Library Blog

Celebrating Black History Month

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Continuing to bring awareness to prominent stories, Black History Month provides the perfect time to reflect on the hardships the black community has had to endure.  JSTOR editor Kimberly Fain's story,  The Devastation of Black Wall Street, is riveting and one that is of paramount importance.

In 1921, the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma was quite an affluent African-American community. It was a district filled with many amenities; banks, cafes, hotels, movie theaters and other businesses filled the streets.  It was an area that was thriving and a source of resentment for their white  neighbors. In May of that year, the local paper, the Tulsa Tribune ran a story stating that a black man, Dick Rowland, attempted to rape a white woman, Sarah Page. The stories vary as to what actually happened but before an investigation could get underway, race riots broke out resulting in 800 injuries, 300 deaths, and thirty-five city blocks went up in flames.

According to Fain, "Accounts vary on what happened between Page and Rowland in the elevator of the Drexel Building. Yet, as a result of the Tulsa Tribune's racially inflammatory report, black and white armed mobs arrived at the courthouse. Scuffles broke out, and shots were fired. Since the blacks were outnumbered, they headed back to Greenwood. But the enraged whites were not far behind, looting and burning businesses and homes along the way." She goes on to say, "Undoubtedly, less fortunate white neighbors resented their upper-class lifestyle. As a result of a jealous desire to put progressive, high-achieving African-Americans in their place, a wave of domestic white terrorism caused black dispossession."

Click here to read Kimberly Fain's compelling story in its entirety.

More JSTOR Daily stories in the days ahead.

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