Wednesday, May 26, 2021

What the Tulsa Race Massacre Destroyed

On May 31 and June 1, 1921, a mob of White residents of Tulsa, some of them deputized and armed by city officials, attacked Black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Greenwood District, sometimes called the Black Wall Street, was a thriving community of residential properties, stores, hotels, nightclubs, billiard halls, theaters, doctor’s offices and churches. Over the Memorial weekend of 1921 white mobs and private aircraft went on a frenzied rampage killing at least 26 Black residents, destroying more than 35 square blocks of the district, leaving 10,000 people homeless, and damaging more than $1.8 million in real estate.

Today it is hard to picture what Greenwood looked like before the Tulsa Race Massacre. The reason it is so hard to picture is because this successful Black community was almost totally destroyed by mobs of rampaging White people. Thanks to the New York Times we can now get a limited sense of how Greenwood looked before racist resentment ran riot in the 1920's.

In What the Tulsa Race Massacre Destroyed the NYT has created a truly impressive 3D model of the Greenwood District before the massacre. This 3D map was created using vintage maps, photographs and residential and business data from census records, city directories and newspaper articles. As you scroll through the NYT's article you are taken on a tour of the Greenwood District through this 3D model. This tour highlights individual buildings, explaining the businesses and people who resided in them and whose lives were destroyed by the Tulsa Race Massacre.

It is obviously difficult to imagine the horror of the events of Memorial weekend in 1921. However the NYT's 3D map really helps to convey the size of the area destroyed by the white residents of Tulsa and the thousands of lives which were ruined forever by their criminal attack. The use of the vintage photographs and the details about the building and business owners also goes a long way to personalize the harm caused by the Tulsa Race Massacre.

No comments: