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“Down the street from the actual Greenwood Cultural Center, Cleo Harris sat in his T-shirt shop remembering the first time he talked about the tragedy with a white man. Mr. Harris was working as a truck driver, and somehow the event more commonly known as the Tulsa Race Riot came up. When Mr. Harris said it should be recognized as a massacre, the white man became belligerent. “He thought it was all about reparations,” Mr. Harris told me.
No one is sure how many people died; estimates range from around 75 to over 300. Virtually every black citizen was left homeless. Over 30 city blocks were completely destroyed. Commandeered airplanes dropped firebombs on Greenwood. The change in the wording around 1921, then, is more than mere semantics. “It reflects the intentionality of the destruction,” Mr. Armstrong said.”