Into America

Blood on Black Wall Street: What Was Stolen

Episode Summary

On the centennial of the Tulsa race massacre, Trymaine Lee travels to Tulsa, Oklahoma to uncover how a violent, century-old theft, and the denial of wealth ever since, permeates the lives of descendants today.

Episode Notes

100 years ago this week, the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma experienced one of the worst incidents of racial violence in this country’s history when a white mob laid siege to the prosperous Greenwood district. Greenwood was known as “Black Wall Street,” a nickname given by Booker T. Washington, for the number of wealthy Black families and Black owned businesses.

In less than 48 hours, from May 31 to June 1, 1921, the community was destroyed. Death tolls are disputed, but 300 Black people are believed to have been killed. Thousands were left homeless, and generations later, families are still struggling to recover their lost wealth. There were $1.8 million in property loss claims at the time, and some experts estimate that in today’s dollars, the white mob decimated $200 million of Black property.

Trymaine Lee travels to Tulsa to meet the Bagbys, whose business in the Greenwood district was destroyed and the Eatons, whose business was miraculously left standing. Through their stories, Trymaine traces the connection between inherited property and wealth, and explores how the massacre and subsequent policies have maintained the racial wealth gap over the last century.

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