Giving Compass’ Take:
• Governing magazine reports on the tragic history of Greenwood, a neighborhood in Tulsa that white residents burned to the ground one hundred years ago; the city is still trying to heal.
• With racial tension boiling across the U.S., what can we learn from the aftermath of the Greenwood massacre? How can we make sure such violence and destruction never happens again?
A hundred years ago, [Greenwood], a 35-square-block section of Tulsa, was home to one of the largest concentrations of African-American-owned enterprises and wealth in this country …
That all changed on May 31 of that year when a black teenage boy was accused of assaulting a white female elevator operator. Within hours, marauding white residents swept into the district and burned it to the ground. Hundreds of black residents died; thousands were left homeless. City and state officials did nothing to stop the violence. Worse, they played a complicit role in the conflagration. Many of the invaders were deputized by local police; the state’s National Guard was deployed not to stop the riot but to move black residents into detention centers where some were forced to stay for weeks. Following the death and devastation, city officials continued on their hostile path. They tried to change zoning laws to make it difficult for Greenwood’s residents to rebuild — a move curtailed by the courts. But despite the lack of support from city hall, the Greenwood survivors did return, and they began to reconstruct their lives and their livelihoods. In fact, much of the neighborhood was rebuilt within a few years
Now, as the 100th anniversary of the massacre approaches, the city and state are grappling not just with the past and its direct role in Greenwood’s deterioration, but also with what kind of progress has been made in race relations.
Read the full article about Tulsa struggling to make amends for destroying an African-American neighborhood by Liz Farmer at Governing magazine.
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