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Ellison visits Greenwood, 1921

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

by Quraysh Ali Lansana

oklahoma sun an oppressive neighbor in august 1920. churchgoers settle after-dinner stomachs. deep deuce a murmuring disquiet: raid at the chandler’s.

moonshine & melanin the news on the street. daddy chandler & one officer dead & young claude jailed with alleged murder on his shirt. the christian sabbath a buzzing lynching bee

three white men freed claude from his cage one thousand armed black men on 2nd street mayor & police allow one of three cars of now unarmed black men to find claude

to return the next sweltering midday without him, his body rotting meat ten miles from okc beaten & shot. miss ida had had enough. her lewis gone years now, she frets when ralph

delivers the dispatch & herbert still too young to spell KKK. maybe indiana. maybe gary, where brother works steel. a stop in greenwood to visit family on way north. hundreds of shops

businesses, elegant houses, hospitals. vibrant black life in the face of jim crow, so unlike the deuce. closer to the harlem ralph would know. gary was not negro paradise. ida jobless, the boys

eating garbage from trash cans. okc was hateful but at least familiar. dry heat stings black skin irritable but somehow bearable with family. highway leads them back to tulsa before 2nd street.

greenwood was gone. black wall street now invisible.

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