Joe Biden Proclaims Day of Remembrance on 100th Anniversary of Tulsa Massacre

The president declared an official "Day of Remembrance" on the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre

Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaking at Emory University. Photo: ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty

President Joe Biden issued an official proclamation on Monday, declaring a "Day of Remembrance" to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre and calling on Americans to "reflect on the deep roots of racial terror in our Nation and recommit to the work of rooting out systemic racism across our country."

The 1921 Tulsa Massacre occurred on May 31 and June 1, 1921, when a violent white supremacist mob attacked Black residents in the Oklahoma city's affluent Greenwood district, an area known as "Black Wall Street."

According to the White House, many of Greenwood's then 10,000 residents were "Black sharecroppers who fled racial violence after the Civil War." In the years following the Civil War, the district became known as a place where Black Americans "were able to make a new start and secure economic progress despite the continued pain of institutional and overt racism."

That all changed in 1921 when, according to the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum, 24 hours of violence resulted in 35 city blocks in Greenwood being burned and about 300 deaths. As the White House noted in its official proclamation, "nearly 10,000 were left destitute and homeless" as a result of the violence.

"Despite rising Jim Crow systems and the reemergence of the Ku Klux Klan, Greenwood's economic prosperity grew, as did its citizens' demands for equal rights. This made the community a source of pride for many Black Americans," the White House proclamation explained. "It also made the neighborhood and its families a target of white supremacists. In two days, a violent mob tore down the hard-fought success of Black Wall Street that had taken more than a decade to build."

Last week, three of the last living survivors of the massacre testified to Congress in a push for justice via recognition and reparations.

"I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home," survivor Viola Fletcher told lawmakers from a House Judiciary Subcommittee during the hearing.

Now 107, Fletcher was 7 years old when the massacre occurred. She was joined at the hearing by her younger brother Hughes Van Ellis, 100, and Lessie Benningfield Randle, 105.

Speaking to lawmakers, Fletcher said that even today, "I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot."

In his proclamation, Biden said he would "commit to the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre, including Fletcher, Van Ellis, and Benningfield Randle, the descendants of victims, and to this nation that we will never forget."

The proclamation continues: "We honor the legacy of the Greenwood community, and of Black Wall Street, by reaffirming our commitment to advance racial justice through the whole of our government, and working to root out systemic racism from our laws, our policies, and our hearts."

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