Pres. Biden Speaks on 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre

'My fellow Americans, this was not a riot. This was a massacre.' — Pres. Biden speaks from Tulsa on the 100th anniversary of the white supremacist attack that killed hundreds of Black Americans and destroyed 1,000+ businesses and homes. For more us politics and world news, subscribe to NowThis News. #Biden #TulsaMassacre #BlackWallStreet #Politics #News #NowThis This video "Pres. Biden Speaks on 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre", first appeared on

Video Transcript

JOE BIDEN: May 1921, formerly enslaved Black people and their descendants are here in Tulsa, a boom town of oil and opportunity in a new frontier. On the north side across the rail tracks that divided the city already segregated by law, they built something of their own worthy, worthy of their talent and their ambition-- Greenwood, a community, a way of life. Black doctors and lawyers, pastors, teachers running hospitals, law practices, libraries, churches, schools-- black Veterans like the man I had the privilege of giving a command coin to who fought-- volunteered and fought and came home and still faced such prejudice.


Veterans had been back a few years helping after winning the First World War, building a new life back home with pride and confidence. Where a mom and-- there were at the time mom and plaque-- mom-and-pop Black diners, grocery stores, barbershops, tailors, the things that make up a community.

At the Dreamland Theater, a young Black couple holding hands, falling in love. Friends gathered at music clubs and pool halls, at the Monroe family roller-skating rink. Visitors staying in hotels like the Stradford.

All around, Black pride shared by the professional class and the working class who lived together side by side for blocks on end. Mother Randall was just six years old-- six years old, living with her grandma. She said she was lucky to have a home and toys and fortunate to live without fear.

Mother Fletcher was seven years old, second of seven children, the youngest being Mr. Van Ellis who was just a few months old. The children, former sharecroppers. When they went to bed at night in Greenwood, Mother Fletcher says they fell asleep rich in terms of the wealth, not real wealth but a different wealth, a wealth in culture and community and heritage.

One night--


One night changed everything. Everything changed. While Greenwood was a community to itself, it was not separated from the outside. It wasn't everyone but there was enough hate, resentment, and vengeance in the community. Enough people believed that America does not belong to everyone and not everyone is created equal. Native Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Black Americans, a belief enforced by law, by badge, by hood, and by noose, and speaks to that lit the fuse. It lit it by the spark that it provided, a fuse of fury.

It was an innocent interaction that turned into a terrible, terrible headline allegation of a Black male teenager attacking a white female teenager. A white mob of a thousand gathered around the courthouse where the Black teenager was being held ready to do what still occurred, lynch that young man that night.

But 75 Black men, including Black veterans, arrived to stand guard. Words were exchanged, then a scuffle. Then a shot's fired. Hell was unleashed. Literal hell was unleashed.

Through the night into the morning, the mob terrorized Greenwood with torches and guns, shooting at will. A mob tied a Black man by the waist to the back of their truck with his head banging along the pavement as they drove off. A murdered Black family draped over the fence of their home outside.

An elderly couple knelt by their bed praying to God with their heart and their soul when they were shot in the back of their heads. Private planes-- private planes dropping explosives, the first and only domestic aerial assault of its kind on an American city here in Tulsa. Eight of Greenwood's nearly two dozen churches burned like Mount Zion across the street at Vernon AME. Mother Randall said it was like a war. Mother Fletcher says all these years later she still sees Black bodies around.

The Greenwood newspaper publisher AJ Smitherton-- excuse me, Smitherman-- penned a poem of what he heard and felt that night. And here's the poem. He said, "Kill them. Burn them. Set the pace. Teach them how to keep their place. Rain of murder, theft, and plunder was the order of the night." That's what he remembered in the poem that he wrote.

100 years ago at this hour on this first day of June, smoke darkening the Tulsa sky rising from 35 blocks of Greenwood that were left in ash and ember, raised in rubble. Less than 24 hours-- in less than 24 hours, 1,100 Black homes and businesses were lost. Insurance companies-- they had insurance, many of them-- rejected claims of damage. 10,000 people were left destitute and homeless, placed in internment camps.

As I was told today, they were told don't you mentioned you were ever in a camp or we'll come and get you. That's what survivors told me. Yet no one-- no arrest of the mob were made, none.

No proper accounting of the dead. The death toll records by local officials said there were 36 people. That's all, 36 people. Based on studies, records, and accounts, the likelihood-- likely number is much more in the multiple of hundreds, untold bodies dumped into mass graves. Families who at a time waited for hours and days to know the fate of their loved ones are now descendants who have gone 100 years without closure.

But you know, as we speak, the process-- the process of exhuming the unmarked graves has started. And at this moment, I'd like to pause for a moment of silence for the fathers, the mothers, the sisters, sons, and daughters, friends of God and Greenwood. They deserve dignity, and they deserve our respect. May their souls rest in peace.

My fellow Americans, this was not a riot. This was a massacre.