The largest loss of life on US soil due to terrorism

Things that make you go...

From a column by By Patricia Smith, Globe Staff, 06/20/97

Ever since the horrific blast at Oklahoma City claimed 168 American lives, it's been called the worst act of terrorism on US soil. How conveniently we seem to have forgotten June 1, 1921, when angry white citizens of Tulsa, Okla., manned planes and dropped nitroglycerin on a 36-block thriving black business district in north Tulsa known as ``Black Wallstreet.'' A call for the lynching of a black man accused of assaulting a white elevator operator was just an excuse masking jealousy of the area's affluence and self-sufficiency. In just 12 hours in Tulsa, more Americans were killed by their fellow citizens than at any time since the Civil War. KKKers, who'd been in cahoots with some city officials, proudly distributed postcards of the carnage all over the country.

Six hundred businesses were lost. Fifteen hundred homes, gone. Twenty-one churches. Twenty-one restaurants. Thirty stores. Two movie theaters. A hospital, a bank. The post office. Libraries. Schools. Law offices. Six private airplanes. An entire bus system. The Tulsa Tribune estimated deaths at 250. However, Ron Wallace, a Tulsa native and author of the book ``Black Wallstreet: A Lost Dream,'' spent three years poring through family records and interviewing survivors, Klu Klux Klan members, and historians. He says more than 3,000 African-Americans died. Bodies were buried in mass graves, stuffed in the shaft of a coal mine, tossed into the river.

``Just recently, an Oklahoma television anchor talking about the Tulsa riot death toll, said the word `thousands,''' said Wallace. ``For 75 years, they've been saying `10 to 100.' You cannot tell me that 10,000 people fought in the streets for 12 hours and only 10 people died.

``We heard about what survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing went through. I talked to people 75 years after what happened in Tulsa, who were still afraid to tell their stories, afraid that the Klan would come back and get them. And the fear in their faces was real.''

You won't read about the Tulsa race riot in the history books. As tragic as it is, it's a story you have to search for.