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TULSA, Okla.—Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Ritchie Torres (NY-15), members of the Congressional Black Caucus, commemorated the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre on the House floor on May 17, organizers of the Black Wall Street Legacy Festival announced today.
During the special order, the lawmakers brought attention to the horrific atrocity — one of the worst incidents of violence against Black people in U.S. history — and called for the passage of H.Res. 398, which would recognize the forthcoming centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and H.R. 40, which would establish an expert federal commission to study the legacy of slavery in the United States and ongoing harms, and develop proposals for how to provide redress and repair, including economic and institutional reparations. The House will vote on H.Res. 398 this Wednesday.
Congressional Black Caucus members
“We’re on the floor today because we have to begin to embrace each other’s story. And so I’m very delighted that I’m leading on H.Res. 398, embraced by the Congressional Black Caucus, this will be on the floor of the House this coming Wednesday,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) said. “This resolution that is recognizing of the forthcoming centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.”
As the centennial approaches, the nation appears to be under the impression that justice for Greenwood is a bipartisan endeavor on the local level. But at the state level and in Tulsa, two companies strategies are emerging. On the one hand, politicians seeking to capitalize on trauma are hoping to turn Greenwood into a tourist attraction and nothing more. On the other hand, survivors and descendants of the massacre want what they’ve been fighting for since 1921: accountability from those responsible and financial reparations for the harm done.
“It’s been said that sunlight is the best disinfectant and yet, the terrible atrocity that took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma one hundred years ago on May 31st and June 1st, 1921, has lived in the shadows for far too long,” Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) said. “It’s time that the truth be told. We must know our past or we are bound to repeat it. In 1921, the Black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was prospering, despite a racist system designed to marginalize and exclude it and its residents from the fruits of those citizens’ labor. It was a community known as Greenwood. And it was also known as the Black Wall Street. It was a thriving community… so white people burned it down.”
Connecting 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre
Most members of the Congressional Black Caucus who spoke yesterday focused on the specific racial terror inflicted on Black Tulsans.
“To date, they [the survivors] have not received any direct compensation. Up until recently, the silence in Tulsa, in Oklahoma, and in the United States about this massacre — it was an intentional effort to whitewash our nation’s racialized past. We must remember these stories. We must tell the truth about our past,” Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) said.
Meanwhile, other members used the opportunity to connect the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre to the atrocities inflicted on all Black people since slavery and the need for reparations on a national scale.
“We as the CBC are not only here to recite the facts of the Tulsa Race Massacre, but we’re also here to reflect on the deeper meaning. The massacre in Tulsa tells a larger story about false accusations as an incitement to violence,” Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY-15) said. “It tells the larger story about the failure of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow. It tells a larger story about domestic terrorism and white supremacist extremism as a form of domestic terror. It tells a larger story about the systematic denial and destruction of Black wealth. And finally, it tells a larger story about the legacy of discrimination and the need for restitution.”
About the Legacy Fest
Legacy Fest previously announced the participation of Congressional Black Caucus members Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) during the weekend of events to commemorate the centennial of the massacre, beginning on Thursday, May 27.
The Black Wall Street Legacy Festival is the only community-led series that centers the survivors and descendants of the Tulsa Race Massacre. The Festival is headlined by the last known massacre survivors — 106-year-old Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle, 107-year-old Viola “Mother” Fletcher, and 100-year-old Hughes Van Ellis — who will lead a procession and participate in an event honoring their legacy and continued fight for justice and accountability.
Programming throughout the weekend will explore urgent issues, ranging from the needs of those still living with the everyday consequences of the massacre, to the erasure of essential history, to the state and future of Black Wall Street.