Tulsa Race Riot Centennial Commission Announced

Tulsa may get an unusual amount of attention in 2021, the 100th anniversary of the city’s deadly race riot. It’s not exactly cause for celebration, but city leaders would like something constructive to show the rest of the world.

“We can’t rewrite the past, but we can build a brighter and more prosperous future,” state Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, said Friday at the formal announcement of a Tulsa Race Riot Centennial Commission.

U.S. Sen. James Lankford and Mayor G.T. Bynum joined Matthews and other state and local leaders for a morning press conference at the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce.

“What I said on the floor of the Senate last year, I meant,” said Lankford. “The entire country is going to look at Tulsa in 2021 and ask, ‘What has changed in 100 years?’

“That’s not an unfair question,” he said, “but it should be an appropriate question for all of us.”

“I am so glad that Sen. Matthews has created this vehicle by which so many stakeholders in our community can pull together and work together in a spirit that is the exact opposite of the spirit that prevailed in 1921,” Bynum said.

According to a statement by Matthews, the commission’s chairman, the body’s objective is to “facilitate activities and events that will educate Oklahomans and Americans about the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, its impact on the state and nation; to help remember its victims and survivors; and create an environment conducive to fostering sustainable entrepreneurship and heritage tourism within the Greenwood District and North Tulsa.”

The Tulsa riot of May 31-June 1, 1921, resulted in dozens of deaths and left hundreds injured and thousands homeless. The prosperous black business district on Greenwood Avenue was destroyed, as was much of the black residential area.