The Truth About the Tulsa Race Massacre

One hundred years ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 350 people died as black Americans were shot, bombed and stabbed by their white countrymen in an event known as the Tulsa Race Massacre. One week ago, Joe Biden became the first man sitting in the Oval Office to visit Tulsa and commemorate the tragedy.

This was an excellent opportunity to unite America by showing how far it has come since that dark day. But in Biden’s address, he said race relations in America since 1921 have not improved. In fact, he said that the same spirit of hate that drove the Ku Klux Klan at the height of its popularity, the same spirit that inspired lynchings and spawned racially motivated violence in post-Civil War America, is still as prevalent today as it was a century ago. He said this is because “hate is never defeated.”

The Tulsa Race Massacre is one of the darkest blots in the pages of American history. Many commentators and analysts have admitted to having heard very little if anything of the Tulsa Massacre. I’ve spoken to several people who had never heard of it. But it is a history worth knowing and learning from. It is also worth analyzing objectively. Because for far too many today, that event is far more about the agenda to unravel the United States’ social fabric than about the history itself.

A Dark Day

In 1920, Greenwood District in Tulsa had emerged as a thriving community for African-Americans. Around 10,000 blacks lived and owned businesses there, enjoying a high quality of life. It was so successful, it was actually nicknamed Black Wall Street.

But this was about 50 years after the Civil War and the Reconstruction Era. Racial tensions were still high, and some Americans found the reality of a successful black community hard to stomach. Everything came to a head on May 30, 1921.

Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old black man, went into an elevator operated by a young white woman. The details of what happened inside are unclear, but the young woman screamed and accused Rowland of sexual assault. According to a Red Cross report from 1921, all he had done was accidentally step on her toes.

Regardless, Rowland fled the scene. He was arrested and taken to the police station the next day. By then though, word had spread through the city of a black man who had sexually assaulted a young white woman. A small mob formed at the police station to forcibly take Rowland from the police and lynch him.

From then on, it was a perfect storm.

A group of 25 black men came together to protect Rowland. When 50 others joined in, it fueled rumors that the blacks were starting an insurrection in Tulsa. To quell this supposed uprising, the lynch mob swelled to 1,500 men who met the 75 in front of the police station.

The situation was tense for hours, the two groups effectively at a standoff. But around 10 p.m. bedlam broke out. It is unclear who fired the first shot. But fire they did, and a chaotic gun battle ensued.

Rumors of black reinforcements coming in from all over Tulsa fed the hysteria. The mob killed the outnumbered 75 men and then surged into the wealthy Greenwood District where it shot and killed more blacks by the dozens. Some peeled off and used airplanes to drop incendiaries from the air as the mob set most of the district on fire.

Thirty-five city blocks were looted. Over 1,200 homes and businesses were set ablaze.

Black smoke billows from fires during the Tulsa Race Massacre in the Greenwood District, in June 1921.

CORBIS/Getty Images

Much of Black Wall Street was razed to the ground.

Part of the Greenwood District burned in the 1921 race riots in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

GHI/Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

By the end, at least 350 people died. Unofficial counts put the number of white casualties at 48 and black casualties around 300. An additional 700 were wounded while 6,000 were shepherded into internment camps. Property losses of homes and businesses amounted to about $27 million (adjusted for inflation) in claims that weren’t paid.

According to the 2001 Oklahoma Commission into the riots, “Not one of these criminal acts was then or ever has been prosecuted or punished by government at any level, municipal, county, state or federal.”

How Is History Remembered?

We hear a lot about America’s history today. We live in the age of the 1619 Project, of institutional racism, of centuries-long black genocide. In this highly opinionated and emotionally charged environment, I’ve found that it takes work and effort to find truth free from fiction. Most history is either taught or even fabricated to suit one agenda or another.

The history of May 31, 1921, is one worth remembering. It shows how the end of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation weren’t simply a magic pill for race relations. Tensions were still charged and divisions remained. Just four years later, nationwide Ku Klux Klan membership peaked at 60,000.

Such history is important to know and learn from. In an ideal world, it would serve as a jarring contrast to the present. It would be a helpful reminder of how far America has come.

But it is emerging into the public knowledge at a time when the dialogue about race is tense and toxic.

Many are using and manipulating this history to drive a false narrative and agenda. In his June 1 address, Mr. Biden compared the lynch mob in Tulsa 100 years ago to the constitutional conservatives against the removal of statues in Charlottesville in 2017 and to the January 6 protesters:

Just close your eyes, remember what you saw in Charlottesville four years ago on television. Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the kkk coming out of those fields at night with lighted torches, the veins bulging as they were screaming. Remember? Just close your eyes and picture what it was. Well, Mother Fletcher said, when she saw the insurrection at the capital on January [6]th, it broke her heart. A mob of violent white extremists, thugs, said reminded her of what happened here in Greenwood 100 years ago. Look around at the various hate crimes against Asian Americans and Jewish Americans. Hate that never goes away. Hate only hides. …

I didn’t realize hate is never defeated; it only hides. It hides. Given a little bit of oxygen, just a little bit of oxygen by its leaders, it comes out of there from under the rock like it was happening again, as if it never went away.

The Greenwood massacre was a tragedy. It was an unjustifiable and condemnable event. But America then and America now are completely different.

In 1921, about 0.05 percent of Americans were members of the kkk. Today, it barely survives with less than 0.001 percent. During the Tulsa Massacre, 300 black people were killed in 24 hours. In the whole of 2020, a year of record crime, 27 unarmed black men were killed by police, most of whom were involved in some kind of criminal activity.

America isn’t perfect. I don’t think any reasonable person makes such a claim. These figures certainly aren’t perfect.

But they are irrefutable evidence of progress.

Refusing to acknowledge that progress, ignoring the decades of progress and the stark difference between 1921 and 2021, and to say there has been “no progress” in 100 years is highly irresponsible and hateful. The repercussions will be worse than anyone can imagine.

The Weaponization of History

Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Learning history is all about knowing how and why to change. It is crucial to know because it helps us know what to change from. To do that requires acknowledgment of past wrongs—even those we haven’t personally committed.

The Prophet Daniel set the example in humble prayer to God: “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments” (Daniel 9:5). It was his people who had turned away from God, not Daniel himself. And yet he acknowledged his people’s history and their sins. And God says that when His people acknowledge their sins and enact change, then He will forgive them (2 Chronicles 7:14).

History is therefore invaluable. But today, the history matters less than the agenda. The agenda paints America as an incorrigibly and institutionally racist nation. The agenda is about seizing power, upending law enforcement, and attacking Judeo-Christian values. The agenda is about manipulating history and facts to sow division. It has nothing to do with enacting positive change.

In “Terrorism and Race Riots,” Chapter 4 of Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry’s book Ezekiel—The End-Time Prophet, he writes:

Race is a highly charged subject in the United States today, and in many other nations. Past wrongs and present inequalities create fertile ground for hurt, frustration and anger. Many prominent leaders, both black and white, are deliberately fueling those grievances for their own political gain. They are using race as a deadly weapon! The problems that will result are far more dangerous than they realize.

The history of the Tulsa Massacre is being manipulated. By contrasting 100 years ago with today, this history could be used to show how far America has come as a nation. It could help encourage and motivate the nation to continue its progress. It could show how, by turning to God and enacting real change, the dark clouds of the past can be scattered and perfection can be attained.

Instead, this history is being used to deepen the division. “And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:24-25).

The Bible has a lot to say about where the manipulation of history and weaponization of race will lead this country. Mr. Flurry’s booklet America Under Attack explains the relevant prophecies and what America needs to do to enact real and meaningful change. Request your free copy.

Leave a Reply