visiting cma? MAP IT


Reflections on Race in America

I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot. I will not. And other survivors do not. And our descendants do not.”- Viola Fletcher, survivor of The 1921 Race Riot.

Demonstrating respect and inclusion for one another in the present involves recognizing and appreciating the past. As Viola Fletcher shared in her quote above, while survivors and their descendants have searing memories and experiences related to the 1921 Race Riot, many others may not know about or understand the significance of the event. The same could be said of Juneteenth, a holiday with cultural significance for Black and African Americans but one that remains unfamiliar for many others.

In an effort to enhance our awareness of diverse experiences – past and present – and to commemorate events that have particular cultural significance for many Black and African American people, we want to share some information about two events: Juneteenth and the 1921 Race Riot.

  • Juneteenth: In April 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union Army, marking the end of the Civil War. Two months later, on June 19, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX and informed African Americans of their freedom. In honor of this event, “June” and “19” were combined and the holiday “Juneteenth” was born. The day is also sometimes referred to as “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day,” or “Emancipation Day.” Communities and families gather – making annual pilgrimages to Galveston and/or participating in parades and block parties – to commemorate freedom from slavery.
  • 1921 Race Riot: Nearly 60 years after enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas were informed of their freedom, a White mob attacked community members in the Black neighborhood of Greenwood (located in Tulsa, Oklahoma). Residents were murdered and homes and businesses (including a thriving area called “Black Wall Street”) were destroyed. According to the Tulsa Race Riot Commission’s 2001 report, hundreds of survivors were rounded up at gunpoint and forced to march to camps, where they were held for weeks and many were forced to labor without pay. It was reported that survivors also recounted seeing Black bodies being dumped into the Arkansas River and into mass graves.

Black history is American history. Helping everybody to know about these historical events and the significance they hold is important as we all recognize and appreciate one another – in and out of work.

Maya Angelou has famously said, “When you know better, you do better.” As such, if this brief blog has shed light on some gaps in your own knowledge, we encourage you to better understand what those gaps are and work to fill them. Below are some resources we have collected to assist you as you deepen your knowledge and understanding.

By Jordan Collins, M.S. and Shirley Godwin, M.S.