Advocates for Racial Justice
ARJ Shares Some African American History
Did you know……
One of the vulnerabilities of being black and successful in the U.S. was that when blacks stepped out of their place, rank in society, (what Isabelle Wilkerson calls caste) they often became the victim of overt white violence and white supremacy. Wilkerson in her book Caste, writes that “ mobs tended to go after the most prosperous in the lowest caste, those who might have managed to surpass even some people in the dominant caste.” Through lynching, murder, violence against property and other forms of racial terror whites historically have sought to return blacks to what was considered “their rightful place” in the racial hierarchy.
In 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the well known affluent black Greenwood Neighborhood and its business district called “Black Wall Street,” because of its many successful banks, insurance companies and businesses, became the site of one of the worst racial incidents in US history. Dick Raymond, a black teenager, got into an elevator in a Tulsa office building and something happened that caused the young white woman elevator operator to scream. Raymond was arrested for assault, but some suspect it may have been simply stepping on her foot. Fearful of his being lynched 25 black men showed up at the jail to offer extra protection. They were turned down and went home. Hearing rumors of lynching mobs gathering 75 armed back men came back to the courthouse where they were met by 1500 armed white men. A riot began that ended on June 1st after most of the Greenwood Neighborhood, 35 square blocks was destroyed, businesses and 1243 houses burnt to the ground, more than 7,000 people were made homeless and at least 39 people were killed, (26 black, 13 white). Some estimates run as high as 300. After all the violence, Dick Raymond was released. Many African Americans left Tulsa and this incident was buried beneath silence, cover up, destruction of public records and denial for decades and the Tulsa massacre did not become part of the Oklahoma curriculum until 2020. Black Wall Street was never rebuilt.