Tulsa Lynching of 1921 a Hidden Story by Michael Wilkerson
The Tulsa Lynching of 1921
The Tulsa Lynching of 1921 - a Hidden Story by Michael Wilkerson
This video documentary deals with what is considered by many to be the worst race riots to have occurred in American history. In 1921 racial violence erupted in the town of Tulsa on a scale that had hitherto not been experienced. It escalated to the point where as many as three-hundred Black people had been killed and the black community almost completely wiped out, with the survivors having to relocate.
The film produced and directed by Michael Wilkerson is a very clear and lucid depiction of the events that occurred in 192. The director makes good use of a number of standard documentary techniques, such as stories and recollections by elderly witnesses, as well as the inclusion of commentary on the incident from various historians. The film also includes insightful black-and-white still photographs and authentic film depicting the destruction of an entire black community.
The Tulsa lynching refers to the destruction through violence of an entire Black community. One also has to bear in mind that the Black community in Tulsa was relatively well-off and affluent as a result of the town's lucrative oil supply. It was also known as a "little Africa" and the Greenwood section of town was known as "The Black Wall Street." As one critic notes: "Greenwood was a clean middle class community where African-Americans lived and were able to pursue their American dream, but all the changed in a twinkle of an eye" (Musser). From the film we also get the impression that a possible central cause of the riots was that some of the whites in the town felt that the black community was too affluent.
The director also takes pains to emphasize the social and political background to the events that where to take place in the town. For example, the fact that many veterans from the First World War returned to the town is shown in the documentary as an element in the violence that was to ensue. This also added to the militaristic dimensions to the unrest that further exacerbated the tensions. Another important aspect that is also dealt with very adequately in the documentary is the growth of the racist Ku Klux Clan in the region. The film also provides insight into the fact that northeastern Oklahoma was a hotbed of racial tension during that period. It is also enlightening that the Ku Klux Klan became as strong force in Oklahoma three months after the riots.
The violence was initiated by a single alleged incident. This occurred when a black man accidentally fell on top of white women. She claimed that she had been raped. However, this actual event is disputed and some see it as a fictional pretext for racist aggression. As one historian has noted, "…this wasn't the real incident -- that occurred at the local newspaper, The Tulsa Tribune, which published an afternoon article distorting the event and calling for a lynching" (OXMAN ).
The violence that ensured was, as the film suggests, possibly a purposeful…