Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Scientists in Oklahoma discovered possible evidence of mass graves linked to the Black Wall Street massacre in Tulsa. Since 1921 when the massacre occurred, there’s been a huge effort to hush and cover up what really happened. Survivors have long held that the actual number of victims is much higher than what has ever been reported and this finding may very well prove them right. Still, no amount of remains discovered will ever tell the true story of Black genocide in this country. Black people have been subject to a large and continuous campaign of terror, the half of which has never been told.
In June of 1964, three civil rights workers in Mississippi were brutally murdered, their bodies missing for weeks. When the federal government (reluctantly) began searching for the three men, at least nine other bodies of disappeared Blacks were found as they dragged the various swamps and lakes in the area. Much like the victims of Black Wall Street, those bodies found in the Mississippi swamps were simply forgotten. Perhaps there were many, many more. In 1860 Mississippi’s population was 791,305; Blacks numbered 437,000, making up 55% of the population. By 1920 Blacks were 52.2% and although the Black population increased by over 50,000, by 1950 Blacks made up only 45.3% of Mississippians and today the number is 37%. Yes, there was a Great Migration, but is it unreasonable to wonder if there is more to the story? History would suggest that the question isn’t illogical.
In 1873 the Colfax Massacre occurred in Louisiana. A mob of more than 150 white men, most former Confederate soldiers and members of the Ku Klux Klan and the White League, massacred anywhere between 60 and 150 Blacks. Following the Emancipation Proclamation and an effort to draft whites into the Civil War conflict, New York City broke out in mass violence. Roughly 120 were killed, the majority of whom were Black. Many Blacks were lynched and thousands were forced to flee the city — New York’s Black population fell by more than 20%. There are many more stories of Black terror, you surely get the point.
What is most troubling is the unknown. Survivors of the Tulsa massacre tell us that it is hardly spoken of. Taken a level deeper, however, the routine, unreported atrocities begin to add up. Who were the 9 that were found in those Mississippi swamps in 1964? How many more were never found? Who are the people who will be found in the mass grave in Tulsa? How many more are there in Biloxi, Macon and New York? Black people, for generations, have stories of loved ones who were simply disappeared; some were taken to jail, some lynched and some remain a mystery. These stories are simply absent from the national narrative but very present in the Black psyche.