History doesnt change to fit our wishes. We wish whites hadnt imported blacks as slaves and had not changed immigration policy in 1965. However, in a multiracial society, history often isnt about facts. Its a weapon. A story about the past justifies current policy. When history doesnt provide a suitably horrific example, invent one.
The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre is for now the most important story in the country. It is so important that President Joe Biden issued a Proclamation about it on Memorial Day itself, a sign of what post-white America will be memorializing in the future. Yesterday, he visited Tulsa to talk about the massacre.
The text of his speech was demagoguery, but combined with his halting, rambling delivery, it was pitiable. There was also an implied threat. The president of the United States described the conditions that prompted a massacre. Unwittingly, he described what is now being prepared for whites.
President Biden charged that literal hell was unleashed in 1921. He made sure to talk about people being ripped apart or executed while praying. Only in remembrance do wounds heal, he said. Is that so? Perhaps he will bear this in mind if he ever thinks about what happened to Cannon Hinnant, Brittney Watts, Channon Christian, Christopher Newsom, the victims of the Zebra Killings, and the thousands of whites whom blacks have killed. I dont like discussing these crimes because it appeals to low instincts for revenge, but if President Biden says it will promote healing, it must be OK.
What was the Tulsa Race Massacre, which is suddenly everywhere in academia, media, and pop culture? What really happened? Tulsa in 1921, President Biden explained, had a thriving black community. One night changed everything, he said:
It was an innocent interaction that turned into a terrible, terrible headline allegation of a Black male teenager attacking a white female teenager. A white mob of 1,000 gathered around the courthouse where the Black teenager was being held, ready to do a [mumbled] lynch that young man that night.
Was it an innocent interaction? On the morning of May 30, Diamond Dick Rowland went into an elevator operated by a slightly younger white girl, Sarah Page. At the time, The Tulsa Tribune said he assaulted her, and this story supposedly sparked talk of a lynching. What do later writers say about what happened?
NBC recently published a fact check that quoted historian Scott Ellsworth claiming that Rowland simply tripped and fell against her. Vox suggests several theories, from attempted rape to a lovers quarrel. A clerk said he saw Rowland run out of the elevator and that Page was distraught.
The Washington Post claims the two were going to defy a ban on interracial marriage, though this wouldnt explain why Rowland ran. The same story notes that Page excused Rowland after the riot and that both survived. Rowland reportedly moved to Oregon.
There is another mystery. The Tribune supposedly ran an editorial on May 31 with the title To Lynch Negro Tonight. However, no copies exist. They have either disappeared or been destroyed, even in microfilm. A military officer at the time said the entire scandal was the result of an impudent Negro, a hysterical girl, and a yellow journal.
The 2001 official report from The Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 said we may never really know what happened in the elevator. However, President Biden knows it was innocent.
The commission identifies historian Scott Ellsworth as first in importance among those it consulted, so its worth examining his account. Mr. Ellsworth writes that what happened in the elevator on May 30 is anyones guess. Police arrived, but apparently did not take Pages accusation very seriously.
Two officers, one white and one black, arrested Rowland the next day, May 31 the same day the news story about Page and Rowland appeared. The separate editorial supposedly calling for a lynching would also have appeared on May 31, but without a copy, we dont know if it was a call to lynch Rowland, an editorial about a possible lynching, or something different.
The night of May 31, Sheriff Willard McCullough sent armed men to protect Rowland. When a small group of angry whites came to the jail and demanded that Rowland be handed over, the Sheriff sent them away. He gave orders to to shoot any intruders [into the jail] on sight. Thus, some whites may have wanted to lynch Rowland, but the sheriff thought he had the situation under control.
Meanwhile, black Tulsans were also discussing the possibility of a lynching (something that had happened to whites in Tulsa before, but never to a black). A black deputy sheriff tried to convince blacks that an armed confrontation with whites was a bad idea, but 25 blacks with guns nonetheless showed up and offered to protect the jail. The sheriff turned them away. However, this visit had an electrifying effect on the white mob. Some whites apparently went to a National Guard armory for guns, but an officer kept it locked. A menacing crowd of whites grew outside the jail, but the sheriff thought he could protect the prisoner.
After that, small bands of blacks decided to drive through the streets with guns to send a clear message to white Tulsans that these men were determined to prevent, by force of arms if necessary, the lynching of Dick Rowland. Mr. Ellsworth notes that whites might have thought this was a Negro uprising. Then, sometime after 10 p.m., another group of armed blacks 75 this time left their cars and marched to the courthouse, again to offer to defend it. The police told them to go away.
At this point, the commission report states that a white man tried to disarm a black man. A shot rang out and armed blacks and whites shot and killed each other. According to an account in The Nation from the period, more whites than blacks fell in the initial exchange. A white man may have been the initial aggressor, but it would be reasonable to assume that a black fired first.
Mr. Biden put it this way: Seventy-five black men, including black veterans arrived to stand guard. Words were exchanged. Then a scuffle. Then a [sic] shots fired.
Mr. Biden failed to mention that the blacks were armed, and note the passive language. Shots were fired, just as gunfire erupts in certain neighborhoods today.
Several facts are clear. First, the sheriff and the National Guard were not conspiring with the crowd. Second, there were blacks in the police department. Third, and most important, if blacks had not showed up with guns and shots had not been fired, probably noting would have happened. There would certainly have been no lynching.
President Bidens vivid description of an ensuing random slaughter is pure provocation. Even the commissions report, which is determined to paint the events in the worst light possible, makes the riot seem like a chaotic running battle. Neither blacks nor whites had any idea what was going on. The report almost praises the ferocity of the blacks in Tulsa who were not going without a fight. It includes a description of black heroes such as Peg Leg Taylor, a legendary black defender who is said to have fought off more than a dozen white rioters. This was no massacre of passive blacks.
The police did deputize whites who took it upon themselves to attack blacks, but no one was in charge. The National Guard also seemed to regard blacks as the enemy, but was as confused as anyone. It rushed to intercept a train that was supposed to be arriving with 500 armed blacks. Of course, there was no such train, but whites clearly thought there was a serious threat.
The 2001 Commissions official report calls the chaos a white invasion of Tulsas black district. However, it is also filled with reports of confusion and wild rumors. Enraged whites thought they were fighting a black uprising. Despite a valiant effort, the 2001 Commission report says, black Tulsans were simply outgunned and outnumbered. This was a pitched battle over territory, what the Guthrie Daily Leader at the time called the Tulsa Race War, not a massacre.
President Biden mentioned the black Mount Zion Baptist Church, which whites burned. He didnt mention that blacks were shooting from the belfry. White civilians, some deputized, used the chaos as an excuse to loot and murder. The Guthrie Daily Leader reported at the time that blacks shot at firemen trying to put out the fires and even killed a white woman. Guardsman, police, and civilians held hundreds of blacks captive. However, these were short-term detentions, in which no one was killed. The sheriff slipped out of town with Dick Rowland to make sure he was safe.
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