Almost every African American in the U.S. knew about Black Wall Street and the 1921’s Tulsa Race Massacre. We also knew that no one has ever been
prosecuted for the killings and that all insurance claims were rejected.
But it took last month’s Congressional hearing—almost 100 years later—and
HBO’s Watchmen (the massacre was in the opening scene)—for everyone
else to care?
For almost a century, the Black community has complained about the
lack of action in unsolved, racially motivated murders of the Civil
Rights era. Thanks to a new generation of unapologetically Black
politicians (that we voted into office) and district attorneys who
have pushed for these cases to be heard, we saw some change in the
past two decades. In 1996, a federal grand jury reopened the Alabama
church bombing that killed four girls that resulted in well-publicized
convictions in 2000.
But time is running out, as many of the aging white defendants are
dying off, and things aren’t moving fast enough.
Today the White House announced its first set of nominees for the
Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board, which was signed into law
last year by former President Donald Trump, ironically.
The nominees are Clayborne Carson, a Martin Luther King, Jr., Centennial Professor of History (Emeritus) at Stanford, who has devoted his life to King and the movements he has inspired; Gabrielle Dudley, an Instruction Archivist at the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University, who is also a founding member of the Atlanta Black Archives Alliance; Henry Klibanoff, a veteran journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize in History in 2007 for The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle and the Awakening of a Nation, a book he co-authored regarding the news coverage of the civil rights struggle in the South, and who is also the founder of Buried Truths, a history podcast which focuses on the injustices dealt to African Americans; and Margaret Burnham, who has served as a state court judge, a civil rights lawyer, and a human rights commissioner, and is currently a law professor at Northeastern University School of Law, and the founder and director of the Northeastern University Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project.
The Board will have the jurisdiction to declassify government files
and subpoena new testimony in hopes of reopening civil rights-related
cases and uncovering secrets as to why these cases were
never investigated. The White House hopes the Senate will quickly move
nominees as the law was established with nearly unanimous bipartisan
The world needs an official account of the atrocities that happened
to Blacks during the Civil Rights Era. No more word of mouth. No more
"she said, he said".
That observation is the reason why Nelson Mandela launched
the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings in South Africa with Rev.
Desmond Tutu—to create a formal document of atrocities under apartheid
so that whites can’t look back in 100 years to dismiss it as “not that
Maybe this can be the start of something similar.
With the current White House administration, we might just have that.