Tuesday/ ‘an incalculable and enduring loss’

A century ago, a prosperous Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Okla., perished at the hands of a violent white mob.

The mob indiscriminately shot Black people in the streets. Members of the mob ransacked homes and stole money and jewelry. They set fires, “house by house, block by block,” according to a commission’s report (done in 2001).

Terror came from the sky, too. White pilots flew airplanes that dropped dynamite over the neighborhood, the report stated, making the Tulsa aerial attack what historians call among the first of an American city.

The numbers presented a staggering portrait of loss: 35 blocks burned to the ground; as many as 300 dead; hundreds injured; 8,000 to 10,000 left homeless; more than 1,470 homes burned or looted; and eventually, 6,000 detained in internment camps.

There is a pending lawsuit and ongoing discussions about how and whether to compensate the families of the Tulsa Massacre victims. No compensation has ever been paid under court order or by legislation.

The destruction of property is only one piece of the financial devastation that the massacre wrought. Much bigger is a sobering kind of inheritance: the incalculable and enduring loss of what could have been, and the generational wealth that might have shaped and secured the fortunes of Black children and grandchildren.

To this day, not one person has been prosecuted or punished for the devastation and ruin of the original Greenwood.
– Excerpts from a report in The New York Times, May 24, 2021

A composite image shows Greenwood ablaze during the massacre. Composite created with photographs from the Department of Special Collections and University Archives, McFarlin Library at The University of Tulsa.
How it all unfolded. Greenwood Avenue, for years a thriving hub, was destroyed by racial violence in less than 24 hours. [Graphic by The New York Times].

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