Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Tulsa's Tale is One of Prejudice by Whites, Blacks and Native Americans

Smithsonian has an excellent article about the Tulsa Massacre, which actually started 100 years ago today at 5:08 am. A whistle from a train or factory served as the signal for about 10,000 white people to obliterate a 35 square block area of a prosperous black community known as Greenwood. The grisly death toll is around 300. It explains what happened. Another article in  the same issue, entitled The Truth About Tulsa, describes the social roots of this racial atrocity. I'm unable to find an Internet link, but will summarize it for you. It is a tale of prejudice by blacks, whites and Native Americans. It starts with the Trail of Tears and ends in an elevator. 

The root cause of this tragedy goes back to slave owner Andrew Jackson and his Trail of Tears. This ethnic cleansing forced five native American tribes from their lands in the east to what was then known as the Twin Territories. 

These very same tribes, who themselves were treated so harshly, though nothing of enslaving blacks and treating them just as harshly as a Georgian plantation owner. They even sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War.    

After the war was over, these tribes granted their former slaves citizenship and autonomy. These former slaves and their descendants were called freedman, and worked communally with the native Americans. There were a few brief moments of freedom. 

Of course, the well-meaning federal government screwed that up. Officials objected to the notion of sharing resources. The five tribes were forced to convert communal lands into privately owned individual parcels. 

Ideally, this should have benefited both native Americans and freedmen. But if a parcel was prosperous or held oil, whit guardians were appointed to manage the affairs of these minorities. Of course, this was little more than a license to steal. 

Around this time, a movement for statehood began. White settlers and "state Negroes," as the freedmen called them, began to move in. The freedmen resented the state Negroes as interlopers and, at times, would shoot out the windows of their homes at night. 

As whites continued to move in, they created "sundown towns," where no black person was welcome at night. They also began working on a Constitution, a prerequisite for statehood. It was a document that set up the procedures for segregation once statehood was recognized. It made no difference if you were a "state Negro" or "freedman." You'd be screwed. 

A coalition of black leaders made the trip to Washington and met with Teddy Roosevelt. They opposed a constitution that specifically permitted school segregation. Roosevelt had misgivings, but issued a proclamation turning the twin territories into the 46th State of Oklahoma. 

Blacks formed their own area - Greenwood - because they were unwelcome anywhere else. 

And then a young black guy had an innocuous encounter with a white elevator girl. 

The rest is history. 

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I understand the story and also know that racist attitudes guided our government and culture for a long time. , I ask you what is the point of this story or any other racist lynching. Are we supposed to be guilty for the sins of our fathers? That question is not an opinion. It is an honest reflection on reality. Should I hate the Japanese or the Germans for what they did to my family. Or, should I recognize that a child born today in Germany bears no responsibility for the past? Hate is a dangerous emotion. It can breed contempt for many generations.

Anonymous said...

Yet, so many want so much more government ... to do this kind of thing again and again. Right, left, center, or disinterested: your government is never acting in your best interest. You'd think we'd have learned this by now. Our failure to teach history dooms the ignorant to repeat previous generations' difficult lessons. "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." Yep.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I ask you what is the point of this story or any other racist lynching. Are we supposed to be guilty for the sins of our fathers? " The point of this story is that, 100 years ago, it happened. These ugly stories should never be swept under the rug, which you would seem to prefer, or else we are doomed to repeat it.

No one is suggesting you should hate anyone, but know that history and should know this as well.

"Yet, so many want so much more government ... to do this kind of thing again and again. Right, left, center, or disinterested: your government is never acting in your best interest."

This story reflects a failure of government and a failure of lack of government. It reflects the base nature of man, be he white, black or native American. It also reflects the good nature of man, be he white, black or native American.

Government failed bc the policies in place, even when well-meaning, discriminated against native Americans and blacks, And the policies were not all well meaning. There was also a lack of government because local officials refused to investigate and prosecute crimes of predation against blacks and native Americans.

When Grant was President, he was more than willing to stop this kind of lawlessness by local officials. He federalized different parts of the south when needed. Had that happened here, there would have been mo massacre.

Had federal officials taken more interest when locals refused, there would not have been the wholesale murder of native Americans in Oklahoma chronicled in Killers of the Flower Moon. They were preyed upon by their white betters, with their land and wealth taken from them. And if they could not be conned, they were killed. It took the feds to put an end to it after local and state officials wither looked the other way or actively assisted in the predation.

Huck Weaver said...

I did know a bout Tulsa till a few years ago on Public Radio

Anonymous said...

6:49am - How about recognizing that the US still is still suffering from institutional racism, and that this country has never lived up to the promises of "liberty and freedom, for all"? Why does this offend you?

And just fyi, Germany at least attempted redemption. Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung...look it up. After 1945, Germany didn't have streets and schools named after Nazis or statues of Nazi leaders. It is actually illegal to be a Holocaust denier or display Nazi symbols. And they paid reparations.

Meanwhile, the US has crazy misguided "patriots" rioting over statues of confederate leaders that were erected long after the civil war had ended. People still fly the confederate flag to this day!

Anonymous said...

We will never have a world or perfect people who love everyone and everything. But if we look there is much more good than bad but all the news shows us is the bad. Never forget who and what got us to this day..the good and the bad. See the good and don't repeat or become part of the bad and we will all grow