Can We Learn From History? The Tulsa Race Massacre, The Deadly Philadelphia Parade, and Covid-19

The skeptical cardiologist is in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma this Father’s Day weekend visiting Pops Pearson after a 2 week quarantine and a 6 hour drive. As fate would have it, we are not too far from the BOK Center in nearby Tulsa, where MAGA supporters have been queuing up since Thursday night in anticipation of President Trump’s campaign rally there today.

Tulsa’s local news has become national news as yesterday there were peaceful gatherings celebrating Juneteenth in the Tulsa Greenwood area and today it becomes the epicenter of Trump’s reelection campaign, and perhaps the epicenter of COVID-19 resurgence.

The Tulsa Race Massacre

Despite growing up in nearby Bartlesville and visiting Tulsa frequently over the years, until recently I was unaware of the horrible atrocities committed in the Greenwood area in 1921.

The New York Times yesterday published an article entitled “The Burning of Black Wall Street, Revisited” which provides details on what is now also termed the Tulsa Race Massacre.

” in the prosperous black district of Greenwood, white vigilantes systematically torched nearly 40 square blocks. Gone in the blink of an eye were more than 1,000 homes, a dozen churches, five hotels, 31 restaurants, four drugstores and eight doctors’ offices, as well as a public library and a hospital. As many as 9,000 black Tulsans were left homeless. Photographs from the period depict shellshocked survivors being marched at gunpoint to temporary concentration camps.


The Rally

For unclear reasons, Donald Trump has decided to have a campaign rally today about a mile from Greenwood, and in a state and city facing an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Below is the most recent graph of cases from Tulsa County’s health department:

covid tulsa

As USA Today noted, the Governor of Oklahoma seems unaware of the recent rise in cases and is confident that Oklahoma has safely reopened.

Oklahoma cases of COVID-19 rose by 450 on Thursday, blowing past the record 259 daily cases reported on Wednesday, as the surge of infections continued ahead of a massive rally for President Donald Trump and demonstrations set for this weekend in Tulsa.The Oklahoma State Health Department’s daily update showed Oklahoma City added 80 cases and Tulsa added 82, as the state’s total rose to 9,354. There were two additional deaths, raising the total to 366. The figures were released not long after Gov. Kevin Stitt participated at a roundtable at the White House and told Trump that Oklahoma was “one of the first states that has safely and measurably reopened.” “Oklahoma is ready for your visit,” the governor said. “It’s going to be safe and everyone’s really really excited.”

An opinion piece in the Tulsa World suggests “No matter how you feel about it, Saturday’s rally in Tulsa matters to us all:”

“Trump’s rally has turned Tulsa into a giant medical experiment with tremendous political implications. At issue is whether 19,000 people can be packed into an arena for hours on end while thousands more mingle in streets and parks outside without spreading COVID-19 and multiplying the deaths and debilitating aftereffects.

If they can, the lid almost certainly will come off. Concerts and sports events — and political rallies — will be back in business, no matter what public health officials say.

But if they can’t, the lid is likely to come down hard.

For Trump, the rally could be a wash, just another event among many.

Or, if things go well — if the crowds are large and adoring, if the incalculables go in his favor, if there is no associated COVID-19 spike — it could launch him toward a second term.

But if things don’t go well — if an acceleration of COVID-19 is traced to the rally, if even two or three people who contract it die, if there is violence that adheres to the president — it could be a turning point in the other direction.”

The Deadliest Parade in American History

My wife has been reading John Barry’s “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History” and has pointed out to me several times the significance of a parade that took place in Philadelphia in accelerating the transmission of the Spanish Flu.

Per Wikipedia the “Philadelphia Liberty Loans Parade” was a parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 28, 1918, organized to promote government bonds that helped pay for the needs of Allied troops in World War I. More than 200,000 Philadelphians attended the parade, which led to one of the largest outbreaks of the Spanish Flu in the United States. It has since been declared the “deadliest parade in American history.”

At the height of World War I, history’s most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in twenty-four months than AIDS killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century

Barry concludes, “The final lesson of 1918, a simple one yet one most difficult to execute, is that…those in authority must retain the public’s trust. The way to do that is to distort nothing, to put the best face on nothing, to try to manipulate no one. Lincoln said that first, and best. A leader must make whatever horror exists concrete. Only then will people be able to break it apart.”

Skeptically Yours,


N.B. More history we should be aware of:

Per Wikipedia, “Broken Arrow’s name comes from an old Creek community in Alabama. Members of that community were expelled from Alabama by the United States government, along the Trail of Tears in the 1830s. The Creek founded a new community in the Indian Territory and named it after their old settlement in Alabama. The town’s Creek name was Rekackv (pronounced thlee-Kawtch-kuh), meaning broken arrow. The new Creek settlement was located several miles south of present-day downtown Broken Arrow.”

….and something that Trump’s Tulsa visit has brought to the forefront:

“Juneteeth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, when Union troops at the end of the Civil War reached Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to inform African-Americans there of the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued two years before.”



27 thoughts on “Can We Learn From History? The Tulsa Race Massacre, The Deadly Philadelphia Parade, and Covid-19”

  1. World War II in Color in a separate series, and it too is excellent.

    This America in Color series starts with the first photos available, around 1850, and features Brady’s photos of the Civil War.

    Brady’s photos brought the horrors of the Civil War into people’s homes, with none of the honour and glory that was promised to those who enlisted.

    The original black and white photos were horrific, but when coloured they became more gory.

    Lincoln’s colour photos were impressive, with his grey eyes being quite remarkable.

    The photos Brady took were on large glass plates, with great detail, so were ideal to be colorised.

    So the series started around 1850, and I got up to about 1930, including seeing Lindbergh’s triumph. I am half way through that episode, with the rest of the series being recorded.

    Both are wonderful series. The other series is The World at War, all about WW2, with excellent analysis and original footage. This is a repeat, originally released around 1974. It was the most costly factual series ever produced.

  2. Here in Australia we watch many quality TV shows, especially from the USA and UK.

    We have been fascinated by the new series “America in Colour”.

    Old black and white photos and films have been colorised, giving an amazingly realistic lifelike effect.

    We saw film of life in Greenwood Tulsa before and after the terrible events.

    Film of KKK marchers, with many women as members, was astonishing.

    I highly recommend this series to anyone interested in history.

  3. I very much enjoy your blogs. A virus knows no political leanings, nor does it discriminate. (My grandfather, a lawyer from Milan, died in PA in the 1918 pandemic at age 34, leaving 8 kids.)

    Having government sponsored indoor assemblies or meetings without masks is extremely negligent, in my opinion, and maskless outdoor crowds will prolong our recovery.

    I appreciate your thoughts that you were unaware of the history of the Tulsa massacre. I’ve found that many folks simply had no idea. I appreciate your sensitivity to that.

    As for me, having a low immune system? I’m staying in!

    You keep blogging, I’ll keep reading! (In fact, I have a heart/breathing/anesthesia question I’m pretty sure you can answer..)

    Pleased to hear you had a good Father’s Day!

  4. Thank you for a most interesting article – I was not aware of the historical issues that would be of significance to many.

    It is important that respected scientists like yourself express your views.

    It is to your great credit that you choose to publish criticisms.

    I look forward to your next post

  5. Your history is very poor indeed. Who controlled the south after the civil war and required other intervention. Alabama had only one state rep and senator after the civil war who was the sole member of what party.
    Have you studied the KKK. One would align them
    with The radical anti fascist. They were anti Jew anti catholic and anti communism and anti black. They had their own eco/political agenda. White supremacy label is more related to radical left ideologies.
    Gutzon Borglum the person who carved mount Rushmore has a strong northeastern history, liberal as many of the times. Oddly enough in 1923 he was one of the 5 senior knights of the KKK. See why he did what he’d did.
    Any history taught in high schools? What is taught in our universities? Why?
    Creek Indian history has a strong anti American history. Should be another study.
    The Pope just apologized to Native Americans
    Because of the destruction brought in from Spain’s
    Catholic religion.
    See how many slaves were brought into America, Central America, Caribbean, Brazil and other South American countries. You will be amazed. America was the only one who freed them.
    History! And today all thrown to the wind for the next
    Revolution. The Bible repeats it time after time.

  6. I’m disappointed in your decision to become political. I just want your usual, well-researched health information. I’ll pull the plug if you write a third PC article. Again, I am sorely disappointed in you.

  7. Enjoy time with your father. Mom & I remember him fondly. While most of Bartlesville ignores rising virus cases, we remain hunkered down here.

  8. I appreciate your assessment of the pandemic. Have you had a chance to think about/work on the ideas around infection prediction in individuals? HR variability perhaps as an early warning? Tech is coming – the Oura ring and perhaps an Apple health app. If these actually work, would they make a difference? Enjoy OK and be safe.

  9. It’s a little hard to single out Trump’s Tulsa event when for the past several weeks we’ve had unrelenting protest events in the streets of most major cities. How come his event is the one that’s an epicenter while the others get a pass? Aren’t the protests parades?

        • That’s a red herring. Your criticism of Trump’s rally is not based on their not wearing masks. You would not back off of it if they did, would you?

      • Since the starting point for the discussion was the Philadelphia parade, which was no different than the protest marches save for being in only one city, this distinction is meaningless. They are both in the danger zone, which is why it is hypocritical to give the protests a pass.

    • Except that this is an even organized by operatives for the president of the United States. It doesn’t matter to the virus, but it matters to an ethical person. The others “get a pass” from whom?

      • An ethical person might value political participation over other things. As, perhaps, protestors seem to have done.

        As for getting a pass, certain epidemiologists, and the entire left wing media.

        Frankly, I think framing risk assessment contrary to your own assessment as an ethical question is not very useful. I’m willing to assume that people who don’t share my risk assessment – which in this case is that both the protests and the rally are very risky – are ethical.

        So I think that the protestors and Trump are ethical but wrong. But I am sick & tired of the double standards involved.

        • Well, each person may feel differently and that is a “very American” thing to respect. I also appreciate the level of respect with which you share you options because out there are downright nasty (exposing their true motives), so THANK YOU “Harmon”.

          So instead of speaking for any group, I will speak for myself.

          My adult daughter and I attended the Houston protest with about 60K people. I would have NEVER done this for “political” reasons, but for the life of my young adult son (and even my daughter unfortunately), I would be willing to take a bullet. So there is a great difference in the justification for these two events in comparison.

          I can personally attest to how REAL the risk are, if we don’t go and participate in the protest. So for me and my adult children, it was not life or death, it was risky either way. At least one had the chance of saving lives for years to come.

          I’m 52 years old and I have never participated in street crime and no one who knows me would ever call me a thug. As a matter of fact, many white people who I have studied with, worked with, and loved, have called me “different” which I hate (but that’s another discussion & I educated them when that was said to me, that I am normal, not “different”). My point is that I don’t fit SOME peoples’ MISTAKEN stereotype of a black man on the street and at 12 years old I had 4 officers run up on me and a friend while walking down the sidewalk laughing and talking as friends do. They drew weapons and within seconds, for no apparent reason, we were facing 4 guns pointed directly at us. My instinct in that split second of great fear, was to run, but I thank God to this day that I did not. And yet 40 years later my son can tell you about similar incidents; and HE is a better MAN of character than I am.

          So please don’t allow unintended or maybe even unknown ignorance to remain, or political pundits to educate you on a life or fearful experiences they might have the privilege of NEVER being faced with.

          To go or not go, was a life or death decision for us (while we practice care as much as we could with changing to new mask every 45 minutes – so moisture would not aid in germ penetration of the mask). I would never take such a risk for a general political cause and especially if the organizer demonized mask wearing and other possible precautions while indoors.

          It’s not an apples to apples comparison and if we look at it as humans without the political lens it would be blatantly obvious to more people, in my opinion.

          Again, thank you for your decent comments while discussing this. It gives me hope that your intentions are pure.

          Best Regards,
          Your average African AMERICAN who just wants his and his children’s Black Lives to Matter as much as any other SO THAT all lives can one day matter.

          • Clarence,
            thanks so much for your thoughtful comments here. I have written a subsequent post on the economic impact of face mask wearing and was accused of being biased because I haven’t criticized Black lives matter protestors.
            This was my answer

            I’m aware of the bewildering bombardment with COVID19news (which I called the infodemic.) That’s one reason I don’t post frequently and try to focus on the important, well-vetted information for my readers and patients.
            With respect to bias and criticizing non mask wearers at Trump rallys-
            Trump is our president, the leader who we look to during times of national crisis and to help this situation he should be spreading the advice of his COVID-19 doctors and scientists who are uniformly advising mask wearing in a situation like an indoor political rally. But prior to the Tulsa rally “President Donald Trump told Axios on Friday that he anticipated a “wild evening” at his Saturday campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, while recommending “people do what they want” when it comes to wearing a mask at the event — and even suggested it could be harmful to wear one.”
            I would criticize a President doing this who was Democratic, Independent or Republican.. Protestors are outside where spread is much less likely and most of them are wearing masks and they are not being directed by authorities at the top of our national government.

          • Clarence –

            I have to say that I probably wouldn’t have taken masking precautions as far as you did! And I’m 20 years older than you are, with a heart condition. Based on the information available at the time, someone like me should probably have just stayed home.

            But the bone I have to pick is not about whether or not to march. It is about the hypocrisy of those who were supposed to be giving us expert medical advice, and at the critical point, abdicated that responsibility.

            In my view, if the epidemiologists were serious about their proclaimed assessment of the danger of the pandemic as existential, they should have told the marchers in no uncertain terms to stay home.

            But that advice wasn’t given, even though the country had been taking draconian measures in reliance on just that assessment up till then.

            Whether the marchers would have – or even should have – taken that advice is a different question. My guess is that despite your youth (from my perspective) your presence on this blog means your cardiovascular system is in some way compromised. Therefore, I would think that the advice your doctor would have given to you would have been, “don’t go, but if you do, take these precautions.” That’s not what I heard from the epidemiologists, though.

            I suspect that as time passes, it’s going to become evident that the pandemic, while serious, was not an existential crisis. But that, too, is a different question.

            BTW, I’ve never seen “black lives matter” as negating “all lives matter.” The first is an inescapable subset of the second, or should be. But in the context of the events leading up to the marches, the assertion that “all lives matter” in response to “black lives matter” rather misses the point, doesn’t it?

    • Yes, that is a fair comment but one difference to be noted is the organizers great efforts to encourage, support, and even provide supplies for wearing mask throughout the event(s).


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