Biden heads to Oklahoma to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre that left hundreds dead

  • Biden is traveling to Oklahoma to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre. 
  • A mob killed hundreds of Black Tulsans and destroyed countless homes and businesses.
  • Biden is expected to outline steps the White House will take to tackle race-based income inequality.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden is heading to Oklahoma on Tuesday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the devastating Tulsa race massacre, one of the deadliest race riots in United States history. 

Biden, along with the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge and senior White House advisors Susan Rice and Cedric Richmond, will tour the Greenwood Community Center and give remarks at 3:15 p.m. local time.

Biden is also expected to unveil new White House initiatives to tackle the racial wealth gap in the US during his speech on Tuesday, CNN reported, which will include proposals to support Black-owned businesses and combat systemic housing discrimination.

Read more: Meet the young entrepreneurs rebuilding Tulsa’s booming ‘Black Wall Street’ 100 years after a white mob burned it down

In the 1921 massacre, a mob made up of white residents, with support from city officials, killed and injured hundreds of Black Tulsans and looted and destroyed countless businesses, eviscerating a vibrant business community including a street dubbed Black Wall Street. 

The massacre followed mounting racial animus towards Black Americans, a resurgence in the presence of white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, and aggressive efforts to disenfranchise and segregate Black citizens in the state during the Jim Crow era.

The incident itself was set off after a white female elevator operator accused a 19-year-old Black shoeshiner named Dick Rowland, who worked in the Greenwood district, of sexually assaulting her on May 30, 1921. Her allegation prompted a lynch mob to descend on the courthouse where Rowland was being held. The charges against Rowland were dropped after the massacre.

In all, the mob is estimated to have killed as many as 300 Black residents of Tulsa and burned down huge swaths of the Greenwood business district, a neighborhood of the city where Black-owned and managed businesses thrived. The riot also displaced thousands of Black Tulsans, with the Red Cross estimating that over 1,200 homes in the area were burned down and hundreds more looted.

The history of the massacre was swept under the rug for decades, with local media outlets and scholars discouraged from studying or shedding light on the incident. And, as Insider’s Taylor Ardery reported, the massacre was even excluded from many Oklahoma public school curriculums.

But now, local community leaders, advocates, and the few living survivors of the attack are calling on the US to confront the painful history of the attack and are advocating for financial reparations for the lives and businesses destroyed.

City officials are also exhuming gravesites where massacre victims were believed to be buried for archaeological research and DNA testing. 

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