The Tula Race Massacre’s centennial anniversary offers new lessons
Few people know about the vibrant Black business district that once existed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with more than 600 businesses, churches, schools, libraries, theaters, clothing stores, restaurants, and a hospital.
Few people know that the first bombs to ever fall on American soil destroyed this once-flourishing district in Tulsa, known as Black Wall Street. For two days in May 1921, this Black business district with theaters, shops, and churches was razed to the ground, and thousands of people lost their lives.
A backdrop of racism, segregation, and mistrust fueled a simple mishap between a Black boy and a White girl in an elevator, and the violence that erupted left what some historians say is at least 1,000 dead, more than 9,000 homeless, and upwards of 600 businesses in this formerly thriving business district destroyed.
In the acclaimed children’s book, “A Promise Deferred: The Massacre of Black Wall Street” co-written by inclusion expert Dr. Tamecca Rogers and her son Keith Ross, Keith’s Grandma tells him about the events of May 1921.
The book starts with some of the colorful characters and business owners who once graced the Greenwood District. Throughout the story, Keith is both horrified by what happened and proud of how Black people created this business district. He is also inspired to learn how they helped one another.
Keith learns the importance of telling the truth, of getting facts right before taking action, that violence is never an option, and that we should accept all people regardless of color. He also decides he wants to become an entrepreneur like the business owners of Black Wall Street.
The events of Black Wall Street had a profound impact on the lives of those who lived in Tulsa and are part of America’s awful racial history, but they can also be a source of inspiration and fuel the ongoing conversation about race, racism, and social justice.
Dr. Rogers comments, “I have lived in Oklahoma most of my life, but I just learned about the massacre of the Greenwood district a few years ago. In order to graduate from high school, we had to pass Oklahoma history, but this tragic event was not mentioned in any of the textbooks, nor had my ten-year-old son heard of it. Together, we were inspired to write about it from a child’s perspective.”
To purchase “A Promise Deferred: The Massacre of Black Wall Street,” go to Amazon.com.
For information on the Tulsa Race Massacre, go to www.tulsahistory.org.