June 1, 1921
As the mob grew in size and intensity things began to deteriorate. Yesterday I ran across a great time line summary of the actual events here. All throughout the night armed blacks and whites skirmish throughout north Tulsa taking causalities on both sides. Things seemed to quit down a bit between midnight and 2am with intermittent gunfire. Then at 5am three whistle blasts are heard and whites begin their final assault on “Little Africa”.
Over 30 square blocks of houses and businesses are burned to the ground. Officially only 39 were killed, 13 of them white. But according to a Red Cross estimate at the time 300 were actually killed. This would make the riot the most deadly race related incident in American history. 10,000 were left homeless as a result of the looting and burning. At the time over $1.8 million in property damages. Eventually a large number of the black population in Tulsa were rounded up and placed in internment camps mostly at the Fairgrounds. And in the coming months many of the black victims would sue for property damage and loss. All of the cases were dismissed and culpability at the time was placed squarely upon the shoulders of the black community. Perhaps most importantly much of the history of this event was forgotten about. Not until 1997 did the state of Oklahoma officially commission a group to research and rebuild the history of the event and what actually occurred.
I find this principle at work in my own life. Something small and insignificant blows up into a big deal. Once I deal with the issue (personal character flaws, grudges, etc…) I try and forget the past. But it seems to me that a balanced view of the past and the future keep me on track. Is it really necessary for us as a society to dig into our past and re-encounter these horrific emotional events that only seem to encourage more questions and more discomfort in the way we live? Is it a good exercise to reopen the past only to discover a really bad part of ourselves? Is is important for us to “set the record straight” and issue a final judgement as to fault? Is is even possible?
What do you think?