With regards to "What Happened to Black Wall Street on June, 1 1921" would someone please give me their opinion as to why this happened?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I assume that “What Happened to Black Wall Street on June 1, 1921” is an article having to do with the Tulsa race riot that happened on that date.  The African American section of Tulsa was sometimes known as “Black Wall Street” because of the relative affluence of many of its residents.  I would argue that this race riot had three causes.  These were white racism, World War I, and the changing attitudes of African Americans in the late 1910s and early 1920s.

The main cause of this race riot was, of course, white racism and the idea that white people needed to keep black people “in their place.”  We can see this very clearly from the fact that the riot started out with a black man being accused of trying to rape a white woman. Black-on-white rape was a particular fear of white Southerners, in part because it was seen as a potential way for blacks to try to express dominance over whites.  We can also see the desire for white dominance in the fact that whites attempted to disarm one of the black men who had come to guard the jail.  The idea of black men carrying guns to protect black people from white people upset the proper racial order in the minds of white people.  This sort of racism led to a desire to punish the African American community in Tulsa for acting in ways that whites could not accept.

During the early 1920s, African Americans were more likely than they had once been to act in ways that whites could not accept.  This came about largely because of WWI and because of the rise of the “New Negro” in the 1920s.  WWI helped to convince many African Americans that they were entitled to more rights and more respect.  Many of the black men who tried to guard the jail in Tulsa were WWI veterans who presumably felt empowered by the fact that they had been part of their country’s war effort.  At the same time, the move of many blacks from the rural South to the urban North made black people in general more assertive.  For the first time, they were living in areas where they were not as oppressed as they had been in the rural South.  This attitude spread even to places like Tulsa that were not in the North.

As black Americans became more assertive, white Americans became more defensive.  This was one reason why the KKK made such a comeback in the 1920s.  The Tulsa race riot occurred (in my view) because whites were trying to fight back to keep their dominance over blacks who were becoming more assertive.  The whites’ racist attitudes made it so that they could not accept greater black assertiveness. 

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