On June 1, 1921, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a horrific act of racial terrorism took place, and the perpetrators were actually assisted by the local police and the national guard. The site of the attack was a region of Tulsa known as “Black Wall Street” in a neighborhood called “Greenwood,” which was a thriving center of culture and commerce for African Americans.
At the time, the community was a symbol of black success in America, which unfortunately made it the target of constant hostility from media, politicians and local racists who saw it as an economic threat. The attacks on the community were sparked by an accusation that a black man attempted to rape a white woman. Although the man accused of the crime was arrested and awaiting judgment, a mob of angry racists did not want to wait for the suspect to see a fair trial, and instead wanted the whole black community to pay for the alleged crimes of this one man.
At the courthouse, innocent black bystanders were attacked by a mob and forced to retreat back to Greenwood. The mob then descended on “Black Wall Street,” setting fires to buildings and shooting people indiscriminately, creating a night of terror throughout the city. Airplanes circled the sky dropping kerosene and nitroglycerin on the buildings and people below, according to survivors of the attack.
Authorities did nothing to stop the violence, and in fact, they actually assisted the mob by only arresting blacks, and some reports have even indicated that they also engaged in violence, possibly even flying some of the planes that were responsible for the bombings. These events came to be known as the “Tulsa Race Riots,” but as many survivors have pointed out, calling them “riots” just serves to take responsibility from the mob and the police that protected them.