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.