How 60 years of racial violence shaped America

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The acts of racial violence we’ve described here represent only a few of the atrocities historians continue to learn about today.

Anniversaries, like that of Tulsa, become an opportunity for entire towns to reinvestigate their pasts, and we found that individuals did a lot of this work – either professional historians or local history enthusiasts.

Local media have been key in publicizing historians’ work that has sparked conversations about these events. We’ve also seen newspapers that were able to rely on their own archives for these reinvestigations, like the Chicago Tribune.

Researchers who’ve long studied these events are increasingly combining them into digital projects, where patterns are more visible to a broader audience. The Racial Violence Archive was created by professor Geoff Ward at Washington University in St. Louis. He told CNN he created the archive because he saw that so many of these stories had been suppressed and “the digital archive offers another way into this research and hopefully the work of reckoning.”

James Loewen, who wrote the bestseller “Lies My Teacher Told Me” before his book “Sundown Towns,” has long had a database where he and his small, mostly volunteer team collect submissions on towns that tried to push out people of color. He told CNN he still hears of new incidents and puts them on his site.

Organizations like Blackpast.org, the Smithsonian Institution and PBS also have put free resources online about this history.

Like Forsyth, communities across the country are working with the Equal Justice Initiative and others to erect markers commemorating their violent histories, an interesting phenomenon as more and more monuments to the Confederacy come down.

Finally, whenever we researched an incident for this project, we looked to see if there had been any official repayment of funds or return of property. In many cases, governments have offered official apologies or recognized the victims of racial violence, but survivors and descendants have rarely received any monetary compensation for what they suffered.

That includes the 1921 Tulsa massacre, for which no one has ever been held accountable, and no compensation has been provided to those who survived despite ongoing efforts.



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