100 years later: Why The Tulsa Race Massacre happened and what lessons apply today

National News

In this 1921 image provided by the Library of Congress, smoke billows over Tulsa, Okla. For decades, when it was discussed at all, the killing of hundreds of people in a prosperous black business district in 1921 was referred to as the Tulsa race riot. Under new standards developed by teachers for approaching the topic, students are encouraged to consider the differences between labeling it a “massacre” instead of a “riot,” as it is still commemorated in state laws. (Alvin C. Krupnick Co./Library of Congress via AP)

TULSA, Okla. (NBC) — Just decades after slavery in the United States left Black Americans in an economic and societal deficit, one bright spot stood out in Tulsa, Oklahoma — its Greenwood District, known as the “Black Wall Street,” where Black business leaders, homeowners, and civic leaders thrived.

But 100 years ago, on May 31, 1921, and into the next day, a white mob destroyed that district, in what experts call the single-most horrific incident of racial terrorism since slavery.

An estimated 300 people were killed within the district’s 35 square blocks, burning to the ground more than 1,200 homes, at least 60 businesses, dozens of churches, a school, a hospital and a public library, according to a report issued by Human Rights Watch.

At least $1.4 million in damages were claimed after the massacre, or about $25 million in today’s dollars, after controlling for inflation and the current economy, but experts say it’s an underestimation.

Read the full story from NBC News, including first-hand accounts and historical photographs

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