WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn delivered the following remarks today on the House Floor recognizing the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre:
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As Prepared for Delivery
“Madam Speaker, I rise today to urge unanimous support for House Resolution 398, recognizing the 100thanniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
“As a former history teacher, I often quote George Santayana, who said, ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’
“The Tulsa Race Massacre is a prime example of inflaming issues and ignoring history. They both significantly lead to the inability and failure to learn the lessons that history can teach us.
“It was the inflammatory reporting of the chance encounter of a young Black man, Dick Rowland, and a young white elevator operator, Sarah Page, that ignited one of the deadliest episodes of racial violence in our nation’s history.
“On May 31st, 1921, the Tulsa Tribune newspaper printed the headline ‘Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in Elevator’ and the same edition included a report of a white mob’s plan to lynch Rowland. The newspaper account was based on false claims that Mr. Rowland sexually assaulted the white woman and is cited as the spark that incited a mob to burn and loot 35 blocks in the Black Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa and kill an estimated 300 people. Greenwood was known at the time as ‘Black Wall Street’ due to its status as one of the most prosperous African American communities in the country.
“The devastation wrought by the mob, many of whom had been deputized and armed by local officials, took the lives and livelihoods of many in the Greenwood community. It caused irreparable damage to so many Black families, who never received justice for their losses.
“This horrific incident was erased from collective memory when the Tulsa Tribune destroyed all original copies of the May 31st, 1921 edition of the newspaper and removed all copies from their archives. Scholars later discovered that police and state militia archives about the riot were missing as well.
“We cannot overcome the issues of race that have troubled our nation since its inception by ignoring the failings of our past. To repair our faults, our country must acknowledge past mistakes and work to ensure we don’t repeat them.”