A day before his visit to Tulsa’s Greenwood District to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the worst race massacre in U.S. history, President Joe Biden called on all Americans to “reflect on the deep roots of racial terror” and to “recommit to the work of rooting out systemic racism” across the country.
In a proclamation issued 100 years to the date of the May 31, 1921, massacre, Biden promised survivors and descendants that the nation will never forget the massacre that razed about 35 square blocks in the affluent Black community. A white mob fueled by envy and hate burned, murdered and looted the community, killing as many as 300 and leaving thousands homeless.
Biden pledged to honor the legacy of the Greenwood community, also known as Black Wall Street, by “working to root out systemic racism from our laws, our policies and our hearts.”
Biden is slated to tour the Greenwood Cultural Center on Tuesday, give some public remarks as well as meet with the three known survivors of the massacre, who range in age from 100 to 107. The three survivors are pushing for reparations before they die.
White House officials Monday night hadn’t publicly released the timeline for Biden’s visit.
In the proclamation, Biden said his administration is committed to acknowledging the role federal policy played in Greenwood and other Black communities. That policy included deeming Greenwood “hazardous” so that Black homeowners could not access home loans or credit on equal terms and the construction of a federal highway decades after the massacre that tore down parts of the community, he said.
“The attack on Black families and Black wealth in Greenwood persisted across generations,” Biden said. “The federal government must reckon with and acknowledge the role that it has played in stripping wealth and opportunity from Black communities.”
He promised to address “longstanding racial inequities through historic investments in the economic security of children and families, programs to provide capital for small businesses in economically disadvantaged areas, including minority-owned businesses, and ensuring that infrastructure projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice and promote affordable access.”
“I'm very excited that our president and I hope our vice president comes to Tulsa,” said Kevin Matthews, chair of the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, which planned a slate of events to commemorate the weekend.
“It is so significant that the president would come on this weekend, knowing that not one (Oklahoma) county had the majority to support this ticket,” said Matthews, also a Democratic state senator, who represents north Tulsa. “And, so being the chair of the Senate Democrats, I am proud that our president would grace us with his presence on this most important weekend.”
A spokeswoman for Gov. Kevin Stitt said Monday that the Republican governor will greet Biden upon his arrival.
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.