Hard To Put Price Tag On All That Was Lost On Black Wall Street Because Of Tulsa Massacre

CBS4's Danya Bacchus takes a look at what was lost and how the history was suppressed.

Video Transcript

- 100 years ago, and in a matter of minutes, what was known as Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma was decimated. A seemingly innocent incident in an elevator set off what would become one of the nation's worst incidents of racial violence. However, for decades, what happened in Tulsa was not discussed. CBS 4's Danya bacas takes a look at what was lost and how the history was suppressed.

- It's hard to put a price tag on all that was lost in Tulsa Oklahoma's Greenwood district known as Black Wall Street between May 31st and June 1st, 1921. White mob violence destroyed nearly every building, including my family's drilling theater. The exact number of the dead still unknown to this day, because the bodies of those killed were buried in mass graves.

- There is no way to account for or without recompense for the lives lost and the trauma that was suffered.

- Black residents, including my family filed more than $1 million in insurance claims. All of the claims were denied.

- They had followed her dream of American entrepreneurship that had been taken from them. And this brutal act of racist violence.

- Victor Luckerson is a journalist and author researching the Tulsa race massacre.

- And they still sort of thought or hoped that the law would ultimately provide them some level of recompense and that did not happen.

- The courts decided it did not have to pay because of a clause saying they weren't responsible for loss caused by a riot just like the lawsuits were dismissed. So was any memory of the massacre.

When did you first learn about our family history?

- I believe I may have been six or seven years old.

- My cousin Charles Christopher grew up in Tulsa. His mother and my grandfather were siblings, children of Williams, a massacre survivor.

And then did you start questioning you know, like what is this? Did you have the conversation with your mother then about what happened?

- She never did really discuss it at all. It was all kind of buried under the carpet.

- Was it talked about in the community at all?

- It wasn't talked about whatsoever.

- In the Black community, it said the pain was too deep and there was fear it could happen again.

- And why Tulsa, the story the massacre was intentionally suppressed for more than 50 years.

- Scott Ellsworth is a Tulsa native and historian.

- The wide daily newspapers, the tribune in the world went out of their way never to mention it. Official records disappeared.

- 100 years later, the race massacre's history is now in the forefront, and the important story of resilience and rebuilding is being told. Don Bacchus, CBS News Tulsa, Oklahoma.

- No one was ever prosecuted or punished for the massacre on June 1st. The city of Tulsa will begin a full excavation and analysis of a potential mass grave site. This Monday, May 31st, Gayle King will host a CBS News Special, Tulsa 1921, An American Tragedy. The primetime special airs at 10:00 PM right here on CBS.