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By midnight on Tuesday, May 31, 1921, some Greenwood residents assumed the riot was calming down. Many families, far away from the action at the courthouse, hadn’t even heard about the violence, and went to bed as usual. But as much of the city slumbered, the white mob was transforming into something even more deadly: a highly organized, strategic force led by volunteer soldiers.

That force held its fire until daybreak on Wednesday, June 1, when it sprang into action. All over Greenwood, men, women and children found themselves under siege, their homes, businesses and churches under attack from land and sky. Greenwood’s proud residents would defend themselves until they could defend themselves no more — calling the very survival of their fabled community into question.


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