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What happened to Black Wall Street on June 1, 1921?

February 9, 2011
A child rescuer on June 1, 1921 – with Whites out to kill them, Blacks could rely on no one but each other.
Black Wall Street, the name fittingly given to one of the most affluent all-Black communities in America, was bombed from the air and burned to the ground by mobs of envious Whites. In a period spanning fewer than 12 hours, a once thriving Black business district in northern Tulsa lay smoldering – a model community destroyed and a major African-American economic movement resoundingly defused.

The night’s carnage left some 3,000 African Americans dead and over 600 successful businesses lost. Among these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half dozen private airplanes and even a bus system. As could have been expected, the impetus behind it all was the infamous Ku Klux Klan, working in consort with ranking city officials and many other sympathizers.

Black America’s most prosperous community, Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, went up in flames June 1, 1921, in the KKK-led Tulsa Race Riot. According to Wikipedia, “During the 16 hours of the assault, over 800 people were admitted to local hospitals with injuries, an estimated 10,000 were left homeless, and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire caused by bombing.”
The best description of Black Wall Street, or Little Africa as it was also known, would be to compare it to a mini Beverly Hills. It was the golden door of the Black community during the early 1900s, and it proved that African Americans could create a successful infrastructure. That’s what Black Wall Street was all about.

The dollar circulated 36 to 100 times, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community. Now a dollar leaves the Black community in 15 minutes. As for resources, there were Ph.D.s residing in Little Africa, Black attorneys and doctors. One doctor was Dr. Berry, who owned the bus system. His average income was $500 a day, hefty pocket change in 1910.

These are Black-built, Black-owned buildings that were occupied by bustling Black businesses before envious whites rioted and destroyed them.
It was a time when the entire state of Oklahoma had only two airports, yet six Blacks owned their own planes. It was a very fascinating community.

The mainstay of the community was to educate every child. Nepotism was the one word they believed in. And that’s what we need to get back to. The main thoroughfare was Greenwood Avenue, and it was intersected by Archer and Pine Streets. From the first letters in each of those three names you get G.A.P. And that’s where the renowned R&B music group the GAP Band got its name. They’re from Tulsa.

At the end of the day, June 1, 1921, this is what remained of Black Wall Street. Lost forever were over 600 successful businesses, including 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores, two movie theaters, a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half dozen private airplanes and a bus system.
Black Wall Street was a prime example of the typical Black community in America that did business, but it was in an unusual location. You see, at the time, Oklahoma was set aside to be a Black and Indian state. There were over 28 Black townships there. One third of the people who traveled in the terrifying “Trail of Tears” alongside the Indians between 1830 and 1842 were Black people. The citizens of this proposed Indian and Black state chose a Black governor, a treasurer from Kansas named McDade. But the Ku Klux Klan said that if he assumed office that they would kill him within 48 hours.

Here, the businesses that had been the economic engine of this most prosperous Black community in the U.S. are identified.
A lot of Blacks owned farmland, and many of them had gone into the oil business.

The community was so tight and wealthy because they traded dollars hand to hand and because they were dependent upon one another as a result of the Jim Crow laws. It was not unusual that if a resident’s home accidentally burned down, it could be rebuilt within a few weeks by neighbors. This was the type of scenario that was going on day to day on Black Wall Street.

When Blacks intermarried into the Indian culture, some of them received their promised “40 acres and a mule” and with that came whatever oil was later found on the properties. On Black Wall Street, a lot of global business was conducted.

The community flourished from the early 1900s until June 1, 1921. That’s when the largest massacre of nonmilitary Americans in the history of this country took place, and it was led by the Ku Klux Klan. Imagine walking out of your front door and seeing 1,500 homes being burned. It must have been amazing.

Survivors we interviewed think that the whole thing was planned, because during the time that all of this was going on, White families with their children stood around the borders of their community and watched the massacre – the looting and everything – much in the same manner they would watch a lynching. The riots weren’t caused by anything Black or White. They were caused by jealousy.

Almost 1,500 homes were also destroyed in the 35 blocks that went up in flames and over 3,000 Black residents murdered by the Ku Klux Klan-led Tulsa Race Riot.
A lot of White folks had come back from World War I and they were poor. When they looked over into the Black communities and realized that Black men who fought in the war had come home heroes, that helped trigger the destruction. It cost the Black community everything, and not a single dime of restitution – no insurance claims – has been awarded the victims to this day. Nonetheless, they rebuilt.

We estimate 1,500 to 3,000 people were killed, and we know that a lot of them were buried in mass graves all around the city. Some were thrown into the river. As a matter of fact, at 21st Street and Yale Avenue, where there now stands a Sears parking lot, that corner used to be a coal mine. They threw a lot of the bodies into the shafts.

‘The gun went off, the riot was on’

[excerpts from a CNN report]

On the night of May 31,1921, mobs called for the lynching of Dick Rowland, a Black man who shined shoes, after hearing reports that on the previous day he had assaulted Sarah Page, a White woman, in the elevator she operated in a downtown building.

So determined were whites in Tulsa to wipe out all evidence of Blacks’ prosperity and achievement despite impossible odds, they used airplanes to firebomb Black Wall Street from the air.
A local newspaper had printed a fabricated story that Rowland tried to rape Page. In an editorial, the same newspaper said a hanging was planned for that night. As groups of both Blacks and Whites converged on the Tulsa Courthouse, a White man in the crowd confronted an armed Black man, a war veteran, who had joined with other Blacks to protect Rowland.

Eddie Faye Gates, a member of the Tulsa Race Riot Commission, formed several years ago to determine exactly what happened, told CNN what happened next.

“This White man,” she said, asked the Black man, “What are you doing with this gun?” “I’m going to use it if I have to,” the Black man said, according to Gates, “and (the White man) said, ‘No, you’re not. Give it to me,’ and he tried to take it. The gun went off, the White man was dead, the riot was on.”

Truckloads of Whites set fires and shot Blacks on sight. When the smoke lifted the next day, more than 1,400 homes and businesses in Tulsa’s Greenwood District, a prosperous area known as the “Black Wall Street,” lay in ruins. Today, only a single block of the original buildings remains standing in the area. Experts now estimate that at least 3,000 died.

‘We’re in a heck of a lot of trouble’

Beulah Smith was 14 years old the night of the riot. A neighbor named Frenchie came pounding on her family’s door in a Tulsa neighborhood known as “Little Africa” that also went up in flames.

As fires set by white rioters raged, claiming all they held dear, Black men who fought back to protect their families, homes and businesses were arrested and killed. There were outnumbered 10 to one. Here, a white man with a shotgun guards the body of a Black man and several prisoners outside Tulsa’s Convention Hall.
“Get your families out of here because they’re killing Niggers uptown,” she remembers Frenchie saying. “We hid in the weeds in the hog pen,” Smith told CNN.

People in a mob that came to Kenny Booker’s house asked, “Nigger, do you have a gun?” he told CNN. Booker, then a teenager, hid with his family in their attic until the home was torched. “When we got downstairs, things were burning. My sister asked me, ‘Kenny, is the world on fire?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but we’re in a heck of a lot of trouble, baby.’”

Another riot survivor, Ruth Avery, who was 7 at the time, gives an account matched by others who told of bombs dropped from small airplanes passing overhead.

The explosive devices may have been dynamite or Molotov cocktails – gasoline-filled bottles set afire and thrown as grenades. “They’d throw it down and when it’d hit, it would burst into flames,” Avery said.

Only a single block remains of the 1,400 homes and businesses that made up the area known as Black Wall Street.

Unmarked graves

Many of the survivors mentioned bodies were stacked like cord wood, says Richard Warner of the Tulsa Historical Society.

Survivors search the ruins of their homes for anything they can salvage. To this day, no insurance claims nor any restitution has been paid.
In its search for the facts, the commission has literally been trying to dig up the truth.

Two headstones at Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery indicate that riot victims are buried there. In an effort to determine how many, archeological experts used ground-piercing radar and other equipment to test the soil in a search for unmarked graves.

The test picked up indications that hundreds of people have been buried in an area just outside the cemetery.

Editor’s note: The Tulsa Race Riot Commission, formed in 1997 to determine exactly what happened and what should be done now, delivered its final report in 2001, calling for substantial restitution. “In June 2001,” according to Wikipedia, “the Oklahoma state legislature passed the ‘1921 Tulsa Race Riot Reconciliation Act.’ While falling short of the commission’s recommendations, it provided for more than 300 college scholarships for descendants of Greenwood residents, mandated the creation of a memorial to those who died in the riot, and called for new efforts to promote economic development in Greenwood. A documentary, “Before They Die!” has been made about the survivors and their quest for justice. It chronicles efforts in Oklahoma to gain reparations for the survivors. And watch the video “One Day in May!” at

This story comes from the Ujamaa Network, which can be reached at They add these words of wisdom: “We must buy from ourselves in order to re-circulate Black dollars. If we want our dollars to return, we must spend them within our own community. 2011 will be our year if we decide it will be. Make a commitment to yourself to do as much of your spending within our community as possible.”

414 thoughts on “What happened to Black Wall Street on June 1, 1921?

  1. Rosemary

    I resent the ignorant generalizations regarding AFRICAN people ( not 'Black' I do not accept being defined by the classification or categorization of the supremacist oppressors) who were born or reside in England.
    I was unfortunately born here AND I am fully aware of this heinous crime against my people in Tulsa and other atrocities!

  2. Roy

    When are you waking up from your sleep ?
    True great Nation will arise again with these people that you call it black.
    Stop talking about tools… KKK mean sh!t

  3. Valjames Wright

    This is something I didn't know happened, it's a shame we were never taught this stuff in school.We as African Americans learn our history. To make sure this never repeats itself.

  4. conover stokes

    i saw a lady on tv talking about this. she was very old and was speaking of how white people had burned houses in her neighborhood down when she was a child but stole most of the furniture out of the houses before they set them on fire. stole clothes and any household item they could put there hands on. she spoke of seeing belongings she had seen in black homes loaded on carts and white people talking about how niggers didnt need these things that the things were to good for them to own. some white people are still like that today.

  5. Phil

    I am 36 years old and this is the first time I ever heard of this. Thank god someone posted it on Facebook. We need to share this piece of great history that was brought down by hate. It’s a glimmer of hope. This was what we had once built right after the slavery emancipation. Imagine what we can build together in this 21st century. it wasn’t the hatred for white people that brought us together but our love for our fellow black brothers and sisters that united us. We will continue to prevail as individuals but we shall do wonders as one.

  6. nationtime

    YOU WERE TOLD THAT THE White Race is a Race of devils. The Racist Acts of mass murder,Rape, torture, that occurred in Tulsa Oklahoma in 1921 bear witness to this fact.The White mans evil is so well documented that he cannot escape his final Judgment to which the Bloody evidence will speak against him.The American White Man by his laws never intended to recognize Africans as his Equal nor under Gods laws. .By his continued acts of aggression and murder he has insured his extinction on this planet and the Universe.He will only be a memory in fables told to children one day of a time when monsters ruled the earth and were destroyed by their own hand.

      1. Alexandra Taillefer

        Of course, the usual suspects: Spike Lee, Tyler Perry or Oprah. It truly is the only way to render an authentic version of these events. Then, Joeorton, Denzel W. Isaa W. Morgan F. Danny G. Should all partake in this project… If only because there are young enough to remember something about this. They will barely need to act! (Joking). Those names will be respected, the story told and young mind will know if we did it once…


        John Singleton made Rosewood, which was a smaller community. I can’t believe it happened on such scale in one evening. This is how many people were killed on 9/11. Yet, this story is just surfacing. I discovered it today looking for evidence of successful black communities harassed
        and destroyed by white supremacist. The scale was monumental, like something Sadaam Hussei would have done.

  7. Steph f

    I just learned about this at 52. All I can say is it makes me sick. I’m angry I wasn’t taught this in American history. Further I only hope that one day we can all put this type of evil where it belongs. Makes me feel ashamed to be American where all men are supposed to be created equal.

  8. hunter


    I would like to thank a friend of mine, for encouraging me to look this up (Black Wall Street). I can't imagine why he didn't give me any preface as to what I will find. It would have been nice to know something ahead of time, because I surely wasn't prepared for it.
    If I may say, the comments and posts here are quite invigorating to say the least. As a black man, I have always found that such discussions are usually filled with so much anger, that it easily offends. Having a healthy dialogue is essential to gaining an understanding.
    I say most of us as adults, can quickly and sensibly identify the problems that face the black race in America. No doubt about it, these are real problems, but worst than that, they are distractions for us.
    Yes we can learn from the tragedies of the past, and hope that people strive to be better. We can spend a lifetime trying to correct the atrocities of the past, or we can honestly try to become a better society. From what I can tell from those that lived in Black Wall Street's era, they moved forward with their ideas so that they could enjoy a better way of living. They acted.
    Yes history has affected the Black community negatively with some of the same effects still hanging over as a dark cloud, but I say to you that our future doesn't have to be gloomy. It's a new day, Black people are standing tall in the face of adversity, as well we should. I'm insinuating that we move forward in spite of those that hate us.
    I believe in All men are created equal, and I will continue to support that. I believe that if given a chance, most people will treat those as they wish to be treated. I certainly understand that everyone wishes to be respected and treated with dignity, something that is easy to do when you have righteous heart. But I also believe in fighting for these same things when they are being threatened or denied.

  9. Mrs. Hicks

    This is very interesting and shows what we as a people could do, on our OWN if we could just come together. They don’t teach this in school. Just like they really don’t speak on how Egypt is actually in Africa and Egyptians are actually people of color. Seems like any good we do is suppressed or destroyed…..

  10. TAmia


  11. Pedro Bell

    restitution? fuck off! this was just shy of a hundred years ago,move the fuck on,the reason racism still exists to such a great extent today is because so many blacks continue to see themselves as separate and not a part of all the other people of the world. 'wah i'm a victim'. no you're not you're a whiny entitled cry baby.

    i am so sick of being blamed for shit that happened over 50 years before i was born.yes it was sad and fucked up,but guess what no one alive today is responsible for what happened and neither are their children or their children's children.

    FACT! at the height of slavery in america less than 1.5% of whites owned a black slave (yes even then the 1% were fucking it up for everyone) and world wide more blacks have owned and sold black slaves than whites ever did,. the very word 'slave' has its etymology in the word slavic,guess what color slavic people are? hint it's not black.

    bottom line – fuck all racists and separatists no matter the skin color.grow up,take responsibility and move on.oh and -'black entertainment television'? seriously? that is pure racism/separatism shut it down, how would you react if someone like donald trump started 'white entertainment television' featuring exclusively (or even primarily) white entertainers? you wouldn't like it,in fact there would be riots, because it would be racist just the same as BET is racist.

    shut it down,grow up,take responsibility quit pointing fingers,put down your stupid cardboard signs and go find work.if mexicans can come to america who can't even speak the language and find jobs,anyone can,you just don't always get to pick and choose,that's life, free your mind and your ass will follow. (now where did i hear that?)

    1. Vincent

      Apparently you don’t have any knowledge of black history. Blacks have been discriminated against since the very 1st amendment in America. They told us in school that Columbus discovered America which is not true. There were black men and indians here for 1000 plus years way before whites built ships! Whites weren’t even civilized back then. They lived in caves in mountains in Europe that were called the Caucas mountains. They were savages. They fought amongst each other, raped their children, and practiced cannibalism on a regular basis!
      You say what you’re saying about your tired of hearing about what our people went through but you need to read about ” white suppremisis racism “. This is not practiced by whites here only in america, but this is a system that was designed by whites to keep people of color beneath them and cripple minorities socially, economically, and spiritually. You’re just making noise and your blindly lashing out without having a clue about what your angry at.
      Living as a black man in america is not an easy task. I have to go out in the world daily and deal with racism every day. They look down on people who are not like them and treat us like were less than human. I’m 55 and I been dealing with this ALL my life! So I have to find acceptance with this because it has become a way of life and just because I find acceptance of this way of life doesn’t mean I have to like it.
      Even you people go through it. You don’t know that what happened 100 years ago is still going on today!
      Do some research and read the history about this system that’s designed to keep people of color down. You’re a victim and don’t even know it.

    2. p.t

      Indians r still receiving monetary for being forced off there land and will continue to receive! So the deserve all of what they lost and then some!!

  12. shamon

    Pedro bell..why are you getting so defensive? U must be white..your ancestors are evil devil bastard I’m a black women and it VERY hard not to hate Caucasian.. Black walstreet showcased the EPITOME of whit hate and rasicm so STFU!!

  13. kimberly watson

    I’m tired of white made up systematic people saying we so called blacks are crying victim, we are just letting you we know your bs your code you live by and when you defend your code of ethics with your brained washed excuses like I have black friends, or thats the past or whatever bs excuse we know your defending it and it is a made up system made up just for your people to go by without you even knowing it black people know thier own part we play to get by in this world system but we don’t own that system your people do so when you defend this bs it shows us your brainwashed evil like the past so in return you are proving us right that you will defend a lie at all cost just like the past.


    I understand how you feel about the past of black Americans but stop for one minute and try to understand what my people have gone through ,this was our country ,I AM LAKOTA SOUIX, ALL NATIVE AMERICANS HAVE SUFFERED BEYOND ANYTHING YOU COULD IMAGEN

    1. Justin

      who in the hell do u think u are bitch our country if it was yall we well all be slaves now u dum btch and i hope u read this comment stupid ass hoe u really pissed me off i hope u.die in a fire u dum ass bitch

  15. Des Lewis

    I would love to see or hear that the old black power movement restarted but only this time just like the KKK arm themselves with legal weapons and are properly trained just like the klan even the young ones as soon as they are big enough to manage a gun, just like the klan and be ready not to start riots but to face up to the klan any time or place, wear hoods so you wont be recognised just like them, I wonder how they would like that to come up against a movement just as strong as theirs.

  16. Louis

    Some of the info is wrong. There were 21 houses of worship, not churches. Also there were more than just black people in the neighborhood. Also they welcomed intermixing of the ethnic groups, while shunning those that didn’t.

  17. Christina

    This is something we need to tell everyone because it seems as if some young African Americans have gave up on themselves. We as African Americans need to build are community back and teach these young people our history.

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  19. Another white guy

    WE NEED TO DO THE SAME THING TO FERGUSON MO. CRY MOAN COMPLAIN AN BLAME SOMEBODY ELSE!!!!! Pull your big girl panties up an take some blame for how you’ve screwed your on lives up an quit blaming us white people for it!!!!

  20. sidney massie

    as we seen a thriving Black Wall Street.there have to be people who beleive in the strong helping the weak,wise helping those lacking knowlege,rich helping the poor,thriving respect in one mind.the lord said if a poeple be with one mind should nothing be impossible.So pray that the lord rise up people who beleive in black wall street vision as i do. praise GOD for this good thing.

  21. M.M.

    No such thing as race .There was the black man in the begging ,and tribes began to grow apart and soon be isolated where the same traits began to repeat. Eventually individuals came out with all recessive there a lot to understand about the origin of white people and others from black people.

  22. will

    Most of the comments I am reading that are being posted are only on the surface their thinking four or five hundred years? No ! this plot goes way back before that, they have been killing black people for 4 or 5 thousands years, that I would say into the billions.

  23. bbc

    White women love my black dick. The white sluts even make their husbands watch me slap them around, spit on them and fuck their holes no mercy…and hate for their husband to touch them. Thanks for paying for the hotel for me and whatever ur wives names were.

  24. another BBC

    To all the individuals that aren’t particularly happy about this black history coming into light Anything you can do we can do better, actually some of you are a cancer to the earth war, global warming, endangered species, biological warfare come on own up to your bullshit their are countries that have better regulations in effect with an Outlook of long term awareness for the world and the powers that be (and I don’t think it’s too many blacks with them


    . As it was in the beginning so shall it be in the end . Lets remember that we ruled the world longer than anyone else and we gave civilization to EUROPEANS and was in the AMERICAS thousands of years before COLUMBUS . That is true history if anyone cares to know …The world's greatest hidden secrets………These are Facts . The world would be a beautiful place if we could learn to live with each other…..Ignorance and Jealousy Breeds Racism …..


    Divide and conquer is the formula used to destroy the dark skinned people. However …it cannot last forever. The time will come when the truth cannot be hidden any longer then everyone will know the Devil we have been dealing with all these years. Our eyes will be opened and those of us who are asleep will awaken from their slumber . The history is there for those of us who need the know but because most of us will not read and do our own research. Instead we hang on to lies and misinformation which goes to the destruction of us all. The oppressors know the truth but they won't tell you . You must find it out for yourself . We are the Greatest people that ever lived on this planet.. We have given civilization to Europe. we built the first university in SPAIN . We introduced maths ….science….medicine..astrology ….literature..agriculture…etc . We educated the Greeks and Romans and ruled Europe for over 700 Years. The truth cannot be denied . Prove me wrong and show your greatness. Show me some of your greatness that does not include deceit .. destruction and bloodshed . Look at the humanity claimed throughout the world on every continent….. Slavery and the Lies… was it necessary to be so cruel .Look at the kkk …a bunch of cowards that operate in packs like wild animals. They rape .. steal…murder and lynch the oppressed people. They're allowed to do so by a government that claims to promote democracy .. Evil dwell within their hearts . You can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time .The truth will be revealed and cannot be hidden forever .

  27. AmplifiedSoul

    Wow I seen a middle school tri board about black wall street and it sparked an immediate research on this topic. Had no idea of the blatant hate that was exercised during this timeline. Thank you for this information because it has truly motivated me to become a leader and aim for the top. Great Comment PeaceMaker

  28. Renaissance

    Learning about this horrific atrocity committed by racist whites makes me sick. I am a black male of Caribbean decent and words cannot express the anger I feel inside. However, I do see a light at the end of the tunnel as I scan YouTube and scholarly articles for videos evidence about my black heritage before and after slavery. I now know that blacks once ruled the world and we will once again as long as we unite as one. There is a renaissance occurring right now, a rebirth of knowledge for blacks in this country and around the world. Let’s take our rightful place as we once did (Rulers of the world). Let’s unite and create a lasting legacy for generations to come like our ancestors once did.

  29. Apocrypha

    The end of the matter is this: WHITE PEOPLE (every last one em) ARE THE DEVIL THAT THE BIBLE SPEAKS OF, and when Christ returns to this earth, half of them are gonna be burned up and the other half are going into the same slavery/captivity that they had black people in for over 500+ years. This includes those white fake jew-ish people, white people from australia/europe/britain/france/germany/russia….and pretty much wherever you can find their demonic asses…they will be going into eternal Slavery, and guess who will rule over them?….

    …..if you aint figured it out yet…THE BLACK MAN (the darkest of the darkest of them too!!!)….yep!! the Black man will rule over this planet when Christ returns, AND IT DON'T MATTER IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE IT BECAUSE WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT, OR BELIEVE IT OR NOT, IT'S GONNA HAPPEN REGARDLESS. Stay tuned.

  30. Renaissance


  31. Jerry

    This is some bullshit ya know Dick Rowland didn't do shit but fall until a bitch yelled Sarah Page Fuck boys locked him up white people were mean and they still are

  32. Kim

    I’m a descendent of Lena Eloise Taylor Butler who survived the riot and I’m searching for as much information that I can compile. It’s more than overwhelming in too many ways. I can’t even try to imagine the horror that took place over the course of those days. It was pure evil that level a town because of hate and jealousy. Our family suffered gravely.

  33. Diane

    To Pedro. personally was not here nor I but me and my people still suffer because of this country’s brutal use of my people to amass wealth and power and many of your color still reap the benefit . The Hiltons Vanderbilt’s etc amongst other influential families passed the stolen wealth and blood money down thru the ages so the very society we live in full of people like u believe that we have been given all the opportunity we deserve to play catch up with our inferior schools jobs salaries neighborhoods without a dime of restitution or compensation. We can’t even trace our roots so hateful were your people and greedy then to deem an entire race of humans as animals to gain and keep personal wealth and all the while acting like the human rights advocate of the world… How many blacks killed without a single murderer brought to justice and still. You take whole neighborhoods still and use your institutions to strong arm people of color out of their homes. Have sterilized our women and experimented on us. Go back to sleep as blindness to your white privilege is the ingrained defense mechanism of the guilty


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