My daughter called from college tonight looking for help on finishing touches on a speech she's giving tomorrow(I taught public speaking at the college level for several years). She's giving an informative speech on the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. If you have no idea what that is, don't feel bad; it was hidden from history for 80 years. It is the single worst race riot in American history.
As Wikipedia describes it:
The events of the riot were long omitted from local and state histories. "The Tulsa race riot of 1921 was rarely mentioned in history books, classrooms or even in private. Blacks and whites alike grew into middle age unaware of what had taken place." With the number of survivors declining, in 1996, the state legislature commissioned a report to establish the historical record of the events, and acknowledge the victims and damages to the black community. Released in 2001, the report included the commission's recommendations for some compensatory actions. The state has passed legislation to establish some scholarships for descendants of survivors, economic development of Greenwood, and a memorial park to the victims in Tulsa. The latter was dedicated in 2010.
8,000 blacks detained, 10,000 burned out of their homes. It started with an incident in an elevator that, to this day, remains unclear:
Again, from Wikipedia:
Monday, May 30, 1921 - Memorial Day
Encounter in the elevator
Sometime around or after 4 p.m. nineteen-year-old Dick Rowland, a black shoeshiner employed at a Main Street shine parlor, entered the only elevator of the nearby Drexel Building, at 319 South Main Street, to use the top floor restroom, which was restricted to blacks. He encountered Sarah Page, the 17-year-old white elevator operator who was on duty. The two likely knew each other at least by sight, as this building was the only one nearby with a washroom which Rowland had express permission to use, and the elevator operated by Page was the only one in the building. A clerk at Renberg's, a clothing store located on the first floor of the Drexel, heard what sounded like a woman's scream and saw a young black man rushing from the building. The clerk went to the elevator and found Page in what he said was a distraught state. Thinking she had been assaulted, he summoned the authorities.
The 2000 official commission report notes that it was unusual for both Rowland and Page to be working downtown on Memorial Day, when most stores and businesses were closed. It suggests that Rowland had a simple accident, such as tripping and steadying himself against the girl, or perhaps they were lovers and had a quarrel.
As a mob tried to take Rowland from police custody to lynch him the riot began. And when it was over, it was erased from history; all newspaper accounts destroyed and never mentioned in textbooks, or anywhere else for that matter.
The State of Oklahoma moved to fix that 80 years later, almost to the day. As this Tulsa World story points out, some Republicans felt it was "speculative" to suggest the events had been hidden from history. Nonsense. In a move that was nearly a century overdue some Republicans tried to stand in the way. Shame on them.
Discussing this with my daughter made me swell with pride. I was proud that she chose to educate others in her class of this gross racial injustice that has been largely hidden for nearly a century. I was proud of the outrage she felt over these events and the fact that they were hidden for so very long. And knowing what a history buff I am, she was proud that she had unearthed something that I didn't know about.
So to Jud Lounsbury, who recently succeeded only in sullying himself when trying to paint me as a racist, I am proud to have raised this young woman. She cannot wait to deliver this speech; she is passionate about the message she will share with the class. That's the kind of daughter my wife and I raised Jud, and we are proud of her.
One parting question Jud; was it better to be white in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Memorial Day, 1921? It was. Tragically so.