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Group aims to honor Tulsa race riot victims, build economy

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A new commission aims to tell the story of 300 black residents of Tulsa who died during one of the worst race riots in American history and to act as a catalyst to drive new businesses to the Oklahoma city, the group’s leaders said Friday.

About 800 residents were also injured in the Tulsa race riots of late May 31 and early June 1, 1921, and more than 8,000 were left homeless after firebombs destroyed movie palaces, churches and hotels and decimated the economic and cultural mecca that had become known as Black Wall Street on the north side of the city.

The black community rebuilt in the decades that followed, but that progress was wiped out during urban renewal programs in the 1950s and 1960s. That part of the city is still scarred by the economic toll the riot took and the tear-downs that followed years later.

“The reason (the group) is needed is so many people are unaware of the tragic end of that disastrous evening and to commemorate those whose lives were lost,” project manager Jamaal Dyer said at a news conference to announce the creation of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Centennial Commission.

Black leaders hope to bring 100 businesses to Tulsa by the 2021 anniversary of the riot, and are looking for manufacturers, grocery store owners and housing developers to move to the city.

They also hope to use the history of the area and the riot to boost cultural tourism, said Donna Jackson, the executive director of the initiative.

“We want people to know that we’re resilient, that we’re building and rebuilding,” Jackson said Friday. “We want people to know we’re open for business.”

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