The role of robust, state-sponsored force in America’s racial conflicts, which so shocked the country in Ferguson, Missouri, this month is far from unprecedented. In just one but by far the bloodiest example, the Tulsa race riot of 1921, the local police armed and enlisted white men to fight groups of blacks who had taken up weapons and called in the National Guard to “restore order”—which at the time meant rounding up black men en masse and putting them in detention camps, Politico reports.
When a rumor started that men were coming from a nearby Oklahoma town to help defend Greenwood, the besieged black community, Tulsa authorities put out a machine gun crew to stop them.
The result was the largest civil disturbance in American history, claiming 300 lives and destroying more than 1,200 homes in a prosperous community known as Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, Politico reports.
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