Tuesday, April 23, 2024

When Them That’s Got Are Black…

August 19, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) Last week, I drew a picture of the fall of America’s so-called “Liberal Democracy,” which includes riots, specifically between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”

In this nation, when any “haves” are African American, we know historically that white “have-nots” will start to lose their minds.

American racism and elitism rear their ugly heads when Blacks appear to be ahead of whites on any level—lower class, middle class and upper class.

Within the upper and so-called middle class, institutionalized racism comes into play to keep the playing field level for whites. That racism includes the glass ceiling, preferential hiring and replacement of Blacks with less qualified whites.

On the lower level, racism appears as violence when impoverished whites blame Blacks for taking “their” jobs.

At the opening of the twentieth century, whites committed acts of violence against Blacks who were better off, blaming them for societal problems and viewing them as needing to be “put in their place.”

One of the bloodiest, and perhaps most significant race riots of this nation’s history was the Tulsa, Race Riot of 1921 in Oklahoma. Its importance stems not from its resultant death toll, but from its shroud of mystery. Shortly after the bloody massacre, history closed its mouth and attempted to erase memory of the ugly event.

The Tulsa Race Riot was also significant because it represented white backlash against Blacks who were attempting to enjoy the promises of capitalism and democracy with their own communities and their own commerce.

In Tulsa, the Black area called the “Greenwood District” was nationally recognized as an area of high entrepreneurial activity, dubbed the “Black Wall Street of America.”

Blacks came from all over the nation, hearing of the economic opportunities available on The Black Wall Street, where the concept of recycling Black dollars was thriving in the face of segregation which, unlike integration, gave Blacks no other option but to conduct commerce amongst themselves.

The community grew and flourished economically. Whites in the remainder of Tulsa were not only jealous, but also afraid of what Black prosperity meant for their own growth potential.

In the same fashion as the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and many other race riots, the Tulsa Race Riot erupted based on the assumption of Black sexual assault against a white woman named Sarah Page.

The white woman in question was actually having a consensual affair with a Black man, named Dick Rowland. A hotly debated incident in a local elevator lead the white citizens to believe that the white woman, who was also married, had been attacked by Rowland.

Rowland was arrested and the white mob that came to the jail looking for their own brand of justice, commonly referred to as lynching, was met by an armed group of Blacks, preparing to defend Rowland. One of the white men tried to disarm one of the Black men and the gun discharged, setting off mass confusion and an all-out race war, complete with burning and looting.

While the Blacks were outnumbered, the majority were former soldiers and began to battle military style. Unfortunately, they and the Tulsa police were overwhelmed by the swelling mob of hatred, which chased even the firefighters away. Before the National Guard arrived, the Greenwood District was burned to its foundation.

Official estimates placed the death count at ten whites and twenty-six Blacks. However, later reports told of more than three hundred dead, with property damage in the millions.

Even though the entire area was leveled, eventually, the residents returned to their community and rebuilt it from the ground up.

Toward the end of the twentieth century, survivors of the horrible event began to speak, and in 1997, The Tulsa Race Riot Commission was formed to investigate the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.

Two years after the Black Wall Street was burned to the ground, the prospering Black community in Rosewood, Florida was also burned to the ground, based on friction between the races (and the white effort to “protect” the chastity of white womanhood from the sexual advances of the Black man), as well as white hatred of any Black advancement.

Similar in origin to Tulsa, Rosewood’s rioting was begun by murderous whites assuming that a white woman had been sexually assaulted by a Black man.

Rosewood was a small community with a majority of Black citizens who owned their homes and their land. It was named for the red cedar that grew nearby.

That cedar was cut and shipped to New York to become pencils, which made the community prosperous. When the cedar ran out, so did the majority of the white citizens. Of the mostly Black population that remained, the men went to work at a sawmill in a nearby town and the women mostly did domestic work. Some Blacks even worked for Goins & Brothers, a Black-owned naval store in Rosewood, whose owners also owned or leased most of the land in a section called “Goin’s Quarters.”

The town also had a general store owned by a Black family, a Black-operated sugar mill, and a private school of their own. Rosewood even had its own train station.

The difficulties between the races that led to a major race war in Rosewood, Florida had been brewing for at least three years.

In the summer of 1920, other incidents included the lynching of four Black men who were removed from jail after being arrested for the alleged rape of a white woman.

In November of that same year, two whites and five Blacks were killed following a dispute over voting rights. Ococee, a Black community, was destroyed, including twenty-five homes, two churches and a Masonic lodge.

In 1921 and 1922, several Black men were lynched or burned at the stake for alleged assault or murder of white women.

In January of 1923, a white woman reported an attack by a Black man she couldn’t identify. The sheriff apparently decided he could make the identification and apprehended one Black man, while a posse of white vigilantes apprehended and killed another.

Descendants of Blacks in Rosewood recall that the man who assaulted the white woman was actually her white lover. They also say that the woman, who was married and having an adulterous affair, protected her reputation by creating the Black assailant.

The next day more than two hundred whites gathered and converged on Rosewood, murdering two Black men. Many of the Black citizens escaped Rosewood to Gainesville by train.

Two days later, the white mob returned to Rosewood and burned every building in sight.

All tolled, eight people lost their lives—six Black and two white.

A grand jury was convened to investigate the riot, but claimed to find “insufficient evidence,” and did not prosecute anyone.

In the cases of both The Black Wall Street and Rosewood, Blacks were attacked by whites who felt they were faring better. Blacks fought back even though they were outnumbered and overwhelmed.

American history likes to ignore these stories mainly because they were prosperous Black neighborhoods, thriving in the era of Jim Crow.

We should remember this lesson in history just in case it becomes our future when America’s so-called “Liberal Democracy disintegrates.

Written By Darryl James

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