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How the Tulsa Race Massacre Was Covered Up

January 27, 2021 in History

By Alexis Clark

A search for mass graves of the victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre highlights an event that had been suppressed from history for decades.

During the . White residents didn’t want to admit that relatives or friends had participated in the massacre and Black residents didn’t want to pass on their pain to their children, says Michelle Place, executive director of the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum.

“If you told them the stories of how hard you had worked, what you had built and how we lost it, then that sets the children up for fear that it could happen again,” she says.

Rebuilding Greenwood and Preserving Its History

The Black Wall Street Massacre memorial in Tulsa, Oklahoma, pictured in June 2020.

Greenwood residents lost everything. Some fled, never to return, while others were relegated to living in tents and getting assistance from the Red Cross, until they had the means and materials to rebuild. Though Black residents filed $1.8 million in riot-related claims, they were all denied. But rebuilding began within a few months and community gems like the Dreamland Theater reopened, along with stores and other buildings.

As the civil rights era brought hard-fought change to the nation, Greenwood began to decline. “All of these entrepreneurs began to age out and their children did not want to take over the beauty shop or the grocery store or the movie theater. Many of them had gotten their educations and became professionals and moved out of Greenwood to different parts of the country,” says Place, who added that with desegregation, dollars that were once concentrated in Greenwood, were spent elsewhere.

That coupled with urban renewal efforts that inserted an interstate highway through Greenwood, drastically changed the area.

Investigation of Mass Graves


Tulsa City Counselor Vanessa Hall-Harper and local activist Kristi Williams at Oak Lawn Cemetery on September 22, 2018 in Tulsa where many believe there is a mass grave containing victims of the 1921 massacre.

After a series of overlapping events in the 1990s—including the Oklahoma City Bombing that flooded the state with reporters, who then learned about the Tulsa Race Massacre for the 75th anniversary; and Black city leaders who wanted to capture the oral histories of aging survivors and seek reparations for the victims—Oklahoma legislators created a commission to investigate the massacre, says Ellsworth, who served as the chief scholar for the commission. “Eventually …read more

Source: HISTORY

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