TULSA, Okla. (AP) — An emotional President Joe Biden marked the 100th anniversary of the massacre that destroyed a thriving Black community in Tulsa, declaring Tuesday that he had “come to fill the silence” about one of the nation’s darkest — and long suppressed — moments of racial violence.

“Some injustices are so heinous, so horrific, so grievous, they cannot be buried, no matter how hard people try," Biden said. “Only with truth can come healing.”

Biden's commemoration of the deaths of hundreds of Black people killed by a white mob a century ago came amid the current national reckoning on racial justice.

“Just because history is silent, it does not mean that it did not take place," Biden said. He said that "hell was unleashed. literal hell was unleashed.” And now, he said, the nation must come to grips with the following sin of denial.

"We can’t just choose what we want to know, and not what we should know," said Biden. “I come here to help fill the silence, because in silence wounds deepen.”

After Biden left, there was a spontaneous singing by some audience members of a famous civil rights march song, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around."

The events on Tuesday stood in stark contrast to then-President Donald Trump's trip to Tulsa last June, which was greeted by protests. Or the former president's decision, one year ago, to clear Lafayette Square near the White House of demonstrators who gathered to protest the death of George Floyd, a Black man, under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.

In 1921 — on May 31 and June 1 — a white mob, including some people hastily deputized by authorities, looted and burned Tulsa's Greenwood district, which was known as “Black Wall Street."

On Tuesday, the president, joined by top Black advisers, met privately with three surviving members of the Greenwood community who lived through the violence, the White House said. Viola “Mother” Fletcher, Hughes “Uncle Red” Van Ellis and Lessie “Mother Randle” Benningfield Randle are all between the ages of 101 and 107.

Biden said their experience had been “a story seen in the mirror dimly."

“But no longer," the president told the survivors. “Now your story will be known in full view."

Outside, Latasha Sanders, 33, of Tulsa, brought her five children and a nephew in hopes of spotting Biden.

“It’s been 100 years, and this is the first we’ve heard from any U.S. president," she said. "I brought my kids here today just so they could be a part of history and not just hear about it, and so they can teach generations to come.”

As many as 300 Black Tulsans were killed, and thousands of survivors were forced for a time into internment camps overseen by the National Guard. Burned bricks and a fragment of a church basement are about all that survive today of the more than 30-block historically Black district.

Several hundred people milled around Greenwood Avenue in front of the historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church awaiting Biden’s arrival at the nearby Greenwood Cultural Center. Some vendors were selling memorabilia, including Black Lives Matter hats, shirts and flags under a bridge of the interstate that cuts through the district.

The names and pictures of Black men killed by police hung on a chain-link fence next to the church, including Eric Harris and Terrence Crutcher in Tulsa.

Biden briefly toured an exhibit at the center, at times stepping closer to peer at framed historic photographs, before he was escorted into a private meeting with the three survivors.

America's continuing struggle over race will continue to test Biden, whose presidency would have been impossible without overwhelming support from Black voters, both in the Democratic primaries and the general election.

He announced Tuesday that he was appointing Vice President Kamala Harris to lead efforts on voting rights as the GOP carries out efforts to pass laws restricting access to the ballot. Republicans portray such legislation as aimed at preventing fraudulent voting, but many critics believe it is designed to limit the voting of minorities.

Biden has pledged to help combat racism in policing and other areas following nationwide protests after F loyd’s death a year ago that reignited a national conversation about race.

Biden called on Congress to act swiftly to address policing reform. But he has also long projected himself as an ally of police, who are struggling with criticism about long-used tactics and training methods and difficulties in recruitment.

The Tulsa massacre has only recently entered the national discourse — and the presidential visit put an even brighter spotlight on the event.

Biden, who was joined by Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge and senior advisers Susan Rice and Cedric Richmond, also announced new measures to help narrow the wealth gap between Blacks and whites and reinvest in underserved communities by expanding access to homeownership and small-business ownership.

The White House said the administration will take steps to address disparities that result in Black-owned homes being appraised at tens of thousands of dollars less than comparable homes owned by whites as well as issue new federal rules to fight housing discrimination. The administration is also setting a goal of increasing the share of federal contracts awarded to small disadvantaged businesses by 50% by 2026, funneling an estimated additional $100 billion to such businesses over the five-year period, according to the White House.

Historians say the massacre in Tulsa began after a local newspaper drummed up a furor over a Black man accused of stepping on a white girl’s foot. When Black Tulsans showed up with guns to prevent the man’s lynching, white residents responded with overwhelming force.

Reparations for Black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved and for other racial discrimination have been debated in the U.S. since slavery ended in 1865. Now they are being discussed by colleges and universities with ties to slavery and by local governments looking to make cash payments to Black residents.

Biden, who was vice president to the nation’s first Black president and who chose a Black woman as his own vice president, backs a study of reparations, both in Tulsa and more broadly, but has not committed to supporting payments.

Trump visited Tulsa last year under vastly different circumstances.

After suspending his campaign rallies because of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump, a Republican, chose Tulsa as the place to mark his return. But his decision to schedule the rally on June 19, the holiday known as Juneteenth that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, was met with such fierce criticism that he postponed the event by a day. The rally was still marked by protests outside and empty seats inside an arena downtown.

———

Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writer Sean Murphy contributed reporting.

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For more AP coverage of the Tulsa Race Massacre anniversary, go to https://apnews.com/hub/tulsa-race-massacre.

(17) comments

phydeaux994

During a brief period in the Reconstruction era, 1865-1877, African Americans voted in large numbers and held public office at almost every level, including in both houses of Congress. ***However, this provoked a violent backlash from whites who did not want to relinquish supremacy.*** The backlash succeeded, and the promises of Reconstruction were mostly unfulfilled. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were unenforced but remained on the books, forming the basis of the mid-20th-century civil rights movement.

phydeaux994

bosco, FYI.....I responded to your comments on the Tulsa article of May 31, check them out. Your attempts at rationalizing your convoluted comments that conflict with each other is becoming very amusing. You forget the things you said two days ago.

artandarchitecture

I've been reading up quite a bit on riots in America.

Within the current mainstream news narrative, there's no hint that the Tulsa riot began *AFTER* 19yo Dick Rowland (who was black) was accused of assaulting 17yo Sarah Page (white). Similarly, there was no intimation that the initial round of violence in Tulsa – which killed ten whites and two blacks – appears to have been initiated by blacks, this being the incident that sparked the ensuing riots.

Now, American cities have been burned for a year by leftist BLM, Antifa communists & anarchists. I think the argument made in apologetic mainstream media is, "It's only real estate/property-- & they have insurance, after all..."

phydeaux994

Quit making stuff up a & a, reread the history.

Awteam2021

You seem to have a great insight into BLM and supporters of them. Had you ever heard of, or listen to ABMG Spitta before the shooting in Miami? I seriously doubt it. But you knew, and said the lead got in fight with his father. Did you know Paul Wilson, the lead who got in a family with his dad, donated $100,000 for information leading to the capture and arrest of the shooters?

Does the Capitol have insurance? Oh it’s us. The Trump insurrection cost $30 million in damages.

Awteam2021

That was more then a riot. That was total enunciation of Greenwood, 35 blocks destroyed. All the wealth destroyed, how many dead and the community never regained its presence. There was no insurance. Nobody went to jail other the Blacks, no conviction, all pushed under the rug and even today grandfathers past on tails to their grand children and great grand children sitting on their knees, the anguish they suffered. Bosco tells of his grandfather’s eye was damaged for life, and he was one of the lucy ones... Most continued their struggle but there was some success. Some were cattled in.

You can’t find a better complacent, subordinate’ self defecating ‘Uncle Tom” (then who I won’t mention) can you? And you compare it to people rioting over George Floyd being murdered by Derek Chauvin. 93% of the BLM protest were completely non-violent. The largest protest ever held in Frederick city was over BLM, est. 7,800 participants and no violent. no arrest. Only ‘enough is enough’. They even cleaned up the streets after the event.

You have greater insight into BLM and those that will forcibly oppose racism them I. What’s do you think is the motivation? Dare say blatant racism.

You suggested that the lead in “ABMG Spitta” and their music led to the mass shooting in Dade County. Right? Have you ever listened to their lyrics? Or was your mind already made up? The lead got in a family quarrel with his dad, his name is Paul Wilson. Did you know his name before? Together with his entire group, they put up $100,000 for information leading to the arrest. They aren’t big time, so that goes right to the pocket. Btw, they ain’t all Black either, quiet often they perform with a ‘white guy’ who is blind. He goes by the name “ Blind Fury”. Check him out.

veritas

Talk about destroying all credibility, Aw... "total enunciation" ??? "Self defecating" ??? What in the *#@! are you talking about?

Awteam2021

Enunciate, “pronounce, express, making clear” you folks will never be equal to use, separate or dead. Self-defecate , hiding ones wrong, knowing guilt, ones hidden excrement. It was hidden in history. No one was ever charged or prosecuted, no mention in my history books. Maybe yours. The tragedy wasn’t even acknowledged until recently.

Awteam2021

Veritas, just to be clear, I hoped to express the harshness of that communities sh** - smeared fecal matter of cruelty and disregard for life then denying it ever happened with no remorse and a clear conscience. That’s what I was talkin’ bout.

phydeaux994

And now the real story of the Tulsa Massacre a & a.......

https://www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties/tulsa-race-massacre

artandarchitecture

1921 Tulsa "Massacre" was A BIG LIE - Officer Brandon Tatum channel, 6/1/2021 (youtube)

Everything you need to know in 17 mins! I'd post a direct link to the vid, but my entire comment would then get deleted.

phydeaux994

So you are saying that your one source is the truth and all the hundreds of others are a main stream media conspiracy a & a? And why would your source get deleted? I’d like to see it. You believe the unbelievable.

artandarchitecture

Links to *videos* seem to get deleted here. It's a very short vid, & it's on youtube.

I can offer you 4-5 more articles that corroborate the same historical facts which Officer Tatum explains. This info gets suppressed because pushing communism (worldwide) for so-called 'racial justice' is the media's current agenda.

bosco

This was never taught in school, but I learned about it at my grandfather's knee. He was there and had a torch thrust into his face by a white man. One eye was damaged and though he regained his sight, that one eye watered pretty much all the time. He left Tulsa with the clothes on his back and nothing else. He was one of the lucky ones.

Awteam2021

That’s awful 😢. But yet your post was so disrespectful to the column reporting the event. ‘Tulsa massacre documentaries offer deep dive into traged’. A character question, not judging thought, but what’s in your mind, how do you square that with your comment to Fido?

phydeaux994 May 31, 2021 4:14pm

Massacres in U.S. History

There have been countless massacres in the history of the United States.

Most of these massacres were designed to suppress voting rights, land ownership, economic advancement, education, freedom of the press, religion, LGBTQ rights, and/or labor rights of African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, and immigrants. While often referred to as “race riots,” they were massacres to maintain white supremacy.

One of the best explanations about why it is important for students to learn this history is included in the article by Linda Christensen, Burning Tulsa: The Legacy of Black Dispossession

bosco May 31, 2021 5:27pm

Have you read up on Sand Creek, Wounded Knee Knee, or the Battle of the Washita River, Fido? I have been to all three sites, as well as Bear Paw and stood where people were slaughtered by the US Government. I stood and listened to the wind talk for the ancestors. Ours is not a proud history, but one to be learned from. Judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

It’s like “get over it”. Was that what you meant? Cause it doesn’t seem like you have.

bosco

What do you see in my comment that is disrespectful? I merely asked Fido if he was familiar with those massacres that were sanctioned and perpetrated by the US government.

Please explain what was disrespectful, unless you have issues with Martin Luther King and his desire to see people judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

Awteam2021

Why would you bring up mass slaughters of native Americans on the Centennial of the Greenwood massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921? It wasn’t to memorialize the genocide of Indians in America. No it was to recognize the descendants of slaves trying to build their American dream, finding their way under forced segregation, and clearly not considered equal under the law, But in spite of that had a thriving economy that was destroyed in two days. Why not bring up the nearly two dozen other documented Black massacres in American? That’s all forgotten. Or the over 4,000 black lynching of men, women and children over 120 years? Let’s not forget your grandfather. Yep, you honestly don’t get it.

Will you be bringing up the interment of Japanese American on your cookout on the 4th of July or the ‘Chinese exclusion act’ at the turn of 20th century?

Your grandfather most be so proud 🥲 seeing he suffered and escaped with his life only to bare you, no distinction from any other atrocity, even on the anniversary your grandfather’s injury.

We do agree, White America has a lot of atrocities on their hands to reconcile. I believe there’s plans to put up a plaque across from the Frederick City Hall memorializing the lynching of John H. Biggus, an African American man in 1887. His descendants still live here. It would be wise for you not to share your comments on that day. ‘Heads up’, it wouldn’t be respectful.

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