Tulsa Was Just the Tip of the Iceberg

I was watching 60 Minutes recently and saw a story about the Tulsa Massacre of 1921. It was an amazing story, made all the more amazing by the fact that the massacre occurred 100 years ago, yet I had never heard of it. I wasn’t alone. The 60 Minutes crew interviewed a man who was born and educated in Tulsa, but he had never heard of the massacre either.

In case you’ve never heard of the Tulsa Massacre, here’s what the Zinn Education Project has to say about it:

“One of the most violent episodes of dispossession in U.S. history began on May 31, 1921 in Greenwood, a thriving Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. From May 31 through June 1, deputized whites killed more than 300 African Americans. They looted and burned to the ground 40 square blocks of 1,265 African American homes, including hospitals, schools, and churches, and destroyed 150 businesses. White deputies and members of the National Guard arrested and detained 6,000 Black Tulsans who were released only upon being vouched for by a white employer or other white citizen. Nine thousand African Americans were left homeless and lived in tents well into the winter of 1921.”

Learning about the Tulsa Massacre made me wonder if there were other events in our country’s history where blacks were terrorized and killed by white mobs. I suspected there were others, so I decided to dig into it. What I found stunned me.

U.S. history is replete with massacres of minority and marginalized people, including Native Americans, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and LGBTQ people. In addition, Italians, Irish, and Jews have been the target of violence, along with laborers of various ethnicities.

Because of the facts of the Tulsa Massacre, my main focus was violence against blacks. I found thirty-four different incidents where multiple black people were killed or injured by violence. I find it amazing that I was unaware of almost every one of these massacres, including one that happened near where I grew up.

Why don’t we know more about these violent events? Why aren’t they routinely taught in history classes. I don’t know the answer, but I suspect that most school districts prefer to whitewash history rather than deal with the truth head-on. In the U.S., we tend to only want to remember the good parts of our history. But we can only grow and reach our potential as a nation if we acknowledge our entire history and learn from it.

That’s a conversation for another day. For now, here are the thirty-four black massacres I found, along with links if you’d like to learn more.

New York City Draft Riots  (New York, NY — July 11- July 16, 1863)

Massacre at Fort Pillow  ( Ft. Pillow, TN —  April 12, 1864)

Ebenezer Creek Massacre   (Near Savannah, GA —  December 9, 1864)

Memphis Riots of 1866   (Memphis, TN —  May 1-May 3, 1866)

New Orleans Massacre of 1866 (New Orleans, LA — July 30, 1866)

Camilla Massacre  (Camilla, GA — September 19, 1868)

Opelousas Massacre  (Opelousas, LA — September 28, 1868)

St. Bernard Parish Massacre  (St. Bernard Parish, LA — October 25, 1868)

Colfax Massacre  (Colfax, LA  —  April 13, 1873)

Elaine Massacre (Elaine, AR —  Sept 30-Oct 1, 1874)

Election Riot of 1874  (Eufaula, AL — November 3, 1874)

Vicksburg Massacre  (Vicksburg, MS — December 7, 1874)

The Clinton Riot  (Clinton, MS  — September 4, 1875)

Hamburg Massacre  (Hamburg, SC — July 8, 1876)

Danville Riot  (Danville, VA — November 3, 1883)

Thibadoux Massacre (Thibadoux, LA — November 21-23, 1887)

Polk County Massacre  (Polk County, AR — August 5, 1896)

Wilmington Massacre (Coup) (Wilmington, NC — November 10, 1898)

Atlanta Massacre of 1906  (Atlanta, GA  — Sept 22-24, 1906)

Springfield Race Riots of 1908 (Springfield, IL — August 14, 1908)

Slocum Massacre  (Slocum, TX  —  July 29-30, 1910)

East St. Louis Riots   (East St. Louis, IL — May 28-July 3, 1917)

Washington Race Riot of 1919  (Washington, DC — July 19-24, 1919)

The Red Summer of 1919  (Chicago, IL  — July 27-August 3, 1919)

Bogalusa Labor Massacre (Bogalusa, LA  —  November 22, 1919)

Ocoee Massacre      (Ocoee, FL — November 2, 1920)

Tulsa Race Massacre  (Tulsa, OK  —  May 31-June 1, 1921)

Rosewood Massacre   (Rosewood, FL  — January 1-7, 1923)

Catcher Race Riot  (Catcher, AR  —  December 29, 1923)

Detroit Race Riot 1943  (Detroit, MI  — June 20-June 22, 1943)

Orangeburg Massacre   (Orangeburg, SC  —  February 8, 1968)

Greensboro Massacre (Greensboro, NC —  November 3, 1979)

The MOVE Bombing (Philadelphia, PA  — May 13, 1985)

Charleston Church Massacre  (Charleston, SC  — June 17, 2015)


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