Oscarville was a predominantly Black town.
“Over the past couple of years, more Americans have become familiar with the story of the Tulsa race massacre, where a white mob burned a vibrant Black community to the ground, which is crazy,” says Ruffin.
And we agree.
“Even crazier. Dozens of other Black towns have been erased off the American map, not by burning them down, but by hiding them underwater,” Ruffin reveals.
“Don’t know what I mean. Well, let’s find out in a segment called we get here. This is lake linear. It’s a lake in Forsyth county, Georgia, where people go swimming and boating and fishing and do a bunch of other lakey things. But before it was Lake Lanier, it was a town called Oscar Ville, Georgia. Now Oscar Ville was a thriving, predominantly Black community with a church, a school and dozens of homes until the year 1912, when a very bad thing happened. Oh, two very bad things. In 1912, two Black teenagers were accused of rape. “
She continued, “They were tried convicted and sentenced to death in a single day. And after they were executed, a mob of white men terrorized drove out or killed all the Black people in the surrounding area. And they did that until the entire Black community of Oscar Ville disappeared. The county went from having over 1000 black residents in 1912 to zero in 1920. That story is so sad.”
“The theory is that the short-term bad effects are worth the long-term benefits for the community. But it’s not fair if the long-term gain is mostly for white people. Now, luckily there’s a solution. It’s a very complicated system. It involves a series of art. Who am I kidding?” she says.
“Cut some dang checks. That’s it. If you’re going to kick Black people out of their homes, make sure they have the money to stay on their feet. Cut a dang check. And yes, you can pay their descendants too, because generational wealth is one of the many things that is destroyed when you put Black communities underwater. So cut a dang check.”