President Biden to visit Tulsa on 100th anniversary of Tulsa Race Massacre

President Biden is set to head to Tulsa, Oklahoma next week to mark the 100th anniversary of the now infamous Tulsa Race Massacre.

On May 31st,1921, a white mob attacked the predominantly black area of Greenwood, Tulsa, fuelled by claims that a black teenager had attacked a white woman. By the time the mob was finished it had pillaged and burned its way through more than 35 city blocks of entirely black-owned businesses, killing as many as 300 people. A 2001 state commission concluded that the mob had caused around $1.8million in damages, or in today’s money about $27million. The abrupt demise of this affluent neighbourhood, along with the many similar incidents taking place across the country at the time are believed to have played a key role in widening the racial wealth divide. 

The White House announcement of the visit came just after both President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris had met with the family of George Floyd on the one-year anniversary of his death.  Meanwhile the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which the President had hoped to have passed on Tuesday remains stalled in the Senate. This legislation would set up a national registry to record police misconduct, ban racial or religious profiling by law enforcement and overhaul qualified immunity for police officers. A congressional committee considering the payment of reparations to survivors and descendants of the massacre also convened last week and heard testimony from the few remaining witnesses. The oldest living survivor, Viola Fletcher, aged 107, told Congress “I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot.”  

The last President to visit the city of Tulsa was former President Donald Trump, who last June decided to host his first re-election campaign rally since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trumps visit had originally been planned for June 19th or Juneteenth, the holiday which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. However, Trump then rescheduled the rally to June 20th due to mounting criticism and outcry following the George Floyds death and the ensuing riots across the nation.

The Biden’s visit was initially intended to cap off a long weekend of events organised and spearheaded by the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, with Stacy Abrahams and John Legend to headline a televised event called “Remember & Rise”. However as of Friday this event has been cancelled, reportedly due to a recommendation from the Department of Homeland Security. The organisers released a statement which reads: “Due to unexpected circumstances with entertainers and speakers, the Centennial Commission is unable to fulfil our high expectations for Monday afternoon’s commemoration event and has determined not to move forward with the event at this time. We have hopes to reschedule later in this 100th commemorative year.” The White House reports that the President still intends to visit and take part in a memorial in Oklahoma. 





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