Catholic World Report

Tulsa diocese mourns 100th anniversary of racial massacre

The Bishop of Tulsa commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa racial massacre last week, in an ecumenical vespers service at Holy Family Cathedral.

“We need to know that we can be different from one another and united in love. That though we are different from one another, our dignity is equal because we are equally loved by the God who created us,” Bishop David Konderla of Tulsa said in his opening remarks at the service.

Bishop Konderla appeared alongside Rev. Dr. Robert Turner of the Historic Vernon Chapel A.M.E. Church in Tulsa, at the May 30 Vespers service.

“It is hard to believe that 100 years ago people could think and act in such a way. It is unthinkable,” Bishop Konderla said in a May 27 press release, preceding the service.

“Still, it happened,” he wrote. “And it is important that we take the time to pause and reflect on how such an unspeakable horror could take place so that we can avoid any such evil in our own day.”

The 1921 Tulsa racial massacre, which occurred on May 31 and June 1, 1921, began with an accusation leveled against a young black man, Dick Rowland. He had supposedly stumbled in an elevator and stepped on the foot of the white woman operator, fleeing the elevator. He was accused of sexual assault.

Rowland was arrested the next day by Tulsa police and the accusation was investigated. The Tulsa Tribune reported on the ensuing conflict between Black and white groups at the courthouse, where a white mob seeking to lynch Rowland arrived and swelled in size. Black citizens showed up in Rowland’s defense.

After gunshots were fired, the African-Americans retreated to the Greenwood District, a thriving community of Black-owned businesses and residences known as the “Black Wall Street.” White rioters followed and burned and destroyed many of Greenwood’s homes and businesses.

After a day of destruction, more than 800 people were treated for injuries and as many as 300 people may have died, according to reports. Almost 10,000 of the area’s 11,000 residents were homeless following the massacre, according to the diocese.

Two days later, knights of the Klu Klux Klan met on a hillside to celebrate the carnage by burning a large cross, a trademark of the Klan.

At the May 30 ecumenical vespers, Bishop Konderla invited parishioner Jim Goodwin to the pulpit where he spoke about the role Holy Family Cathedral played during the massacre.

Goodwin spoke of the Klan’s campaign of mass destruction in the city and of how the church served as a place of refuge for victims.

“Holy Family’s nuns of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and its Knights of Columbus council provided food, clothing and shelter to five hundred victims of the massacre,” Goodwin said, “During the week of the massacre at the Church, 477 meals were served, 25 babies were bathed and given clean clothes.”

Turner spoke about the history of his church and its role as being a sanctuary for those who hid during the massacre. The church was destroyed, but of the wall that has survived, many come to see it as a piece of history. Turner highlighted the wall as a place for children to get “enriched, equipped, and empowered, to go out into this world and be change agents for truth for healing and even for justice.”

Turner said he was thankful that Konderla would be offering a prayer at the dedication of the public prayer wall for racial healing.

Konderla called the prayer service “a time to acknowledge a grave evil that took place and mourn the lives lost and destroyed as well as a time to celebrate the courage of those people who served as shining lights in that dark time to help the victims.”

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  1. Dear Bishop Konderla,

    You say “it is important that we take the time to pause and reflect on how such an unspeakable horror could take place so that we can avoid any such evil in our own day”. Sir, more unspeakable horrors than this happen every day in abortion mills across this country. You cannot do anything about what happened 100 years ago, but I hope you are speaking up even more vociferously about the abortion abomination than you are of this abomination. Not to diminish the evil done in 1921, but 300 human beings die roughly every 2 hours in the USA, disproportionately black, and we hear crickets.

    • Yes, in the case of feticides committed in the US the percentage of children of colour killed is much higher than the percentage of black people in the population overall.
      I don’t know if that correlates to any situation in Australia but it’s definitely a problem here.

  2. And what has the issue of feticides got to do with the Tulsa massacre?
    That is my point. I find the response ofJoe Gustafson highly problematic, in that it indicates a refusal to acknowledge the gravity of the historical incident that was the subject of the article. His attempt at shifting the readers attention away from overt murderous racism and onto abortion then throwing in the statement of being ‘disproportionately black’. It is tempting to to assume Jo Gustafson is a racist individual. That or he is devoid of compassion with respect to the reality that took place:
    About 10,000 Black people were left homeless
    the event is considered one of “the single worst incident[s] of racial violence in American history” and has been described as one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in the history of the United States.[14][15] The attackers burned and destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the neighborhood – at the time one of the wealthiest Black communities in the United States, colloquially known as “Black Wall Street.”[16]
    More than 800 people were admitted to hospitals, and as many as 6,000 Black residents of Tulsa were interned in large facilities, many of them for several days.[17][18] The Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics officially recorded 36 dead.[19] The 2001 Tulsa Reparations Coalition examination of events identified 39 dead, 26 Black and 13 white, based on contemporary autopsy reports, death certificates, and other records.[20] The commission gave several estimates ranging from 75 to 300 dead.[21][22]
    ….and Jo Gustafson’s response is to launch into an exercise of whataboutism pointing out that those guilty of the grave sin are disproportionately black!

    • Christopher, it’s about the racial bias in both cases. Both things are tragic. That’s all. And you know the worst incident of lynching in America was perpetrated on Chinese in Los Angeles. The poor Chinese had a similar experience in Mexico. Fallen human nature is universal.
      I think you’re assuming bad intentions by the original commenter. Black people are more likely to be *victims* of feticide. Both mother and child are considered victims, especially when there’s a eugenic situation going on as we have seen in the States.

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