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Tulsa Race Massacre survivors Viola Fletcher and Hughes Van Ellis watch as President Biden speaks during a commemoration of the massacre's 100th anniversary. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The acts of hate in Tulsa 100 years ago bear a "through line that exists today," President Biden said Tuesday, as he commemorated the anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Why it matters: The massacre, which killed an estimated 300 people and burned multiple blocks of the Black neighborhood Greenwood, is considered one of the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history. Survivors and their descendants have pressed for reparations for decades.

  • "I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire," Viola Fletcher, one of the last living survivors, testified before a House committee in May. "I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot."

What he's saying: "For much too long, the history of what took place here was told in silence, cloaked in darkness," Biden said. "Just because history is silent, it doesn't mean that it did not take place, and while darkness can hide much, it erases nothing."

  • That night, "'Mother' Fletcher says they fell asleep rich in terms of wealth, not real wealth but a different wealth, a wealth in community and heritage," Biden said. "One night changed everything."
  • "[T]his was not a riot. This was a massacre — among the worst in our history, but not the only one. And for too long, forgotten by our history. As soon as it happened, there was a clear effort to erase it from our memory, our collective memory," Biden noted. "Tulsa didn't even teach the massacre" for years.
  • "We can't choose to just learn what we want to know and not what we should know."

In his speech, Biden unveiled a set of policies aimed at closing the wealth gap between white and Black people.

Worth noting: Some of Biden's proposals have drawn backlash from the NAACP, whose leader criticized the plan's failure to cancel student debt, the Washington Post reports.

The big picture: Biden met with survivors earlier on Tuesday after touring the Greenwood Cultural Center.

Go deeper

Biden unveils plans to combat racial wealth gap on anniversary of Tulsa massacre

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden will announce new actions on Tuesday aimed at closing the racial wealth gap as he commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Driving the news: Biden will unveil the policies during a visit to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a white mob destroyed America's wealthiest Black neighborhood in 1921 in what is considered to be the single worst episode of racial violence in U.S. history.

Biden proclaims day of remembrance on 100th anniversary of Tulsa massacre

President Biden speaks during a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on Monday. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden issued a proclamation to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre and declared Monday to be a "Day of Remembrance."

Driving the news: Biden said he wanted Americans to reflect on "this solemn centennial" the "deep roots of racial terror in our nation and recommit to the work of rooting out systemic racism across our country."

Updated Jun 1, 2021 - Politics & Policy

In photos: Tulsa honors massacre victims, 100 years on

Tulsa Race Massacre survivors Viola Fletcher and Hughes Van Ellis attend a soil dedication ceremony for victims of the white supremacists' rampage in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 31. Photo: Christian Monterrosa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre, civil rights leaders and scores of other Americans came together in the Oklahoma city Monday to mark the 100th anniversary of the atrocity.

The big picture: The Greenwood District of Tulsa has marked the 1921 killing of some 300 Black residents by a white mob that destroyed a thriving, middle-class Black community over the past three days with peaceful protests, "parades, concerts and panel discussions," per the Washington Post.

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