On Monday night’s episode of The Rachel Maddow Show, the hostess took viewers through an important moment in Black history. The Tulsa Race Riots took place almost 100 years ago, and they changed the history of Greenwood forever.
“It was 100 years ago this spring, a teenage boy named Dick Rowland, just a teenager, was at grave risk of being lynched,” Maddow began.
Rowland was accused of rape, an accusation fueled by The Tulsa Tribune, the local newspaper.
The Black men of Greenwood, a flourishing Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, were concerned for the teen’s safety and went to the courthouse where a white mob had gathered to try to protect him. It was not unusual for white people to storm the courthouse, grab Black men from the jail and lynch them. The armed group of Black men wanted to prevent Rowland from suffering the same fate.
Tensions rose, and eventually, the white mob decided to take their hatred out on Greenwood residents by annihilating the neighborhood. The Tulsa Race Riots were born that night. The police department did not protect the Black residents and supplied guns and ammunition to the white rioters. The charges against Rowland were eventually dropped, and he survived the 24-hour long nightmare.
The riots caused such an upheaval that, to this day, a death toll cannot be reported with any certainty. But, only six years ago, a manuscript of the events was discovered. Attorney Buck Colbert Franklin, the father of historian John Hope Franklin, for who the Clinton administration awarded the Medal of Freedom, was the person who chronicled the destruction of Greenwood on May 31, 1921.
The manuscript is now at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
On the same day of Maddow’s presentation, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland was in Tulsa at the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park to visit the memorial.
“This is a moment where it’s important, you know, to come to a place like this.” The kind of devastation that happened here [Tulsa] is — the product of the same kind of hatred that led to the bombing in Oklahoma City,” Garland said.
Monday was the 26th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, a case the Merrick helped prosecute.
EXCLUSIVE: Attorney General Merrick Garland gets emotional talking with @PierreTABC about how the U.S. protected his family when they fled anti-Semitism—and how it informs his “obligation” to protect others. https://t.co/XpZUthTaTR pic.twitter.com/C9JldOJK9J
— ABC News (@ABC) April 19, 2021
Merrick, who Democratic activists have criticized for his record on civil rights, said that the job of the Justice Department is to ensure equal justice under the law for all Americans and that we should all listen more deeply to the current cries for justice.