NEW YORK — Federal and local leaders Tuesday commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, which devastated Black Wall Street and took hundreds of lives.
But some lawmakers wants to take it a step further.
Rep. Ritchie Torres, who represents parts of the Bronx, is pushing legislation in Washington to mark June 1 Black Wall Street Day, to never forget the tragedy.
Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson is introducing similar legislation at City Hall.
Monday and Tuesday, many Americans commemorated the long-suppressed part of U.S. history: the attack that erased a thriving black Tulsa community known around the country as Black Wall Street.
Oklahoma leaders and President Joe Biden gathered in Tulsa to recognize and atone for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, which claimed up to several hundred lives. But Black Tulsans say that, amid the kind words, efforts both direct and subtle still aim to curb their influence and withhold their fair share of power. A hundred years later, African Americans still live on the city’s north side and account for about 16% of Tulsa’s population of 400,000, or double the proportion found in Oklahoma overall. The median income of Black households is $25,979, about half that of white households in Tulsa County.
Tulsa’s Black Native Americans say there’s another bit of history that also deserves more attention: the source of the seed money that helped Black Wall Street boom. The U.S. compelled American Indian nations that enslaved people and fought with the Confederacy to share wealth and land with Black people who were freed. Historian Alaina Roberts of the University of Pittsburgh says that makes communities like Black Wall Street part of the world’s only large-scale examples of the difference reparations could have made after slavery.
“At the hands of a violent white mob, in less than 24 hours, Black Wall Street…was reduced to rubble by racial terrorism,” Torres said.
The massacre is rarely taught in schools, though Althea Stevens said she’s been teaching it — along with other African American history — for years.
“When you go to school, a lot of times you hear ‘Black people were slaves, Martin Luther King had a dream, and then Obama came and everything was OK.’ And that is not our history,” she said.