support W.E.B. duBois. Instead of supporting Marcus Garvey, a man who promoted Black independence, Black Americans flocked instead to the “soft slavery” of financial dependency behind W.E.B. duBois, the Judas goat for the moneychangers. Today’s Blacks suffer for that decision of their ancestors. The “Chosen” work day and night to control their chattel gentiles. Why would they want “animals in the form of men” to be free and independent? History that will never be taught in the public fool system. judaism DOT is/who-is-human.html

    • Mark

      God created them [non-Judaics] in the form of men for the glory of Israel… for the sole end of ministering unto them [Judaics] day and night. Nor can they ever be relieved of this service. It is becoming to the son of a king [an Israelite] that animals in their natural form and animals in the form of human beings should minister unto him. Midrash Talpioth 225a

    • Mark

      “Some of the Turks and the nomads in the North, and the Blacks and the nomads in the South, and those who resemble them in our climates. And their nature is like the nature of mute animals, and according to my opinion they are not on the level of human beings, and their level among existing things is below that of a man and above that of a monkey, because they have the image and the resemblance of a man more than a monkey does.”

      Maimonides, Jxdaism’s “greatest” rabbi, the “Great” Rambam, explaining who is not fit “to participate in the world to come,”

      Guide for the Perplexed, Book III, chapter 51 cited in Israel Shahak, Hebrew University Professor, Jxwish History, Jxwish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years. London: Pluto Press, 1997. p. 25.

      tinyurl DOT com/yew88mb

      The spelling abberations are intended to overcome Activist Post’s censorship.

      • Amor Terra

        I’ve had a post pending in response to you for a full day for using the now-apparently dirty word naming the religious background of certain (12) middle eastern tribes, without replacing the e with an x as you did. So since it must now be illegal to use that word, allow me to say, I don’t think that the Greenwood murderers were of those tribes any more than the large percentage of despicable rednecks who inhabit modern-day Oklahoma. And, despite your being off-base with trying to blame this on those tribes, you’re right about the ridiculous censorship.

        • Mark

          My point was not to blame the tribe for Tulsa, but to be clear what the tribe thinks of Blacks—while pretending to be friendly champions of civil rights.

    • Mark

      “…the servitude of animalistic black Africans should be perpetual.”

      Isaac Abarbanel, 15th-century Portuguese Talmudic theologian, in

      David Brion Davis, “Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World” (Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 55.
      revisionistreview.blogspot DOT com/2013/01/israelis-force-female-black-immigrants.html

  • Paul Panza

    This article should be posted on the Alex Jones site Prison Planet where people still believe that the 2nd amendment will protect them from a rogue government.

  • Doug Stevens

    Regardless that this event may have been orchestrated by the so-called “elite” it is entirely dependent on people acting like fkng barbarians.

  • Archie1954

    I didn’t know that story but it explains a lot about Tulsa and Oklahoma today. That state is considered by many to be backward, regressive and racially prejudiced as a whole. Of course, every population of individuals will have at least a small number of progressives within it, but in Oklahoma they are negligible. Notwithstanding the musical, the state itself is unworthy of emulation by even the worst of the worst among us. It deserves to be considered a living museum of degeneracy of American Civil war history!

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