Tuesday, May 1, 2007

John Hope Franklin testifies in Congress on the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921

Tulsa Still Hasn't Faced the Truth About the Race Riot of 1921
By John Hope Franklin
James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History, Duke University.
Recently posted on History News Network.

Following is the testimony Mr. Franklin gave on April 24, 2007 before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which is considering the Tulsa Greenwood Riot Accountability Act of 2007. The Act would extend the statute of limitations to allow the victims of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 to sue for damages.
I am an historian currently serving as the James B. Duke Professor of History Emeritus at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. I received my Bachelor of Arts from Fisk University, and a doctorate in history from Harvard University in 1941. I have studied, written, and taught extensively on the subjects of African-American history and race over the last several decades, and my work includes numerous books and hundreds of articles and speeches on these topics. I have also served as the head of the three major historical associations in the United States, and recently served as the Chairman of the Advisory Board to President Clinton’s Initiative on Race.
My father was born in the Indian territory and grew up in Oklahoma. He lived through the Tulsa race riot in 1921. I moved to Tulsa when I was ten years old, just four years after the Tulsa riot, and witnessed first-hand the impact the riot had on Tulsa....
I observed and have concluded the 1921 riot had a devastating impact on Tulsa that lasted for decades. In my public statements and published work, I have recounted my view that a culture of silence and official negligence descended on the white community of Tulsa in the years after the riot, and persisted for several decades, and my view that in Tulsa’s black community in the ensuing decades, after the economic and physical destruction of the riot, the difficulty of rebuilding, and the indifference or worse of the white community, a public silence among blacks also settled in, even while they privately remembered and feared the riot and its aftermath. For example, in the Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 released in February 2001, I wrote an overview of the report with Scott Ellsworth in which we stated:

By any standard, the Tulsa race riot of 1921 is one of the great tragedies of Oklahoma history. Walter White, one of the nation's foremost experts on racial violence, who visited Tulsa during the week after the riot, was shocked by what had taken place. “I am able to state” he said, “that the Tulsa riot, in sheer brutality and willful destruction of life and property, stands without parallel in America.”

Indeed, for a number of observers through the years, the term “riot” itself seems somehow inadequate to describe the violence and conflagration that took place.

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