American Horror Stories That Didn’t Make It Into Your Textbooks
America is a proud nation, and quite rightly so. The Constitution, the moon landings, and the McRib? That was all us, and that's just the tip of the red, white, and blue iceberg. However, there are people who -- rightfully -- feel like we've buried a lot of shameful stuff in our proverbial backyard. In the interests of fairness, we decided to break open the forbidden texts and spill the goss on those times when we were less home of the brave, and more home of the buttholes ...
Early 20th Century Striking Coal Miners Were Regularly Beaten, Murdered for Striking
Every year on International Workers Day (May 1st), the world's workers link arms and give thanks for the hard-fought victories won by the labor movement -- and when we say "hard-fought," we mean that shit. Although labor rights violations and union-busting is still a thing, the garbage that big companies like Google and Amazon are pulling is nothing compared to the horrors and miseries that old-timey turn-of-the-century coal miners had to endure. During the 'coal wars,' the rich didn't break unions and strikes with shady consultancy firms and pink slips, but with private armies, armored vehicles, and chemical weapons.
Only, we've got a bit of a problem because there are too many examples for us to run down ...
... so instead, we're going to run a highlight (lowlight?) reel.
In April 1914, a group of coal miners, and their families, striking against the Rockefeller-owned Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, were machine-gunned down by the Colorado National Guard. The attack killed 66 men, women, and children, many of whom died after being shot in the back as they fled. Of the casualties, 11 children and two women had been killed after the Guard set fire to an infirmary tent. The kicker? The massacre was triggered because the miners (allegedly) traded gunfire with a group of militiamen that regularly raided the miners' camps. The double kicker? These militiamen were paid by the Colorado National Guard ... who themselves were paid by none other than John D. Rockefeller, Jr. himself. He later attempted to justify the slaughter on the super-shaky grounds that the militiamen and soldiers were just minding their own business one day when they were suddenly jumped by "the entire tent colony." Which meant the "defenders of law and property" had no choice but to kill everyone. You know how it is, right?
There's also the Bisbee Deportation of 1917 -- in which a mining company in Bisbee, AZ, illegally kidnapped 1,300 mineworkers, their families, and any random passerby who looked even the slightest bit uniony. The company deported them to New Mexico inside cattle cars, in sweltering conditions, and without food or water. At the end of the journey, the hostages were greeted by the U.S. Army, who, on the orders of President Woodrow Wilson, escorted them to safety and set them up with new lodgings. If they returned to Bisbee, they'd likely be murdered by the city's corrupt leadership, who -- according to a later investigation by the DoJ -- were running the town like an anti-union dictatorship, complete with kangaroo courts, harassment, and lynchings.
And in 1921, there was the Battle of Blair Mountain, which saw a stand-off between a group of 10,000 striking coal miners in West Virginia and a 30,000-strong coalition of strike-breakers, sheriffs, state police, and troops. It devolved into a five-day-long warathon of bullets, homemade bombs, and even chemical weapons leftover from WWI. The battle is now regarded as the largest civil uprising since the Civil War, which is a pretty fucking high bar to beat. Not that Google won't try, of course.
Bear With Us, But Maybe North Korea Has a Point
Why do the people of North Korea hate America? If you were to ask the average person on the street, they'd say something about how they hate our decadent, capitalist ways; how they think we're "imperialist pigdogs;" and how they're brainwashed into believing all of the above by the horrifying propaganda that Kim Jong-un et al. pump out.
True, North Korea is a totalitarian dictatorship run by a madman with a penchant for concentration camps, genocide, and yes, brainwashing. Still, it's bullshit to say that they don't have some justifiable reasons for hating our asses.
During the Korean War, the U.S. dropped over 635,000 tons of bombs and 32,000 tons of napalm on North Korea. These bombing raids, however, didn't just target military installations and positions. They also targeted civilian population centers and vital infrastructures such as hospitals, dams, and power systems. This -- according to no less an authority than Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay himself -- resulted in the deaths of 20% of the country's population during the three-year-long conflict. That's one in five people.
And that was the intentional murder. As a consequence of razing entire cities, millions of people were made homeless and destitute, and soon enough, disease and starvation started to claim just as many lives.
Just to reiterate, for the peanut gallery, this isn't to say that Kim Jong-un and the WPK are tortured anti-heroes who are justified in acting like monsters. It is, however, worth pointing out that the next time you see a news article talking about how average North Koreans are "taught to hate" America, just consider that maybe, just maybe, they have a slight justification. We might never have dropped a baby down a well, but that's just because we bombed the wells.
The U.S. Military Had a Training Academy for Latin American War Criminals
Over the years, the CIA has been responsible for more coups than a flock of talkative pigeons and installed more strongmen in backdoors than your mom. But what happens when their future banana republic doesn't have the requisite amount of evil necessary to pull off the job? Well, they get shipped off to the U.S. Army's School of the Americas -- also known as SOA because SOB was considered too "on the nose."
Founded in 1946, the SOA is a training school that, over the years, has provided counterinsurgency training to over 83,000 security forces hailing from Latin America. The only problem is ... well, you know how a staggering amount of people from your high school are now in prison? The SOA is like that, but with dictators, death squads, and assassins.
The SOA doesn't have an alumni program, so there aren't exact figures, but since opening up shop, the SOA has spawned a veritable rogue's gallery of dickheads. There's Leopoldo Galtieri, who, before spending a year as military dictator of Argentina, commanded a death squad during the 'Dirty War.' Also, Hugo Banzer, who as President of Bolivia during the 1970s, had 4,000 of his political opponents kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. Then there are Raul Iturriaga, Manuel Contreras, and Miguel Krassnoff, who all held high-ranking positions in the Chilean secret police under Augusto Pinochet. And, finally, 19 of the 25 members of the El Salvadoran Atlacatl Battalion, who, in 1989, walked into a university and massacred a group of priests and students for being outspoken critics of the country's military dictatorship.
The SOA was closed in January 2001 and replaced with the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). However, they're essentially the exact same school with the exact same mission -- albeit with one crucial difference, in that they don't just train foreign sociopaths that have little-to-no regard for human rights anymore. They also train ICE.
A Racist Mob Burned Down 'Black Wall Street'
Last year, the premiere episode of Watchmen introduced several people to the very real Tulsa Race Massacre. It's a terrifying opening scene, as a mob of angry racists marches through an area of Tulsa, OK, indiscriminately shooting and murdering any black people they can get their hands on:
So, how did Tusla get to that point? Well, in the early twentieth century, Oklahoma -- like many states - was a racist hellscape where discrimination was lawful, lynchings were a wholesome community activity, and the KKK were goddamn superheroes. Despite this, the black residents of Tulsa managed to carve out a corner of the city for themselves: Greenwood, aka Black Wall Street, a thriving district that played host not just to the city's black population, but hundreds of black-owned businesses, services, and community spots.
However, it all came crashing down in 1921. On May 30, a black shoeshiner called Dick Rowland was accused of assaulting a white elevator operator. The police wrote the incident off as an accident, but took Rowland to the local jail for questioning ... and that's when the death threats came rolling in. Fearing that someone would come for Rowland, the police chief had him transferred to a secure jail on the top floor of the local courthouse. By this point, it was only a few racist nuts. As long as the incident didn't get widespread attention, everything would be fi--
Within hours of this headline being printed, the courthouse was surrounded by a mob of several hundred people calling for Rowland's blood. The local chief ordered his men to barricade the doors and shoot anyone who intruded -- even whitey.
After hearing about Rowland's plight, a group of 50-60 black men armed with rifles and shotguns then arrived from Greenwood to assist the chief in keeping Rowland safe. In turn, this caused the crowd -- which was in a middle of a full-on fever pitch panic about how a "negro uprising" was going down -- to go home and get THEIR guns, at which point the inevitable happened. A single shot was fired, and within minutes, several men were dead.
Outnumbered, the group of black men retreated towards Greenwood, exchanging gunfire with the ever-growing angry white avalanche behind them. The hate mob had taken to looting stores they passed in search of additional weapons, ammunition, and murder supplies. Soon enough, the racists entered Greenwood and set fire to every home and business they passed, while shooting indiscriminately at any black person they saw.
The local fire department arrived on the scene in an attempt to put out the blazes but got shot at by bigots intent on making sure Greenwood burned. "It would mean a fireman's life to turn a stream of water on one of those negro building," described a local firefighter afterward. "They shot at us all morning when we were trying to do something, but none of my men were hit."
By daybreak on June 1, the rioters were still burning, shooting, and breaking into people's homes. Then "a dozen or more" planes -- launched from a nearby airfield -- had started circling the neighborhood and dropping "burning turpentine balls" onto businesses to finish the job. By this point, many of the city's black residents had fled.
By noon, a local unit of the National Guard had arrived on-site and put an end to the violence. But the damage was already done. In the space of a single night, over 200 local businesses and 1,200 homes had been torched. 6,000 of the city's black residents had been illegally rounded up and imprisoned, while countless thousands of others had been injured.
As for the death toll, we have no idea. At the time, the local statistics bureau recorded that 'only' 36 people had been killed. While a state commission in 2001 found a similar figure of recorded deaths, it estimated that the actual death count could be as high as 300 because, in the days after the riot, a lot of people were buried with improper documentation.
In the decades after the riot, the city came together to reconcile and remember this shameful part of their hist- just kidding, they decided to forget it and move on. That is, until 1996 and the formation of the Tulsa Race Massacre Commission, which was set up not just to understand the events of that day, but also to -- and brace yourself, racists -- decide what reparations the black community was owed. A lot, it turns out.
In recent years, and as a result of work by countless activists, authors, and politicians, the tragedy of Black Wall Street has been re-told. While it'd be easy for us to crack a joke about how it was brought to everyone's attention by Watchmen of all things, we're just glad something did.
Top Image: Library of Congress