Editors note: In 1921, Africans who had migrated to Tulsa from the U. S.Southern states, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, understood precisely that the question of independence and economic development must be accompanied by respect and human dignity.
It was this question of human dignity combined with economic independence that fueled the Tulsa uprisings and subsequent bombing and burning down of North Tulsa.
One hundred armed Africans had gone down to the jailhouse to block a lynching of a young African man by a mob of 400 whites. When the whites and the sheriff attempted to disarm the group, ten of the mob members were killed.
When 15 to 20 thousand white workers and police attempted to attack North Tulsa with no success, it was necessary for the governor to call out the Oklahoma national guard and U.S. troops from Fort Sill, with air support to put down the rebellion.
The ensuing battle left some 300 Africans dead, with more that 6000 herded into concentration camps where they were kept for months.
When the martial law was lifted, Africans had to wear “blue cards” to ensure they were there to work for white bosses.
A figure on the number of whites killed was never released.
Issues like these will be addressed at the 5th Congress of the African People's Socialist Party, July 10-14, 2010 in Washington, DC. Come to the Congress!
For the past 11 years, Africans in the North Tulsa, Oklahoma community have been celebrating the life and prosperity of Black Wall Street — located on Greenwood Avenue at the Church of Restoration — despite the tragedy that happened 89 years ago on June 1, 1921.
Before that fateful day in 1921, Africans were fulfilling the dream of independence and economic freedom after 56 years of being emancipated from the U.S. imperialist and the Jim Crow laws that followed suit.
After Oklahoma gained statehood, blacks migrated to what would be Black Wall Street, Little Africa.
American “whites” were jealous of the economic development in North Tulsa, which bragged of 30 grocery stores, several banks, tax offices, doctors, hospitals attorneys, brick masons, construction firms, confections manufacturers’ products made of sugar and pharmacies. Any business you can think of they had it!
False rumors that a black man attacked a white woman who operated an elevator sparked a weeklong riot, destroying everything that Africans built.
It’s a reminder of what happened in Rosewood, Florida, where a fallacious rumor spread that a black man raped a white women, leading to a massacre of Africans.
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Little Africa burning
The Tulsa violence lasted for days, ending with the U.S. imperialists bombing the community’s prosperity to the ground.
June 1, 2010 marked the 89th anniversary of that tragic day when at least 300 African lives were lost and businesses burnt to ashes.
There still remains no justice since the genocidal incident. Many homes were lost, leaving thousands of Africans homeless.
On that very same day, when the smoke cleared, the U. S. military kidnapped men, women and children to an area on Greenwood and Peoria, creating concentration camps made of tents. In cruel irony they named it Tent City.
In an effort to prevent the return of Little Africa, the City of Tulsa passed a fire ordinance on June 7, 1921, saying Africans could not rebuild unless they made their construction fireproof, even though it was white nationalism that committed arson.
Years later, Africans did rebuild their Black Wall Street and it was more prosperous than the one in 1921. Then the next war of terror came, integration.
According to Egun Wale, head of the Tulsa African Ancestral Society, he and Ifa Lola “Changa” began the Black Wall Street Memorial March 11 years ago.
Every year, the people of North Tulsa, Dallas/Fort Worth and Africans nationwide gather and march on the very street — Greenwood — where Tent City was to commemorate people who lost their lives on that day.
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Young drummers at the memorial
It’s ironic that the march is held the day before U.S. memorial day.
The event starts with African drumming to venerate the ancestors and to honor those who fought and died defending their community against the KKK and the rest of the white community.
Ifa Lola “Changa” Tulsan, who now lives in Dallas, Texas spoke before the march began. “It should be a national holiday, they celebrate Juneteenth (June 19), but don’t know anything about their own history in Tulsa the history of the Africans in Tulsa.”
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Mr. and Mrs. Young
Tedra Williams, granddaughter of one the survivors, Wes Young, who was 4 years old when North Tulsa was attacked, made a very moving speech and praised the accomplishment of her people. “It was estimated that 10,000 people lived in North Tulsa, now that’s not that many people, but the money circulated 36 times!”
Wes Young, who is now 95 years young, and his wife were overwhelmed and emotional by the way that they were received by the community.
Ms. Williams, who is studying to be a nurse, has a plan for the development of North Tulsa. The story that her grandfather told her inspired her to be a strong voice and activist for the African community.
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The 2000 Tulsa Race Riot Commission, which was read by Ms. Williams, made recommendations that people of North Tulsa should have direct reparations and they should be given to the victims or descendents of the genocide on the African community.
Furthermore, the bodies of the victims that were killed during the battle should be found and given a proper burial. That was the last recommendation made by the Commission in 2000.
For further research, go to www.tulsareparations.org
. Let’s continue to work toward reparations and the liberation of our people.
TOUCH ONE TOUCH ALL!