President Joe Biden issued a proclamation on Monday marking 100 years since a “violent white supremacist mob” descended on the thriving Black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 31, 1921, wrecking businesses, destroying homes and killing hundreds of Black people.
In the proclamation, Biden pointed to the racist mob that “raided, firebombed and destroyed ... the thriving Black neighborhood of Greenwood.”
“Families and children were murdered in cold blood. Homes, businesses, and churches were burned. In all, as many as 300 Black Americans were killed,” the proclamation reads. “Today, on this solemn centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, I call on the American people 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 race massacre, which took place from May 31 to June 1, was one of the deadliest acts of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. A white mob destroyed about 35 blocks of a thriving community known as Black Wall Street. Today, survivors and descendants are still fighting for justice and accountability.
In testimony before Congress earlier this month, 107-year-old survivor Viola Fletcher said: “I will never forget the violence of the white mob.”
“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,” she added. “I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history but I cannot.”
In the presidential proclamation, Biden noted the federal government’s own role in perpetuating racist damage in the community of Greenwood, noting that it was redlined by mortgage companies and deemed “hazardous” by the U.S. government, preventing Black people from accessing home loans. Later, federal highway construction also wrecked and blighted parts of the area.
“The Federal Government must reckon with and acknowledge the role that it has played in stripping wealth and opportunity from Black communities,” the proclamation reads, adding that the Biden-Harris administration is “committed to acknowledging the role federal policy played in Greenwood and other Black communities and addressing longstanding racial inequities.”
The president ended the proclamation with a promise to the survivors and descendants of victims of the race massacre: “We will never forget.”