Looking Back at the ‘Erased’ Tulsa Race Riot of 1921


On May 31, 1921, the worst race riot in U.S. history began in Tulsa, Okla. It is an event that hardly anyone commemorates on Memorial Day weekend, because its existence has been all but erased, reports the Washington Post. More than 1,000 homes and businesses were destroyed in less than a week, and at least 300 people were killed, and then buried, possibly in unmarked mass graves, according to a 2001 report on the incident by an Oklahoma state commission.

The official death toll surpassed the totals of the 1965 Watts riot, the 1967 Detroit riot, the 1968 Washington riot and the 1992 Los Angeles riot combined. Some historians estimated that the toll reached 1,000, based on photos of trucks full of bodies as they rolled out of town, according to a member of the commission. A quest for reparations by surviving victims ended two weeks ago. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed without comment a class-action suit against the city of Tulsa, its police department and the state of Oklahoma. The rejection left in place a lower court’s ruling that a two-year statute of limitations on claims had expired in 1923. According to law, the judges ruled, it mattered little that segregated courts in which Ku Klux Klan members held judgeships refused to hear claims of black victims immediately after the riot, or that evidence of its devastation was erased or hidden until the 2001 report.

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/30/AR2005053000950.html

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