While in Bulgaria we are making frantic efforts to build highways, in the United States there are already some that need to be demolished. One is the Interstate 244, built in the 1970s and passing through the historic Greenwood neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Right there 100 years ago, in 1921, a white mob abused colored people, killing 300 people and destroying 35 acres of commercial and residential space. In the late 1960s, the area was declared “gloomy” and pointed to demolition in the name of “urban renewal”. Because of Highway I-244, similar destruction occurred in African American neighborhoods in the 1960s and 1970s. Now many of these highways are nearing the end of their lives. The report now identifies 15 of the worst roads in the United States and recommends removing them, which would ease pollution, stimulate economic development and dismantle a tool that has long been used to maintain racial segregation. According to 2010 data, 11.3 million people live 150 meters from a major highway, mostly people from racial and ethnic minorities.
The Freeways Without Futures report was published by the Congress on New Urbanism (CNU), an organization that advocates for better cities. They are proposing the deployment of Democrat President Joe Biden’s $ 20 billion infrastructure plan.
They focus on highways such as I-10 in New Orleans and I-81 in Syracuse. People in these areas, mostly minorities, suffer from asthma, lung disease and heart disease. According to a CNU report, the homes of at least 1 million Americans have been nationalized because of highways.
Today, the destruction of segregated highways can also be read as part of the general Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, which opposes racism and violence against blacks, especially police violence.
The riots in Tulsa
The racial riots in Tulsa, Oklahoma, began in May 1921. This is one of the bloodiest events in US history. Dick Rowland, a black man, is accused of assaulting a young girl. Immediately after the incident, the press and local radio published the story. It was this mass noise that created tension among the seemingly peaceful population of Tulsa. Rowland’s case reached the court, where a crowd of more than 2,000 residents gathered in and in front of the courtroom.
When black residents understand, they also gather in front of the courtroom, armed with firearms. The first shot of one of the black men echoes from the white crowd. This shot marked the beginning of the first racially based riots. Thousands of blacks are fleeing the city, and more than 4,000 have been detained. The Oklahoma military intervened to quell the riots, ending the July 1, 1921 riots. In 2 days a large part of the city was set on fire.
It is not yet clear how many people died during the riots. It is estimated that there are between 55 and 300 people. More than 8,000 have been injured and hundreds are fleeing the city in search of a new home. The riots burned more than 190 businesses, 1,200 houses and left more than 10,000 people on the streets. Now, nearly 100 years later, experts at the University of Oklahoma believe they have discovered a mass grave of those killed in the riots.
One of the US highways also passes through the place.