The day terrorists destroyed Black Wall Street

June 1 of this year was the 98th anniversary of the annihilation of Greenwood, a community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, known as the “Black Wall Street.” 

Following the massacre of African-Americans by a white supremacist at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015, I wrote an article (see “Black Wall Street,” Letters, IT July 9, 2015) calling attention to the fact that the mass killing of blacks due to racial animosity was not a new thing in the history of this country.  In that article I said, “Almost everyone knows about and/or remembers Sept. 11, 2001, a day on which terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, taking the lives of nearly 3,000 people.  Ironically, almost no one knows about (or cares to remember) June 1, 1921, a day on which an African-American community in Tulsa, Oklahoma (known at the time as The Black Wall Street), was systematically destroyed by U.S. white citizens, taking the lives of hundreds of African-American citizens, and displacing thousands whose homes were destroyed.”

What precipitated or caused this unprecedented act of aggression by citizens of the United States against citizens of the United States?  The unprecedented economic growth and success of that black community in pre-Depression America.  White citizens simply could not stand the fact that there was a community of blacks who owned thriving oilwells, banks, businesses, movie theaters, opera houses, airplanes, air strips, and were enjoying a level of prosperity that they just couldn’t imagine, nor could they accept.

They thereby organized a reign of destruction, complicit with law enforcement, to torch and wipe out Black Wall Street.  It was interesting to hear the news media declare, following the 9/11 attacks, that it was the first time aircraft had ever been involved in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.  No, it wasn’t, because airplanes were used to firebomb the homes and businesses of the Black Wall Street community on that night of terror in 1921.  To my knowledge, no one was ever arrested, prosecuted, or served jail time for what was the ugliest, most egregious, crime ever perpetrated on black enterprise in the history of America.

So, understand that what is being taught as American history in our schools is very selective, and in some cases very creative in nature.  There is a lot of American history that is not included in the history books because it is out of the comfort zone, or doesn’t fit the purpose of the book writers or the curriculum writers or the folks who just want history to be warm and fuzzy.

I always told my kids when they were growing up to learn to be a good reader, because once you learn to read, nobody can choose for you the limit of what you can learn and know.  

Bill McGee of Springfield taught school in District 186 for 14 years and has owned his insurance business for 34 years.  He has served on numerous boards and currently serves on the board of the Central Illinois Better Business Bureau.

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