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Black Wall Street, Tulsa Oklahoma Race Riot of 1921: A Documentary Film and Commission Report
 

Black Wall Street, Tulsa Oklahoma Race Riot of 1921: A Documentary Film and Commission Report

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Black Wall Street, Tulsa Oklahoma Race Riot of 1921: A Documentary Film and Commission Report

Black Wall Street, Tulsa Oklahoma Race Riot of 1921: A Documentary Film and Commission Report

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  • I continue to be disappointed that more people to not know about this tragic and important event in history. The longer America continues to sweep its true and ugly history under the carpet, the longer the path to living out its true creed, that All Men Are Created Equal. This film needs prime-time exposure on a major network channel. So, why hasn't it been?
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    Black Wall Street, Tulsa Oklahoma Race Riot of 1921: A Documentary Film and Commission Report Black Wall Street, Tulsa Oklahoma Race Riot of 1921: A Documentary Film and Commission Report Document Transcript

    • Black Wall Street, Tulsa Oklahoma 1921 Documentary Film And Tulsa Race RiotA Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 February 28, 2001
    • Tulsa Race RiotA Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 February 28, 2001 i
    • February 21, 2001Honorable Frank Keating Honorable Susan SavageGovernor of Oklahoma Mayor of TulsaOklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105 Tulsa, Oklahoma 74119Honorable Larry Adair Members of the City CouncilSpeaker of the House of Representatives City of TulsaOklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105 Tulsa, Oklahoma 74119Honorable Stratton TaylorPresident Pro Tempore of the SenateOklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105Dear Sir or Madam: Pursuant to House Joint Resolution 1035 (1997), as amended, I have the honor to trans mit here with theFinal Re port of Find ings and Rec om men da tions of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Com mis sion. The re port in-cludes the commission’s findings on each specific item assigned it by statute, and it also explains themethods and processes that led to those findings. In addition, the commission has exercised the option,granted it by law, to make recommendations concerning reparations related to the tragedy. This Com mis sion fully un der stands that it is nei ther judge nor jury. We have no bind ing le gal authorityto assign culpability, to determine damages, to establish a remedy, or to order either restitution or repara-tions. However, in our interim report in Feb ru ary, 2000 the ma jor ity of Com mis sioners declared that rep-arations to the historic Greenwood community in real and tangible form would be good public policy anddo much to repair the emotional and physical scars of this terrible incident in our shared past. We listedseveral recommended courses of action including direct payments to riot survivors and descendants; aschol ar ship fund avail able to stu dents af fected by the riot; es tab lish ment of an eco nomicde vel op ment en-terprise zone in the historic Greenwood district; a memorial for the riot victims. In the fi nal re port is sued to day, the ma jor ity of Com mis sioners con tinue to sup port these recommenda-tions. While each Commissioner has their own opinion about the type of reparations that they would ad-vocate, the majority has no question about the appropriateness of reparations. The recommendations arenot intended to be all inclusive, but rather to give policy makers a sense of the Commission’s feelingsabout reparations and a starting place for the creation of their own ideas. ii
    • TABLE OF CONTENTSPrologue State Representative Don RossFinal Report of the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 1 Compiled by Dr. Danney Goble (University of Oklahoma)History Knows No Fences: An Overview 21 Dr. John Hope Franklin (James B. Duke Professor Emeritus, Duke University) Dr. Scott Ellsworth (Consultant to the Commission)The Tulsa Race Riot 37 Dr. Scott EllsworthAirplanes and the Riot 103 Richard Warner (Tulsa Historical Society)Confirmed Deaths: A Preliminary Report 109 Dr. Clyde Snow (Consultant to the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner)The Investigation of Potential Mass Grave Locations for the Tulsa Race Riot 123 Dr. Robert Brooks (State Archaeologist) Dr. Alan H. Witten (University of Oklahoma)History Uncovered: Skeletal Remains As a Vehicle to the Past 133 Dr. Lesley Rankin-Hill (University of Oklahoma) Phoebe Stubblefield (University of Florida)Riot Property Loss 143 Larry O’Dell (Oklahoma Historical Society)Asessing State and City Culpability: The Riot and the Law 153 Alfred Brophy (Oklahoma City University)Notes on Contributors 175Epilogue State Senator Maxine HornerChronological Maps of the Tulsa Race Riot iii
    • PrologueBy State Representative Don Ross Personal belongings and household goods had “Oklahoma, you’re O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A,been removed from many homes and piled in the Oklahoma OK.” Hopefully with this report, the feeling of thestreets. On the steps of the few houses that re- state will be quickened, the conscience of themained sat feeble and gray Negro men and women brutal city will be ignited, the hypocrisy of theand occasionally a small child. The look in their nation will be exposed, and the crimes against God and man denounced. Oklahoma can seteyes was one of de jec tion and sup pli ca tion. such an example. It was Abolitionist FrederickJudging from their attitude, it was not of material Douglass who reminded a callous nation thatconsequence to them whether they lived or died. “[A] government that can give lib erty in its Con- stitution ought to have the power to protect lib-Harmless themselves, they apparently could not erty, and im pose civ ilized behav ior in itsconceive the brutality and fiendishness of men who administration.”would deliberately set fire to the homes of their Tulsa’s Race Relations Are Ceremonialfriends and neighbors and just as deliberately In the 80 years hence, survivor, descendants,shoot them down in their tracks. and a bereaved community seeks that adminis- tration in some action akin to justice. Tulsa’s Tulsa Daily World, June 2, 1921 race relations are more ceremonial — liken to a bad marriage, with spouses living in the same A mob destroyed 35-square-blocks of the quarters but housed in different rooms, each es-African American Community during the eve- caping one another by perpetuating a separate-ning of May 31, through the afternoon of June ness of silence. The French political historian1, 1921. It was a tragic, infamous moment in Alexis d’Tocqueville noted, “Once the majorityOklahoma and the nation’s history. The worse has irrevocably decided a question, it is no lon-civil disturbance since the Civil War. In the af- ger discussed. This is because the majority is atermath of the death and destruction the people power that does not re spond well to crit i cism.”of our state suffered from a fatigue of faith — I first learn about the riot when I was about 15some still search for a statue of limitation on from Booker T. Wash ing ton High Schoolmorality, attempting to forget the longevity of teacher and riot survivor W.D. Williams. In histhe residue of in jus tice that at best can leave lit- slow, laboring voice Mr. W.D. as he was fondlytle room for the healing of the heart. Perhaps known, said on the evening of May 31, 1921,this report, and subsequent humanitarian re - his school graduation, and prom were canceled.covery events by the governments and the Dick Rowland, who had dropped out of highgood peo ple of the state will ex tract us from the school a few years before to become rich in theguilt and confirm the commandment of a good lucrative trade of shining shoes, was in jail, ac-and just God — leaving the deadly deeds of cused of raping a white woman Sarah Page, “on1921 buried in the call for redemption, histori- a public el evator in broad daylight.” Aftercal cor rect ness, and repair. Then we can Rowland was arrested, angry white vigilantesproudly sing together: gathered at the courthouse intent on lynching “We know we belong to this land. the shine boy. Armed blacks integrated the mob“And the land we belong to is grand, to protect him. There was a scuffle between aand when we say, ay yippy yi ki yea, black and a white man, a shot rang out. The“We’re only say ing, you’re do ing fine crowd scattered. It was about 10:00 a.m. A raceOklahoma.” riot had broken out. He said blacks defended iv
    • their community for awhile, “but then the air- Treaties were sign with the tribes protectingplanes came dropping bombs.” All of the black their right to hold their lands. The treaties werecommunity was burned to the ground and 300 ignore by the colonial governors. The coloniespeople died.” also soon discovered that rum and slaves were More annoyed than bored, I leaped from my profitable commodities. One of the most enter-chair and spoke: “Green wood was never prising — if unsavory — trading prac tices of theburned. Ain’t no 300 people dead. We’re too time was the so-called “triangular trade.” Mer -old for fairy tales.” Calling a teacher a liar was chants and shippers would purchase slaves offa capital offense Mr. W.D. snorted with a twist the coast of Africa for New England rum, thenthat framed his face with anger. He ignored my sell the slaves in the West Indies where theyobstinacy and returned to his hyperbole. He would buy molasses to bring home for sale tofinished his tale and dismissed the class. The the local rum producers. In debt after the Frenchnext day he asked me to remain after class, and and Indian War, England began to tax the colo-passed over a photo album with picture and nies to pay for occupation. The measure was re-post cards of Mount Zion Baptist Church on sisted, and the colonies began to prepare itsfire, the Dreamland Theater in sham bles, Declaration of Independence. In an early draft,whites with guns standing over dead bodies, Thomas Jefferson wrote:blacks being marched to concentration campswith white mobs jeering, trucks loaded with He (King George) has waged cruel war againstcaskets, and a yellowing newspaper article ac- human nature itself, violating its most sacred rightscount ing block af ter block of de struc tion – “30, of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people75 even 300 dead.” Everything was just as he who never offended him, captivating and carryinghad described it. I was to learn later that them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incurRowland was assigned a lawyer who was a miserable death in their transportation thither. Thisprominent member of the Ku Klux Klan. piratical war fare, the op pro brium of INFIDEL pow-“What you think, fat mouth?” Mr. W.D. asked ers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Greathis astonished student. Britain. Determined to keep open a market where After having talked to more than 300 riot MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostitutedsurvivors over the years, I have pondered that his negative for suppressing every legislative at-question for 45 years. The report raises the tempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable com-same question Mr. W.D. asked me. I now ask merce. And that this assemblage of horrors mightthe Oklahoma Leg is la ture, the City and want no fact of distinguished die, he is now excitingCounty of Tulsa: “What do you think?” To un- those very people to rise in arms among us, and toderstand the full context of Mr. W.D.’s ques- pur chase that lib erty of which he has de prived them,tion is a travelogue of African Amer ican by murdering the people on whom he also obtrudedhistory, Oklahoma blacks in particular. It in - them: thus paying off former crimes committedcludes, The Seven Year War and the birth of against the LIBERTIES of one people, with crimesthe nation, the infamous Trail of Tears, the which he urges them to commit against the LIVES ofCivil War, the allotment of Indian Territory, another.statehood, segregation, black towns, and the [This version was removed from the Declaration of In de pend-African American on Greenwood Avenue. ence after protest from southern colonies, and planted the seed of the Civil War to come.]Each was a preponderance of the fuel that ig- The Revolutionary War was fought and anited the 1921 race war in Tulsa. constitution was presented and approved by the A bit of American history with an colonies. It would sanction slavery and human African-American perspective bondage as the law of the land. Broken treaties During the Seven Year War, Indians in the and genocide slowly moved Indians for theOhio Valley sided with the French against Ohio Valley, while other treaties settled them inGreat Britain in a losing effort. Canada and the rich farm lands of the south. The southernother territories were ceded to the British. tribes held slaves, but also offered the runaway v
    • sanctuary, in some case tribal membership and pears the division was self-imposed. “In therights. During the administration of Andrew end,” Attorney Franklin wrote, “Tulsa becameJackson, a direct assault on Indian lands was one of the most sharply segregated cities in thelaunched. Phony treaties corrupts chiefs and country.” One of the possible errors I find in theintra-tribal rivalry would lead to warring fac - report is that Gurley lost $65,000 in the riot. In-tions, assassinations and divide the tribal lead- deed, he is listed in City Commission reports ofers, in sti gat ing their re moval from their having lost $157,783. Today his fortune wouldsouthern homelands. This odyssey, during the be worth more than $1 million.1830s and before, the lives of blacks and Na - J.B. Stradford, would later join Gurley ontive Americans would be linked on the infa- Greenwood, and build the finest hotel in themous, cruel “Trail of Tears.” On long marches city, valued at $75,000. Before statehood, theunder extreme du ress and hard ship, the trail led territory had been seen by blacks as not only theto present-day Oklahoma, Kansas and Ne- Promised Land more notably as the nation’s firstbraska. Indian Territory would be split by the all-black state, E.P. McCabe was the leading advo-creation of the Kansas and Nebraska territories cate of all-black towns and had migrated from Kan-and after the Civil War abolished in 1907 with sas and founded Langston, Oklahoma. A formerthe entrance of Oklahoma as a state. Pressed by Kan sas audi tor ac tive in Re pub li can pol i tics,rival chiefs many of the tribes officially sided McCabe had also become the assistant auditor ofwith the Confederacy. Afterward, many for - Oklahoma. He would lead a crusade to press Presi-mer black slaves, Freemen, were registered as dent Benjamin Har ri son into bring ing “In dian Ter ri-members of the tribes and offered sections of tory” into the un ion as an all-black state. Against thatthe Indian land allotments. After the govern- back drop, Gur ley viewed his acres as a nat u ral ur banment opened Oklahoma for settlement more evolution from the rural trend of organizing blackblacks came seeking freedom from southern towns. White Dem o crats pre pared for the State Con-oppression and for new opportunities in the stitutional Convention by using the black statehoodPromised Land. Of the more than 50 all black issues and racist attacks against their Republicantowns, more than 20 were located in the new “Nigger loving opponents.” Both Democrats andstate, the more prosperous were Boley and Republicans would disenfranchise blacks during theLangston. balloting for control of the convention. The Demo- Oklahoma history re-recorded crats won and sometimes with the Ku Klux Klan as Attorney B.C. Franklin, one of the genuine allies maintains political control of the state into theheroes in the aftermath of the race war heeded millennium. After statehood the first bill passed bythe call to settle into Indian Territory. He was the Oklahoma Legislature was the infamous ‘Senatethe father of historian Dr. John Hope Franklin, Bill One’ that tightly segregated the state.who served as consultant scholars for this re - Stradford, and his friend A.J. Smitherman, pub -port and an earlier inspiration in my inquiry of lisher of the Tulsa Star newspaper, were brave tena-the riot. In his memoirs attorney Franklin cious advocates on be half of their race. Afterwrote of two men, whom he called “very rich Stradford was acquitted for violating Oklahoma JimNegroes” and the “greatest leaders” — O.W. Crow laws, in 1912, the hotel owner filed a lawsuitGurley and J.B. Stradford. In 1908, Gurley, in the State Su preme Court su ing the Mid land Val leyconstructed the first building, a rooming house Railroad for false imprisonment. In a narrowly in-and later the home of Vernon A.M.E. Church, terpreted decision the court opined the unconstitu-on a muddy trail that would become the Black tionality of the Jim Crow law did not affect the rightWall Street of America. According to B.C. of the conductor to rely upon it. Similarly, the courtFranklin, Gurley bought 30 or 40 acres, plotted rested upon a case filed by E.P. McCabe challengingthem and had them sold to “Negroes only.” At- Oklahoma’s segregation dismissing the McCabe ar-torney Franklin’s account of the settlement of gument as irrelevant to the case. Four years laterGreenwood, shattered earlier notions of blacks Stradford petitioned the Tulsa City Commissionbeing forced in a section of town. It now ap - against its segregationist ordinance that “such a law vi
    • is to cast a stigma upon the colored race in the eyes welfare committee; Cyrus Avery, treasurer ofof the world; and to sap the spirit of hope for justice the relief committee who raised funds to housebefore the law from the race itself.” The Tulsa City and feed the black refugees; Maurice Willow,Ordinance would remain on the books until the the Red Cross director whose work saved manycivil rights movement of the 1960s. From his lives and through his effort food, shelter, medi-unpublished memoirs, Stradford was accused cal and hospital care was provided; Franklin,as being an instigator of the riot, but contended Stradford, Gurley, and Smitherman, aforemen-he was not present. He said initially the sheriff tioned in his report.contacted him and other black leaders for their From my Memories of early oral histories ofassistance in protecting Rowland. However, blue suits and Klan sheetswhen they arrived the sheriff said he could “I teach U.S. History and those decisions thathandle it and would call them when needed. brought us to the riot,” Seymour Williams myThus, the men left. The courthouse mob grew high school history professor said to me 45and there was no call to them for assistance. years ago. He and W.D. Williams (no relations)Armed and filled with moonshine, the men re- for many years tutored me on their experienceturned to the court house. Ac cord ing to and prodded others of their generation to tell meStradford a white man attempted in take a gun the story. “The riot isn’t known much by youngfrom one of the blacks “our boys shot into the teachers. Many were born after the riot and itcrowd and a number were killed and wounded. was banned by book pub lish ers, as much as U.S.Under the threat of lynching, Stradford es- history about blacks and slavery. I could teach acaped to Independence, Kansas and from there course on just what has been left out of history.”to Chicago, where his descendants reside to Why the silence in our community? The oldthis day. man then introduced this student to his assess- A.J. Smitherman wrote passionately about ment. “Blacks lost everything. They were afraidthe rights of blacks from the daily newspaper it could happen again and there was no way tocolumns. In 1917, the brave and fearless pub- tell the story. The two Negro newspapers werelisher traveled to Dewey, Oklahoma in the bombed. With the unkept promises, they weremiddle of a race riot where a white mob had too busy just trying to make it.” He added,pulled the accused from the jail, lynched him, There were a lot of big shot rednecks at thatand burned the homes and businesses in the courthouse who ran the city and still do. Sinclairblack sec tion. His in ves ti ga tion led to the ar rest Oil Company owned one of the airplanes used toof 36 white men including the mayor. In 1918, drop fire bombs on people and build ings.” Po litehe stood with black farmers and local law offi- white people want to excuse what happen as be-cers in Bristow averting a lynching of an inno- ing caused by trouble-making blacks and whitecent black man accused of raping a white trash ruffians. “Nope,” he said, noting thatwoman. Smitherman was involved in similar blacks did not like to talk about the riot. “Theincidents in Beggs, Okmulgee, Haskell, and killers were still run ning loose and they’re wear-Muskogee, Oklahoma. He and Stradford were ing blue suits as well as Klan sheets.” Duringamong the leading black citizens arrested for that time, whites seeking opportunity could notcausing the riot. Both fled. Smitherman died in circulate among the rich and powerful withoutBuffalo, New York after publishing newspa- Klan credentials. “Hell, Robert Hudson, thepers there and in Springfield, Massachusetts. law yer as signed to Rowland was a char ter mem-His descendants now live in Florida and North ber of the Klan. In the aftermath of the riot,Carolina. From my view there were black and where could Negroes find justice?” He furtherwhites that stood gallantly in face of a hostile noted, “Lot of people were killed. Many, manycommunity. Among those were Judge L. J. Negroes.” I only vividly remember the storiesMar tin who called for rep a ra tions and set out to of Professor and Mr. W.D. The other 300 orraise $500,000 from the city’s wealthy elite, more voices have blended in to one essay. Still Ionly to be ousted by the mayor from the city’s hold all their collective anger, fear, and hope. vii
    • Reparation? demands a closure as it did with Jap a nese Amer- Reparations: It happened. There was mur - icans and Holocaust victims of Germany. It is ader, false im pris on ment, forced la bor, a moral obligation. Tulsa was likely the first citycover-up, and local precedence for restitution. in the to be bombed from the air. There was aWhile the official damage was estimated at pre ce dent of pay ments to at least two whites vic-$1.5 million, the black community filed more tims of the riot. The issue today is what govern-than $4 million in claims. All were denied. ment entity should provide financial repair toHowever, the city commission did approved the survivors and the condemned communitytwo claims exceeding $5,000 “for guns and that suffered under vigilante violence? The Re-ammunition taken during the racial distur- port tells the story, let justice point the fingerbance of June 1.” In his memoirs Stradford re- and begin the reconciliation!called the guards acted like wild men. “The And Finallymilitia had been ordered to take charge, but in- Vigilantes under deputized and under thestead they joined the rioter.” His view is sup- color of law, destroyed the Black Wall Street ofported by action of the governor in a concerted America. Some known victims were in un-effort to rid the National Guard of the Ku Klux marked graves in a city owned cemetery andKlan in 1922. The preponderance of the infor- others were hauled off to unknown places in fullmation demands what was promised. Whether view of the National Guard. The mob torchedit was Ku Klux Klan instigated, land specula- the soul of the city, an evil from which neithertor’s conspiracy, inspired by yellow journal- whites nor blacks have fully recovered.ism, or random acts, it happened. Justice viii
    • (Courtesy McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa). Final Report of the Oklahoma Commission to Study The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921Compiled by Danney Goble The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Commission origi- A series of papers accompanies the report.nated in 1997 with House Joint Resolution No. Some are written by scholars of national stature,1035. The act twice since has been amended, first others by experts of international acclaim. Eachin 1998, and again two years later. The final re- addresses at length and in depth issues of ex-writing passed each legislative chamber in pressed legislative interest and matters of enor-March and became law with Governor Frank mous public consequence. As a group, theyKeating’s signature on April 6, 2000. comprise a uniquely special and a uniquely signif- In that form, the State of Oklahoma ex- icant contribution that must be attached to this re-tended the commission’s au thor ity be yond that port and must be studied carefully along with it.originally scheduled, to February 28, 2001. Nonetheless, the supporting documents areThe statute also charged the commission to not the report, itself. The scholars’ essays haveproduce, on that date, “a final report of its find- their purposes; this commission’s report has an-ings and recommendations” and to submit that other. Its purpose is contained in the statutes thatreport “in writing to the Governor, the Speaker first cre ated this com mis sion, that later ex tendedof the House of Representatives, the President its life, and that each time gave it the same set ofPro Tempore of the Senate, and the Mayor and mandates. That is why this report is an account-each member of the City Council of the City of ing, presented officially and offered publicly, ofTulsa, Oklahoma.” how Oklahoma’s 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Com - This is that report. It accounts for and com- mission has conducted its business and ad-pletes the work of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot dressed its statutory obligations.Commission. Its duties were many, and each presented im- posing challenges. Not least was the challenge 1
    • of preparing this report. Lawmakers scheduled neth Kendricks replaced her as OHRC’s interimits deadline and defined its purpose, and this director and its representative to the commis-report meets their requirements. At the same sion. Blake Wade directed the historical societytime, four years of intense study and personal until Dr. Bob Blackburn succeeded him in 1999.sacrifice surely en ti tle com mis sion mem bers to Blackburn had been Wade’s designated repre-add their own expectations. Completely rea - sentative to the commission anyway. In fact, thesonable and entirely appropriate, their desires commission had made him its chairman, a posi-deserve a place in their report as well. tion he would hold until June 2000. Together, then, both the law’s requirements Governor Frank Keating’s six appointees in-and the commissioners’ resolves guide this re- cluded two legislators, each from a differentport. Designed to be both concise and com - chamber, each from an opposite party, each aplete, this is the report that law requires the for mer his tory teacher. Dem o crat Abe1921 Tulsa Race Riot Commission to submit Deutschendorf’s par tic i pa tion in the de bate overto those who represent the people. Designed to the original house resolution echoed his linger-be both compelling and convincing, this also is ing interest in history and foretold his future de-the report that the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Com- votion to this inquiry. As a history teacher,mission chooses to of fer the peo ple whom both Rob ert Milacek had in cluded Tulsa’s race riot inlawmakers and the commissioners serve. his classes. Little did he know that he, himself, w w w would contribute to that history as a Republican The Commission shall consist of eleven legislator, but he has.(11) members . . . . Governor Keating turned to metropolitan The legislative formula for commission T ulsa for two ap point ees. T. D. “Pete”membership assured it appropriate if unusual Churchwell’s father serviced African-Americancomposition. As an official state inquiry, the busi nesses in the Green wood dis trict, andstate’s interest was represented through the ex- Churchwell has main tained con cern for that com-ec u tive, leg is la tive, and ad min is tra tive munity and with the 1921 riot that nearly de-branches. The governor was to appoint six stroyed it. He was Blackburn’s replacement asmembers, three from names submitted by the chairman during the commis sion’s closingSpeaker of the House, three from nominees months. Although born in Oklahoma City, Jimprovided by the Senate Pres i dent Pro Tem pore. Lloyd and his family moved to Turley (the com-Two state officials — the directors of the munity just north of Greenwood) when he wasOklahoma Hu man Rights Com mis sion three. Raised in Tulsa, he graduated from Nathan(OHRC) and of the Oklahoma Historical Soci- Hale and the University of Tulsa’s College ofety (OHS) — also were to serve as ex officio Law. He now practices law in Sand Springs andmembers, either personally or through their lives in Tulsa.designees. The governor’s other appointees entered the Reflecting Tulsa’s obvious interest, the res- inquiry less with geographical than with profes-olution directed the city’s mayor to select the sional connections to Tulsa and its history. Cur-commission’s final three members. Similar to rie Ballard lives in Coyle and servesthe gubernatorial appointments, they were to neigh bor ing Langston Uni versity as histo-come from names proposed by Tulsa’s City rian-in-residence. Holding a graduate degree inCommission. One of the mayor’s appointees history, Jimmie White teaches it and heads thehad to be “a survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Race social science division for Connors State Col -Riot incident”; two had to be current residents lege.of the his toric Green wood com mu nity, the area Tulsa Mayor Susan Savage appointed theonce devastated by the “incident.” commission’s fi nal three mem bers. If only five in The commission began with two ex officio 1921, Joe Burns met the law’s requirement thatmembers and ended with two others. After one mayoral appointee be a survivor of the 1921Gracie Monson resigned in March 2000, Ken- “incident.” He brought the commission not faint 2
    • childhood memories but seasoned wisdom his advice for another. Dr. Scott Ellsworth, a na-rooted in eight de cades of life in the Green wood tive Tulsan now living in Oregon, was a Dukecommunity and with Greenwood’s people. graduate who already had written a highly re - As the resolution specified, Mayor Savage’s garded study of the riot. Ellsworth became theother two appointees live in contemporary sec ond con sul tant cho sen; he there af terGreenwood, but neither took a direct route to emerged first in importance.get there. Eddie Faye Gates’s path began in As its work grew steadily more exacting andPres ton, Oklahoma, passed through Al a bama’s steadily more special ized, the commissionTuskegee Institute, and crisscrossed two conti- turned to more ex perts. Le gal schol ars,nents before it reached Tulsa in 1968. She archeologists, anthropologists, forensic special-spent the next twenty-four years teaching its ists, geophysicists — all of these and moreyoungsters and has devoted years since re- blessed this commission with technical exper-searching and writing her own memoirs and tise impossible to match and unimaginable oth-h e r c o m mu nity’s his tory. Vivian erwise. As a research group, they brought aClark-Adams’s route took nearly as many breadth of vision and a depth of training thattwists and turns, passing through one military made Oklahoma’s commission a model of statebase after another until her father retired and inquiry.the family came to Oklahoma in 1961. Trained Ten con sul tants even tu ally provided them ex-at the Uni ver sity of Tulsa, Dr. Vivian pert advice, but the commissioners always ex -Clark-Adams serves Tulsa Community Col- pected to depend mostly on their own resources,lege as chair of the liberal arts division for its maybe with just a little help from just a few ofsoutheast campus. their friends. Interested OHS employees were a In the November 1997, organizing meeting, likely source. Sure enough, a half-dozen or socommissioners voted to hire clerical assistants pitched in to search the agency’s library and ar-and expert consultants through the OHS. (The chives for riot-related materials.legislature had added $50,000 to the agency’s That was help appreciated, if not entirely un-base appropriations for just such purposes.) expected. What was surprising — stunning, re-They then scheduled their second meeting for ally — was something else that happened inDecember 5 to accommodate the most appro- Oklahoma City. As the commission’s work at -priate and most eminent of all possible authori- tracted interest and gathered momentum, Bobties. Blackburn noticed something odd: an unusual John Hope Frank lin is the son of Green wood number of people were volunteering to work atattorney B. C. Franklin, a graduate of Tulsa’s the historical society. Plain, ordinary citizens,Booker T. Washington High School (Fisk and maybe forty or fifty of them, had asked to helpHarvard, too), and James B. Duke Professor of the commission as unpaid researchers in theHistory Emeritus at Duke University. Recipi- OHS collections.ent of scores of academic and literary awards, At about that time, Dick Warner decided thatnot to mention more than a hundred honorary he had better start making notes on the phonedoctorates, Franklin came back for another calls he was fielding for the Tulsa County His-honor. He received the Peggy V. Helmerich torical Society. People were calling in, wantingDistinguished Author Award on December 4 to contribute to the inquiry, and they just keptand stayed to meet and help the commission on calling. After two months, his log listed entriesthe fifth. for 148 local calls. Meanwhile, Scott Ellsworth Commissioners were delighted to learn that was back in Oregon, writing down informationFranklin was anxious to serve, even if he con- vol un teered by some of the three hun dred call ersfessed the contributions limited by age (he was who had reached him by long distance.eighty-two at the time) and other obligations. Most commission meetings were in Tulsa,They enthusiastically made John Hope Frank- each open to any and all. Oklahoma’s Openlin their first consultant, and they in stantly took Meetings Law required no less, but this com - 3
    • mission’s special nature yielded much more. It centrated on a few short hours of a mid-sizedseemed that every time the commissioners met city’s history?at least one person (usually several) greeted As the introductory paper by Drs. Franklinthem with at least some thing (usu ally a lot) that and Ellsworth recounts, the Tulsa disaster wentthe commission needed. largely unacknowledged for a half-century or Included were records and papers long pre - more. After a while, it was largely forgotten.sumed lost, if their existence had been known Eventually it became largely unknown. Soat all. Some were official documents, pulled hushed was mention of the subject that manytogether and packed away years earlier. Un - pronounced it the final victim of a conspiracy,covered and examined, they took the commis- this a conspiracy of silence.sion back in time, back to the years just before That silence is shattered, utterly and perma-and just after 1921. Some were musty legal re- nently shattered. What ever else this com mis sioncords saved from the shredders. Briefs filed, has achieved or will achieve, it already has madedockets set, law suits decided — each opened that possible. Regional, national, and interna-an avenue into another corner of history. Pages tional media made it certain. The Dallas Morn-after pages laid open the city commission’s de- ing News, the Los Angeles Times, the New Yorkliberations and decisions as they affected the Times, National Public Radio (NPR), everyGreenwood area. Overlooked records from the American broadcast television network, cableNational Guard offered overlooked perspec- outlets delivering Cinemax and the Historytives and illuminated them with misplaced cor- Channel to North America, the British Broad -respondence, lost after-action reports, obscure casting Corporation — this merely begins thefield manuals, and self-typed accounts from attention that the media focused upon this com-men who were on duty at the riot. Maybe there mission and its inquiry. Many approached it inwas a fam ily’s trea sured col lec tion of yel lowed depth (NPR twice has made it the featured dailynewspaper clippings; an envelope of faded broadcast). Most returned to it repeatedly (thephotographs; a few carefully folded letters, all New York Times had carried at least ten articleshandwritten, each dated 1921. as of February 2000). All considered it vital One meaning of all of this is obvious, so ob- public information.vious that this report pauses to affirm it. Some — including some commission mem - Many have questioned why or even if any- bers — thought at least some of the coverageone would be interested now in events that was at least somewhat unbalanced. They mayhappened in one city, one time, one day, long have had a point, but that is not the point.ago. What business did today’s state lawmak- Here is the point: The 1921 Tulsa Race Rioters have in something so old, so local, and so Commission is pleased to report that this pastdeservedly forgotten? Surely no one cares, not tragedy has been extensively aired, that it is nowanymore. remembered, and that it will never again be un- An answer comes from hundreds and hun - known.dreds of voices. They tell us that what hap - W w wpened in 1921 in Tulsa is as alive today as it The Commission shall undertake a study towas back then. What happened in Tulsa stays [include] the identification of persons. . . .as important and remains as unresolved today No one is certain how many participated inas in 1921. What happened there still exerts its the 1921 riot. No one is certain how many suf -power over people who never lived in Tulsa at fered how much for how long. Certainty is re -all. served for a single quantifiable fact. Every year How else can one explain the thousands of there remain fewer and fewer who experiencedhours volunteered by hundreds of people, all to it personally.get this story told and get it told right? How Legislation authorizing this commission di -else can one explain the regional, national, rected that it seek and locate those survivors.even international attention that has been con- Specifically, it was to iden tify any per son able to 4
    • “provide adequate proof to the Commission” (papers like the Chicago Defender and thethat he or she was an “actual resident” of “the Pittsburgh Courier), appealing publicly for sur-‘Greenwood’ area or community” at the time vivors or to anyone who might know of one. Theof the riot. The commission was also to iden- commission’s website, created and maintainedtify any person who otherwise “sustained an by the Oklahoma Historical Society, promi-identifiable loss . . . resulting from the . . . 1921 nently declared a determination to identify andTulsa Race Riot.” register every survivor, everywhere. For affir- Some considered this the commission’s mation, it posted the official forms used as themost difficult assignment, some its most im - subcommittee’s records, including instructionsportant duty, some its most compelling pur - for their completion and submission.pose. They all were right, and had Eddie Faye An old-fashioned, intensely personal webGates not assumed personal and experienced turned out to be more productive than the thor -responsibility for that mandate, this commis- oughly modern, entirely electronic Internet.sion might have little to report. Because she Like historical communities everywhere, mod -did, however, it principally reports what she ern Greenwood maintains a rich, if informal, so-and those who worked with her were able to cial network. Sometimes directly, sometimesaccomplish in the commission’s name. distantly, it connects Greenwood’s people, Commissioner Gates’s presence gave this sometimes young, sometimes old. Anchoring itscommission a considerable and welcomed interstices are the community’s longest resi-head start. She already had included several dents, its most active citizens, and its mostriot victims among the early pioneers whom prominent leaders.she had in ter viewed for They Came Searching: One quality or another would describe someHow Blacks Sought the Promised Land in members of this commission. After all, these areTulsa. The book finished, she had an informal the very qualifications that lawmakers requiredlist of survivors, but the list kept changing. for their appointments. Others share those sameDeath erased one name after another. Others qualities and a passion for their community’sappeared. Many were of old people who had his tory as well. Curtis Law son, Rob e r tleft Oklahoma years, even decades, ago; but Littlejohn, Hannibal John son, Dr. Charlesshe heard about them and patiently tracked Chris to pher, Mable Rice, Keith Jemison, Rob ertthem down. As lawmakers were authorizing and Blanchie Mayes — all are active in thethis inquiry, the count stood at thirteen, nine - North Tulsa Historical Society, all are some ofteen if all the leads eventually panned out. No the community’s most respected citizens, andone presumed that even nineteen was close to all are among this commission’s most valuablefinal, but no one knew what the accurate total assets.might be either. The initial pub lished no tices had early re sults. At its very first organizing meeting on No- Slowly they began to compound upon them-vember 14, 1997, this commission established selves. The first stories in the national and inter-a “subcommittee on survivors,” headed by national media introduced a multiplying factor.Commissioner Gates and including Commis- Thereafter, each burst of press attention seemedsioner Burns and Dr. Clark-Adams. From that to increase what was happening geometrically.moment onward, that subcommittee has ag - People were contacting commissioners, somegressively and creatively pursued every possi- coming forward as survivors, more suggestingble av e nue to iden tify ev ery pos si ble sur vi vor. where or how they might be found. Names came Letters sent over Dr. Ellsworth’s signature in, first a light sprinkle, next a shower, then ato Jet and Ebony magazines urged readers to downpour, finally a flood.contact the commission if they knew of any Old city directories, census reports, and otherpossibilities. From Gale’s Directory of Publi- records verified some claims, but they couldcations, Commissioner Gates targeted the na - confirm only so much. After all, these peopletion’s leading African-American newspapers had been chil dren, some of them in fants, back in 5
    • 1921. Af ter eighty years, could any one re mem- All of that work is complete. As the commis-ber the kind of details — addresses, telephone sion submits its report, 118 persons have beennumbers, property descriptions, rental agree - identified, contacted, and registered as livingments, business locations — someone else survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. (Anothercould verify with official documents? Not 176 per sons also have been reg is tered as de scen-likely. In fact, these were exactly the kind of dants of riot victims.)people most likely to have been ignored or lost The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Com missionin every public record. Officially, they might thereby has discharged the mandate regardinghave never existed. the identification of persons. Except that they did, and one who looked Wlong enough and hard enough and patiently The Commission shall . . . gather information,enough could confirm it — that is, if one knew identify and interview witnesses . . . , preservewhere to look and whom to ask. testimony and records obtained, [and] examine That is what happened. Name-by-name, and copy documents . . . hav ing his tor i cal signif-someone found somebody who actually knew icance.each person. In fact, that is how many names Whatever else this commission already hassurfaced: a credible figure in the community achieved or soon will inspire, one accomplish-knew how to find older relatives, for mer neigh- ment will re main in def i nitely. Un til re cently, thebors, or departed friends. Others could be con- Tulsa race riot has been the most important leastfirmed with equal authority. Maybe someone known event in the state’s entire history. Evenknew the claimant’s family or knew someone the most resourceful of scholars stumbled asthat did. If a person claimed to be kin to some- they neared it for it was dimly lit by evidenceone or offered some small detail, surely some- and the evidentiary record faded more with ev -one else knew that relative or remembered the ery passing year.same detail as well. Some of those details That is not now and never will be true again.might even be verified through official docu- These few hours — from start to finish, the ac-ments. tual riot consumed less than sixteen hours — It was a nec es sary pro cess but slow and del i- may now comprise the most thoroughly docu-cate, too. As of June 1998, twenty-nine survi- mented moments ever to have occurred invors had been iden ti fied, con tacted, and Oklahoma. This commission’s work and theregistered. (The number did not include six - documentary record it leaves behind shinesteen identified as descendants of riot victims.) upon them a light too bright to ignore.It took another fourteen months for the total to The Oklahoma Historical So ci ety was search-reach sixty-one. It would have been higher, ex- ing its existing materials and aggressively pur -cept that three of the first twenty-nine had died su ing more be fore this com mis sion everin those months. This deadline had an ominous assembled. By the November 1997, organizingand compelling meaning. meeting, Bob Blackburn was ready to announce Work immediately shifted through higher that the society already had ordered prints fromgears. In March 2000, the identification pro - every known source of every known photographcess finished for forty-one survivors then liv- taken of the riot. He was contacting every majoring in or near Tulsa. Just a few more still archival depository and research library in theneeded to be contacted. The real work remain- country to request copies of any riot-related ma-ing, however, involved a remarkable number terials they might hold themselves. Experiencedof survivors who had turned up outside of OHS professionals were set to research impor-Oklahoma. Following a recent flurry of media tant but heretofore neglected court and munici-attention, more than sixty out-of-state survi- pal records.vors had been located. They lived everywhere This was news welcomed by commissionfrom Cal i for nia to Florida, one in Paris, members. It as sured early mo men tum for the jobFrance! ahead, and it complemented work that some of 6
    • them were already doing. Eddie Faye Gates, Lloyd uncovered and saved them, they werefor one, had pulled out every transcript of ev- scheduled for routine shredding.ery interview that she had made with a riot wit- The commission gathered the most private ofness, and she was anxious to make more. Jim documents as well. Every form registering ev -Lloyd was another. Lloyd already had found ery survivor bears notes recording informationand copied transcripts from earlier interviews, taken from every one of 118 persons. Withincluding some with Tulsa police officers pres- Kavin Ross operating the camera, Eddie Fayeent at the riot. He also had a hunch that a fellow Gates videotaped interviews with about half ofwho knew his way around a courthouse just the survivors. Each is available on one of ninemight turn up all sorts of information. cassettes preserved by the commission; full That is how it be gan, but that was just the be- transcripts are being completed for all. Sympa-ginning. In the months ahead, Larry O’Dell thetic collectors turned over transcripts of an -and other OHS employees patiently excavated other fifty or more. Some had been packed awaymountains of information, one pebble at a for twenty, even thirty years.time, as it were. They then pieced together tiny Others, in clud ing sev eral re source ful am a teurbits of fact, carefully fitting one to another. historians, reproduced and gave the commissionOne by one, completed puzzles emerged. Ar- what amounted to complete documentary col -ranged in different dimensions, they made lections. There were sets of municipal records,magic: a vision of Greenwood long since van- files from state agencies, reports kept by socialished. services, press clippings carefully bound, pri - Master maps, both of the community on the vately owned photographs never publicly seen.eve of the riot and of the post-riot residue, iden- People who had devoted years to the study oftified every single piece of property. For each one or more aspects of the riot supplied evi-parcel, a map displayed any structure present, dence they had found and presented conclusionsits owner and its use. If commercial, what they had reached. Beryl Ford followed the com-firms were there, who owned them, what busi- mission’s work as a Tulsan legendary for his de-nesses they were in. If residential, whether it votion to his city and its history. Williamwas rented or owned. If the former, the land- O’Brien attended nearly every commissionlord’s name. If the latter, whether it was mort- meeting, sometimes to ask questions, some-gaged (if so, to whom and encumbered by what times to answer them, once to deliver his owndebt.) For both, lists identified each of its occu- full report on the riot. Robert Norris preparedpants by name. smaller, occasional reports on military topics. It was not magic; it was more. Larry O’Dell He also dug up and turned over files from Na -had rebuilt Greenwood from records he and tional Guard records. Others located affidavitsother researchers had examined and collected filed with the State Supreme Court. The militaryfor the commission. Every building permit reports usually had been presumed lost; the le -granted, every warranty deed recorded, every gal papers always had been assumed unimpor-property appraisal ordered, every damage tant.claim filed, every death certificate issued, ev- Commissioners were surprised to receive soery burial record maintained — the commis- much new evidence and pleased to see that itsion had copies of every single record related contributed so much. They were delighted toto Greenwood at the time of the riot. note that so much came from black sources, that Some it had only because Jim Lloyd was it documented black experiences and recordedright. Able to navigate a courthouse, he ran black observations.across complete records for some 150 civil It had not always been that way. Too manysuits filed after the race riot. No one remem- early journalists and historians had dismissedbered that they even existed; they had been black sources as unreliable. Too few early li -misplaced for thirty-five years. When Jim brarians and archivists had preserved black sources as important. Both thereby condemned 7
    • later writers and scholars to a never ending 1982. He cites that new evidence at least 148game of hide-and-go-seek, the rules rigged so times. He had information from black sourcesno one could win. accessible now because of this commission. This commission’s work changes the game T h a t k n o w l edge c o n t r i b u t e d t o S c o t tforever. Every future scholar will have access Ellsworth’s citations from black newspapers,to everything ev ery one ever had when the orig- black interviews, or black writings. He citesinal source was white. In fact, they will have a black sources at least 272 times.lot more of it. They also will have more from No wonder the two are different. From nowsources few had before when the original on, everything can be different. They almostsource was black. have to be. Because they will, the community future Before there was this commission, much wasscholars will behold and the property they will known about the Tulsa race riot. More was un -describe was a community of black people, oc- known. It was buried somewhere, lost some-cupied by black people. The public records where, or somewhere undiscovered. No longer.they will examine involved black people and Old records have been reopened, missing filesaffected black people. Objects they will touch have been recovered, new sources have beencame from black people. Interviews they will found. Still being assembled and processed byhear and transcripts they will read were re- the Oklahoma Historical Society, their total vol-corded from black people. The evidence they ume passed ten thousand pages some time agowill explore reveals experiences of black peo- and well may reach twenty thousand by the timeple. everything is done. Consider what so much new information The di men sions of twenty thou sand pages canand what so many new sources can mean for be measured physically. Placed side-by-side,future historians. Consider what it already has they would reach across at least ten yards of li-meant for one. brary shelving, filling every inch with new in - Read closely Scott Ellsworth’s accompany- formation. The significance of these twentying essay, “The Tulsa Riot,” a rather simple ti- thousand pages has to be gauged vertically andtle, as titles go. Much more sophisticated is the met a phor i cally though. Stacked high, theytitle he gave the book he wrote in 1982, Death amount to a tower of new knowledge. Rising toin a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of reach a new perspective, they offer visions1921. never seen before. It is fair that they have different titles. They The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Com missiontell somewhat different stories in somewhat thereby has discharged the mandate to gatherdifferent ways. The chief difference is that the and preserve a record of historical significance.one titled so simply tells a tale much more so- w w wphisticated. The Com mis sion shall . . . de velop a his tor i cal For one thing, it is longer. The report at- record of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot . . . .tached here filled 115 typed pages in the tell - The commission’s first substantive decisioning; the comparable portion of the book prints was to greet this obligation with a series of ques-en tirely in 25 pages. The re port has to be lon ger tions, and there was compelling reason why.be cause it has more to re port, sto ries not told in Eighty years after the fact, almost as many unre-the first telling. It offers more because it draws solved questions surround the race riot as did inupon more evidence. The report packs 205 1921 — maybe even more. Commissionersfootnotes with citations for its story; 50 did the knew that no “historical record” would be com-job for the first one. plete unless it answered the most enduring of Within that last difference is the difference those questions — or explain why not. That wasthat causes every other difference. To write reason enough for a second decision: Commis-this report, Scott Ellsworth used evidence he sioners agreed to seek consultants, respecteddid not have — no one had it — as recently as 8
    • scholars, and other experts to investigate those claims; many have never even heard them. In aquestions and offer answers. sense, it is a black-or-white question, but Rich- Their findings follow immediately, all with- ard S. Warner demonstrates that it has noout change or comment, each just as the com- black-or-white answer.mission received it. Accompanying papers He proves it absolutely false that militarypresent what scholars and others consider the planes could have employed mil i tary weap ons onbest answers to hard questions. The reports de- Greenwood. He also proves it absolutely true thatfine their questions, either directly or implic- civilian aircraft did fly over the riot area. Someitly, and usu ally ex plain why they need were there for police reconnaissance, some foranswers. The authors give answers, but they photography, some for other legitimate purposes.present them with only the confidence and ex- He also thinks it reasonable to believe that othersactly the precision they can justify. Most re - had less innocent use. It is probable that shotstrace the route they followed to reach their were fired and that incendiary devices werepositions. All advance their positions openly. dropped, and these would have contributed toIf they sense themselves in hostile territory, riot-related deaths or de struc tion. How much? Nosome stake their ground and defend it. one will ever know: His tory per mits no The commissioners harbor no illusion that black-or-white answer.every reader will accept their every answer to Can modern science bring light to old, darkevery question. They know better. Why should rumors about a mass grave, at least one, proba-everyone else? None of them do. All eleven bly more, somewhere in Tulsa? Could those ru-have reservations, some here, some there. mors be true? If true, where is one? Robert L.Some dispute this point; some deny that one. Brooks and Alan H. Witten have answers. Yes,Some suggest other possibilities. Some insist science can address those rumors. Yes, there areupon po si tions squarely op po site the schol ars’. many reasons to believe that mass graves exist. None of that matters. However they divide Where? They can point precisely to the singleover specifics, they also are united on princi- most likely spot. They can explain why scien-ples. Should any be in need, they endorse and tists settle on that one — explain it clearlyrecommend the route they took to reach their enough and completely enough to convinceown consensus. The way around an enraged non-scientists, too. Without making a scratch onshowdown and the shortest path to a responsi- the ground, they can measure how deep it has toble solution is the line that passes through be, how thick, how wide, how long. Were thepoints ahead. Each point marks a big question site to be exhumed and were it to yield humanand an important answer. Study them care- re mains, what would any one learn? Quite a bit iffully. Lesley Rankin-Hill and Phoebe Stubblefield What was the total value of property de- were to examine them.stroyed in the Tulsa race riot, both in 1921’s How many people were killed, anyway? Atdollars and in today’s? Larry O’Dell has the the time, careful calculations varied almost asnumbers. Any one of them could be a little off, much as did pure guesses — forty, fifty, oneprobably none by very much. Could a lawyer hundred, two hundred, three hundred, maybeargue, and might a judge decree, that citizens more. After a while, it became hard to distin-liv ing now had a duty to make that good, had to guish the calculations from the guesses. Byrepay those losses, all because of something now, the record has become so muddied thatthat hap pened eighty years ago? Al fred Brophy even the most care ful and thor ough sci en tific in-can make the case, and he does. vestigation can offer no more than a preliminary Over eight decades, some Tulsans (mostly possible answer.black Tulsans) have insisted that whites at- Clyde Collins Snow’s inquiry is just as care-tacked Greenwood from the air, even bombed ful and just as thorough as one might expectit from mili tary airplanes. Other Tulsans from this forensic anthropologist of interna-(mostly white Tulsans)have de nied those tional reputation, and preliminary is the word 9
    • An Invisible Empire rally at Belle Isle, Oklahoma City in 1923. Dur ing the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan flourished across Oklahoma,claim ing tens of thou sands mem bers (Cour tesy Oklahoma His tor i cal So ci ety).that he insists upon for his findings. By the sonal statements — things said to have beenmost conservative of all possible methods, he seen, heard, or otherwise observed — raises ancan identify thirty-eight riot victims, and he entire set of questions in itself. Surely someprovides the cause of death and the burial site statements are more credible than others, butfor each of them. He even gives us the names of how credible is that? Most evidence is incom-all but the four burned beyond recognition. plete; it may be suggestive but is it dispositive? That last fact is their defining element. Evidence often inspires inference, but is the in-Thirty-eight is only the number of dead that ference reasonable or even possible? EvidenceSnow can identify individually. It says nothing is usually am big u ous, does it mean this or does itof those who lost their lives in the vicious riot mean that? Almost every piece of evidence re -and lost their personal identities in records quires an interpretation, but is only one interpre-never kept or later destroyed. An accurate ta tion pos si ble? Re spon si bil ities will bedeath count would just begin at thirty-eight; it assigned, decisions will be evaluated, judg-might end well into the hundreds. Snow ex - ments will be offered — on what basis?plains why as many as 150 might have to be These are not idle academic musings. On theadded for one reason, 18 more for another rea- contrary: This small set of questions explainsson. What nei ther he nor any one can ever know why so many specific questions remain open.is how many to add for how many reasons. They ex plain how peo ple — rea son able,That is why there will never be a better answer fair-minded, well-intended people — can dis -to the question of how many died than this: agree so often about so much.How many? Too many. Consider a question as old as the riot it self. At For some questions there will never be an - the time, many said that this was no spontaneousswers even that precise. Open for eighty years eruption of the rabble; it was planned and exe-and open now, they will remain open forever cuted by the elite. Quite a few people — includ-be cause they are too large to be filled by the ev- ing some members of this commission — haveidence at hand. since stud ied the ques tion and are per suaded that Some of the hardest questions surround the this is so, that the Tulsa race riot was the resultevidence, itself. Evidence amounting to per - of a conspiracy. This is a serious position and a 10
    • provable position — if one looks at certain evi- questions will have two, quite a few even more.dence in certain ways. Some answers will never be proven. Some will Others — again, including members of this never be disproved. Accept it: Some things cancommission — have studied the same question never be known.and examined the same evidence, but they have That is why the complete record of what beganlooked at it in different ways. They see there no in the late evening of May 31 and continuedproof of conspiracy. Selfish desires surely. Aw- through the morning of June 1 will never quite es-ful effects certainly. But not a conspiracy. Both cape those hours, themselves. They forever aresides have evidence that they consider convinc- darkened by night or enshrouded by day.ing, but neither side can convince the other. But history has a record of things certain for Another nagging question involves the role of the hours between one day’s twilight and thethe Ku Klux Klan. Everyone who has studied the next day’s afternoon. These things:riot agrees that the Klan was present in Tulsa at • Black Tulsans had every reason to believe thatthe time of the riot and that it had been for some Dick Rowland would be lynched after his arresttime. Everyone agrees that within months of the on charges later dismissed and highly suspectriot Tulsa’s Klan chapter had become one of the from the start.nation’s largest and most powerful, able to dic - • They had cause to believe that his personaltate its will with the ballot as well as the whip. safety, like the defense of themselves and theirEveryone agrees that many of the city’s most community, depended on them alone.prom i nent men were klans men in the early 1920sand that some re mained klans men through out the • As hostile groups gathered and their confronta-decade. Everyone agrees that Tulsa’s atmo- tion worsened, municipal and county authori-sphere reeked with a Klan-like stench that oozed ties failed to take actions to calm or contain thethrough the robes of the Hooded Order. situation. Does this mean that the Klan helped plan the • At the eruption of violence, civil officials se-riot? Does it mean that the Klan helped execute lected many men, all of them white and some ofit? Does it mean that the Klan, as an them participants in that violence, and madeorganization, had any role at all? those men their agents as deputies. Or does it mean that any time thousands of • In that capacity, deputies did not stem the vio-whites assembled — especially if they assembled lence but added to it, often through overt actsto assault blacks — that odds were there would be themselves illegal.quite a few klansmen in the mix? Does the pres- • Public officials provided firearms and ammuni-ence of those individuals mean that the institution tion to individuals, again all of them white.may have been an instigator or the agent of a plot?Maybe both? Maybe neither? Maybe nothing atall? Not everyone agrees on that. Nor will they ever. Both the conspiracy andthe Klan questions remain what they alwayshave been and probably what they always willbe. Both are examples of nearly every probleminherent to historical evidence. How reliable isthis oral tradition? What conclusions does thatevidence permit? Are these inferences reason-able? How many ways can this be interpreted? And so it must go on. Some questions willalways be disputed because other questionsblock the path to their answers. That does not Af ter loot ing black homes, the white ri ot ers set them on fire. Here,mean there will be no answers, just that there Thomas and Lottie Gentry’s home at 537 N. Detroit—the thirdwill not be one answer per one question. Many house from the left—bursts into flame (Courtesy Department of Spe cial Col lec tions, McFarlin Li brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa). 11
    • By the time the ad di tional Na tional Guard units from Oklahoma City ar rived in Tulsa the riot had pretty much run its course. Somecontemporary eyewitnesses, however, were critical of the time that it took for the State Troops to deploy outside of the downtownbusiness district (Cour tesy Oklahoma His tor i cal So ci ety).• Units of the Oklahoma National Guard partici- tle Af rica” and po litely as the “Ne gro pated in the mass arrests of all or nearly all of quarter.” Greenwood’s residents, removed them to • Although the exact total can never be deter- other parts of the city, and detained them in mined, credibleevidence makes it probable that holding centers. many people, likely numbering between one• Entering the Greenwood district, people stole, damaged or destroyed personal prop - erty left behind in homes and businesses.• People, some of them agents of government, also deliberately burned or otherwise de- stroyed homes credibly estimated to have numbered 1,256, along with virtually every other struc ture — in clud ing churches, schools, businesses, even a hospital and li - brary — in the Greenwood district.• Despite duties to preserve order and to pro - tect property, no government at any level of- fered adequate resistance, if any at all, to what amounted to the destruction of the Greenwood District prior to the riot (Courtesy Greenwood Cultural Center). neighborhood referred to commonly as “Lit- 12
    • Despite being numerically at a disadvantage, black Tulsansfought valiantly to protect their homes, their businesses, andtheir community. But in the end, the city’s African-Americanpopulation was simply outnumbered by the white invaders(Courtesy Department of Special Collections, McFarlin Li-brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa).Identification card(Courtesy Bob Hower). (Cour tesy Green wood Cul tural Cen ter). and three hundred, were killed during the riot. • Not one of these criminal acts was then or ever has been prosecuted or punished by gov- ernment at any level, municipal, county, state, or federal. • Even after the restoration of order it was offi- cial policy to release a black detainee only upon the application of a white person, and then only if that white person agreed to accept responsibility for that detainee’s subsequent behavior. • As private citizens, many whites in Tulsa and neighboring communities did extend invalu- able assistance to the riot’s victims, and the re- lief efforts of the American Red Cross in particular provided a model of human behav- ior at its best. • Although city and county government bore much of the cost for Red Cross relief, neither contributed substantially to Greenwood’s re - 13
    • Re building af ter the destruction (Cour - tesy Green w o o d Cul tural Cen ter). building; in fact, municipal authorities acted • In the end, the restoration of Greenwood after initially to impede rebuilding. its systematic destruction was left to the vic - tims of that destruction.Maurice Wil lows Hos pi tal. While Tulsa of fi cials turned away some of fers of out side aid, a number of individual white Tulsans pro-vided as sis tance to the city’s now vir tu ally home less black pop u la tion. But it was the Amer i can Red Cross, which re mained in Tulsafor months following the riot, provided the most sustained relief effort. Maurice Wil lows, the compassionate director of the RedCross re lief, kept a his tory of the events. (Cour tesy Bob Hower). 14
    • Af ter math of the riot (Cour tesy Green wood Cul tural Cen ter). These things are not myths, not rumors, not Case, reparations — the words, themselves,speculations, not questioned. They are the his- seem to summon images of lawyers and court -torical record. rooms, along with other words, words like cul - The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Commission pability, damages, remedies, restitution. Each isthereby has discharged the mandate to develop a term used in law, with strict legal meaning.a his tor i cal re cord of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. Some times com mis sion ers use those words, too, w w w and several agree — firmly agree — that those The final report of the Commission’s words describe accurately what happened infindings and recommendations . . . may con- 1921 and fit exactly what should happen now.tain spe cific rec om men da tions about Those, however, are their personal opinions,whether or not reparations can or should be and the commissioners who hold them do so asmade and the appropriate methods . . . . private citizens. Even the most resolute of its Unlike those quoted before, these words members recognizes that this commission has agive this commission not an obligation but an very different role. This commission is neitheropportunity. Nearly every commissioner in- court nor judge, and its members are not a jury.tends to seize it. The commission has no binding legal authority A short letter sent toGovernor Frank Keating to assign culpability, to determine damages, toas a preliminary report in February, 2000 de- establish a remedy, or to order either restitutionclared the majority’s view that reparations could or reparations. In fact, it has no judicial author-and should be made. “Good public policy,” that ity whatsoever.letter said, re quired no less. This re port main tains It also has no reason or need for such author-the same, and this report makes the case. ity. Any judgments that it might offer would be without effect and meaning. Its words would as 15
    • well be cast to the winds. Any recommenda- one. For both, the motive was not to injuretions that it might offer neither have nor need hundreds of people, nearly all un seen, al most alljudicial status at all. Statutes grant this com - un known. The in tent was to in tim i date one com-mission its authority to make recommenda- munity, to let it be known and let it be seen.tions and the choice of how — or even if — to Those who pulled the triggers, those who struckexercise that authority. the matches — they alone were lawbreakers. The commission’s majority is determined to Those who shouted encouragement and thoseexercise its discretion and to declare boldly and who stood si lently by — they were re spon si ble.directly their purpose: to recommend, inde- These are the qualities that place what hap -pendent of what law allows, what these com- pened in Tulsa outside the realm of law — andmissioners be lieve is the right thing to do. They not just in Tulsa, either. Lexington, Sapulpa,propose to do that in a dimension equal to their Norman, Shawnee, Lawton, Claremore, Perry;purpose. Courts have other purposes, and law Waurika, Dewey, and Mar shall — ear lieroperates in a different dimension. Mistake one purges in every one already had targeted entirefor the other — let this commission assume black com mu ni ties, mark ing ev ery child,what rightly belongs to law — does worse than woman, and man for exile.miss the point. It ruins it. There is no count of how many those people Think of the difference this way. We will numbered, but there is no need to know that.never know exactly how many were killed dur- Know that there, too, some thing more than a bading the Tulsa race riot, but take at random any guy had committed something more than atwenty-five from that unknown total. What we crime against something more than a person.say of those we might say for every one of the Not someone made mad by lust, not a personothers, too. gripped by rage, not a heartbroken party of ro - Considering the twenty-five to be homi-cides, the law would ap proach those astwenty-five acts performed by twenty-fivepeople (or thereabouts) who, with twenty-fivemo tives, com mit ted twenty-five crimesagainst twenty-five persons. That they oc-curred within hours and within a few blocks ofeach other is irrelevant. It would not mattereven if the same person committed two, three,ten of the murders on the same spot, momentsapart. Each was a separate act, and each (werethe law to do its duty) merits a separate conse-quence. Law can apprehend it no other way. Is there no other way to understand that? Ofcourse there is. There is a far better way. Were these twenty-five crimes or one? Dideach have a sep a rate mo tive, or was there a sin-gle intent? Were twenty-five individuals re-sponsible, those and no one else? The burningof 1,256 homes — if we understand these as1,256 acts of arson committed by 1,256 crimi-nals driven by 1,256 desires, if we understandit that way, do we understand anything at all? These were not any number of multiple actsof homicide; this was one act of horror. If we Lynching believed to be at Mannford, Oklahoma (Courtesymust name the fires, call it outrage, for it was Oklahoma Historical Sociery). 16
    • Although Oklahoma had been plagued by lynchings since the ter ri to rial days, with the com ing of statehood, more and more of thevictims were African American. Of the thirty-three lynchings that occurred in Oklahoma between 1907 and 1920, including thisone, which occurred at Okemah, fully twenty-seven of the vic tims were black (Cour tesy of Cur rie Ballard).mance gone sour, not one or any number of in- sons from voting. Lengthen that list to the indef-dividuals but a collective body — acting as one inite, write down names to the infinite — onebody — had coldly and deliberately and sys - still will not reach the point. For that, one line,tematically assaulted one victim, a whole com- one word is enough. The point was to keep amu nity, in tend ing to elim i nate it as a race, as a race, away from the polls.community. If other black communities heard Jim Crow laws — the segregation commandsabout it and learned their lessons, too, so much of Oklahoma’s statutes and of its constitution —the better; a littleintimidation went a long way. worked that way, too. Their object was not toAll of this happened years before, most fifteen keep some exhausted mother and her two youngor twenty years be fore Dick Rowland landed in children out of a “white car” on a train headedjail, but they re mained vivid in the re cent mem- somewhere like Checotah and send them walk-ories of Greenwood’s younger adults. ing six miles home. (Even if John Hope Franklin This, or something quite like it, was almost al- could recall that about his own mother and sisterways what happened when the subject was race. and him self as he accepted the HelmerichHere was nothing as amorphous as racism. Here Award some three-quarters of a century after-were discrete acts — one act, one town — each wards.) No, the one purpose was to keep oneconsciously calculated to have a collective effect race “in its place.”not against a person but against a people. When Laura Nelson was lynched years earlier And is that not also the way of Oklahoma’s in Okemah, it was not to punish her by death. Itvoting laws at the time? The state had amended was to terrify the living. Why else would theits constitution and crafted its laws not to keep lynchers have taken (and printed and copied andthis person or that person or a whole list of per- posted and distributed) that photograph of her 17
    • (Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society).hanging from the bridge, her little boy dan - early use: as a postcard. People must havegling beside her? thought it a nice way to send a message. The lynchers knew the purpose; the photog- It still sends a message, too big to be jottedrapher just helped it along. The purpose had down in a few lines; but, then, this message isnot changed much by 1921, when another pho- not especially nice either. The message is thattographer snapped another picture, a long shot here is an im age of more than a sin gle vic tim of ashowing Greenwood’s ruin, smoke rising from single episode in a single city. This image pre-fires blazing in the background. “RUNING serves the symbol of a story, preserves it in theTHE NEGRO OUT OF TULSA” someone same way that the story was told: inwrote across it, candor atoning for misspelling. black-and-white.No doubt there. No shame either. Another photograph probably was snappedthe same day but from closer range. It showedwhat just days before must have been a humanbeing, maybe one who had spent a warm day inlate May work ing and talk ing and laugh ing. Onthis day, though, it was only a grotesque,blackened form, a thing, really, its only sign ofhumanity the charred remains of arms andhands forever raised, as if in useless supplica-tion. Shot horizontally, that particular photo stillturns up from time to time in the form of an (Courtesy Department of Special Collections, McFarlin Li- brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa). 18
    • See those two photos and understand that Oklahoma. Government was, however, alwaysthe Tulsa race riot was the worst event in that its potential instrument. Having access to gov -city’s history — an event without equal and ernment, however employed, if employed at allwith out ex cuse. Un der stand, too, that it was the — just having it — defined this Oklahoma andworst explosion of violence in this state’s his- was the essence of its power.tory — an ep i sode late to be ac knowl edged and The acts recounted here reveal that power instill to be repaired. But understand also that it one form or another, often several. The Tulsawas part of a message usually announced not race riot is one example, but only an exampleviolently at all, but calmly and quietly and de- and only one. Put alongside it earlier, less publi-liberately. cized pogroms — for that is what they were — Who sent the message? Not one person but in at least ten other Oklahoma towns. Includemany acting as one. Not a “mob;” it took forms the systematic disfranchisement of the blacktoo calculated and rational for that word. Not electorate through constitutional amendment in“society;” that word is only a mask to conceal 1910, reaffirmed through state statute in 1916.responsibility within a fog of imprecision. Not Add to that the constitution’s segregation of“whites,” because this never spoke for all Oklahoma’s public schools, the First Legisla-whites; sometimes it spoke for only a few. Not ture’s segregation of its public transportation,“America,” because the federal government local segregation of Oklahoma neighborhoodswas, at best, indifferent to its black citizens through municipal ordinances in Tulsa and else-and, at worse, oblivious of them. Fifty years or where, even the statewide segregation of publicso after the Civil War, Uncle Sam was too telephones by order of the corporation commis-complacent to crusade for black rights and too sion. Do not forget to include the lynchings ofcallous to care. Let the states handle that — twenty-three Af ri can-Americans in twelvestates like Oklahoma. Oklahoma towns during the ten years leading to Except that it really was not “Oklahoma” ei- 1921. Stand back and look at those deeds now.ther. At least, it was not all of Oklahoma. It was In some government par tic i pated in the deed.just one Oklahoma, one Oklahoma that is dis- In some government performed the deed.tinguishable from another Oklahoma partly by In none did government prevent the deed.purpose. This Oklahoma had the purpose of In none did government punish the deed.keeping the other Oklahoma in its place, and And that, in the end, is what this inquiry andthat place was subordinate. That, after all, was what these recommendations are all about.the object of suffrage requirements and segre- Make no mis take about it: There are mem bers ofgation laws. No less was it the intent behind ri- this commission who are convinced that there isots and lynchings, too. One Oklahoma was a compelling argument in law to order that pres-putting the other Oklahoma in its place. ent governments make monetary payment for One Oklahoma also had the power to effect past governments’ unlawful acts. Professor Al-its purpose, and that power had no need to rely fred Brophy presses one form of that argument;on occasional explosions of rage. Simple vio- there doubtless are others.lence is, after all, the weapon of simple people, This is not that legal argument but anotherpeople with access to no other instruments of one altogether. This is a moral argument. Itpower at all. This Oklahoma had access to holds that there are moral responsibilities herepower more subtle, more regular, and more and that those moral responsibilities requireformal than that. Indeed, its ready access to moral responses now.such forms of power partially defined that It gets down to this: The 1921 riot is, at once,Oklahoma. a representative historical example and a unique No, that Oklahoma is not the same as gov- historical event. It has many parallels in the pat-ern ment, used here as a rhe tor i cal trick to make tern of past events, but it has no equal for its vio-one accountable for the acts of the other. Gov- lence and its completeness. It symbolizes soern ment was never the es sence of that much endured by so many for so long. It does it, 19
    • Shock and despair accompany the aftermath of the Tulsa Race Riot (Cour tesy Bob Hower).(Courtesy of the Library of Congress).however, in one way that no other can: in the That is why the Tulsa race riot can be aboutliving flesh and blood of some who did endure something else. It can be about making twoit. Oklahomas one — but only if we understand These paradoxes hold answers to questions that this is what reparation is all about. Becauseoften asked: Why does the state of Oklahoma the riot is both symbolic and singular, repara-or the city of Tulsa owe anything to anybody? tions become both singular and symbolic, too.Why should any in di vid ual tol er ate now Compelled not legally by courts but extendedspending one cent of one tax dollar over what freely by choice, they say that individual acts ofhappened so long ago? reparation will stand as symbols that fully ac - The answer is that these are not even the knowledge and finally discharge a collective re-questions. This is not about individuals at all sponsibility.— not any more than the race riot or anything Because we must face it: There is no way butlike it was about individuals. by government to represent the collective, and This is about Oklahoma — or, rather, it is there is no way but by reparations to make realabout two Oklahomas. It must be about that be- the responsibility.cause that is what the Tulsa race riot was all Does this commission have specific recom-about, too. That riot proclaimed that there were mendations about whether or not reparationstwo Oklahomas; that one claimed the right to can or should be made and the ap pro pri ate meth-push down, push out, and push under the other; ods? Yes, it surely does.and that it had the power to do that. When commissioners went looking to do the That is what the Tulsa race riot has been all right thing, that is what nearly all of them foundabout for so long afterwards, why it has lin - and what they recommended in last year’s pre -gered not as a past event but lived as a present liminary report. To be sure they had found theentity. It kept on saying that there remained right thing, they have used this formal report totwo Oklahomas; that one claimed the right to explore once more the distant terrain of thebe dismissive of, ignorant of, and oblivious to Tulsa race riot and the forbidding territory inthe other; and that it had the power to do that. which it lies. Now, they are certain. Reparations are the right thing to do. What else is there to do? What else is there to find? 20
    • February 7, 2000The Honorable Frank KeatingGovernor of the State of OklahomaState Capitol buildingOklahoma City, OK 73105Dear Governor Keating:The Tulsa Race Riot Commission, established by House Joint Resolution No. 1035, is pleased tosubmit the following preliminary report.The primary goal of collecting historical documentation on the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 has beenachieved. Attachment A is a summary listing of the record groups that have been gathered andstored at the Oklahoma Historical Society. Also included are summaries of some reports and thefull text of selected documents to illustrate the breadth and scope of the collecting process. How-ever, the Commission has not yet voted on historical findings, so these materials do not necessar-ily represent conclusions of the Commission.At the last meeting, held February 4, 2000, the Commission voted on three actions. They are:1) The Issue of RestitutionWhereas, the process of historical analysis by this Commission is not yet complete,And Whereas, the archeological investigation into casualties and mass burials is not yet com-plete,And Whereas, we have seen a continuous pattern of historical evidence that the Tulsa Race Riotof 1921 was the violent consequence of racial hatred institutionalized and tolerated by officialfederal, state, county, and city policy,And Whereas, government at all levels has the moral and ethical responsibility of fostering asense of community that bridges divides of ethnicity and race,And Whereas, by statute we are to make recommendations regarding whether or not reparationscan or should be made to the Oklahoma Legislature, the Governor of the State of Oklahoma, andthe Mayor and City Council of Tulsa,That, we, the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Commission, recommend that restitution to the historicGreenwood Community, in real and tangible form, would be good public policy and do much torepair the emotional as well as physical scars of this most terrible incident in our shared past.
    • 2) The Issue of Suggested Forms of Restitution in Priority OrderThe Commission recommends 1) Direct payment of reparations to survivors of the Tulsa Race Riot. 2) Direct payment of reparations to descendants of the survivors of the Tulsa Race Riot. 3) A scholarship fund available to students affected by the Tulsa Race Riot. 4) Establishment of an economic development enterprise zone in the historic area of the Greenwood District. 5) A memorial for the reburial of any human remains found in the search for unmarked graves of riot victims.3) The Issue of an Extension of the Tulsa Race Riot CommissionThe Commission hereby endorses and supports House Bill 2468, which extends the life of theCommission in order to finish the historical report on the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.We, the members of the Tulsa Race Riot Commission, respectfully submit these findings foryour consideration.
    • (Courtesy Special Collections Department, McFarlin Li brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa). History Knows No Fences: An OverviewBy John Hope Franklin and Scott Ellsworth As the centennial of Oklahoma statehood tion, tumbling oil prices and truckloads of Okiesdraws near, it is not difficult to look upon the streaming west. But through it all, there are twohistory of our state with anything short of awe twentieth century tragedies which, sadly enough,and won der. In ninety-three short years, whole stand head and shoulders above the others.towns and cities have sprouted upon the prai - For many Oklahomans, there has never beenries, great cultural and educational institutions a darker day than April 19, 1995. At two min -have risen among the blackjacks, and the utes past nine o’clock that morning, when thestate’s agricultural and industrial output has far northern face of the Alfred P. Murrah Federalsurpassed even the wildest dreams of the Building in downtown Oklahoma City wasBoomers. In less than a century, Oklahoma has blown inward by the deadliest act of terrorismtransformed itself from a rawboned territory ever to take place on American soil, lives weremore at home in the nineteenth century, into shattered, lives were lost, and the history of thenow, as a new millennium dawns about us, a state would never again be the same.shining example of both the promise and the One-hundred-sixty-eight Oklahomans diedreality of the American dream. In looking back that day. They were black and white, Nativeupon our past, we have much to take pride in. American and Hispanic, young and old. And But we have also known heartaches as well. during the weeks that followed, we began toAs any honest history textbook will tell you, learn a little about who they were. We learnedthe first century of Oklahoma statehood has about Colton and Chase Smith, brothers agedalso featured dust storms and a Great De- two and three, and how they loved theirpression, po lit i cal scan dals and Jim Crow leg is la- playmates at the daycare center. We learned about 21
    • Per haps more than any thing else, what shocked most ob serv ers was the scope of the de struc tion in Tulsa. Practically the entire Af ri canAmer i can dis trict, stretch ing for more than a mile from Ar cher Street to the sec tion line, had been re duced toa waste land of burned outbuild ings, empty lots, and black ened trees (Cour tesy De part ment of Spe cial Col lec tions, McFarlin Li brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa).Captain Randy Guzman, U.S.M.C., and how he seventy-three years before the Murrah Buildinghad commanded troops during Operation Desert was bombed, the city of Tulsa erupted into aStorm, and we learned about Wanda Lee Howell, firestorm of hatred and violence that is perhapswho always kept a Bible in her purse. And we unequaled in the peacetime history of thelearned about Cartney Jean McRaven, a nine- United States.teen-year-old Air Force enlistee who had been For those hearing about the 1921 Tulsa racemarried only four days earlier. riot for the first time, the event seems almost im- The Murrah Building bombing is, without possible to believe. During the course of eigh -any question, one of the great tragedies of teen terrible hours, more than one thousandOklahoma history. And well before the last homes were burned to the ground. Practicallymemorial service was held for the last victim, overnight, entire neighborhoods where familiesthousands of Oklahomans made it clear that had raised their children, visited with theirthey wanted what happened on that dark day to neighbors, and hung their wash out on the line tobe remembered. For upon the chain-link fence dry, had been suddenly reduced to ashes. And assurrounding the bomb site there soon appeared the homes burned, so did their contents, includ-a makeshift memorial of the heart — of teddy ing furniture and family Bibles, rag dolls andbears and handwritten children’s prayers, key hand-me-down quilts, cribs and photograph al-rings and dreamcatchers, flowers and flags. bums. In less than twenty-four hours, nearly allNow, with the construction and dedication of of Tulsa’s African American residential districtthe Oklahoma City National Memorial, there — some forty-square-blocks in all — had beenis no doubt but that both the victims and the laid to waste, leaving nearly nine-thousand peo-les sons of April 19, 1995 will not be for got ten. ple homeless. But what would have come as a surprise to Gone, too, was the city’s African Americanmost of the state’s citizens during the sad commercial district, a thriving area locatedspring of 1995 was that there were, among along Greenwood Avenue which boasted somethem, other Oklahomans who carried within of the finest black-owned businesses in the en -their hearts the painful memories of an equally tire Southwest. The Stradford Hotel, a moderndark, though long ignored, day in our past. For fifty-four room brick es tab lish ment which 22
    • s u g g e s t t h a t a t l e a s t s e v e n t y - f i v e to one-hundred people, both black and white, were killed during the riot. It should be added, how - ever, that at least one credible source from the period — Maurice Willows, who directed the relief operations of the American Red Cross in Tulsa following the riot — indicated in his offi- cial report that the total number of riot fatalities may have ran as high as three-hundred.1 We also know a little, at least, about who some of the victims were. Reuben Everett, who was black, was a laborer who lived with his wifeThe Gurley Building prior to the riot (Courtesy Greenwood Jane in a home along Archer Street. Killed by aCultural Center). gunshot wound on the morning of June 1, 1921, he is buried in Oaklawn Cemetery. Georgehoused a drug store, barber shop, restaurant Wal ter Daggs, who was white, may have died asand banquet hall, had been burned to the much as twelve hours earlier. The manager ofground. So had the Gurley Hotel, the Red Wing the Tulsa office of the Pierce Oil Company, heHotel, and the Midway Ho tel. Li terally doz ens offam ily-run busi nesses—from ca fes andmom-and-pop grocery stores, to the DreamlandTheater, the Y.M.C.A. Cleaners, the East EndFeed Store, and Osborne Monroe’s roller skatingrink — had also gone up in flames, taking withthem the livelihoods, and in many cases the lifesavings, of literally hundreds of people. The offices of two newspapers — the TulsaStar and the Oklahoma Sun — had also been de-stroyed, as were the offices of more than a dozendoctors, dentists, lawyers, realtors, and otherprofessionals. A United States Post Office sub -station was burned, as was the all-black FrissellMemorial Hospital. The brand new Booker T.Washington High School building escaped thetorches of the rioters, but Dunbar ElementarySchool did not. Neither did more than ahalf-dozen African American churches, includ-ing the newly constructed Mount Zion BaptistChurch, an impressive brick tabernacle whichhad been dedicated only seven weeks earlier. Harsher still was the human loss. While we (Courtesy of Green wood Cul tural Cen ter).will probably never know the exact number ofpeople who lost their lives during the Tulsarace riot, even the most conservative estimates was shot in the back of the head as he fled fromare ap pall ing. While we know that the the initial gunplay of the riot that broke out inso-called “official” estimate of nine whites and front of the Tulsa County Courthouse on thetwenty-six blacks is too low, it is also true that evening of May 31. Moreover, Dr. A. C. Jack -some of the higher estimates are equally dubi- son, a renowned African American physician,ous. All told, considerable evidence exists to was fatally wounded in his front yard after he 23
    • The destruction affected the African American business section and the residential neighborhoods in North Tulsa (Cour tesy West ern His tory Col lec tions, Uni ver sity of Oklahoma Li braries).had surrendered to a group of whites. Shot in Like the Murrah Building bombing, the Tulsathe stomach, he later died at the National riot would forever alter life in Oklahoma. No -Guard Armory. But for every riot victim’s where, perhaps, was this more starkly apparentstory that we know, there are others — like the than in the mat ter of lynch ing. Like sev eral other“unidentified Negroes” whose burials are re - states and territories during the early years of thecorded in the now yellowed pages of old fu - twentieth century, the sad spectacle of lynchingneral home ledgers — whose names and life was not uncommon in Oklahoma. In her 1942stories are, at least for now, still lost. master’s thesis at the University of Oklahoma, By any standard, the Tulsa race riot of 1921 Mary Elizabeth Estes determined that betweenis one of the great tragedies of Oklahoma his- the declaration of statehood on November 16,tory. Walter White, one of the nation’s fore - 1907, and the Tulsa race riot some thirteen yearsmost experts on racial violence, who visited later, thirty-two individuals — twenty-six ofTulsa during the week after the riot, was whom were black — were lynched inshocked by what had taken place. “I am able to Oklahoma. But during the twenty years follow-state,” he said, “that the Tulsa riot, in sheer bru- ing the riot, the number of lynchings statewidetality and willful destruction of life and prop- fell to two. Although they paid a terrible priceerty, stands without parallel in America.”2 for their efforts, there is little doubt except by Indeed, for a number of observers through their actions on May 31, 1921, that blackthe years, the term “riot” itself seems some - Tulsans helped to bring the barbaric practice ofhow inadequate to describe the violence and lynching in Oklahoma to an end.conflagration that took place. For some, what But unlike the Oklahoma City bombing,occurred in Tulsa on May 31 and June 1, 1921 which has, to this day, remained a high profilewas a massacre, a pogrom, or, to use a more event, for many years the Tulsa race riot practi-modern term, an eth nic cleans ing. For oth ers, it cally disappeared from view. For decades after-was nothing short of a race war. But whatever wards, Oklahoma newspapers rarely mentionedterm is used, one thing is certain: when it was the riot, the state’s historical establishment es-all over, Tulsa’s Af ri can Amer i can district had sentially ignored it, and entire generations ofbeen turned into a scorched wasteland of va - Oklahoma school children were taught little orcant lots, crum bling store fronts, burned nothing about what had happened. To be sure,churches, and blackened, leafless trees. the riot was still a topic of conversation, particu- 24
    • larly in Tulsa. But these dis cus sions — the riot. Indeed, the riot was even news overseas,whether among family or friends, in barber “FIERCE OUTBREAK IN OKLAHOMA” de -shops or on the front porch — were private af- clared The Times of London.5fairs. And once the riot slipped from the head- But something else happened as well. For inlines, its public memory also began to fade. the days and weeks that followed the riot, edito- Of course, any one who lived through the riot rial writers from coast-to-coast unleashed a tor-could never forget what had taken place. And rent of stinging condemnations of what hadin Tulsa’s African American neighborhoods, taken place. “The bloody scenes at Tulsa,the physical, psychological, and spiritual dam- Oklahoma,” declared the Philadelphia Bulletin,age caused by the riot remained highly appar- “are hardly conceivable as happening in Ameri-ent for years. Indeed, even today there are can civilization of the pres ent day.” For the Ken-places in the city where the scars of the riot can tucky State Jour nal, the riot was nothing short ofstill be observed. In North Tulsa, the riot was “An Oklahoma Disgrace,” while the Kansasnever forgotten — because it could not be. City Journal was revolted at what it called the But in other sections of the city, and else - “Tulsa Horror.” From both big-city dailies andwhere through out the state, the riot slipped fur- small town newspapers — from the Houstonther and further from view. And as the years Post and Nashville Tennessean to the tiny Timespassed and, particularly after World War II, as of Gloucester, Massachusetts — came a chorusmore and more families moved to Oklahoma of criticism. The Christian Recorder even wentfrom out-of-state, more and more of the state’s so far as to declare that “Tulsa has become acitizens had simply never heard of the riot. In- name of shame upon America.”6deed, the riot was discussed so little, and for so For many Oklahomans, and particularly forlong, even in Tulsa, that in 1996, Tulsa County whites in positions of civic responsibility, suchDistrict Attorney Bill LaFortune could tell a sentiments were most unwelcome. For regard-reporter, “I was born and raised here, and I had less of what they felt personally about the riot,never heard of the riot.”4 in a young state where attracting new businesses How could this have happened? How could and new settlers was a top priority, it soon be -a disaster the size and scope of the Tulsa race came evident that the riot was a public relationsriot become, somehow, forgotten? How could nightmare. Nowhere was this felt more acutelysuch a major event in Oklahoma history be - than in Tulsa. “I suppose Tulsa will get a lot ofcome so little known? unpleasant publicity from this affair,” wrote one Some observers have claimed that the lack Tulsa-based petroleum geol o gist to familyof attention given to the riot over the years was members back East. Reverend Charles W. Kerr,the di rect re sult of noth ing less than a “con spir- of the city’s all-white First Pres by te rian Church,acy of silence.” And while it is certainly true added his own assessment. “For 22 years I havethat a number of important documents relating been boosting Tulsa," he said, “and we have allto the riot have turned up missing, and that been boosters and boasters about our buildings,some individuals are, to this day, still reluctant bank ac counts and other as sets, but the events ofto talk about what happened, the shroud of si- the past week will put a stop to the bragging for alence that descended over the Tulsa race riot while.”7 For some, and particularly for Tulsa’scan also be accounted for without resorting to white business and political leaders, the riotconspiracy theories. But one must start at the soon became something best to be forgotten,beginning. something to be swept well beneath history’s The riot, when it happened, was front-page carpet.news across America. “85 WHITES AND What is remarkable, in retrospect, is the de -NEGROES DIE IN TULSA RIOTS” ran the gree to which this nearly happened. For within aheadline in the June 2, 1921 edition of the New decade after it had happened, the Tulsa race riotYork Times, while dozens of other newspapers went from being a front-page, national calamity,across the country published lead stories about to being an incident portrayed as an unfortunate, 25
    • which had happened in Tulsa on the same date fifteen years earlier, including local news sto - ries, political tidbits, and society gossip. But when the fifteenth anniversary of the race riot arrived in early June, 1936, the Tribune ignored it completely — and instead ran the following: FIFTEEN YEARS AGO Miss Carolyn Skelly was a charming young hostess of the past week, having en- tertained at a luncheon and theater party for Miss Kathleen Sinclair and her guest, MissDespite the aid given by the Red Cross, black Tulsans faced a Julia Morley of Saginaw, Mich. Corsagegar gan tuan task in the re build ing of Green wood. Li terally thou- bouquets of Cecil roses and sweet peassands were forced to spend the win ter of 1921-22 liv ing in tents were presented to the guests, who were(Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society). Misses Claudine Miller, Martha Sharpe, Elizabeth Cook, Jane Robinson, Paulinebut not really very significant, event in the state’s Wood, Ma rie Constantin, Irene Buel,past. Oklahoma history textbooks published dur- Thelma Kennedy, Ann Kennedy, Naomiing the 1920s did not mention the riot at all — Brown, Jane Wallace and Edith Smith.nor did ones published in the 1930s. Finally, in1941, the riot was mentioned in the Oklahoma Mrs. O.H.P. Thomas will entertain for hervolume in the influential American Guide Series daughter, Elizabeth, who has been attending— but only in one brief paragraph.8 Randolph Macon school in Lynchburg, Va. Nowhere was this historical amnesia more Central high school’s crowning socialstartling than in Tulsa itself, especially in the event of the term just closed was the seniorcity’s white neighborhoods. “For a while,” prom in the gymnasium with about 200noted former Tulsa oilman Osborn Campbell, guests in attendance. The grand march was“picture postcards of the victims in awful led by Miss Sara Little and Seth Hughes.poses were sold on the streets," while more Miss Vera Gwynne will leave next weekthan one white ex-rioter “boasted about how for Chicago to enter the University of Chi -many notches he had on his gun.” But the riot, cago where she will take a course in kinder-which some whites saw as a source of local garten study.pride, in time more generally came to be re -garded as a local embarrassment. Eventually, Mr. And Mrs. E.W. Hance have as theirOsborn added, “the talk stopped.”9 guests Mr. L.G. Kellenneyer of St. Mary’s, So too, apparently did the news stories. For Ohio.while it is highly questionable whether — as it Mrs. C.B. Hough and her son, Ralph, lefthas been alleged — any Tulsa newspaper actu- last night for a three-months trip throughally discouraged its reporters from writing the west and northwest. They will returnabout the riot, for years and years on end the home via Dallas, Texas, where they willriot does not appear to have been mentioned in visit Mrs. Hough’s homefolk. 11the local press. And at least one local paper Ten years later, in 1946, by which time theseems to have gone well out of its way, at Tribune had added a “Twenty-Five Years Ago”times, to avoid the subject altogether. feature, the newspaper once again avoided men- During the mid-1930s, the Tulsa Tribune — tioning the riot. It was as if the great est ca tas tro-the city’s afternoon daily newspaper — ran a phe in the city’s his tory sim ply had notregular feature on its editorial page called “Fif- happened at all.12teen Years Ago.” Drawn from back issues of That there would be some reluctance towardthe newspaper, the column highlighted events discussing the riot is hardly surprising. Cities 26
    • Dedication of the black wallstreet me mo rial in 1996 at tended by Rob ert Fairchild (Cour tesy Greenwood Cultural Center).and states — just like individuals — do not, as tact with Robert Fairchild, a recreation specialista general rule, like to dwell upon their past who was also one of Tulsa’s handful of Africanshortcomings. For years and years, for exam- American municipal employees. A riot survivor,ple, Oklahoma school children were taught Fairchild told Feldman of his experiences duringonly the most sanitized versions of the story of the disaster, which made a deep impression onthe Trail of Tears, while the history of slavery the young sociologist, who decided to share herin Oklahoma was more or less ignored alto- discovery with her students.13gether. Moreover, during the World War II But as it turned out, Feldman also soonyears, when the nation was engaged in a life or learned something else, namely, that learningdeath struggle against the Axis, history text - about the riot, and teaching about it, were twobooks quite understandably stressed themes of entirely dif fer ent prop o si tions. “Dur ing my firstnational unity and consensus. The Tulsa race months at TU,” she later recalled:riot, needless to say, did not qualify. I mentioned the race riot in class one day But in Tulsa itself, the riot had affected far and was surprised at the universal surprisetoo many families, on both sides of the tracks, among my students. No one in this all-ever to sink entirely from view. But as the white class room of both vet er ans, who wereyears passed and the riot grew ever more dis- older, and standard 18-year-old freshmen,tant, a mindset developed which held that the had ever heard of it, and some stoutly de -riot was one part of the city’s past that might nied it and questioned my facts.best be for gotten alto gether. Re markablyenough, that is exactly what began to happen. I invited Mr. Fairchild to come to class and When Nancy Feldman moved to Tulsa dur - tell of his experience, walking along the rail -ing the spring of 1946, she had never heard of road tracks to Turley with his brothers and sis-the Tulsa race riot. A Chicagoan, and a new ter. Again, there was stout denial and, evenbride, she accepted a position teaching sociol- more surprising, many students asked theirogy at the University of Tulsa. But trained in so- parents and were told, no, there was no racecial work, she also began working with the City riot at all. I was called to the Dean’s of fice andHealth Department, where she came into con- advised to drop the whole subject. 27
    • The next se mes ter, I in vited Mr. terviewed eyewitnesses, wrote about their find- Fairchild to come to class. Several times ings, and tried, as best as they could, to ensure that the Dean warned me about this. I do not be- the riot was not erased from history. lieve I ever suffered from this exercise of None, perhaps, succeeded as spectacularly as my freedom of speech . . . but as a very Mary E. Jones Parrish, a young African Ameri- young and new instructor, I certainly felt can teacher and journalist. Parrish had moved to threatened. Tulsa from Rochester, New York in 1919 or For Feldman, such behavior amounted to 1920, and had found work teaching typing andnothing less than “Purposeful blindness and shorthand at the all-black Hunton Branch of thememory blocking.” Moreover, she discovered, it Y.M.C.A.. With her young daughter, Florencewas not limited to the classroom. “When I would Mary, she lived at the Woods Building in themention the riot to my white friends, few would heart of the African American business district.talk about it. And they certainly didn’t want to.”14 But when the riot broke out, both mother and While perhaps sur prising in retrospect, daughter were forced to abandon their apart-Feldman’s experiences were by no means ment and flee for their lives, run ning north alongunique. When Nancy Dodson, a Kansas native Greenwood Avenue amid a hail of bullets. 17who later taught at Tulsa Junior College, Immediately following the riot, Parrish wasmoved to Tulsa in 1950, she too discovered hired by the Inter-Racial Commission to “dothat, at least in some parts of the white commu- some re port ing” on what had hap pened.nity, the riot was a taboo subject. “I was ad - Throwing herself into her work with her charac-monished not to mention the riot almost upon teristic verve — and, one imagines, a borrowedour arrival,” she later recalled, “Because of typewriter — Parrish interviewed several eye-shame, I thought. But the explanation was witnesses and transcribed the testimonials of‘you don’t want to start another.’”15 survivors. She also wrote an account of her own The riot did not fare much better in lo cal his- harrowing experiences during the riot and, to -tory ef forts. While Angie Debo did make men- gether with photographs of the devastation and ation of the riot in her 1943 history, Tulsa: From partial roster of property losses in the AfricanCreek Town to Oil Capital, her account was American community, Parrish published all ofboth brief and superficial. And fourteen years the above in a book called Events of the Tulsalater, during the summer of 1957, when the Disaster. And while only a handful of copies ap-city celebrated its “Tulsarama” – a week-long pear to have been printed, Parrish’s volume wasfestival commemorating the semi-centennial not only the first book published about the riot,of Oklahoma statehood — the riot was, once and a pioneering work of journalism by an Afri-again, ignored. Some thirty-five years after it can American woman, but remains, to this day,had taken the lives of dozens of innocent peo- an invaluable contemporary account.18ple, de stroyed a neigh bor hood nearly It took another twenty-five years, however,one-square-mile in size in a firestorm which until the first gen eral his tory of the riot was writ-sent columns of black smoke billowing hun - ten. In 1946, a white World War II veterandreds of feet into the air, and brought the nor- named Loren L. Gill was attending themal life of the city to a complete standstill, the University of Tulsa. Intrigued by lingering sto-Tulsa race riot was fast becoming little more ries of the race riot, and armed with both consider-than a historical inconvenience, something, able energy and estimable research skills, Gillperhaps, that ought not be discussed at all. decided to make the riot the subject of his master’s Despite such official negligence, however, thesis.19there were always Tulsans through the years who The end result, “The Tulsa Race Riot,” was,helped make it certain that the riot was not for - all told, an exceptional piece of work, Gillgotten. Both black and white, sometimes work- worked diligently to uncover the causes of theing alone but more often working together, they riot, and to trace its path of violence and de -collected evidence, preserved photographs, in - struction, by scouring old newspaper and maga- 28
    • zine ar ti cles, Red Cross re cords, and lost both her home and her beauty shop duringgovernment documents. Moreover, Gill inter- the conflagration, and E.L. Goodwin, Sr., theviewed more than a dozen local citizens, in - publisher of the Oklahoma Eagle, the city’scluding police and city officials, about the riot. black newspaper. Although the audience at theAnd remarkably for the mid-1940’s, Gill also ceremony — which included a handful ofin ter viewed a num ber of Af ri can Amer i can riot whites — was not large, the event representedsurvivors, including Reverend Charles Lanier the first public acknowledgment of the riot inNetherland, Mrs. Dimple L. Bush, and the decades.22noted attorney, Amos T. Hall. And while a But another episode that same spring also re-number of Gill’s conclusions about the riot vealed just how far that Tulsa, when it came tohave not withstood subsequent historical scru- owning up to the race riot, still had to go. Thetiny, few have matched his determination to previous autumn, Larry Silvey, the publicationsuncover the truth. 20 manager at the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, Yet despite Gill’s accomplishment, the riot decided that on the fiftieth anniversary of theremained well-buried in the city’s historical riot, the chamber’s magazine should run a storycloset. Riot survivors, participants, and ob- on what had happened. Silvey then contactedservers, to be certain, still told stories of their Ed Wheeler, the host of ‘The Gilcrease Story," aexperiences to family and friends. And at pop u lar his tory pro gram which aired on lo cal ra-Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School, a dio. Wheeler — who, like Silvey, was white —handful of teachers made certain that their stu- agreed to research and write the article. Thus,dents — many of whose fam i lies had moved to during the winter of 1970-71, Wheeler went toTulsa after 1921 — learned at least a little work, interviewing dozens of elderly black andabout what had happened. But the fact remains white riot eyewitnesses, and searching throughthat for nearly a quarter of a century after archives in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City forLoren Gill completed his master’s thesis, the documents pertaining to the riot.23Tulsa race riot remained well out of the public But something else happened as well. For onspotlight.21 two separate occasions that winter, Wheeler But beneath the surface, change was afoot. was approached by white men, unknown to him,For as the national debate over race relations who warned him, “Don’t write that story.” Notintensified with the emergence of the modern long thereafter, Wheeler’s home telephone be -civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, gan ring ing at all hours of the day and night, andTulsa’s own racial customs were far from one morning he awoke to find that someone hadstatic. As the city began to address issues aris- taken a bar of soap and scrawled across the fronting out of school desegregation, sit-ins, job windshield of his car, “Best check under yourbias, housing discrimination, urban renewal, hood from now on.”and white flight, there were those who believed But Ed Wheeler was a poor candidate forthat Tulsa’s racial past — and particularly the such scare tactics. A former United States Armyrace riot — needed to be openly confronted. infantry officer, the incidents only angered him. Few felt this as strongly as those who had Moreover, he was now deep into trying to piecesurvived the tragedy itself, and on the evening together the history of the riot, and was notof June 1, 1971, dozens of African American about to be deterred. But to be on the safe side,riot survivors gathered at Mount Zion Baptist he sent his wife and young son to live with hisChurch for a program commemorating the fif- mother-in-law. 24tieth anniversary of the riot. Led by W.D. Wil- Despite the harassment, Wheeler completedliams, a longtime Booker T. Washington High his article and Larry Silvey was pleased withSchool history teacher, whose family had suf- the results. However, when Silvey began to layfered immense property loss during the vio- out the story — complete with never-before-lence, the other speak ers that eve ning in cluded pub lished pho to graphs of both the riot and its af-fellow riot survivors Mable B. Little, who had termath chamber of commerce management 29
    • Representative Don Ross at Greenwood and Archer (Courtesy Greenwood Cultural Center).killed the article. Silvey appealed to the cham- Tulsans — and hardly any whites — even knewber’s board of directors, but they, too, refused of its existence. 25to allow the story to be published. One of the few who did was Ruth Sigler Determined that his efforts should not have Avery, a white Tulsa woman with a passion forbeen in vain, Wheeler then tried to take his history. A young girl at the time of the riot,story to Tulsa’s two daily newspapers, but was Avery had been haunted by her memories of therebuffed. In the end, his article — called “Pro- smoke and flames rising up over the Africanfile of a Race Riot” — was published in Impact American district, and by the two trucks carry-Magazine, a new, black-oriented publication ing the bodies of riot victims that had passed inedited by a young African American journalist front of her home on East 8th Street.named Don Ross. Determined that the his tory of the riot needed “Profile of a Race Riot” was a hand-biting, to be preserved, Avery begin interviewing riotpath-breaking story, easily the best piece of survivors, collecting riot photographs, and serv-writ ing pub lished about the riot in de cades. But ing as a one-woman research bureau for anyoneis was also a story whose impact was both lim- interested in studying what had happened. Con-ited and far from citywide. For while it has vinced that the riot had been deliberately cov -been re ported that the is sue con tain ing ered-up, Avery embarked upon what turned outWheeler’s story sold out “virtually overnight,” to be a decades-long personal crusade to seethe magazine’s readership, which was not that the true story of the riot was finally told.26large to be gin with, was al most ex clu sively Af- Along the way, Avery met some kindred spir-rican American. Ultimately, “Pro file of a Race its — and none more important that MozellaRiot” marked a turning point in how the riot Franklin Jones. The daughter of riot survivorwould be written about in the years to come, and prom i nent Af ri can Amer i can at tor ney Buckbut at the time that it was published, few Colbert Franklin, Jones had long endeavored to raise awareness of the riot particularly outside 30
    • of Tulsa’s black community. While she was of- In 1975, Northeastern State University histo-ten deeply frustrated by white resistance to con- rian Rudia M. Halliburton, Jr. published Thefronting the riot, her accomplishments were far Tulsa Race War of 1921. Adapted from an arti-from inconsequential. Along with Henry C. cle he had published three years earlier in theWhitlow, Jr., a history teacher at Booker T. Journal of Black Studies, Halliburton’s bookWashington High School, Jones had not only featured a remarkable collection of riot photo-helped to desegregate the Tulsa Historical Soci- graphs, many of which he had collected from hisety, but had mounted the first-ever major exhibi- students. Issued by a small academic press intion on the history of African Americans in California, Halliburton’s book received little at-Tulsa. Moreover, she had also created, at the tention outside of scholarly circles. Nonethe-Tulsa Historical Society, the first collection of less, as the first book about the riot published inriot photographs available to the public.27 more than a half-century, it was another impor- None of these activities, however, was by it- tant step toward unlocking the riot’s history.31self any match for the culture of silence which In the end, it would still take several years —had long hovered over the riot, and for years to and other books, and other individuals — to liftcome, discussions of the riot were often cur- the veil of silence fully which had long hoveredtailed. Taken together, the fiftieth anniversary over the riot. However, by the end of the 1970s,ceremony, “Profile of a Race Riot," and the efforts were underway that, once and for all,work of Ruth Avery and Mozella Jones had would finally bring out into the open the historynudged the riot if not into the spotlight, then at of the tragic events of the spring of 1921. 32least out of the back reaches of the city’s his- Today, the Tulsa race riot is anything buttorical closet.28 unknown. Moreover, these local efforts mirrored some During the past two years, both the riot itself,larger trends in American society. Nation- and the efforts of Oklahomans to come to termswide, the decade of the 1970s witnessed a vir- with the tragedy, have been the subject of doz-tual explosion of interest in the Af rican ens of magazine and newspaper articles, radioAmerican experience. Millions of television talk shows, and television documentaries. In anviewers watched Roots, the miniseries adapta- unprecedented and continuing explosion oftion of Alex Haley’s chronicle of one family’s press attention, journalists and film crews fromtortuous journey through slavery, while books as far away as Paris, France and London, Eng -by black authors climbed to the top of the land have journeyed to Oklahoma to interviewbestseller lists. Black studies programs and de- riot survivors and eyewitnesses, search throughpart ments were cre ated at col leges from archives for documents and photographs, andcoast-to-coast, while at both the high school walk the ground where the killings and burningand university level, teaching materials began of May 31 and June 1, 1921 took place.to more fully address issues of race. As schol- After years of neglect, stories and articlesars started to re-examine the long and turbulent about the riot have ap peared not only inhistory of race relations in America — includ- Oklahoma magazines and newspapers, but alsoing racial violence — the Tulsa riot began to in the pages of the Dallas Morning News, Thereceive some limited national exposure . 29 Economist, the Kansas City Star, the London Similar activities took place in Oklahoma. Daily Telegraph, the Los Angeles Times, theKay M. Teall’s Black History in Oklahoma, an National Post of Canada, the New York Times,impressive collection of historical documents Newsday, the Philadelphia Inquirer, US. Newspublished in 1971, helped to make the history of and World Report, USA Today, and the Wash-black Oklahomans far more accessible to teach- ington Post. The riot has also been the subject ofers across the state. Teall’s book paid significant wire stories issued by the Associated Press andattention to the story of the riot, as did Arthur Reuter’s. In addition, news stories and televi-Tolson’s The Black Oklahomans: A History sion documentaries about the riot have been pro-1541-1972, which came out one year later.30 duced by ABC News Nightline, Australian 31
    • Broadcasting, the BBC, CBS News’ 60 Min- riot survivors, as well as the son of a white eye-utes II, CNN, Cinemax, The History Channel, witness. We are historians and archaeologists,NBC News, National Public Radio, Norwe- forensic scientists and legal scholars, universitygian Broadcasting, South African Broadcast- professors and retirees.ing, and Swedish Broadcasting, as well as by a For the editors of this report, the riot also bearsnumber of in-state television and radio sta- considerable personal meaning. Tulsa is ourtions. Various web sites and Internet chat hometown, and we are both graduates of the Tulsarooms have also featured the riot, while in nu- Public Schools. And although we grew up in dif-merous high school and college classrooms ferent eras, and in different parts of town — andacross America, the riot has become a subject heard about the riot, as it were, from differentof study. All told, for the first time in nearly sides of the fence — both of our lives have beeneighty years, the Tulsa race riot of 1921 has indelibly shaped by what happened in 1921.once again become front-page news.33 History knows no fences. While the stories What has not made the headlines, however, that black Oklahomans tell about the riot oftenis that for the past two-and-one-half years, an dif fer from those of their white coun ter parts, it isintensive effort has been quietly underway to the job of the historian to locate the truth wher-investigate, document, analyze, and better un- ever it may lie. There are, of course, many legiti-derstand the history of the riot. Archives have mate areas of dispute about the riot — and willbeen searched through, old newspapers and be, without a doubt, for years to come. But fargovernment records have been studied, and so- more significant is the tremendous amount ofphisticated, state-of-the-art scientific equip- information that we now know about the trag -ment has been utilized to help reveal the edy — about how it started and how it ended,potential location of the unmarked burial sites about its terrible fury and its murderous vio-of riot victims. While literally dozens of what lence, about the community it devastated andap peared to be prom is ing leads for re li able new the lives it shattered. Neither myth nor “confu-in for ma tion about the riot turned out to be lit tle sion,” the riot was an actual, definable, and de-more than dead ends, a significant amount of scrib able event. In Oklahoma his tory, thepreviously unavailable evidence — including central truths of which can, and must, be told.long-forgotten documents and photographs — That won’t always be easy. For despite thehas been discovered. many acts of courage, heroism, and selflessness None of this, it must be added, could have that occurred on May 31 and June 1, 1921 —been possible without the generous assistance of some of which are described in the pages thatOklahomans from all walks of life. Scores of se- follow — the story of the Tulsa race riot is anior citizens — including riot survivors and ob- chronicle of hatred and fear, of burning housesservers, as well as the sons and daughters of and shots fired in anger, of justice denied andpolicemen, Na tional Guards men, and riot par tic- dreams deferred. Like the bombing of theipants have helped us to gain a much clearer pic- Murrah Federal Building some seventy-threeture of what happened in Tulsa during the spring years later, there is simply no denying the factof 1921. All told, literally hundreds of Oklaho- that the riot was a true Oklahoma tragedy, per-mans, of all races, have given of their time, their haps our greatest.memories, and their ex per tise to help us all gain a But, like the bombing, the riot can also be abetter understanding of this great tragedy. bearer of lessons — about not only who we are, but This report is a product of these combined also about who we would like to be. For only byef forts. The schol ars who have writ ten it are all looking to the past can we see not only where weOklahomans — either by birth, upbringing, have been, but also where we are going. And as theresidency, or family heritage. Young and first one-hundred years of Oklahoma statehoodnot-so-young, black and white, men and draws to a close, and a new century begins, we canwomen, we include within our ranks both the best honor that past not by burying it, but by facinggrandniece and the son of African American it squarely, honestly, and, above all, openly. 32
    • Endnotes 1 For the so-called “official” estimate, see: Memorandum from Major Paul R. Brown, Surgeon, 3rd Infantry,Oklahoma National Guard, to the Adjutant General of Oklahoma, June 4, 1921, lo cated in the At tor ney Gen erals CivilCase Files, Record Group 1-2, Case 1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. For the Maurice Wil lows es ti mates, see: “Di sas ter Re lief Re port, Race Riot, June 1921,” p. 6, re printed in Rob ert N.Hower, “An gels of Mercy”: The Amer i can Red Cross and the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot (Tulsa: Home stead Press, 1993). 2 New York Call, June 10, 1921. 3 Mary Elizabeth Estes, “An Historical Survey of Lynchings in Oklahoma and Texas” (M.A. thesis, University ofOklahoma, 1942), pp. 132-134 4 Jonathan Z. Larsen, “Tulsa Burning,” Civilization, IV, I (February/March 1997), p. 46. 5 New York Times, June 2, 1921, p. 1. [London, England] The Times, June 2, 1921, p. 10. 6 Philadelphia Bulletin, June 3, 1921. [Frank fort] Ken tucky State Jour nal, June 5, 1921. “Mob Fury and Race Ha tredas a Na tional Dis grace,” Lit er ary Di gest, June 18, 1921, pp. 7-9. R.R. Wright, Jr., “Tulsa,” Chris tian Re corder, June 9,1921. 7 The ge ol o gist, Rob ert F. Truex, was quoted in the Rochester [New York] Herald, June 4, 1921. The Kerr quote isfrom “Causes of Riots Discussed in Pulpits of Tulsa Sunday,” an unattributed June 6, 1921 article located in theTuskegee Institute News Clipping File, microfilm edition, Series 1, “1921 — Riots, Tulsa, Oklahoma, ” Reel 14, p.754. 8 Joseph P. Thoburn and Muriel H. Wright, Oklahoma: A History of the State and Its People (New York: LewisHis tor i cal Pub lishing, 1929). Muriel H. Wright, The Story of Oklahoma (Oklahoma City: Webb Pub lishing Com pany,1929-30). Edward Everett Dale and Jesse Lee Rader, Readings in Oklahoma History (Evanston, Illinois: Row,Peterson and Company, 1930). Victor E. Harlow, Oklahoma: Its Origins and Development (Oklahoma City: HarlowPublishing Company, 1935). Muriel H. Wright, Our Oklahoma (Guthrie: Co-operative Publishing Company, 1939).[Oklahoma Writers’ Project] Oklahoma: A Guide to the Sooner State (Nor man: Uni ver sity of Oklahoma Press, 1941),pp. 208-209. 9 Osborn Campbell, Let Freedom Ring (Tokyo: Inter-Nation Company, 1954), p. 175. 10 In 197 1, a Tulsa Tri bune re porter wrote that, “For 50 years The Tribune did not re hash the story [of the riot].” See:“Murderous Race Riot Wrote Red Page in Tulsa History 50 Years Ago,” Tulsa Tribune, June 2, 1971, p. 7A. A verybrief ac count of the riot that not only gave the wrong dates for the conflict, but also claimed that “No one knew then orremembers how the shooting began—appeared in the Tulsa World on November 7, 1949. On the re luc tance of the lo cal press to write about the riot, see: Brent Sta pes, “Un earthing a Riot” New York TimesMagazine, De cem ber 19, 1999, p. 69; and, oral his tory in ter view with Ed Wheeler, Tulsa, Feb ru ary 27, 1998, by ScottEllsworth. 11 Tulsa Tribune, June 2, 1936, p. 16 12 Ibid., May 31, 1946, p. 8; and June 2, 1946, p. 8. The Tulsa World, to its credit, did men tion the riot in its “Just 30 Years Ago” col umns in 1951. Tulsa World. June 1,1951, p. 20; June 2, 1951, p. 4; and June 4, 1951, p. 6. 13 Telephone interview with Nancy Feldman, Tulsa, July 17, 2000. Letter from Nancy G. Feldman, Tulsa, July 19,2000, to Dr. Bob Blackburn, Oklahoma City. On Robert Fairchild see: Oral History Interview with Robert Fairchild, Tulsa, June 8, 1978, by Scott Ellsworth, acopy of which can be found in the Special Col lec tions De part ment, McFarlin Li brary, Uni versity of Tulsa; and, EddieFaye Gates, They Came Searching: How Blacks Sought the Promised Land in Tulsa (Austin: Eakin Press, 1997), pp.69-72. 14 Feldman letter, op cit. 15 Letter from Nancy Dodson, Tulsa, June 4, 2000, to John Hope Franklin, Durham, North Carolina. 16 Angie Debo, Tulsa: From Creek Town to Oil Capital (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). On the “Tulsarama,” see: Bill Butler, ed., “Tulsarama! Historical Souvenir Program,” and Quentin Peters, “Tulsa,I.T.,” two circa-1957 pamphlets located in the Tulsa history vertical subject files at the Oklahoma Historical Societylibrary, Oklahoma City. 17 Mary E. Jones Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster (N.p., n.p., n.d.). in 1998. A reprint edi tion of Parrish’s bookwas published by Out on a Limb Publishing in Tulsa. Tulsa City Directory, 1921 (Tulsa: Polk-Hoffhine Directory Company, 1921). 33
    • 18 Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster (rpt. ed.; Tulsa: Out on a Limb Publishing, 1998), pp. 27, 31-77, 115-126. Prior to the pub li ca tion of Parrish’s book, how ever, a “book let about the riot was is sued by the Black Dis patch Pressof Oklahoma City in July, 1921. Written by Martin Brown, the booklet was titled, ”Is Tulsa Sane?" At present, nocopies are known to exist. 19 Loren L. Gill, “The Tulsa Race Riot” (M.A. thesis, University of Tulsa, 1946). 20 Ibid. According to his thesis adviser, William A. Settle, Jr., Gill was later highly critical of some of his originalinterpretations. During a visit to Tulsa during the late 1960s, after he had served as a Peace Corps volunteer, Gill toldSettle that he bad been “too hard” on black Tulsans. 21 Scott Ellsworth, Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982), pp. 104-107. Gina Henderson and Marlene L. Johnson, “BlackWall Street,” Emerge, ) 4 (February, 2000), p. 71. The lack of public recognition given to the riot during this period was not limited to Tulsa’s white community. Asurvey of back issues of the Oklahoma Eagle — long the city’s flagship African American newspaper — revealedneither any articles about the riot, nor any mention of any commemorative ceremonies, at the time of the twenty-fifthanniversary of the riot in 1946. The same also applied to the thirtieth and fortieth anniversaries in 1951 and 1961. 22 Oklahoma Eagle, June 2, 197 1, pp. 1, 10. Tulsa Tribune, June 2, 197 1, p. 7A. Sam Howe Verhovek, “75 YearsLater, Tulsa Confronts Its Race Riot," New York Times, May 31, 1996, p. 12A. Interview with E.L. Goodwin, Sr.,Tulsa, No vem ber 21, 1976, in Ruth Sigler Avery, Fear: The Fifth Horse man — A Doc u men tary of the 1921 Tulsa RaceRiot, unpublished manuscript. See also: Mable B. Little, Fire on Mount Zion: My Life and History as a Black Woman in American (Langston, OK:The Black Think Tank, 1990); Beth Macklin, “’Home’ Im por tant in Tulsan’s Life,” Tulsa World, No vem ber 30, 1975,p. 3H; and Mable B. Lit tle, “A His tory of the Blacks of North Tulsa and My Life (A True Story),” type script dated May24, 1971. 23 Telephone interview with Larry Silvey, Tulsa, August 5, 1999. Oral history interview with Ed Wheeler, Tulsa,February 27, 1998, by Scott Ellsworth. See also: Brent Stapes, “Unearthing a Riot, ” New York Times Magazine,December 19, 1999, p. 69. 24 Ed Wheeler interview. 25 Ibid. Larry Silvey interview. Ed Wheeler, “Profile of a Race Riot,” Impact Magazine, IV (June-July 197 1).Staples, “Unearthing a Riot,” p. 69. 26 Avery, Fear: The Fifth Horseman. William A. Settle, Jr. and Ruth S. Avery, “Report of December 1978 on theTulsa County His tor i cal So ci ety’s Oral His tory Pro gram,” type script lo cated at the Tulsa His tor i cal So ci ety. Tele phoneinterview with Ruth Sigler Avery, Tulsa, September 14, 2000. 27 Mozella Jones Collection, Tulsa His tor i cal So ci ety. John Hope Frank lin and John Whit tington Frank lin, eds., MyLife and An Era: The Au to bi og ra phy of Buck Colbert Frank lin (Ba ton Rouge: Lou i si ana State Uni ver sity Press, 1997).John Hope Franklin, “Tulsa: Prospects for a New Millennium,” remarks given at Mount Zion Baptist Church, Tulsa,June 4, 2000. Whitlow also was an authority on the history of Tulsa’s African Amer i can com mu nity. See: Henry C. Whit low, Jr.,“A History of the Greenwood Era in Tulsa,” a paper presented to the Tulsa Historical Society, March 29, 1973. 28 Dur ing this same pe riod, a num ber of other Tulsans also en deav ored to bring the story of the riot out into the open.James Ault, who taught sociology at the University of Tulsa during the late 1960s, interviewed a number of riotsurvivors and eyewitnesses. So did Bruce Hartnitt, who directed the evening pro grams at Tulsa Junior College duringthe early 1970s. Harnitt’s father, who had managed the truck fleet at a West Tulsa refinery at the time of the riot, latertold his son that he had been ordered to help transport the bodies of riot victims. Telephone interview with James T. Ault, Omaha, Nebraska, February 22, 1999. Oral history interview with BruceHartnitt, Tulsa, May 30, 1998, by Scott Ellsworth. 29 John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr., From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans, 7thedi tion (New York: Al fred A. Knopf, 1994), p. 476. Rich ard Maxwell Brown, Strain of Vi o lence: His tor i cal Studies ofAmerican Violence and Vigilantism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975). Lee E. Williams and Lee. E.Williams 11, Anatomy of Four Race Riots: Racial Conflict in Knoxville, Elaine (Arkansas), Tulsa and Chicago,1919-1921 (Hattiesburg: University and College Press of Mississippi, 1972). 30 Kay M.Teall, ed., Black His tory in Oklahoma: A Re source Book (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma City Pub lic Schools,1971). Arthur Tolson, The Black Oklahomans: A History, 1541-1972 (New Orleans: Edwards Printing Company,1972). 31 Rudia M. Halliburton, Jr., The Tulsa Race War of 1921 (San Francisco: R and E Research Associates, 1975). 34
    • 32 Following the publication of Scott Ellsworth’s Death in a Promised Land in 1982, a number of books have beenpub lished which deal ei ther di rectly or in di rectly with the riot. Among them are: Mabel B. Little, Fire on Mount Zion(1990); Robert N. Hower, “Angels of Mercy”: The American Red Cross and the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot (Tulsa:Homestead Press, 1993); Eddie Faye Gates, They Came Searching (1997); Dorothy Moses DeWitty, Tulsa: A Tale ofTwo Cities (Langston, OK: Melvin B. Tolson Black Heritage Center, 1997); Danney Goble, Tulsa!: Biography of theAmerican City (Tulsa: Council Oak Books, 1997); and, Hannibal B. Johnson, Black Wall Street: From Riot toRenaissance in Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District (Austin: Eakin Press, 1998). The riot has inspired some fictionalized treatments as well, including: Ron Wallace and J.J. Johnson, Black WallStreet. A Lost Dream (Tulsa: Black Wall Street Publishing, 1992); Jewell Parker Rhodes, Magic City (New York:Harper Collings, 1997); a children’s book, Hannibal B. Johnson and Clay Portis, Up From the Ashes: A Story AboutBuilding Community (Austin: Eakin Press, 2000); and a musical, “A Song of Greenwood,” book and music by TimLong and Jerome Johnson, which premiered at the Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa on May 29, 1998. And more books, it should be added, are on the way. For as of the summer of 2000, at least two journalists wereun der con tract with na tional pub lish ers to re search and write books about the riot and its leg acy. Fur ther more, a num berof Tulsans are also said to be involved with book projects about the riot. 33 Oklahoma newspapers have, not surprisingly, provided the most expansive coverage of recent riot-related news.In particular, see: the reporting of Melissa Nelson and Christy Watson in the Daily Oklahoman; the numerousnon-bylined stories in the Oklahoma Eagle; and the extensive coverage by Julie Bryant, Rik Espinosa, Brian Ford,Randy Krehbiel, Ashley Parrish, Jimmy Pride, Rita Sherrow, Rob ert S. Walters, and Heath Weaver in the Tulsa World. For examples of national and international coverage, see: Kelly Kurt’s wire stories for the Associated Press (e.g.,“Sur vi vors of 1921 Race Riot Hear Their Hor ror Re told,” San Diego Union-Tribune, Au gust 10, 1999, p A6); V. DionHaynes, “Panel Digs Into Long-Buried Facts About Tulsa Race Riot,” Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1999, Sec. 1, p. 6-,Frederick Burger “The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot: A Holocaust America Wanted to Forget,” The Crisis, CVII, 6(November-December 1999), pp. 14-18; Ar nold Ham il ton, “Panel Urges Rep a ra tions in Tulsa Riot,” Dallas MorningNews, February 5, 2000, pp. IA, 22A; “The Riot That Never Was,” The Economist, April 24, 1999, p. 29; TimMadigan, “Tulsa’s Terrible Secret,” Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, January 30, 2000, pp. 1G, 6-7G; Rick Montgomery,“Tulsa Looking for the Sparks That Ignited Deadly Race Riot”, Kansas City Star, September 8, 1999, pp. Al, A10;James Langton, “Mass Graves Hold the Secrets of American Race Massacre, ” London Daily Telegraph, March 29,1999; Claudia Kolker, “A City’s Buried Shame,” Los Angeles Times, October 23, 1999, pp. Al, A16; Jim Yardley,“Panel Recommends Reparations in Long-Ignored Tulsa Race Riot,” New York Times, February 5, 2000, pp. Al, A10;Martin Evans, “A Costly Legacy,” Newsday, November 1, 1999; Gwen Florio, “Oklahoma Recalls Deadliest RaceRiot,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 31, 1999, pp. Al, A9; Ben Fenwick, “Search for Race Riot Answers Leads toGraves,” Reuter’s wire story #13830, September 1999; Warren Cohen, “Digging Up an Ugly Past,” U.S. News andWorld Re port, January 31, 2000, p. 26; Tom Kenworthy, “Oklahoma Starts to Face Up to ‘21 Massacre,” USA To day,Feb ru ary 18, 2000, p. 4A; and Lois Romano, “Tulsa Airs a Race Riot’s Leg acy,” Washington Post, Jan u ary 19, 2000,p. A3. The riot has also been the subject of a number of television and radio news stories, documentaries, and talk showsduring the past two years. The more comprehensive documentaries include: “The Night Tulsa Burned,” The HistoryChan nel, Feb ru ary 19, 1999; “Tulsa Burning,” 60 Min utes II, No vem ber 9, 1999; and, ‘The Tulsa Lynching of 1921: AHidden Story", Cinemax, May 31, 2000. 35
    • (Cour tesy De part ment of Spe cial Col lec tions, McFarlin Li brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa). The Tulsa Race RiotBy Scott Ellsworth His tory does not take place in a vac uum. O f a l l t h e q u a l i ties t h a t i m pressed Historical events, be they great or small, do out-of-town visitors about Tulsa in the days be-not exist in isolation, but are a product of the fore the race riot, one of them was just how newage during which they occurred. Often times, and up-to-date everything seemed. From thethe reasons why a particular historical incident modern office buildings that were rising up outturned out the way it did can be readily located, of downtown, to the electric trolleys that rum -while for others, the causes may be more diffi- bled back and forth along Main Street, to thecult to locate. In both cases, one rule still holds rows of freshly painted houses that kept push -true: that the events of the past cannot be sepa- ing the city limits further and further into therated from the era when they occurred. surrounding countryside, compared to other cit- The same applies to the Tulsa race riot as ies, Tulsa was noth ing short of an over night sen-well. To understand the riot, one cannot begin sation. In deed, Tulsa had grown so much and sowith the first shot that was fired, nor even with fast — in a now-you-don’t-see-it, now-you-dothe seemingly insignificant chain of events that kind of fashion — that local boosters called itled to the first signs of real trouble. Rather, we the Magic City.must be gin with the spirit of the times. Only see- The elixir which had fueled this remarkableing the world as Tulsans did in 1921, and by growth was, of course, oil. The discovery of thegrasping both their passions and their fears, can nearby Glenn Pool — reputed to be the “richestwe comprehend not only how this great tragedy small oil field in the world” — in 1905, and bycould occur, but why, in the end, that it did. the farsightedness of local leaders to build a bridge across the Arkansas River one year ear- 37
    • A birds eye view of Tulsa in 1918 (Cour tesy Mark Adkinson).lier, the sleepy rural crossroads known as rea son it was al ready be ing re ferred to as the OilTulsa, Indian Territory was suddenly cata- Capital of the World.pulted into the urban age. Despite its youth, Tulsa also had acquired, by By 1910, thanks to the forest of derricks 1921, practically all of the trappings of older,which had risen up over the nearby oil fields, more established American cities. Four differ-Tulsa had mushroomed into a raucous boom- ent railroads — the Frisco, the Santa Fe, thetown of more than 10,000. Astonishingly, its Katy, and the Mid land Val ley — served the city,real growth was only beginning. As the word as did two separate inter-urban train lines. Abegan to spread about Tulsa — as a place new, all-purpose bridge spanned the Arkansaswhere fortunes could be made, lives could be River near Eleventh Street, while street repair,re built, and a fresh start could be had — peo ple owing to the ever-increasing numbers of auto-literally began to pour in from all over the mobiles, was practically constant. By 1919,country. Remarkably enough, by 1920, the Tulsa also could boast of having its own com -population of greater Tulsa had skyrocketed to mercial airport.more than 100,000. A new city hall had been built in 1917, a new The city that these newcomers had built was, federal building in 1915, and a new countyin many ways, equally remarkable. Anchored courthouse in 1912. New schools and parks alsoby the oil industry, and by its new role as the had been dedicated, and in 1914, the cityhub of the vast Mid-Continent Field, by 1921 erected a magnificent new auditorium, the 3,500Tulsa was home to not only the offices of more seat Convention Hall. Tulsa had grown sothan four-hundred dif fer ent oil and gas com pa- quickly,in fact, that even the old city cemeterynies, but also to a score of oil field supply com- had to be closed to new burials. In its place, thepa nies, tank man u fac tur ers, pipe line city had designated Oaklawn Cemetery, locatedcompanies, and refineries. While the city also at Eleventh Street and Peoria Avenue, as theenjoyed its role as a regional commercial cen- new city cemetery.2ter, serving nearby farms and ranches, for good 38
    • In 1921, Tulsa could lay claim to two daily and Irving Heights were built year after year.newspapers the Tulsa World, a morning paper, Some f the new homes were so palatial that theyand a newly renamed afternoon daily, the were regularly featured on picture postcards,Tulsa Tribune plus a handful of weeklies. Ra- chamber of commerce pamphlets, and otherdio had not arrived yet, but the city was con - publications extolling the virtues of life innected to the larger world through four Tulsa.4different telegraph companies. Telephone ser- So too, not surprisingly, was down town. Withvice also existed — with some ten-thousand its modern office buildings, its graceful stonephones in use by 1918 — al though churches, and its busy nightlife, it is easy to seelong-distance service was still in its infancy. why Tulsans — particularly those who worked,While the city was linked both to nearby towns played, or worshiped downtown — were soand to the state capital at Oklahoma City by a proud of the city’s ever- growing skyline. Whatnetwork of roads, rail travel was by far the fast- the pamphlets and the picture postcards did notest and most reliable mode of transportation in reveal was that, despite its impressive new ar -and out of town. chitecture and its increasingly urbane affecta- Seven different banks, some of which were tions, Tulsa was a deeply troubled town. Ascapitalized at more than one-million dollars 1920 turned into 1921, the city would soon faceeach, were located downtown, as were the of- a crossroads that, in the end, would change itfices of dozens of insurance agencies, invest- forever.ment advisers, accounting firms, stock and However, chamber of commerce pamphletsbond bro ker ages, real es tate agen cies, and loan and the picture postcards did not reveal every-companies. By 1921, more than two-hundred thing. Tulsa was, in some ways, not one city butattorneys were practicing in Tulsa, as were two. Practically in the shadow of downtown,more than one-hundred-fifty doctors and sixty there sat a community that was no less remark-dentists. able than Tulsa itself. Some whites disparag- Frequently awash in money, the citizens of ingly referred to it as “Little Africa,” or worse,Tulsa had plenty of places to spend it from fur- but it has become known in later years simply asniture stores, jewelry shops, and clothing Greenwood.5 In the early months of 1921, it wasstores to restaurants and cafes, motion picture the home of nearly ten-thousand Af ri can Amer i-theaters, billiard halls, and speakeasies. Those can men, women, and children.who could afford it could find just about any- Many had ties to the region that stretchedthing in Tulsa, from the latest in fashion to the back for generations. Some were the descen-most modern home appliances, including vac- dants of African American slaves, who had ac -uum cleaners, electric washing machines and com pa nied the Creeks, Cher o kees, andVictrolas. For those whose luck had run dry, Choctaws on the Trail of Tears. Others were thethe city had its share of pawnshops and sec - children and grandchildren of runaway slavesond-hand stores.3 who had fled to the Indian nations in the years Many Tulsans were especially proud of the prior to and during the Civil War. A few elderlycity’s residential neighborhoods — and with residents, some of whom were later interviewedgood reason. From the workingman’s castles by WPA workers during the 1930s, had beenthat offered electric lighting, indoor plumbing, born into slavery.6and spacious front porches, to the real castles However, most of Tulsa’s African Americanthat were being built by the oil barons, the city residents had come to Oklahoma, like theircould boast of block after block of handsome, white neigh bors, in the great boom years just be-modern homes. While Tulsa was by no means fore and after statehood. Some had come fromwithout its dreary rooming houses and poverty Mississippi, some from Missouri, and othersstricken side streets, brand new neighborhoods had journeyed all the way from Georgia. Forwith names like Maple Ridge, Sunset Park, many, Oklahoma represented not only a chanceGlen Acres, College Addition, Gurley Hill, to escape the harsher racial re al i ties of life in the 39
    • Franklin’s experiences, how ever, were hardly unique, and scattered about Greenwood were other busi ness men and busi ness women who had first tried their luck in smaller communities. In the end, however, their earlier difficulties often proved to be an asset in their new home. Full of en ergy and well-schooled in en tre pre- neurialism, these new settlers brought consider- able business skills to Tulsa. Aided by the buoyant local economy, they went to work on building business enterprises that rested upon sturdier economic foundations. By early 1921, the community that they built was, by national standards, in many ways quite remarkable. 8 Running north out of the downtown commer- cial district — and shaped, more or less, like an elongated jigsaw puzzle piece — Greenwood was bordered by the Frisco railroad yards to the south, by Lan sing Street and the Mid land Val leyB. C. Franklin (Cour tesy John Hope Frank lin). tracks to the east, and by Standpipe and Sunset Hills to the west. The section line, now known as Pine Street, had for many years been the northernmost boundary of the African Ameri-for mer states of the Old South, but was literally can settlement, but as Tulsa had grown, so hada land of hope, a place worth sacrificing for, a Greenwood. By 1921, new all-black housing de-place to start anew. And come they did, in wag- velopments — such as the Booker T. Washing-ons and on horseback, by train and on foot. ton and Dunbar Additions — now reached pastWhile some of the new set tlers came di rectly to Pine and into the open countryside north of theTulsa, many others had first lived in smaller city.com mu ni ties — many of which were all-black, The backbone of the community, however,or nearly so — scattered throughout the state. was Greenwood Avenue. Running north for B.C. Franklin was one. Born in a small more than a mile — from Archer Street and thecountry crossroads about twenty miles south - Frisco yards all the way past Pine — it was notwest of Pauls Valley, Franklin’s family had only black Tulsa’s primary thoroughfare, butroots in Oklahoma that stretched back to the also possessed considerable symbolic meaningdays of the old Chickasaw Nation during the as well. Unlike other streets and avenues inCivil War. An intelligent and determined Tulsa, which crisscrossed both white and blackyoung man, Franklin had attended college in neighborhoods, Greenwood Avenue was essen-Tennessee and Georgia, but returned to Indian tially confined to the African Amer i can com mu-Territory to open up a law practice. He eventu- nity. 9ally settled in Rentiesville, an all-black town The southern end of Greenwood Avenue, andlocated between Muskogee and Checotah, adjacent side streets, was the home of the Afri-where he became not only the sole lawyer in can American commercial district. Nicknamedtown, but also its postmaster, its justice of the “Deep Green wood,” this sev eral block stretch ofpeace, and one of its leading businessmen. handsome one, two, and three-story red brickHowever, as his son John Hope Franklin later buildings housed dozens of black-owned andwrote, “there was not a decent living in all operated businesses, including grocery storesthose ac tiv i ties.” Thus, in Feb ru ary 1921, B.C. and meat markets, clothing and dry good stores,Franklin moved to Tulsa in the hopes of setting billiard halls, beauty parlors and barber shops,up a more lucrative practice.7 40
    • Cen tered along busy Green wood Av e nue, Tulsa’s Af ri can-American com mer cial dis trict was a bona fide Amer i can suc cess story.Home to literally doz ens of black-owned and op er ated busi nesses in the days be fore the riot, “Deep Greenwood” could also layclaim to a public li brary, a postal sub sta tion, a Y. M. C. A. branch, and the of fices of two newspapers (Cour tesy Don Ross).as well as the Economy Drug Company, Wil- For a community of its size, the Greenwoodliam Anderson’s jewelry store, Henry Lilly’s business district could boast of a number of im-upholstery shop, and A.S. Newkirk’s photog- pressive commercial structures. John and Loularaphy studio. A suit of clothes purchased at Williams, who owned the three-story WilliamsElliott & Hooker’s clothing emporium at 124 Building at the northwest corner of GreenwoodN. Greenwood, could be fitted across the street Avenue and Archer Street, also operated theat H.L. Byars’ tailor shop at 105 N. Green - seven-hundred-fifty seat Dreamland Theater,wood, and then cleaned around the corner at that offered live musical and theatrical revues asHope Watson’s cleaners at 322 E. Archer. well as silent movies accompanied by a piano There were plenty of places to eat including player. Across the street from the Dreamlandlate night sandwich shops and barbecue joints sat the white-owned Dixie Theater with seatingto Doc’s Beanery and Hamburger Kelly’s for one-thousand, which made it the secondplace. Lilly Johnson’s Liberty Cafe, recalled largest theater in town. In nearby buildings wereMabel Little, who owned a beauty shop in the of fices of nearly all of Tulsa’s black law yers,Greenwood at the time of the riot, served realtors, and other professionals. Most impres-home-cooked meals at all hours, while at the sively, there were fifteen African Americannearby Little Cafe, “people lined up waiting physicians in Tulsa at the time of the riot, in -for their specialty — chicken or smothered cluding Dr. A.C. Jackson, who had been de-steak with rice and brown gravy.” A scribed by one of the Mayo brothers as theCoca-Cola, a sarsaparilla, or a soda could be “most able Negro surgeon in America”.11bought at Rolly and Ada Huff’s confectionery The overall intellectual life of Greenwoodon Archer between Detroit and Cincinnati. Al- was, for a community of its size, quite striking.though both the nation and Oklahoma were There was not one black newspaper but two - thenominally dry, there were also places where a Tulsa Star and the Oklahoma Sun. Africanman or a woman could purchase a shot of Americans were discouraged from utilizing thebootleg whiskey or a milky-colored glass of new Carnegie library downtown, but a smaller,Choctaw beer.10 all-black branch library had been opened on Ar- 41
    • cher Street. Nationally recognized Af rican a tan gi ble sym bol, of the fact that Af ri can Amer-American lead ers, such as W.E.B. DuBois, had icans had also shared, to some degree, inlectured in Tulsa before the riot. Moreover, Tulsa’s great economic boom. While modest inGreenwood was also home to a local business comparison with the fortunes being amassed byleague, various fraternal orders, a Y.M.C.A. the city’s white millionaires, Greenwood wasbranch, and a number of women’s clubs, the home to some highly successful business entre-last of which were often led by the more than pre neurs. O.W. Gur ley, a black real es tate de vel-thirty teachers who taught in the city’s sepa- oper and the owner of the Gurley Hotel,rate — and, as far as facilities were concerned, reportedly suffered some $65,000 in losses dur-decidedly unequal — African American pub- ing the riot. Even more impressive was the busi-lic schools. ness resume of J.B. Stradford, whose assets The political issues of the day also attracted were said to be nearly twice as large. Stradford,considerable in ter est. The Tulsa Star, in partic- a highly successful owner of rental property,ular, not only provided extensive coverage of had borrowed $20,000 in order to construct hisnational, state, and local political campaigns own ho tel. Opened on June 1, 1918, theand election results, but also devoted signifi- Stradford Hotel, a modern fifty-four roomcant column space for recording the activities structure, instantly became not only one of theof the local all-black Democratic and Republi- true jewels of Greenwood Av e nue, but was alsocan clubs. Moreover, the Star also paid atten- one of the largest black-owned businesses intion to a number of quasi-political movements Oklahoma.14as well, including Marcus Garvey’s Universal Most of the black-owned businesses in TulsaNegro Improvement Association, different were, of course, much more modest affairs.back-to-Africa movements, and various na -tionalist organizations. One such group, theAfrican Blood Brotherhood, later claimed tohave had a chapter in Greenwood prior to theriot.12 When it came to religious activity, however,there was no ques tion at all where Tulsa’s Af ri-can American com mu nity stood. Church mem-bership in Tulsa ran high. On a per capita basis,there were more churches in black Tulsa thanthere were in the city’s white community aswell as a number of Bible study groups, Chris-tian youth organizations, and chapters of na -tional religious societies. All told, there were One of the Mann Grocery stores of the Greenwood districtmore than a dozen African American churches (Courtesy Greenwood Cul tural Cen ter).in Tulsa at the time of the riot, including FirstBaptist, Vernon A.M.E., Brown’s Chapel, Scattered about the district were numerousMorning Star, Bethel Seventh Day Adventist, small stores, from two-seater barber shops toand Par a dise Bap tist, as well as Church of God, family-run grocery stores, that helped to makeNazarene, and Church of God in Christ congre- pre-riot Green wood, on a per ca pita ba sis, one ofgations. Most impressive from an architectural the most busi ness-laden Af ri can Amer i can com-standpoint, perhaps, was the beautiful, brand munities in the country. Grit, hard work, and de-new home of Mount Zion Baptist Church, termination were the main reasons for thiswhich was dedicated on April 10, 1921 — less success, as were the entrepreneurial skills thatthan eight weeks before the riot.13 were imported to Tulsa from smaller communi- The new Mount Zion Baptist Church build- ties across Oklahoma.ing (constructed of brick and mortar) also was There were other reasons as well. Tulsa’s booming economy was a major factor, as was 42
    • the fact that, on the whole, Greenwood was not chased touring cars, and in general sought toonly the place where black Tulsans chose to mimic the lifestyles of their more establishedshop, but was also practically the only place counterparts back East, there was a correspond-that they could. Hemmed in by the city’s resi- ing boom in the market for domestic help. Suchdential segregation ordinance, African Ameri- po si tions were of ten open to Af ri can Amer i canscans were generally barred from patronizing as well as whites, and by early 1921, upward ofwhite-owned stores downtown — or ran the two-hundred black Tulsans were re sid ing in oth-risk of insult, or worse, if they tried. While erwise all-white neighborhoods, especially onmany black Tulsans made a con scious de ci sion the city’s ever growing south side. Working asto patronize African American merchants, the maids, cooks, butlers, and chauffeurs, they livedfact of the matter was that they had few others in servant’s quarters that, more often than not,places to go.15 were attached to garages located at the rear of There was no dearth of African American their employer’s property.consumers. Despite the growing fame of its For the men and women who lived andcom mer cial district, the vast ma jor ity of worked in these positions, a visit to GreenwoodGreenwood’s adults were neither businessmen — be it to attend Sunday services, or simply tonor businesswomen, but worked long hours, visit with family and friends — was often theunder trying conditions, for white employers. highlight of the week. Whether they caught aLargely barred from employment in both the picture show at the Dreamland or the Dixie, oroil in dus try and from most of Tulsa’s man u fac- merely window-shopped along Greenwood Av-turing fa cil i ties, these men and women toiled at enue, they, too, could take both pride and own-difficult, often dirty, and generally menial jobs ership in what lay before them.18 Its poverty and— the kinds that most whites considered be - lack of services notwithstanding, there was noneath them—as janitors and ditch-diggers, question that Greenwood was an American suc-dishwashers and maids, porters and day labor- cess story.ers, domestics and service workers. Unsung Yet, despite its handsome business districtand largely forgotten, it was, nevertheless, and its brand-new brick church, and thetheir paychecks that built Greenwood, and rags-to-riches careers of some of its leading citi-their hard work that helped to build Tulsa. 16 zens, neither Greenwood’s present, nor its fu - Equally forgotten perhaps, are the housing ture, was by any means secure. By the spring ofconditions that these men and women returned 1921, trouble — real trouble — had been brew-to at the end of the day. Although Greenwood ing in Tulsa for some time. When it came to is-contained some beautiful, modern homes — sues of race — not just in Tulsa or in Oklahoma,par tic u larly those of the doc tors, busi ness own- but all across American — the problems weren’ters, and ed u ca tors who lived in the fash ion able simply brewing. They had, in fact, already ar -500 block of North Detroit Avenue along the rived.shoulder of Standpipe Hill — most African In the long and often painful history of raceAmericans in pre-riot Tulsa lived in far more relations in the United States, few periods weremeager circumstances. According to a study as turbulent as the years surrounding World Warconducted by the American Association of So- I, when the country exploded into an era of al -cial Workers of living conditions in black most unprecedented racial strife. In the yearTulsa shortly before the riot, some “95 percent 1919 alone, more than two dozen different raceof the Negro residents in the black belt lived in riots broke out in cities and towns across the na-poorly constructed frame houses, without con- tion. Unlike the racial dis tur bances of the 1960sveniences, and on streets which were unpaved and the 1990s, these riots were characterized byand on which the drain age was all sur face.”17 the specter of white mobs invading African Not all black Tulsans, however, lived in American neighborhoods, where they attackedGreenwood. As the city boomed and the black men and women and, in some cases, setnewly-minted oil tycoons built mansions, pur- their homes and businesses on fire.19 43
    • These riots were set off in different ways. In Troops were called in to quell the disturbance,Chicago, long-simmering tensions between but the sol diers — all of whom were white — in-blacks and whites over housing, recreation, stead in vaded the Af ri can Amer i can dis trict andand jobs were ignited one Sunday afternoon in “shot it up.” In Omaha, Nebraska, a similar situ-late July 1919. A group of teenaged African ation rapidly developed after William Brown,American boys, hoping to find some relief who was black, was arrested for allegedly as -from the rising temperatures, climbed aboard a saulting a young white girl. A mob of angryhomemade raft out on Lake Michigan. They whites then stormed the court house whereended up drifting opposite an all-white beach. Brown was being held, shot him, hung himThe white beach-goers, meanwhile, who were from a nearby lamppost, and then mutilated hisalready angered by an attempt by a group of body beyond recognition. 22black men and women to utilize that beach ear- The savage attack on William Brown brutallylier that day, began hurling stones at the demonstrated just how pas sion ately many whiteyouths, killing one, and setting off nearly two Americans felt about situations involving inter-weeks of racial terror. In the end, more than racial sexual relations. While this subject —thirty-eight people — both black and white — which has a long and complicated history in thewere killed in Chicago, and scores and scores United States — cannot be dealt with in a de -of homes were burned to the ground.20 tailed fashion here, suffice it to say that during A race riot in Washington, D.C., which the post-World War I era, and for many yearsbroke out earlier that summer, followed a moretyp i cal pat tern. Af ter ru mors had been cir cu lat-ing for weeks that rapists were on the loose, awhite woman claimed that she had been sexu-ally assaulted by two young African Americanmen. Although she later admitted that her orig-i nal story was false, the white press built up theincident, and racial tensions rose. Then, onJuly 19, the Washington Post published yet an-o t h e r s t o r y o f a n a l leged a s sault —“NEGROES ATTACK GIRL” ran the head -line, “WHITE MEN VAINLY PURSUE.” Thenext day, the nation’s capital erupted into ra -cial violence, as groups of white soldiers, sail-ors, and Marines began to “molest any blackperson in sight, hauling them off of streetcarsand out of restaurants, chasing them up alleys,and beating them mercilessly on street cor-ners.” At least six people were killed and morethan a hundred were injured. After whitesthreatened to set fire to African Americanneighborhoods, order was finally restoredwhen the secretary of war called out sometwo-thousand federal troops to patrol thestreets. 21 Alleged sexual assaults played a role in twoother race riots that broke out that year. In African Amer i cans ral lied sol idly be hind the na tion’s war ef fortKnoxville, Tennessee, a white mob gathered during World War I, and thousands of black soldiers served inoutside the jail where a black male was being France. Upon their re turn to the U. S., how ever, many black vets found that the democracy that they had fought to protect over-held for supposedly attacking a white female. seas was often unavailable to them back home (Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society). 44
    • before and after, perhaps no crime was viewed rants and other public establishments, while inas more egregious by many whites than the the classrooms of Ivy League colleges and uni-rape, or attempted rape, of a white woman by a versities, a new scientific racism — which heldblack male.23 that whites from northern Europe were innately Riots, however, were not the only form of superior to all other hu man groups — was all theextralegal violence faced by African Ameri- rage. In Washington, the administration of Pres-cans during the World War I era. In 1919 ident Woodrow Wilson proposed dozens ofalone, more than seventy-five blacks were laws which mandated discriminatory treatmentlynched by white mobs — including more than against African Americans. And across thea dozen black soldiers, some of whom were country, racist white politicians constantlymurdered while still in uniform. Moreover, preyed upon racial fear and hostility.26 Theymany of the so-called lynchings were growing soon had a new ally.ever more barbaric. During the first year fol - Re-established in At lanta in 1915, thelowing the war, eleven African Americans so-called second Ku Klux Klan had adoptedwere burned — alive — at the stake by white both the name and familiar hooded robes of itsmobs.24 nineteenth century predecessor, but in many Across the nation, blacks bitterly resisted ways was a brand new organization. Launchedthese at tacks, which were of ten made worse by the same year that D.W. Griffith’s anti-blackthe fact that in many instances, local police au- blockbuster, The Birth of a Nation, was releasedthorities were unable or unwilling to disperse in movie theaters nationwide, Klan organizersthe white mobs. As the vio lence con tin ued, and fanned out across the country, establishingthe death count rose, more and more African powerful state organizations not only in theAmerican leaders came to the conclusion that South, but also in places like New Jersey, Indi-nothing less than the very future of black men ana, and Oregon. While African Americansand women in America hung in the balance. were often the recipients of the political intimi- World War I had done much to clarify their dation, beatings, and other forms of violencethinking. In the name of democracy, African meted out by klansmen, they were not the onlyAmericans had solidly supported the war ef - targets of the new reign of terror. Klan membersfort. Black sol diers — who were placed in seg- also regularly attacked Jews, Catholics, Japa-regated units — had fought gal lantly in France, nese Americans, and immigrants from southernwinning the respect not only of Allied com - Europe, as well as suspected bootleggers, adul-manders, but also of their Ger man foes. Hav ing terers, and other alleged criminals.27risked their lives and shed their blood in Eu - Although still a young state, many of theserope, many black veterans felt even more na tional trends were well-represented instrongly that not only was it time that democ- Oklahoma. Like their counterparts elsewhere,racy was practiced back home, but that it was a black Oklahomans had rallied strongly behindlong time overdue. 25 the war effort, purchasing Liberty Bonds, hold- They returned home to a nation not only ing patriotic rallies and taking part in homeplagued by race riots and lynchings, but also front conservation efforts. More than a few Afri-by a poisonous racial climate that, in many can American men from Oklahoma — includ-ways, was only grow ing worse. The very same ing a large number of Tulsans — had enlisted inyears that saw the emergence of the United the army. Some, like legendary Booker T.States as a major world power also witnessed, Washington High School football coach Sey-back home, the rise of some aggressive and in- mour Williams, had fought in France. 28sidious new forms of white racism. But when Oklahoma’s black World War I Moreover, the new racial climate was far veterans finally returned to civilian life, they,from limited to the South. Less than fifty years too, came home to a state where, sadly enough,after the Civil War, a number of northern cities anti-black sentiments were alive and well. Inbegan to bar African Americans from restau- 1911, the Oklahoma state legislature passed the 45
    • The Ku Klux Klan gripped Oklahoma in the 1920s, this cer e mony was in Lone Grove (Cour tesy West ern His tory Col lec tion, Uni ver sity of Oklahoma Libraries).infamous “Grandfather Clause”, which effec- twenty-three black Oklahomans — includingtively ended voting by African Americans two women — were lynched by whites in morestatewide. While the law was ruled unconstitu- than a dozen different Oklahoma communities,tional by a unanimous vote by the U.S. Su - in clud ing Anadarko, Ardmore, Eufaula,preme Court four years later, other methods Holdenville, Idabel, Lawton, Madill,were soon employed to keep black Oklaho- Mannford, Muldrow, Nor man, Nowata,mans from the polls. Nor did the Jim Crow leg- Okemah, Oklahoma City, Purcell, Shawnee,is la tion stop there. In the end, the state Wagoner, and Wewoka.30legislature passed a number of segregation The Sooner State also proved to be fertilestatutes, including one which made Oklahoma ground for the newly revived Ku Klux Klan. Es-the first state in the Union to segregate its tele- timates vary, but at the height of its power in thephone booths.29 mid-1920s, it is believed that there were more Ra cial vi o lence, di rected against black than 100,000 klansmen in Oklahoma. ChaptersOklahomans, also was a grim reality during existed statewide, and the organization’s mem-this period. In large part owing to conditions of bership rolls in cluded farm ers, ranch ers, min ers,frontier lawlessness, Oklahoma had long been oil field workers, small town merchants, big cityplagued by lynch ings, and dur ing the ter ri to rial businessmen, ministers, newspaper editors, po-days, numerous suspected horse thieves, cattle licemen, educators, lawyers, judges, and politi-rustlers, and outlaws, the vast majority of cians. Most Klan activities — including crosswhom were white, had been lynched by white burnings, parades, night riding, whippings, andmobs. However, from 1911 onward, all of the other forms of violence and intimidation —state’s lynching victims, save one, were Afri- tended to be local in nature, although at onecan American. And during the next decade, point the political clout of the state organization 46
    • was so great that it managed to launch im- sitting between them, heading east in open tour-peachment proceedings against Gov er nor John ing cars. Suspected bootleggers, wife-cheaters,C. Walton, who opposed the Klan. 31 and automobile thieves were among the most Tulsa, in particular, became a lively center common victims — but they weren’t the onlyof Klan activity. While membership figures ones. In May 1922, black Deputy sheriff Johnare few and far between — one estimate held Henry Smitherman was kidnaped by klansmen,that there were some 3,200 members of the who sliced off one of his ears. Fifteen monthsTulsa Klan in December 1921 — perhaps as later, Na than Hantaman, a Jew ish movie pro jec-many as six-thousand white Tulsans, at one tionist, was kidnaped by Klan members, whotime or another, became members of the Klan nearly beat him to death. The city’s Catholicincluding several prominent local leaders. At population also was the target of considerableone Klan initiation ceremony, that took place abuse, as Tulsa klansmen tried to force localin the countryside south of town during the businessmen to fire their Catholic employees.34summer of 1922, more than one-thousand new Not all white Tulsans, of course, or even amembers were initiated, causing a huge traffic majority, belonged to the Ku Klux Klan in thejam on the road to Broken Arrow. Tulsa also 1920s. Among the city’s white Prot es tants, therewas home to a thriving chapter of the Women were many who disdained both the Klan’s tac -of the Ku Klux Klan as well as being one of the tics and beliefs. Nonetheless, at least until thefew cities in the country with an active chapter mid-1920s, and in some ways all the way untilof the organization’s official youth affiliate, the end of the decade, there is no doubt but thatthe Junior Ku Klux Klan. There were Klan pa- the Ku Klux Klan was a powerful force in therades, Klan funerals, and Klan fund-raisers in- life of the city. 35cluding one wildly successful 1923 benefit Less easy to document, however, is whetherthat netted some $24,000, when 13 Ford auto- the Klan was organized in Tulsa prior to themobiles were raffled off. In time, the Tulsa 1921 race riot. While there have been a numberKlan grew so solvent that it built its own brick of allegations over the years claiming that theauditorium, Beno Hall — short, it was said, for Klan was directly involved in the riot, the evi-“Be No Nigger, Be No Jew, Be No Catholic” dence is quite scanty — in either direction — as— on Main Street just north of downtown. to whether or not the Klan had an actual organi- The local Klan also was highly ac tive in pol- zational presence in the city prior to Augustitics in Tulsa. It regularly issued lists of 1921, some two months after the riot. However,Klan-approved candidates for both state and since this is an area of continuing interest, itlocal political offices, that were prominently may prove help ful to ex am ine this ev i dence a bitdisplayed in Tulsa newspapers. According to more closely.one student of the Klan in Tulsa Country dur- According to the best available scholarship,ing the 1920s, “mayors, city commissioners, the first Klan organizers to officially visitsher iffs, dis trict at tor neys, and many other city Oklahoma—George Kimbro, Jr. and George C.and county office holders who were either McCarron, both from Houston — did not arriveklansmen or Klan supporters were elected, and until the summer of 1920. Setting up headquar-reelected, with regularity.” In 1923, three of ters in the Baltimore Building in downtownthe five members of the Oklahoma House of Oklahoma City, McCarron stayed on in the stateRepresentatives from Tulsa Country were ad- capital, and began looking for future klansmenmitted klansmen. 33 among the membership of the city’s various In addition to cross burnings, Tulsa Klan white fraternal orders. According to Carter Bluemembers also routinely engaged in acts of vio- Clark, whose 1976 doc toral dis ser ta tion re mainslence and intimidation. Richard Gary, who the standard work on the history of the Ku Kluxlived off Admiral Boulevard during the early Klan in Oklahoma, McCarron “shortly had1920s, still has vivid memories of hooded twelve Kleagles [assistant organizers] workingklansmen, a soon-to-be horsewhipped victim out of his office selling memberships through- 47
    • out the city, and very soon throughout the The fact the brothers ran the advertisementstate.” While Clark concluded that the Klan would seem to suggest that on the eve of the“could not be credited with precipitating the riot, the existence of the Ku Klux Klan in Tulsariot” — a finding shared by most scholars of was far from common knowledge, perhaps re -the riot — he also determined that Klan orga- flecting membership numbers that were stillnizers had been active in the Tulsa region be- low.40forehand. The riot would change all of that. Beginning The fact that Tulsa would have been an early with what one student of the history of the Klandestination for Klan organizers — who, like described as “the first open sign of the Klan’stheir counterparts elsewhere, were paid on a presence in Tulsa” in early August 1921, morecommission basis — is entirely reasonable. than two months after the riot, the Klan literallyNot only did Tulsa itself offer a large base of exploded across the city. On August 10, morepotential members, but the city was a likely than two-thousand people attended a lecture atjumping-off place for organizing the nearby oil Convention Hall by a Klan spokesman from At-fields.37 lanta. Three weeks later, on the evening of Au- Other evidence also points toward there be- gust 31, some three-hundred white Tulsa mening members of the Klan in Tulsa prior to the were initiated into the Klan at a ceremony heldriot. In the sermon he delivered on Sunday eve- outside of town. Three days later, masked klans-ning, June 5, 1921 — only four days after the men kid naped an al leged boot leg ger named J.E.riot — Bishop E.D. Mouzon told parishioners Frazier and took him to a remote spot outside ofat Boston Avenue Methodist Church that, Owasso and whipped him severely. After the“There may be some of you here tonight who county at tor ney sub se quently an nounced that heare members of the Ku Klux Klan.” Further- would take no action against the klansmen, andmore, research conducted by Ruth Avery in the intimated that the victim probably got what he1960s and 1970s also points toward pre-riot deserved, more whippings soon followed. WithKlan membership in Tulsa. 38 the attack on J.E. Frazier, Tulsa’s Klan era be - However, other evidence suggests that, if gan in earnest.anything, the Klan had a very limited presence Despite the lack of convincing evidence link-in Tulsa before the riot. Throughout the first ing the Klan to the outbreak of the riot in thefive months of 1921, for example, the Tulsa months that followed, Klan organizers used theTribune did not hesitate to print stories about riot as a recruiting tool. The Klan lecturer fromKu Klux Klan activities elsewhere, but gave Atlanta who visited Tulsa in August 1921 de -no hint of there being any in Tulsa.39 clared that “the riot was the best thing that ever Moreover, only one week before the riot, on happened to Tulsa,” while other Klan spokes -May 22, 1921, the Tribune carried an adver- men preyed upon the heightened emotionaltisement for the May Brothers clothing store state of the white community after the riot.which poked fun at the Klan. Announcing that However the pitch was made, it soon becamethe downtown men’s clothiers had created its abun dantly clear that Tulsa was prime re cruit ingown “Kool Klad Klan,” the advertisement territory for the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, it hadwent on to explain that this was a “hot weather been for quite some time.41society” whose members would receive dis - Despite the fact that segregation appeared tocounts on their purchases of summer clothing. be gain ing ground state wide, in the months lead-“Men who join the K.K.K. pay less for their ing up to the riot, more than a few white Tulsanssummer clothes and get more out of them,” ran instead feared, at least in Tulsa itself, that thethe ad copy, “Palm Beach is the fa vor ite suit of opposite was true. Many were especially in-most members.” What went unspoken, how - censed when black Tulsans disregarded, orever, is that the May brothers were Jewish im- challenged, Jim Crow practices. Others weremigrants from Russia, something that made both enraged at, and jealous of, the materialthem likely candidates for Klan harassment. success of some of Greenwood’s leading citi- 48
    • zens — feelings that were no doubt increased new skyscrapers and impressive mansions, itsby the sharp drop in the price of crude oil, and booming oil industry and its rags-to-riches mil-the subsequent layoffs in the oil fields, that lionaires, some visitors — like the federal agentpreceded the riot. Indeed, an unidentified who spent five days undercover in Tulsa in latewriter for one white Tulsa publication, the Ex- April, 1921 — saw a far different side of localchange Bureau Bulletin, later listed “niggers life. In his “Report on Vice Conditions inwith money” as one of the so-called causes of Tulsa”, the agent had found that:the catastrophe. During the weeks and months Gambling, bootlegging and prostitutionleading up to the riot, there were more than a are very much in evidence. At the leadingfew white Tulsans who not only feared that the hotels and rooming houses the bell hopscolor line was in danger of being slowly and porters are pimping for women, anderased, but believed that this was already hap- also selling booze. Regarding violations ofpening.42 the law, these prostitutes and pimps solicit Adding to these fears was the simple reality without any fear of the police, as they willthat, at the time, the vast majority of white invariably remind you that you are safe inTulsans possessed almost no direct knowledge these houses.of the African American community whatso-ever. Although a handful of whites owned The agent concluded, “Vice con di tions in thisbusinesses in Greenwood, and a few others oc- city are extremely bad.”48casionally visited the area for one reason or an- Few Tulsans, in those days, would have beenother, most white Tulsans had never set foot in surprised by the agent’s findings. In addition tothe Afri can Amer ican district, and never the city’s growing fame as the Oil Capital, Tulsawould. Living in all-white neighborhoods, at- also was gaining something of a reputation —tending all-white schools and churches, and and not just regionally, but also among Newworking for the most part in all- white work York bank ers and in sur ance men — as aenvironments, the majority of white Tulsans in wide-open town, a place where crime and crimi-1921 had little more than fleeting contact with nals were as much a part of the oil boom as wellthe city’s black population. What little they logs and drilling rigs.knew, or thought they knew, about the African Most certainly, there was plenty of evidenceAmerican com mu nity was sus cep ti ble not only to sup port such a con clu sion. Well-known gam-to ra cial ste reo types and deeply-ingrained prej- bling dens — like Dutch Weete’s place threeudices, but also to rumor, innuendo, and, as miles east of the fairgrounds, or Puss Hall’sevents would soon prove, what was printed in roadhouse along the Turley highway — flour -the newspaper. ished on the outskirts of town, while within the Such conditions, it turned out, proved help- city, both a fortune in oil royalties, or a rough -ful to the Klan, and both before and after the neck’s wages, could be gambled away, night af-riot, Klan organizers exploited the racial con- ter night, in poker games in any number ofcerns of white Tulsans as a method of boosting hotels and rooming houses.membership. However, the organizers also During the Prohibition era, both Oklahomaused something else. Race relations was not and the nation were supposedly dry, althoughthe only major societal issue that weighed one would not know it from a visit to Tulsa. Oneheavily on the minds of many Tulsans during well-known local watering hole flourished inthe months that led up to the riot. Rather, they the Boston Building, less that two blocks fromwere also deeply concerned about something police headquarters, while scattered across theelse — something that, in the end, proved to be city were a number of illegal bars offering corna gateway to catastrophe. whiskey, choc beer, or the latest rage, “Jake" or Of all the visitors who came to Tulsa in the jamaica gin ger. In Green wood, cus tom ers with amonths preceding the riot, not everyone left taste for live music with their whiskey mighttown with a positive image. Despite the city’s frequent Pretty Belle’s place, while on the south side of town, the well-to-do oil set, it was said, 49
    • purchased their liquor from a woman living at to do something about the local crime condi-Third and Elgin. Hotel porters and bellhops tions. In 1914, the Ministerial Alliance hadregularly delivered pints and quarts to their mounted a cam paign against gam bling and otherguests, while an active bootlegging network forms of vice. Five years later, a group ofoperated out of the city’s drug stores and phar- well-known white lead ers formed a “Com mit teemacies. For customers who placed a premium of One Hundred” to combat local crime prob -on discretion, both bootleggers and taxi driv- lems. Two years after that, in early 1921, theers alike would also make regular home deliv- group was revived, vowing to see that a “cleaneries.44 sweep of criminals is made here and that the Illegal drugs were also present. Morphine, laws are enforced.”48cocaine, and opium could all be purchased in However, there was a dark side to localTulsa, apparently without much difficulty. In- anti-crime efforts as well. As young as the citydeed, one month before the riot, federal nar- of Tulsa was in the spring of 1921, it could al -cot ics of fi cer Charles C. Post, de clared, “Tulsa ready claim a long history of vigilante activity.is overrun with narcotics.”45 In 1894, a white man known as “Dutch John,” Hand-in-hand with this illegal consumption who was suspected of being a cattle rustler, wascame a plenitude of other crime. Automobile reportedly lynched in Tulsa. Ten years later, intheft was said to be so common in Tulsa prior 1904, a mob of whites gathered outside of theto the riot, it was claimed, that “a number of local jail, intending to lynch an African Ameri-companies have can celed all pol i cies on cars in can prisoner held inside, but were turned awayTulsa.” Petty crimes, from housebreaking to by the mayor, a local banker, and, not the least,traffic violations, were common fodder in the by the city marshall, who had drawn both of hiscity’s newspapers during this period — but so guns on the mob. 49were more se ri ous of fenses. In the year pre ced- Although violence had been averted, that wasing the riot, two Tulsa police officers had been far from the end of vigilantism in Tulsa. Inkilled on duty, while less than six weeks before 1917, after the United States had entered Worldthe riot, Tulsa police officers were involved in War I, a secret society calling itself the Knightsa spectacular shoot-out with armed bandits at of Liberty unleashed a local campaign of terroran east side room ing house. State As sis tant At- and intimidation against suspected slackers,torney General George F. Short, who visited Men no nites and other pac i fists, as well as po lit i-Tulsa during this same period, even went so cal radicals. The group’s most infamous actionfar as to describe the local crime conditions as — that gained the attention of the national press“apparently grave.”46 — came in November 1917 when, with the en- While not everyone in town would have cour age ment of the white press and the ap par entagreed with such a bleak assessment, there cooperation of the local authorities, maskedwas no denying the fact that, on the eve of the members of the Knights tarred and featheredrace riot, the city had a serious crime problem. more than a dozen local members of the Indus-However, it was equally true that, in many trial Workers of the World, a radical unionways, this was not only nothing new, but had movement, and forced them out of town at gun-more or less been a constant since the first point.50heady days of the Glenn Pool and its attendant Even though the Knights of Liberty/I.W.W.land swindles and get-rich-quick schemes. in ci dent had been an all-white af fair, it proved to“Tulsans on the whole have had enough of the be an important step along the road to the raceslime and crime that characterize a new com- riot. Not only did local law enforcement refusemunity which draws much of the bad with the to actively investigate the incident, but the se -good in a rich strike,” mused one lo cal ed i to rial cret society was praised by the white press forwriter, “But Tulsa has out grown that stage.”47 taking the law into its own hands, an important A number of Tulsans had attempted, seem- precedent for more such activities in the fu-ingly without a great deal of success, for years ture. 51 50
    • Nevertheless, it would not be until nearly County Sheriff Jim Woolley had heard rumorsthree years later, during the late summer of that if the cab driver died, the courthouse would1920, that Tulsa would experience an incident be mobbed and Roy Belton would be lynched. 54that would prove to be the single most impor- Two days later, on Saturday, August 28,tant precursor to the race riot. While all of its 1920, Homer Nida finally succumbed to hisparticipants also were white, it, too, would wounds and died. In reporting the news of hishave profound reverberations on both sides of death in that afternoon’s edition, the Tulsa Tri-the color line. bune quoted the driver’s widow as saying that It be gan on Sat ur day night, Au gust 21, 1920, Belton deserved “to be mobbed, but the otherwhen a Tulsa cab driver named Homer Nida. way is better.”55was hired by two young men and one young Other Tulsans thought otherwise. By 11:00woman to drive them to a dance in Sapulpa. p.m. that same evening, hundreds of whites hadAlong the way, in the countryside past Red gath ered out side of the court house. Soon, a del e-Fork, one of the men pulled out a revolver and gation of men carrying rifles and shotguns,forced Nida to pull over. Striking the terrified some with handkerchiefs covering their faces,cab driver with the pistol, the gunman de- entered the building and demanded of Sheriffmanded money. When Nida could not produce Woolley that he turn Belton over to them. Thea sufficient amount of cash, the gunman shot sheriff later claimed that he tried to dissuade theNida in the stomach and kicked him out onto intruders, but he appears to have done little tothe high way, as the trio sped off in the stop them. For a little while later, the men ap -now-stolen taxi. A pass ing mo tor ist dis cov ered peared on the courthouse steps with Roy Belton.Nida a short while later, and rushed the se- “We got him boys,” they shouted, “We’ve gotverely wounded driver to a hospital. 52 him. 56 The next day, police in Nowata, acting on a Belton was then placed in Homer Nida’s taxi-tip, arrested an eighteen-year-old one-time cab which had been stolen from the authoritiestelephone company employee named Roy — and was driven out past Red Fork, followedBelton, who denied having had anything to do by a line of automobiles “nearly a mile long.”with the affair. Belton was taken to Homer Not far from where Nida had been shot, the pro-Nida’s hospital room in Tulsa, where the cab cession stopped, and Belton was taken from thedriver identified him as his assailant. Again, cab and interrogated. But when a rumor spreadBelton denied the accusation. that a posse was in hot pursuit, everyone re - Two days later, however, Roy Belton who turned to their cars and set out along the road towas now being held in the jail located on the Jenks.top floor of the Tulsa County Courthouse The lynch mob had little to fear. Tulsa policechanged his story. He admitted that he had did not arrive at the courthouse in any apprecia-been in the taxicab, and that he and his accom- ble numbers until after Belton had been kid-plices had planned on robbing the driver. He naped and the car a van of cars had leftinsisted the shooting had been accidental. downtown. “We did the best thing,” PoliceBelton claimed that the gun had been damaged Chief John Gustafson later claimed, “[we]when he struck Nida in the head with it, and jumped into cars and followed the ever increas-that it had gone off accidentally while he was ing mob.”tying to repair it. 53 By the time police officers finally caught up Belton’s dubious account, however, only with the lynching party, it had reassembledadded fuel to the already inflamed emotions along the Jenks road about three miles south -that many Tulsans already held about the west of Tulsa. Once again, Roy Belton wasshooting, a situation made even more tense by taken from the cab, and then led to a spot next tothe fact that Homer Nida lay languishing in a a roadside sign. A rope was procured from aTulsa hospital. Less than forty-eight hours af- nearby farmhouse, a noose was thrown aroundter Belton’s so-called “confession,” Tulsa his neck, and he was lynched. Among the crowd 51
    • — estimated to be in the hundreds — were black, he would have been lynched just themembers of the Tulsa police, who had been in- same, and probably sooner. What about the nextstructed by Chief Gustafson not to intervene. time that an African American was charged with“Any demonstration from an officer,” he later a serious crime in Tulsa, particularly if it in-claimed, “would have started gun play and volved a white victim? What would happendozens of innocent people would have been then?killed and injured.”57 A.J. Smitherman, the outspoken editor of the In the days that fol lowed, how ever, Tulsa Star, the city’s oldest and most popularGustafson practically applauded the lynching. African American newspaper, was absolutelyWhile claiming to be “absolutely opposed” to resolute on the matter of lynching. “There is nomob law, the police chief also stated “it is myhonest opinion that the lynching of Roy Beltonwill prove of real benefit to Tulsa and the vi -cinity. It was an object lesson to the hijackersand auto thieves.” Sheriff Woolley echoed thechief, claiming that the lynching showed crim-i nals “that the men of Tulsa mean busi ness.” 58 Nor were Tulsa’s top lawmen alone in theirsentiments. The Tulsa Tribune, the city’s af -ternoon daily, also claimed to be opposed tomob law, but offered little criticism of the ac-tual lynching party. The Tulsa World, themorning daily, went even further. Calling thelynching a “righteous protest,” the newspaperadded: “There was not a vestige of the mobspirit in the act of Saturday night. It was citi-zenship, outraged by government inefficiencyand a too tender regard for the professionalcriminal.” The World went on to blast the cur-rent state of the criminal justice system, omi-nously add ing, “we pre dict that un less W. H. Twine and A. J. Smitherman at Twine’s law office inconditions are speedily improved,” that the Muskogee (Courtesy Western History Collection, University oflynching of Roy Belton “will not be the last by Oklahoma Li braries).any means.”59 With the death of Roy Belton, Tulsa had not crime, however atrocious,” he wrote followingsimply joined the list of other Oklahoma cities the lynching of Roy Belton, “that justifies moband towns where, sadly enough, a lynching had violence.” 60 For Smitherman, lynching was notoccurred. Of equal importance was the fact simply a crime to be condemned, but was liter-that, as far as anyone could tell, the local law ally a “stain” upon society. 61enforcement authorities in Tulsa had done pre- Nor was Smitherman alone in his sentiments.cious lit tle to stop the lynch ing. Thus, the ques- If there was one issue which united Africantion arose, if another mob ever gathered in Americans all across the nation, it was opposi-Tulsa to lynch someone else, who was going to tion to mob law. Moreover, that opposition wasstop them? par tic u larly strong in Oklahoma, as many blacks The lynching of Roy Belton cast a deep pall had immigrated to the state in no small measureover black Tulsa. For even though Homer to escape the mob mentality that was far fromNida, Roy Belton, and the lynching party itself un com mon in some other parts of the coun try.had all been white, there was simply no escap- However, both the lynching of Roy Belton ining the conclusion that if Belton had been Tulsa, and that of a young African American in 52
    • Oklahoma City that same week, brought to the his assailants were black, and he provided thesurface some dire practical issues. In a situa- officers with a rather sketchy description oftion where a black prisoner was being threat- each man. “Violence is feared,” wrote the Tulsaened by a white mob, what should African Democrat of the shooting, “if the guilty pair isAmericans do? Smitherman was quite clear on taken in charge.” 65the answer.As early as 1916, it has been re - Some forty-eight hours later, Tulsa police of-ported, “a group of armed blacks pre vented the ficers arrested not two, but three, African Amer-lynch ing o f o n e o f t h e i r n u m ber in ican men in connection with the shooting.Muskogee.”62 In a similar situation, which Despite proclamations by the police that the ac-happened only five months prior to the Tulsa cused men would be protected, concerns forriot, Smitherman had strongly praised a group their safety quickly spread across the blackof black men who had first armed themselves, community, and rumors began to circulate thatand then set out in pursuit of a white mob that the trio might be in danger of being lynched. Thewas en route to lynch an African American rumors reached a crescendo the day after theprisoner at Chandler. “As to the Colored men iron worker’s fu neral, when a del e ga tion of Af ri-of Shawnee,” Smitherman wrote, can American men — some of them armed –led . . . they are the heroes of the story. If by Dr. R.T. Bridgewater, a well-known physi- one set of men arm themselves and chase cian, paid an evening visit to the city jail, where across the country to violate the law, cer - the accused men were being held.66 tainly another set who arm themselves to “We understand there is to be some trouble uphold the supremacy of the law and pre - here,” Dr. Bridgewater reportedly informed a vent crime, must stand out prominently as police captain. the best citizens. Therefore, the action of The police officer was adamant that nothing the Colored men in this case is to be com- of the kind was go ing to oc cur. “There is not go- mended. We need more citizens like them ing to be any trouble here,” the cap tain al leg edly in every community and of both races.63 replied, “and the best thing you fellows can do is beat it back and drop the firearms.” Despite Five months later, when a group of African his confidence, however, the officer allowed aAmer i cans in the state cap i tal had not gath ered small contingent to visit with the prisoners inuntil after a black youth had been lynched by a their cells. Apparently satisfied with the situa-white mob, Smitherman was unsparing in his tion, Dr. Bridgewater and the other Africancriticism. “It is quite evident,” he wrote, “that American men returned to Greenwood. Therethe proper time to afford protection to any was no lynching. 67prisoner is BEFORE and during the time he is Whatever relief black Tulsans may have feltbeing lynched.”64 following this affair did not last long. With the It also was clear that there were black lynching of Roy Belton some seventeen monthsTulsans who were prepared to do just that. A later, the door to mob vi o lence in Tulsa was sud-little more than a year before Roy Belton was denly pushed wide open. If a white could belynched, an incident occurred in Tulsa that — lynched in Tulsa, why would a black not sufferwhile it received little press coverage at the the same fate? Moreover, as editor Smithermantime —- gave a clear indication as to what ac- observed, the Belton lynching had also clarifiedtions some black Tulsans would take if they another matter — one that would prove to be offeared that an African American was in danger vital importance on May 3l, 1921. “The lynch -of becoming the victim of mob violence. ing of Roy Belton,” Smitherman wrote in the The incident began on the evening of March Tulsa Star, “explodes the theory that a prisoner17, 1919, when a white ironworker was shot is safe on the top of the Court House from mobby two armed stick-up men on the outskirts of violence.” 68downtown. The ironworker died of his wounds The death of Roy Belton shattered any confi-some twelve hours later, but before he suc- dence that black Tulsans may have had in thecumbed, he told Tulsa police detectives that 53
    • abil ity, or the will ing ness, of lo cal law en force- In addition to giving broad coverage to both lo-ment to prevent a lynching from taking place cal crim i nal ac tiv ity, and to sen sa tional mur dersin Tulsa. It also had done something else. For from across the state, the Tribune also publishedmore than a few black TuIsans, the bot tom line a series of hard-hitting editorials. Using titleson the matter had become clearer than ever. such as “Catch the Crooks,” “Go After Them,”Namely, the only ones who might prevent the “Promoters of Crime," “To Make Every Daythreatened lynching of an African American Safe,” “The City Failure,” and ‘Make Tulsa De-prisoner in Tulsa would be black TuIsans cent," the editorials called for nothing less thanthemselves. an aggressive citywide clean-up campaign.70 Despite the clarity of these conclusions, it is Not sur pris ingly, the Tribune’s campaign ruf-important to note that white Tulsans were ut - fled the feathers of some local law enforcementterly unaware of what their black neighbors figures along the way, including the county at -were thinking. Although A.J. Smitherman’s torney, the police commissioner, and severaleditorials regarding lynching were both direct members of the Tulsa Police Department. Whileand plainspoken, white Tulsans did not read it is uncertain as to how much of the Tribune’sthe Tulsa Star, and Smitherman’s opinions campaign had been mo ti vated by par ti san po lit i-were not reported in the white press. As dra - cal concerns, both the paper’s news stories andmatic and as significant as the visit of Dr. its editorials caused considerable commotion.Bridgewater and the others was to the city jail Allegations of police corruption — particularlyduring the 1919 incident, it received little cov- regarding automobile theft — received a greaterage in the city’s white newspapers at the amount of at ten tion, and ul ti mately led to for maltime, and was no doubt quickly forgotten. investigations of local law enforcement by both Rather, when it came to the matter of lynch- the State of Oklahoma and the City of Tulsa.71ing, black Tulsa and white Tulsa were like two By mid-May 1921, the Tribune’s anti-crimeseparate galaxies, with one quite unaware of and anti-corruption campaign seemed to be onwhat the other was thinking. However, as the the verge of reaching some sort of climax.year 1921 began to unfold, events would soon Branding the city government’s investigation ofbring them crashing into one another. the police department as a “whitewash,” the In 1921, most Tulsans received their news newspaper kept hammering away at the allegedthrough either one or both of the city’s two inability of, or refusal by, local law enforcementdaily newspapers — the Tulsa World, which to tackle Tulsa’s crime problem. “The peo ple ofwas the morning paper, or the Tulsa Tribune, Tulsa are becoming awake to conditions that arewhich came out in the afternoon. While the no longer tolerable,” argued a May 14 editorial.World went all the way back to 1905, the Tri- Two days later, in an editorial titled “Better Getbune was only two years old. It was the cre - Busy,” the Tribune warned that if the mayor andation of Richard Lloyd Jones, a Wisconsin the city commission did not fulfill their cam -born newspaperman who had also worked as a paign pledges to “clean up the city,” and “do itmagazine editor in New York. Hoping to chal- quick,” that “an awakened community con-lenge the more established — and, in many science will do it for them.”72ways, more restrained — Tulsa World, Jones Just what that might entail was also becominghad fashioned the Tribune as a lively rival, un- clearer and clearer. The very same months dur-afraid to stir up an occasional hornet’s nest.69 ing which the Tribune waged its anti-crimeAs it turned out, Tulsa’s vexing crime problem campaign, the newspaper also gave prominentproved to be an ideal local arena in which the attention to news stories involving vigilante ac-Tri bune could hope to make a name for it self tivities from across the Southwest. Front-page Sensing just how frustrated many Tulsans coverage was given to lynching threats madewere with the local crime conditions, the Tri- against African Americans in Okmulgee inbune launched a vigorous anti-crime campaign March, Oktaha in April, and Hugo in May. Thethat ran throughout the early months of 1921. horsewhipping of an alleged child molester in 54
    • Dallas by a group of masked men believed to ing houses across the city. It was said, Africanbe members of the Ku Klux Klan that also took American porters rather routinely offered toplace in May, was also given front-page treat- provide the men with the services of white pros-ment. Not surprisingly, the specter of Tulsa’s titutes. Just beyond the city limits, the Tribuneown recent lynching also re-emerged in the reported, the group visited a roadhouse wherepages of the Tribune in a May 26 editorial. the color lines seemed to have disappeared en-While asserting that “Lawlessness to fight tirely. “We found whites and Negroes singinglawlessness is never justified,” the editorial and dancing together,” one member of Rever-went on to claim “Tulsa en joyed a brief re spite end Cooke’s party testified, “Young, white girlsfollowing the lynching of Roy Belton.” More- were dancing while Negroes played the pi-over, the Tribune added that Belton’s guilt had ano.”75been “practically established . . ..”73 Considering Oklahoma’s social, political, A revived discussion of the pros and cons of and cultural climate during the 1920s, the effectvigilante activity was not the only new ele- of this testimony should not be taken lightly.ment to be added to the ongoing conversation Many white Tulsans no doubt found Reverendabout crime that was taking place in Tulsa in Cooke’s revelations to be both shocking andlate May. Despite latter claims to the contrary, dis taste ful. Per haps even more im por tantly, theyfor much of early 1921, race had not been now had a convenient new target for their grow-much of a factor in the Tribune’s vigorous ing anger over local crime conditions. Africananti-crime and anti-corruption campaign. American men who, at least as far as they wereCrimes in Greenwood had not been given un- concerned, had far too much contact with whitedue coverage, nor had black Tulsans been sin- women.gled out for pro vid ing the city with a As it turned out however, Tulsans did notdisproportionate share of the city’s criminal el- have much time to digest the new revelations.ement. Only five days later, on May 26, 1921, the city But beginning on May 21, 1921, only ten was rocked by the news of a spectacular jail -days before the riot, all that was to change. In a break at the county courthouse. Sawing theirlengthy, front-page article concerning the on - way through their cell doors and through thegoing investigation of the police department, one-inch steel bars that were set in an outer win-not only did racial issues suddenly come to the dow, and then lowering themselves four storiesforeground, but more importantly, they did so to the ground on a rope that they had made by ty-in a manner that featured the highly explosive ing their blankets together, no less than twelvesubject of relations between black men and prisoners had escaped from the top floor jail.white women. Commenting on the city’s ram- Remarkably, however, that was not the last jail-pant prostitution industry, a former judge break that month. Four days later, early on theflatly told the investigators that black men morning of Memorial Day, May 30, 1921, sixwere at the root of the problem. “We’ve got to more prisoners — sawing through the sameget to the hotels,” he said, “We’ve got to kick hastily re paired cell doors and win dow bars alsoout the Negro pimps if we want to stop this escaped from the courthouse jail. 77vice.” Although some of the escapees were quickly Echoing these sentiments was the testimony apprehended, the jailbreaks were one more in -of Reverend Harold G. Cooke, the white pastor gredient in what had become, by the end of Mayof Cen te nary Meth od ist Church. Ac com panied 1921, an unstable and potentially volatile localby a private detective, Cooke had led a small atmosphere. For more than a few white Tulsans,group of white men on an undercover tour of local conditions regarding crime and punish-the city’s illicit nightlife — and had been, it ment were fast becoming intolerable. Frustratedwas reported, horrified at what he had discov- over the amount of lawbreaking in the city, andered. Not only was liquor available at every by the apparent inability of the police to do any-place that they visited, but at hotels and room- thing about it, they had helped turn the city into a 55
    • ticking time bomb, where anger and frustra- Approximately one year later, Damie and hertion sat just beneath the surface, waiting to ex- adopted son moved to Tulsa, where they wereplode. Moreover, during the last ten days of reunited with Damie’s family, the Rowlands.the month, they also had been presented with, Eventually, little Jimmie took Rowland as hishowever fleetingly, a compelling new target own last name, and selected his favorite firstfor their fury, namely, black men who, to their name, Dick, as his own. Growing up in Tulsa,eyes, had an undue familiarity with white Dick attended the city’s sep arate all-blackwomen. schools, including Booker T. Washington High As Tulsa prepared to celebrate Memorial School, where he played football. 78Day, May 30, 1921, something else was in the Dick Rowland dropped out of high school toair. As notions of taking the law into their own take a job shining shoes in a white-owned andhands began to once again circulate among white-patronized shine parlor located down-some white Tulsans, across the tracks in town on Main Street. Shoe shines usually cost aGreenwood, there were black Tulsans who dime in those days, but the shoe shiners — orwere more determined than ever that in their bootblacks, as they were sometimes called —city, no African American would fall victim to were often tipped a nickel for each shine, andmob violence. World War I veterans and sometimes considerably more. Over the coursenewspaper editors, common laborers and busi- of a busy working day, a shoe shiner couldnessmen, they were just as prepared as they pocket a fair amount of money — especially ifhad been two years earlier to make certain that he was a teenaged African Amer i can youth withno black person was ever lynched in Tulsa, few other job prospects.Oklahoma. There were no toilet facilities, however, for Precisely at this moment, in this highly blacks at the shine parlor where Dick Rowlandcharged atmosphere, that two previously un - worked. The owner had arranged for his Africanheralded Tulsans, named Dick Rowland and Amer i can employees to be able to use aSarah Page, walked out of the shadows, and “Colored” restroom that was located, nearby, inonto the stage of history. the Drexel Building at 319 S. Main Street. In or- Although they played a key role in the der to gain access to the washroom, located onevents which directly led to Tulsa’s race riot, the top floor, Rowland and the other shoe shin-very little is known for certain about either ers would ride in the build ing’s sole el e va tor. El-Dick Rowland or Sarah Page. Rumors, theo- e va tors were not au to matic, re quir ing anries, and unsubstantiated claims have been operator. A job that was usually reserved forplentiful throughout the years, but hard evi- women.79dence has been much more difficult to come In late May 1921, the elevator operator at theby. Drexel Building was a seventeen-year-old Dick Rowland, who was black, was said to white woman named Sarah Page. Thought tohave been nineteen-years-old at the time of the have come to Tulsa from Missouri, she appar-riot. At the time of his birth, he was given the ently lived in a rented room on North Bostonname Jimmie Jones. While it is not known Avenue. It also has been reported that Page waswhere he was born, by 1908 he and his two sis- attending a local business school, a good careerters had ev i dently been or phaned, and were liv- move at the time. Although,Tulsa was still rid -ing “on the streets of Vinita, sleeping wherever ing upon its construction boom, some buildingthey could, and begging for food.” An African owners were evidently hiring African AmericanAmerican woman named Damie Ford, who women to replace their white elevator opera-ran a tiny one-room-grocery store, took pity on tors.80young Jimmie and took him in. “That’s how I Whether - and to what ex tent — Dickbecame Jimmie’s ‘Mama,”’ she told an inter- Rowland and Sarah Page knew each other hasviewer decades afterwards. long been a matter of speculation. It seems rea- sonable that they would have least been able to 56
    • recognize each other on sight, as Rowland ever, it simply is un clear what hap pened. Yet, inwould have regularly rode in Page’s elevator the days and years that followed, everyone whoon his way to and from the restroom. Others, knew Dick Rowland agreed on one thing: thathowever, have speculated that the pair might he would never have been capable of rape.83have been lovers — a dangerous and poten- A clerk from Renberg’s, a clothing store lo -tially deadly taboo, but not an impossibility. cated on the first floor of the Drexel Building,Damie Ford later suggested that this might however, reached the op posite conclusion.have been the case, as did Samuel M. Jackson, Hearing what he thought was a woman’swho operated a funeral parlor in Greenwood at scream, and apparently seeing Dick Rowlandthe time of the riot. “I’m going to tell you the hurriedly flee the building, the clerk rushed totruth,” Jackson told riot historian Ruth Avery a the elevator, where he found a distraught Sarahhalf century later, “He could have been going Page. Evidently deciding that the young eleva-with the girl. You go through life and you find tor operator had been the victim of an attemptedthat somebody likes you. That’s all there is to sexual assault, the clerk then summoned the po-it.” However, Robert Fairchild, who shined lice.shoes with Rowland, disagreed. “At that While it appears that the clerk stuck to his in-time,” Fairchild later recalled, “the Negro had terpretation that there had been an attemptedso much fear that he didn’t bother with inte- rape — and of a particularly incendiary kind —grated relationship[s].”81 no record exists as to what Sarah Page actually Whether they knew each other or not, it is told the police when they initially interviewedclear that both Dick Rowland and Sarah Page her. Whatever she said at the time, however, itwere downtown on Monday, May 30, 1921 — does not appear that the police officers who in-although this, too, is cloaked in some mystery. terviewed her necessarily reached the same po-On Me mo rial Day, most — but not all — stores tentially explosive conclusion as that made byand businesses in Tulsa were closed. Yet, both the Renberg’s clerk, namely, that a black maleRowland and Page were apparently working had at tempted to rape a white fe male in a down-that day. A large Memorial Day parade passed town office building. Rather than issue any sortalong Main Street that morning, and perhaps of an all-points bul le tin for the al leged as sail ant,Sarah Page had been required to work in order it appears that the police launched a ratherto transport Drexel Building employees and low-key investigation into the affair. 84their families to choice parade viewing spots Whatever had or had not happened in theon the building’s upper floors. As for Dick Drexel Building elevator, Dick Rowland hadRowland, perhaps the shine parlor he worked become a justly terrified young man. For of allat may have been open, if nothing else, to draw the crimes that African American men would bein some of the parade traffic. One post-riot ac- accused of in early twentieth century America,count suggests another alternative, namely, none seemed to bring a white lynch mob to -that Rowland was making deliveries of shined gether faster than an accusation of the rape, orshoes that day. What is certain, however, is attempted rape, of a white woman. Frightenedthat at some point on Monday, May 30, 1921, and agitated, Rowland hastened to his adoptedDick Rowland entered the elevator operated by mother’s home, where he stayed inside withSarah Page that was situated at the rear of the blinds drawn. 85Drexel Building. 82 The next morning, Tuesday, May 31, 1921, What happened next is anyone’s guess. Af- Dick Rowland was ar rested on Green wood Av e-ter the riot, the most common explanation was nue by two Tulsa police officers, Detectivethat Dick Rowland tripped as he got onto the Henry Carmichael, who was white, and by Pa -elevator and, as he tried to catch his fall, he trolman Henry C. Pack, who was one of a hand-grabbed onto the arm of Sarah Page, who then ful of Af ri can Amer i cans on the city’sscreamed. It also has been suggested that approximately seventy-five man police force.Rowland and Page had a lover’s quarrel. How- Rowland was booked at police headquarters, 57
    • and then taken to the jail on the top floor of the text of the missing — and what he believed wasTulsa County Courthouse. Informed that her no less than “inflammatory” — story, whichadopted son was in cus tody, Damie Ford seems read:to have lost no time in hiring a prominent Nab Negro for Attackingwhite attorney to defend him. 86 Girl in Elevator Word of both the alleged incident in theDrexel Building, and of the subsequent arrest A Ne gro de liv ery boy who gave his nameof the alleged perpetrator, quickly spread to the public as “Diamond Dick” but whothroughout the city’s le gal cir cles. Black at tor- has been identified as Dick Rowland, wasney B.C. Franklin was sitting in the courtroom arrested on South Greenwood Avenue thisduring a recess in a trial when he overheard morning by Officers Carmichael and Pack,some other lawyers discussing what he later charged with attempting to assault theconcluded was the alleged rape attempt. “I 17-year-old white el e va tor girl in thedon’t believe a damn word of it,” one of the Drexel Building early yesterday.men said, “Why I know that boy and have He will be tried in municipal court this af-known him a good while. That’s not in him.”87 ternoon on a state charge. Not surprisingly, word of both the alleged The girl said she noticed the Negro a fewincident and of the arrest of Dick Rowland had minutes before the attempted assault look -also made it to the offices of Tulsa’s two daily ing up and down the hallway on the thirdnewspapers, the Tribune and the World. Due to floor of the Drexel Building as if to see ifthe timing of the events, the Tulsa Tribune there was anyone in sight but thought noth-would have the first crack at the story. Not only ing of it at the time.had the alleged Drexel Building incident gone A few minutes later he entered the eleva-without notice in that morning’s Tulsa World— perhaps, one is tempted to surmise, because tor she claimed, and attacked her, scratch -word of the alleged incident had not yet made ing her hands and face and tearing herit to the paper’s news desk, which may have clothes. Her screams brought a clerk frombeen short-staffed due to the holiday — but Renberg’s store to her as sis tance and the Ne-Rowland’s arrest had apparently occurred after gro fled. He was captured and identifiedthat morn ing’s edi tion had al ready been this morning both by the girl and the clerk, police say.printed. 88 Being an afternoon paper, however,the Tulsa Tribune had enough time to break Tenants of the Drexel Building said thethe news in its regular afternoon editions — girl is an orphan who works as an elevatorwhich is exactly what it did. operator to pay her way through business Precisely what the Tulsa Tribune printed in college.89its May 31, 1921 editions about the Drexel Since Gill’s thesis first appeared, additionalBuilding incident is still a matter of some con- copies of this front-page article have surfaced.jecture. The original bound volumes of the A copy can be found in the Red Cross papersnow defunct newspaper apparently no longer that are located in the collections of the Tulsaexist in their entirety. A microfilm version is, Historical Society. A second copy, apparentlyhowever, available, but before the actual mi - from the “State Edition” of the Tulsa Tribune,crofilming was done some years later, some - could once be found in the collections of theone had deliberately torn out of the May 31, Oklahoma Historical Society, but has now evi-1921 city edition both a front-page article and, dently disappeared.90in addition, nearly all of the editorial page. This front page article was not, however, the We have known what the front-page story, only thing that the Tulsa Tribune seems to havetitled “Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in Eleva- printed about the Drexel Building incident in itstor”, said for some time. In his 1946 master’s May 31, edition. W.D. Williams, who laterthesis on the riot, Loren Gill printed the entire taught for years at Booker T. Washington High 58
    • School in Tulsa, had a vivid memory that the torial the paper would have run concerning theTribune ran a story titled “To Lynch Negro To- alleged Drexel Building incident would havenight.”91 In fact, however, what Williams may surely mentioned lynching as a possible fate forbe recalling is not another news article, but an Dick Rowland. Exactly what the newspapereditorial from the missing editorial page. would have said on the matter, however, can Other informants, both black and white, but- only be left to conjecture.tress Williams’s ac count. Spe cifically, they re- The Tuesday, May 31, 1921 edition of thecalled that the Tri bune men tioned the Tulsa Tribune hit the streets at about 3:15 p.m.possibility of a lynching — something that is And while the “Nab Negro for Attacking Girl inentirely absent from the “Nab Negro for At - Elevator” was far from being the most promi-tacking Girl in Elevator” story, and thus must nent story on the front page of the city edition, ithave appeared elsewhere in the May 31, edi - was the story that garnered the most attention.tion. Robert Fairchild later recalled that the Making his way through downtown toward hisTribune “came out and told what happened. It office in Greenwood shortly after the Tribunesaid to the effect that ‘there is likely to be a rolled off the presses, attorney B.C. Franklinlynching in Tulsa tonight.’” One of Mary later recalled that “as I walked leisurely alongParrish’s informants, whom she interviewed the sidewalk, I heard the sharp shrill voice of ashortly after the riot, provided a similar ac - newsboy, “A Negro assaults a white girl.”93count: Indeed, lynch talk came right on the heels of The Daily Tribune, a white newspaper the Tribune’s sensational reporting. Ross T. that tries to gain its popularity by referring Warner, the white manager of the downtown of- to the Negro settlement as “Little Africa,” fices of the Tulsa Machine and Tool Company, came out on the evening of Tuesday, May wrote that after the Tribune came out that after- 31, with an article claiming that a Negro noon, “the talk of lynching spread like a prairie had expe ri enced some trouble with a fire.” Similar memories were shared by Dr. white elevator girl at the Drexel Building. Blaine Waynes, an African Amer i can phy si cian It also said that a mob of whites was form- and his wife Maude, who reported that after the ing in order to lynch the Negro. Tribune was issued that day, that rumors of the “in tended lynch ing of the accused Ne gro” Adjutant General Charles F. Barrett, who spread so swiftly and ominously that even “theled National Guard troops from Oklahoma novice and stranger” could readily sense theCity into Tulsa the next day, recalled that there fast-approaching chain of events that was abouthad been a “fantastic write-up of the [Drexel to unfold. By 4:00 p.m., the talk of lynchingBuilding] in ci dent in a sensation-seeking Dick Rowland had already grown so ubiquitousnewspaper.”92 that Po lice and Fire Com mis sioner J.M. Given the fact that the editorial page from A d k i s o n t e l e phoned S h e r iff W il l a r dthe May 31, Tulsa Tribune was also deliber- McCullough and alerted him to theately removed, and that a copy has not yet sur- ever-increasing talk on the street.94faced, it is not difficult to conclude that Talk soon turned into action. As word of thewhatever else the paper had to say about the al- alleged sexual assault in the Drexel Buildingleged incident, and what should be done in re- spread, a crowd of whites be gan to gather on thesponse to it, would have ap peared in an street outside of the Tulsa County Courthouse,editorial. “To Lynch Negro Tonight” certainly in whose jail Dick Rowland was being held. Aswould have fit as the title to a Tribune editorial people got off of work, and the news of the al -in those days. Moreover, given the seriousness leged attack reported in the Tribune becameof the charges against Dick Rowland, the ag - more widely dispersed across town, more andgressiveness of the paper’s anti-crime cam- more white Tulsans, infuriated by what had sup-paign, and the fact that a Tribune editorial had posedly taken place in the Drexel Building, be-mentioned the lynching of Roy Belton only gan to gather out side the court house at Sixth andfour days earlier, it is highly likely that any edi- 59
    • Tulsa County Court house where al leged mur der Roy Belton was handed to an an gry mob. This event helped black lead- ers decide to offer assistance to Tulsa officials when Dick Rowland was held in the same position (Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society).Boulder. By sunset — which came at 7:34 p.m. p.m., in a near replay of the Belton incident,that evening — observers estimated that the three white men entered the courthouse and de-crowd had grown into the hundreds. Not long manded that the sheriff turn over Rowland, butafterwards, cries of “Let us have the nigger” were angrily turned away. Even though hiscould be heard echoing off of the walls of the small force was vastly outnumbered by themassive stone courthouse.95 ever-increasing mob out on the street, Willard M. McCullough, who had recently McCullough, unlike his predecessor, was deter-been sworn in as the new sheriff of Tulsa mined to prevent another lynching.96County, however, had other ideas. Determined Word of the alleged incident at the Drexelthat there would be no repeat of the Roy Building, and of the white mob that was gather-Belton affair during his time in office, he ing outside of the courthouse, meanwhile, alsoquickly took steps to ensure the safety of Dick had raced across Greenwood. After reading theRowland. Organizing his small force of depu- stories in the afternoon’s Tribune, Willie Wil -ties into a defensive ring around his now terri- liams, a popular junior at Booker T. Washing-fied prisoner, McCullough positioned six of ton High School, had hur ried over to hishis men, armed with rifles and shotguns, on family’s flagship business, the Dreamland The-the roof of the courthouse. He also disabled the ater, at 127 N. Greenwood. Inside, he found abuilding’s elevator, and had his remaining scene of tension and confusion. “We’re not go-men barricade themselves at the top of the ing to let this happen,” declared a man who hadstairs with orders to shoot any intruders on leapt onto the theater’s stage, “We’re going tosight. go downtown and stop this lynching. Close this McCullough also went outside, on the court- place down.”house steps, and tried to talk the would-be Outside, similar discussions were takinglynch mob into going home, but was “hooted place up and down Greenwood Avenue, asdown” when he spoke. At approximatley 8:20 black Tulsans debated how to respond to the in- 60
    • creasingly dire threat to Dick Rowland. B.C. low member of the race, but also, literally, uponFranklin later re called two army vet er ans out in the side of jus tice. Leaving Green wood by au to-the street, urging the crowd gathered about mobile, they drove down to the courthouse,them to take immediate action, while perhaps where the white mob had gathered. Armed withthe most intense discussions were held in the rifles and shotguns, the men got out of their au-offices of the Tulsa Star, the city’s premier Af- tomobiles, and marched to the courthouse steps.rican American newspaper. Their purpose, they announced to the no doubt What went un spo ken was the fact an Af ri can stunned authorities, was to offer their servicesAmerican had never been lynched in Tulsa. toward the defense of the jail — an offer thatHow to prevent one from taking place now was was immediately declined. Assured that Dickno easy mat ter. It was not sim ply the crime that Rowland was safe, the men then returned toDick Rowland had been charged with — al - their automobiles, and drove back to Green-though that, by itself, made the situation par- wood.98ticularly dire. Rather, with the lynching of Roy The visit of the African American veteransBelton only nine months earlier, there was now had an electrifying effect, however, on theno rea son at all to place much con fi dence in the white mob, now estimated to be more than oneability of the local authorities to protect Dick thousand strong. Denied Rowland by SheriffRowland from the mob of whites that was McCullough, it had been clear for some timegathering outside the courthouse. However, that this was not to be an uncomplicated repeti-ex actly how to re spond was of ut most con cern. tion of the Belton affair. The visit of the black For A.J. Smitherman, the editor of the Tulsa veterans had not at all been foreseen. Shocked,Star, there was no question whatsoever that a and then outraged, some members of the mobdemonstration of resolve was necessary. Black began to go home to fetch their guns. 99Tulsans needed to let the white mob know that Others, however, made a beeline for the Na -they were determined to prevent this lynching tional Guard Armory, at Sixth and Norfolk,from taking place, by force of arms if neces- where they intended to gain access to the riflessary. Others, including a number of war veter- and ammunition stored inside. Major James A.ans as well as various local leaders, the most Bell, an officer with the local National Guardprominent being hotel owner J.B. Stradford, units — “B” Company, the Service Company,vig or ously agreed. More over, when Dr. and the San i tary De tach ment, all of the Third In-Bridgewater had led a group of armed men fantry Regiment of the Oklahoma Nationaldowntown to where three accused African Guard — had already been notified of the trou-American men were being held only two years ble brewing down at the courthouse, and hadlater, a rumored lynching did not take place. telephoned the local au thor i ties in or der to better“Come on boys,” Smitherman is said to have understand the overall situation. “I then went tourged his audience, “let’s go downtown.” the Armory and called up the Sheriff and asked Not everyone agreed with the plan of action. if there was any indications of trouble downO.W. Gurley, the owner of the Gurley Hotel, there," Bell later wrote, “The sheriff reportedseems to have argued for a more cautious ap- that there were some threats but did not believeproach. So, too, ap par ently, did Bar ney it would amount to any thing, that in any event heCleaver, a well-respected African American could protect his prisoner.” Bell also phoneddeputy sheriff, who had been trying to keep in Chief Gustafson, who reported, “Things were atelephone contact with Sheriff McCullough, little threatening.”100and therefore have something of a handle on Despite such vague answers, Major Bell tookthe ac tual con di tions down at the court house.97 the initiative and began to quietly instruct local Despite some entreaties to the contrary, at guardsmen — who were scheduled to depart theabout 9:00 p.m. a group of approximately next day for their annual summer encampmenttwenty-five African American men decided to — to report down at the armory in case theycast their lot not only with an endangered fel- were needed that eve ning. Mean while, a 61
    • guardsman informed Bell that a mob of white judge had tried unsuccessfully to talk the crowdmen was attempting to break into the armory. into going home. 102As Bell later reported: Police Chief John A. Gustafson later claimed Grabbing my pistol in one hand and my that he tried to talk the lynch mob into dispers- belt in the other I jumped out of the back ing. However, at no time that afternoon or eve- door and running down the west side of ning did he order a substantial number of Tulsa the Armory building I saw several men ap- policemen to appear, fully armed, at the court - parently pulling at the window grating. house. Gustafson, in his defense, would later Commanding these men to get off the lot claim that because there was a regular shift and seeing this command obeyed I went to change that very day, that only thirty-two offi- the front of the building near the south- cers were available for duty at eight o’clock on west corner where I saw a mob of white the evening of May 31. As subsequent testi- men about three or four hundred strong. I mony — as recorded in handwritten notes to a asked them what they wanted. One of post-riot investigation — later revealed, there them replied, “Rifles and ammunition,” I were apparently only “5 policemen on duty be- explained to them that they could not get tween courthouse & Brady hotel notwithstand- anything here. Someone shouted, “We ing lynching imminent.” Moreover, by 10:00 don’t know about that, we guess we can." I p.m., when the drama at the courthouse was ap- told them that we only had sufficient arms proaching its climax, Gustafson was no longer and ammunition for our own men and that at the scene, but had returned to his office at po- not one piece could go out of there without lice headquarters.103 orders from the Governor, and in the name In the city’s African American neighbor- of the law demanded that they disperse at hoods, meanwhile, tension continued to mount once. They continued to press forward in a over the increasingly ugly situation down at the threatening manner when with drawn pis - courthouse. Alerted to the potentially danger- tol I again demanded that they disperse ous conditions, both school and church groups and explained that the men in the Armory broke up their evening activities early, while were armed with rifles loaded with ball am- parents and grandparents tried to reassure them- mu ni tion and that they would shoot selves that the trou ble would quickly blow over. promptly to prevent any unauthorized per- Down in Deep Greenwood, a large crowd of son entering there. black men and women still kept their vigil out- side of the offices of the Tulsa Star, awaiting “By maintaining a firm stand," Bell added, word on the latest de vel op ments down town.104“. . . this mob was dispersed.”101 Some of the men, however, decided that they Major Bell’s actions were both courageous could wait no longer. Hopping into cars, smalland effective but as the night wore on, similar groups of armed African American men beganefforts would be in exceedingly short supply. to make brief forays into downtown, their gunsWith each passing minute, Tulsa was a city visible to passersby. In addition to reconnais-that was quickly spinning out of control. sance, the primary intent of these trips appears By 9:30 p.m., the white mob outside the to have been to send a clear message to whitec o u r t h o u s e had swol len t o n e a r l y Tulsans that these men were determined to pre-two-thousand persons. They blocked the side- vent, by force of arms if necessary, the lynchingwalks as well as the streets, and had spilled of Dick Rowland. Whether the whites who wit-over onto the front lawns of nearby homes. nessed these excursions understood this mes -There were women as well as men, youngsters sage is, however, an open question. Many,as well as adults, curiosity seekers as well as apparently, thought that they were instead wit -would-be lynchers. A handful of local leaders, nessing a “Negro uprising,” a conclusion thatincluding the Reverend Charles W. Kerr of the others would soon share.First Presbyterian Church as well as a local 62
    • In the midst of all of this ac tiv ity, ru mors be- by a group of angry whites. As Dr. Miller latergan to circulate, particularly with regards to told an interviewer:what might or might not be happening down at I went over to see if I could help him as athe courthouse. Possibly spurred on by a false doctor, but the crowd was gathering aroundreport that whites were storming the court- him and wouldn’t even let the driver of thehouse, moments after 10:00 p.m., a second ambulance which just arrived to even pickcontingent of armed African American men, him up. I saw it was an impossible situationperhaps seventy-five in number this time, de- to control, that I could be of no help. Thecided to make a second visit to the courthouse. crowd was getting more and more belliger-Leaving Greenwood by automobile, they got ent. The Negro had been shot so manyout of their cars near Sixth and Main and times in his chest, and men from the onlook-marched, single file, to the courthouse steps. ers were slashing him with knives.Again, they offered their services to the author-ities to help protect Dick Rowland. Once Unable to help the dying man, Dr. Miller gotagain, their offer was refused.105 into his car and drove home.109 Then it happened. As the black men were A short while later, a second , deadlier, skir-leaving the courthouse for the second time, a mish broke out at Second and Cincinnati. Nowhite man approached a tall African American longer directly involved with the fate of DickWorld War I veteran who was carrying an Rowland, the beleaguered second contingent ofarmy-issue revolver. “Nigger,” the white man African American men were now fighting forsaid, “What are you doing with that pistol?” their own lives. Heavily outnumbered by the“I’m going to use it if I need to,” replied the whites, and suffering some casualties along theblack veteran. “No, you give it to me.” Like way, most were apparently able, however, tohell I will." The white man tried to take the gun make it safely across the Frisco railroad tracks,away from the veteran, and a shot rang out.106America’s worst race riot had begun. While the first shot fired at the courthousemay have been unintentional, those that fol -lowed were not. Almost immediately, mem -bers of the white mob — and possibly somelaw enforcement officers — opened fire on theAfrican American men, who returned volleysof their own. The initial gunplay lasted only afew seconds, but when it was over, an un-known number of people — perhaps as manyas a dozen — both black and white, lay dead orwounded.107 Outnumbered more than twenty-to-one, theblack men began a retreating fight toward theAfrican American district. With armed whitesin close pursuit, heavy gunfire erupted againalong Fourth Street, two blocks north of thecourthouse.108 Dr. George H. Miller, a white physician whowas working late that evening in his office atthe Unity Building at 21 W. Fourth Street,rushed outside after hear ing the gun shots, onlyto come upon a wounded black man, “shot and A typical member of the white mob. Not only did they set Af ri- can-American homes and businesses on fire, but looted theirbleeding, writhing on the street,” surrounded possessions as well (Courtesy Bob Hower). 63
    • Following the outbreak of violence at the courthouse, crowds of angry whites took to the streets downtown. There, according towhite eye wit nesses, a num ber of blacks were killed in the ri ots early hours. And even though the fight ing soon moved north to wardGreenwood, groups of whites—in clud ing these at Main and Ar cher—were still roam ing the streets of down town the next morn ing(Courtesy Oklahoma HistoricalSociety).and into the more familiar environs of the Afri- Shortly thereafter, whites began breaking intocan American community.110 downtown sporting goods stores, pawnshops, and At the courthouse, the sudden and unex- hardware stores, stealing — or “borrowing” aspected turn of events had a jolting effect on the some would later claim — guns and ammunition.would-be lynch mob, and groups of angry, ven- Dick Bardon’s store on First Street was particu-geance-seeking whites soon took the streets and larly hard hit as well as the J.W. MeGee Sportingsidewalks of downtown. “A great many of these Goods shop at 22 W. Sec ond Street, even though itpersons lining the sidewalks,” one white eye - was located literally across the street from policewitness later recalled, “were holding a rifle or headquarters. The owner later testified that a Tulsashotgun in one hand, and grasping the neck of a po lice of fi cer helped to dole out the guns that wereliquor bottle with the other. Some had pistols taken from his store.113stuck into their belts.”111 More bloodshed soon followed, as whites be- Some were about to become, at least tempo- gan gunning down any African Americans thatrarily, officers of the law. Shortly after the they dis cov ered down town. Wil liam R.fighting had broken out at the courthouse, a Holway, a white engineer, was watching alarge number of whites - many of whom had movie at the Rialto Theater when someone ranonly a little while earlier been members of the into the theater, shouting “Nigger fight, niggerwould-be lynch mob — gathered outside of fight.” As Holway later recalled:police headquarters on Second Street. There, Everybody left that theater on high, youperhaps as many as five-hundred white men know. We went out the door and lookedand boys were sworn-in by police officers as across the street, and there was“Special Deputies.” Some were provided with Younkman’s drug store with those big pil -badges or ribbons indicating their new status. lars. There were two big pillars at the en -Many, it appears, also were given specific in- trance, and we got over behind them. Juststructions. According to Laurel G. Buck, a got there when a Negro ran south of the al -white bricklayer who was sworn-in as one of ley across the street, the minute his headthese ‘Special Deputies," a po lice officer showed outside, somebody shot him.bluntly told him to “Get a gun and get anigger.”112 “We stood there for about half-an-hour watching," Holway added, “which I shall never 64
    • Groups of whites gath ered through out the city (Cour tesy West ern His tory Col lec tion, Uni versity of Oklahoma Libraries).forget. He wasn’t quite dead, but he was about for the aisle.” As he finished the sentence, ato die. He was the first man that I saw shot in roaring blast from a shotgun dropped thethat riot.”114 Negro man by the end of the orchestra Not far away, at the Royal The ater – that was pit. 115showing a movie called “One Man in a Mil - Not all of the victims of the violence thatlion” that evening — a similar drama played it- broke out downtown were white. Evidence sug-self out. Among the onlookers was a white gests that after the fighting broke out at theteenager named William “Choc” Phillips, who courthouse, carloads of black Tulsans may havelater became a well-known Tulsa police offi- exchanged gunfire with whites on streets down-cer. As described by Phillips in his unpub- town, possibly resulting in casualties on bothlished memoir of the riot: sides. At least one white man in an automobile The mob action was set off when sev - was killed by a group of whites, who had mis- eral [white] men chased a Negro man taken him to be black.116 down the alley in back of the theater and Around midnight, a small crowd of whites out onto Fourth Street where be saw the gathered — once again — outside of the court- stage door and dashed inside. Seeing the house, yelling “Bring the rope” and “Get the open door the Negro rushed in and hurried nigger.” But they did not rush the building, and forward in the darkness hunting a place to nothing happened. Because the truth of the mat- hide. ter was that, by then, most of Tulsa’s rioting Suddenly he was on the stage in front of whites no longer particularly cared about Dick the picture screen and blinded by the Rowland anymore. They now had much bigger bright flickering light coming down from things in mind. the operator’s booth in the balcony. After While darkness slowed the pace of the riot, shielding his eyes for a moment he re- sporadic fighting took place throughout the gained his vision enough to locate the nighttime hours of May 31 and June 1. The steps leading from the stage down past the heaviest occurred alongside the Frisco railroad orchestra pit to the aisle just as the pursu- tracks, one of the key dividing lines between ing men rushed the stage. One of them saw Tulsa’s black and white commercial districts. the Ne gro and yelled, “there he is, heading From approximately midnight until around 1:30 65
    • a.m., scores of blacks and whites exchangedgunfire across the Frisco yards. At one pointdur ing the fight ing, an in bound train re port edlyarrived, its passengers forced to take cover onthe floor as the shooting continued, rakingboth sides of the train. A few carloads of whites also made brief ex-cursions into the African American district,firing indiscriminately into houses as theyroared up and down streets lined with blackresidences. there were deliberate murders aswell. As Walter White, who visited Tulsa im-mediately after the riot, later reported: Many are the sto ries of hor ror told to me During the nighttime hours of May 31 and June 1, groups of - not by colored people - but by white resi- armed whitesmade “drive-by” shootings in black residential dents. One was that of an aged col ored cou- neigh bor hoods, fir ing into Af ri can -Amer i can homes (Cour tesy Greenwood Cultural Center). ple, saying their evening prayers before retiring in their little home on Greenwood Avenue. A mob broke into the house, shot About 10:30 o’clock, I think it was, I had both of the old people in the backs of their a call from the Adjt. General asking about heads, blowing their brains out and spatter- the situation. I explained that it looked ing them over the bed, pillaged the home, pretty bad. He directed that we continue to and then set fire to it.120 use every effort to get the men in so that if a call came we would be ready. I think it was It appears that the first fires set by whites in only a few minutes after this, another callblack neighborhoods began at about 1:00 a.m. from the Adjt. General directed that “B” Co.,African American homes and businesses along the Sanitary Det. and the Service Co. be mo-Archer were the earliest targets, and when an bilized at once and render any assistance toengine crew from the Tulsa Fire Department the civil authorities we could in the mainte-arrived and prepared to douse the flames, nance of law and order and the protection ofwhite rioters forced the firemen away at gun- life and property. I think this was aboutpoint. By 4:00 a.m., more than two-dozen 10:40 o’clock and while talking to the Gen -black-owned businesses, including the Mid- eral you appeared and assume command.123way Hotel, had been torched.121 The nighttime hours of May 31, and June 1, At approximately 11:00 p.m., perhaps asalso witnessed the first organized ac tions taken many as fifty local National Guardsmen —by the Tulsa units of the National Guard. While nearly all of whom had been contacted at theirevidence indicates that Sheriff McCullough homes — had gathered at the armory on Sixthmay have requested local guard officers that Street. Some were World War I veterans. It isthey send men down to the courthouse at unclear whether any of the men had beenaround 9:30 p.m.,122 it was not until more than trained in riot control. Although various officialan hour later — about the time that the fighting and unofficial manuals were available in 1921broke out at the courthouset—hat the local Na- on the use of National Guard soldiers during ri-tional Guard units were specifically ordered to ots, it is uncertain whether the Tulsa units hadtake action with regards to the riot. According received any training in this area.124to the after action report later submitted by Another inter est ing aspect re garding theMajor James Bell to local National Guard guardsmen who gathered at the armory exists.com mander Lieu ten ant Col o nel L.J.F. Not only were the Tulsa units of the NationalRooney: Guard exclusively white, but as the evening wore on, it became increasingly clear that they 66
    • Some of the most intense fighting during the riot took place alongside the Frisco Railroad yards, as African-American defenderstried to keep the white rioters away from Greenwood. But when dawn broke on the morning of June 1, the black defenders weresimpley overwhelmed (Cour tesy Oklahoma His tor i cal Sociey).would not play an impartial role in the “main- the Amer i can Le gion. Tulsa po lice of fi cials alsotenance of law and order.” Like many of their presented the guardsmen with a machine gun,white neighbors, a number of the local guards- which guard officers then had mounted on themen also came to conclude that the race riot back of a truck. This particular gun, possibly awas, in fact, a “Negro uprising,” a term used war trophy, it turned out, was in poor operatingthroughout their various after action reports. condition, and could only be fired one shell at aAt least one National Guard officer went even time.126further, using the term “enemy” in reference to Taking the machine gun along with them,African Americans. Given the tenor of the about thirty guardsmen then headed north, andtimes, it is hardly surprising that Tulsa’s po si tioned them selves along De troit Av e nue be-all-white National Guard might view black tween Brady Street and Standpipe Hill, alongTulsans antagonistically. As the riot continued one of the borders separating the city’s whiteto unfold, this also would prove to be far from and black neighborhoods. Their deploymentirrelevant. 125 was far from impartial, for the “skirmish line” Ini tially, the lo cal guards men were de ployed that the National Guard officers established wasdowntown. Sometime before midnight, one set-up facing - or soon would be — the Africandetachment was stationed in front of police American district. Moreover, the guardsmenheadquarters, where they blocked off Second also began rounding up black Tulsans, whomStreet. Guardsmen also led groups of armed they handed over — as prisoners — to the po -whites on “patrols” of downtown streets, an lice, and they also briefly exchanged fire withactivity that was later taken over by members gunmen to the east. Far from being utilized as aof the — similarly all-white — lo cal chap ter of neutral force, Tulsa’s local National Guard unit 67
    • North Tulsa burns while a white audience views the destruction from a safe distance (Cour tesy Oklahoma Histor i cal So ci ety).along Detroit Avenue were, even in the early “defending Greenwood,” he was one of scoreshours of the riot, being deployed in a manner of other African American residents who werewhich would even tu ally set them in op po si tion preparing to do exactly the same.129to the black community. 127 Other black Tulsans, however, reached a dif- In Tulsa’s black neighborhoods, meanwhile, ferent conclusion on what was the best course ofword of what had happened at the courthouse action. Despite the fact that many of the city’swas soon followed by even more disturbing African American residents undoubtedly hopednews. A light-complexioned African Ameri- that daylight would bring an end to the violence,can man, who could “pass” for white, had min- others decided not to wait and find out. In thegled with the crowds of an gry whites early hours of June 1, a steady stream of blackdowntown, where he overheard talk of invad- Tulsans began to leave the city, hoping to finding the African American district. Carefully safety in the surrounding countryside. “Early inmaking his way back home, the man then re - the eve ning when there was first talk of trou ble,”lated what he had heard to Seymour Williams, Irene Scofield later told the Black Dispatch, “Ia teacher at Booker T. Washington High and about forty others started out of the townSchool. Williams, who had served with the and walked to a little town about fifteen milesarmy in France, grabbed his service revolver away.” Others joining the exodus, however,and began to spread the news among his were not as fortunate. Billy Hudson, an Africanneighbors living just off of Standpipe Hill.128 American laborer who lived on Archer, hitched All along the southern edge of Greenwood, up his wagon as conditions grew worse, and setin fact, a great amount of activity was in prog- out — with his grandchildren by his side— forress. Alerted to the news of the violence that Nowata. He was killed by whites along thehad broken out downtown, garage and theater way.130owner John Wesley Williams wasted no time Adding to the confusion over what to do wasin preparing for the possibility of even greater the simple re al ity that, for most black Tulsans, ittrou ble. Loading his 30-30 ri fle and a re peat ing was by no means clear as to what, exactly, wasshot gun, he po si tioned him self along a going on throughout the city. This was particu-south-facing window of his family’s second larly the case during the early hours of June 1.floor apartment at the corner of Greenwood Intermittent gunfire continued along the south -and Archer. Later telling his son that he was ernmost edges of the African American district 68
    • Street by street, block by block, the white invaders moved northward across Tulsa’s African-American dis trict, loot ing homes andset ting them on fire (Cour tesy De part ment of Spe cial Col lec tions, McFarlin Li brary, Uni versity of Tulsa).throughout the night, while down along Archer lor-made for rumors. Indeed, at about 2:30 a.m.,Street, the fires had not yet burned themselves the word spread quickly across downtown that aout. Yet, as far as anyone could determine, train carrying five-hundred armed blacks fromDick Rowland was still safe inside the court - Muskogee was due to arrive shortly at the Mid-house. There had been no lynching. land Valley Railway passenger station off Third At approximately 2:00 a.m., the fierce fight- Street. Scores of armed whites including a Na -ing along the Frisco railroad yards had ended. tional Guard patrol rushed to the depot, butThe white would-be invaders still south of the nothing happened. There was no such train.132tracks. As a result, some of Greenwood’s de - Approximately 30 minutes later, reportsfenders not only concluded that they had reached the local National Guard officers that“won” the fight, but also that the riot was over. African American gunman were firing on white“Nine p.m. the trou ble started,” A.J. residences on Sunset Hill, north of StandpipeSmitherman later wrote, “two a.m. the thing Hill. Moreover, it was said that a white womanwas done.” 131 had been shot and killed. Responding to the Nothing could have been further from the news, guardsmen including the crew manningtruth. the semi-defective machine gun were deployed Regardless of whatever was, or was not, along Sunset Hill, an area that overlooked blackhappening down by the Frisco tracks, crowds homes to the east. 133of angry, armed whites were still very much in In other white neighborhoods across Tulsa, aevidence on the streets and sidewalks of down- different kind of activity was taking place, par-town Tulsa. Stunned, and then outraged, by ticularly during the first hours following mid -what had occurred at the courthouse, they had night. As word of what some would later call theonly begun to vent their anger. “Negro uprising” began to spread across the Like black Tulsans, whites were not exactly white community, groups of armed whites be -certain as to what exactly was happening in the gan to gather at hastily-arranged meeting places,city, a situation that was, not surprisingly, tai- to discuss what to do next.134 69
    • White ri ot ers be gan set ting black homes and busi nesses on fire around mid night, largely along Ar cher Street. There were atroc i tiesas well. One el derly Af ri can-American cou ple, it was later re ported, was shot in the back of the head by whites as they knelt in prayerin side their home (Cour tesy Oklahoma His tor i cal So ci ety). For “Choc” Phillips and his other young of cars headed east. He later estimated, thecompanions, word of this activity came while crowd that had gathered was about six-hundredthey were sitting in an all-night restaurant. strong. Once again, men stood up on top of cars“Everybody,” they were told, “go to Fifteenth and began shouting instructions to the crowd.and Boulder.” Phillips wrote: “Men,” once man announced, “we are going in Many people were drifting out of the res- at daylight.” Another man declared that they taurant so we decided to go along and see would be having, right then and there, an ammu- what hap pened at the meet ing place. nition exchange. “If any of you have more am- Driving south on Boulder we realized that munition than you need, or if what you have many trucks and au to mo biles were headed doesn’t fit your gun, sing out,” he said. “Be for the same location, and near Fifteenth ready at daybreak,” another man insisted, claim- Street people had abandoned their vehi- ing that meetings like this were taking place all cles because the streets and intersections over town. “Noth ing can stop us,” he added, “for were filled to capacity. We left the car there will be thousands of others going in at the more than a block away and began walk - same time.”136 ing to ward the crowded in ter sec tion. The Tulsa police also appear to have been There were already three or four hundred scattered all over town. No doubt responding to people there and more arriving when we rumors that armed blacks were supposedly en walked up. route to Tulsa from various towns across eastern Oklahoma, Tulsa police officers had been dis - Once there, a man stood up on top of a tour- patched to guard various roads leading into theing car and announced, “We have decided to city. Indeed, no less than a half-dozen officersgo out to Second and Lewis Streets and join the that by Chief Gustafson’s subsequent calcula-crowd that is meeting there.”135 tions, was nearly one-fifth of the regularly Returning to their automobiles, Phillips and scheduled available police force that evening,his companions blended in with the long line had ap par ently been posted at the ice plant over- 70
    • and at 1:46 a.m., the needed telegram arrived at the state capital.138 It read: WESTERN UNION TELEGRAM Tulsa, Okla June l,1921 Govemor J.B.A. Robertson Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Race riot developed here. Several killed. Unable handle situation. Re- quest that National Guard forces be sent by special train. Situation serious. Jno. A. Gustaftson, Chief of Police Wm. McCullough, Sheriff V.W. Biddison District Judge Twenty-nine minutes later, at 2:15 a.m., Ma- jor Kirkpatrick spoke again by phone with Ad- jutant General Barrett, who informed him thatSweeping past the black business district, now aflame, the the governor had authorized the calling out ofwhite rioters entered the heart of Tulsa’s African-American the state troops. A special train, carrying ap-residential area (Courtesy Oklahoma HistoricalSociety). proximately one-hundred National Guard sol - diers would leave Oklahoma City, bound forlooking the Eleventh Street bridge. Some local Tulsa, at 5:00 a.m. that morning. 140guardsmen also were deployed to stand guard Tulsa’s lon gest night would fi nally be end ing,at various public works as well including the but its longest day would have only begun.city water works along the Sand Springs road, In the pre-dawn hours of June l, thousands ofand the Pub lic Ser vice Com pany’s power plant armed whites had gathered in three main clus -off First Street. 137 ters along the northern fringes of downtown, op- Word of what was happening in Tulsa was posite Greenwood. One group had assembledalso making its way to state officials in behind the Frisco freight depot, while anotherOklahoma City. At 10:14 p.m., Adjutant Gen- waited nearby at the Frisco and Santa Fe passen-eral Charles F. Barrett, the commandant of the ger station. Four blocks to the north, a thirdOklahoma Na tional Guard, had re ceived a long crowd was clustered at the Katy passenger de-distance telephone call from Major Byron pot. While it is unclear how many people wereKirkpatrick, a Tulsa guard officer, advising in each group, some contemporary ob serv ers es-him of the worsening conditions in Tulsa. timated the total number of armed whites whoKirkpatrick phoned again at 12:35 a.m. At that had gathered as high as five or ten thousand. 141point he was instructed by Governor J.B.A. Smaller bands of whites also had been active.Robertson to prepare and send a signed tele - One group hauled a machine gun to the top ofgram, as required by Oklahoma state law, by the Middle States Milling Company’s grain ele-the chief of police, the county sheriff, and a lo- vator off of First Street, and set it up to fire to thecal judge, requesting that state troops be sent north of Greenwood Avenue.142 Shortly beforeto Tulsa. Kirkpatrick, however, ran into some daybreak, five white men in a green Franklinproblems as he tried to collect the necessary automobile pulled up alongside the crowd ofsig na tures, par tic u larly that of Sher iff whites who were massed behind the FriscoMcCullough, who was still barricaded with his freight depot. “What the hell are you waitin’men and Dick Rowland on the top floor of the on?,” one of the men hollered, “let’s go getcourthouse. However, Kirkpatrick persevered, 71
    • The loot ing and burn ing of Af ri can -Amer i can homes was indiscriminate, both poor and wealthy fam i lies lost their homes (Courtesy Greenwood Cultural Center).‘em.” But the crowd would not budge, and the Woods running with both hands in the airmen in the car set off alone toward Deep and their 3-month-old baby in one hand andGreen wood. Their bod ies, and the bul - three brutes behind him with guns.let-ridden Franklin, were later seen in the mid- “She said her legs gave way from under her,”dle of Archer Street, near Frankfort.143 the letter continued, “and she had to crawl about Across the tracks in Greenwood, consider- the room, taking things from her closet, puttingable activity also had been taking place. While them in her trunk, for she thought if anythingsome black Tulsans prepared themselves to happened she’d have her trunk packed, and be -face the onslaught, others decided that it was fore she got everything in they heard footstepstime to go. “About this time officers Pack and on their steps and there were six out there andLewis pushed up to us and said it would not be they ordered Mr. Smart to march, hands up, outsafe for us to remain any longer,” recalled Mrs. of the house.145Dimple Bush, who was with her husband at the Several eyewitnesses later recalled that whenRed Wing Hotel. “So,” she added, “We rushed dawn came at 5:08 a.m. that morning, an un -out and found a taxi which took us straight usual whistle or siren sounded, perhaps as a sig-north on Greenwood.”144 nal for the mass assault on Greenwood to begin. Not far away, along North Elgin, Julia Duff, Although the source of this whistle or siren isa teacher at Booker T. Washington High still unknown, moments later, the white mobsSchool, faced a similar crisis. Awakened by made their move. While the machine gun in theloud voices outside of her rented room shortly grain elevator opened fire, crowds of armedbefore dawn, the young teacher was soon whites poured across the Frisco tracks, headednearly overcome with fear. As later described straight for the African American commercialin a letter pub lished in the Chi cago De fender: district.146 As later de scribed by one eye wit ness: Mrs. S. came into her room and told her With wild frenzied shouts, men began to dress-there was something wrong for pouring from behind the freight depot and soldiers were all around, and she looked the long string of boxcars and evidently out the window and saw them driving the from behind the piles of oil well easing men out of the houses on Detroit. Saw Mr. 72
    • which was at the other end and on the machine gun located in the granary and north side of the building. From every from men who were quickly surrounding place of shelter up and down the tracks our district. Seeing that they were fighting came screaming, shouting men to join in at a dis ad van tage, our men had taken shel ter the rush toward the Negro section. Min- in the buildings and in other places out of gled with the shouting were a few re- sight of the enemy. When my daughter, bel-yells and Indian gobblings as the great Florence Mary, and I ran into the street, it wave of humanity rushed forward totally was vacant for a block or more. Someone absorbed in thoughts of destruction.147 called to me to “Get out of the street with Meanwhile, over at the Katy depot, the other that child or you both will be killed.” I feltcrowd of armed whites also moved forward. that it was suicide to remain in the building,Heading east, they were soon joined by dozens for it would surely be destroyed and deathof others in automobiles, driving along Brady in the street was preferred, for we expectedand Cameron Streets. As one unidentified ob- to be shot down at any moment. So weserver later told reporter Mary Parrish, “Tues- placed our trust in God, our Heavenly Fa -day night, May 31, was the riot, and ther, who seeth and knoweth all things, andWednesday morning, by daybreak, was the in- ran out of Greenwood in the hope of reach-vasion.”148 ing a friend’s home who lived over the While black Tulsans fought hard to protect Standpipe Hill in Greenwood Addition.150their homes and businesses, the sheer numeri- For Dimple Bush, the flight from Greenwoodcal advantage of the invading whites soon had bordered upon the indescribable. “It wasproved to be overwhelming. After a valiant, just dawn; the machine guns were sweeping thenight long effort, John Wesley Williams had to valley with their murderous fire and my heartflee from his family’s apartment once whites was filled with dread as we sped along,” she re-began to riddle the building with gunfire. called, “Old women and men, children wereSqueezing off a few final rounds a little further running and screaming everywhere.”151up Greenwood Avenue, Williams then faced Soon, however, new perils developed. As thethe inevitable, and began walking north along mobs of armed whites rushed into the southernthe Midland Valley tracks, leaving his home end of the African American district, airplanesand businesses behind.149 — manned by whites — also appeared over - He was hardly alone. Not far away, in her head. As Dr. R.T. Bridgewater, a well-respectedapartment in the Woods Building at 105 N. black Tulsa physician, later described what hap-Greenwood, Mary E. Jones Parrish and her pened:young daughter Florence Mary had sat up Shortly after we left a whistle blew. Themuch of the night, uncertain of what to do. shots rang from a machine gun located on“Finally,” she later wrote, Standpipe Hill near my resi dence and My friend, Mrs. Jones, called her hus - aeroplanes began to fly over us, in some in- band, who was trying to take a little rest. stances very low to the ground. A cry was They decided to try to make for a place of heard from the women saying, “Look out safety, so called to me that they were leav- for the aeroplanes, they are shooting upon ing. By this time the enemy was close us.” 152 upon us, so they ran out of the south door, Numerous other eyewitnesses —both black which led out onto Ar cher Street, and went and white — confirm the presence of an un- east toward Lansing. I took my little girl, known number of airplanes flying over Green - Florence Mary, by the hand and fled out of wood during the early daylight hours of June 1. the west door on Greenwood. I did not While certain other assertions made over the take time to get a hat for myself or Baby, years such as that the planes dropped streams of but started out north on Greenwood, run - “liquid fire” on top of African American homes ning amidst showers of bullets from the 73
    • and busi nesses ap pear to have been tech no log- him, and they told his wife (old, too) to go,ically improbable, particularly during the early but she did n’t want to leave him, and he told1920s, there is little doubt but that some of the her to go on anyway. As she left one of theoccupants of the airplanes fired upon black damn dogs shot the old man and then theyTulsans with pistols and rifles. Moreover, fired the house.156there is ev i dence, to sug gest that men in at least There were near-atrocities as well. Afterone airplane dropped some form of explo- armed whites had led his mother away at gun -sives, probably sticks of dynamite, upon a point, five-year-old George Monroe was hidinggroup of African American refugees as they beneath his parents’ bed with his two older sis-were fleeing the city. 153 ters and his one older brother when white men Gunfire soon erupted along the western sud denly en tered the room. Af ter ri fling throughboundary of the black com mu nity. Sharp fight- the dresser, the men set the curtains on fire. Asing broke out along Standpipe Hill, where the the men began to leave, one of them stepped onlocal guardsmen positioned there traded fire George’s hand. George started to cry out, but hiswith armed African Americans, who had set up sister Lottie threw her hand over his mouth, pre-defensive lines off Elgin and Elgin Place. vent ing their dis cov ery. A few min utes later, theNearby, on Sunset Hill, the white guardsmen children were able to escape from their homeopened fire on the black neighborhood to the before it burst into flame.157east, us ing both their stan dard is sue Some of the fires in Greenwood appear tothirty-caliber 1906 Springfield rifles as well as have been set by whites wearing khaki uni-the semi-defective machine gun provided to forms. The actual identity of these men remainsthem by the Tulsa police.154 unclear. Most likely, they were World War I As the waves of white rioters descended veterans who had donned their old army uni -upon the African American district, a deadly forms when the riot erupted, rather than an offi-pattern soon emerged. First, the armed whites cially organized group. 159broke into the black homes and businesses, They were not, however, the only uniformedforcing the occupants out into the street, where whites observed setting fires in Tulsa’s Africanthey were led away at gunpoint to one of a American neighborhoods. According to blackgrowing number of internment centers. Any - Deputy Sher iff V.B. Bostic, a white Tulsa po liceone who resisted was shot. Moreover, African officer “drove him and his wife from his home,”American men in homes where firearms were and then “poured oil on the floor and set adiscovered met the same fate. Next, the whites lighted match to it.” 159looted the homes and businesses, pocketing Deputy Sheriff Bostic was not, however, thesmall items, and hauling away larger items ei- only eyewitness to report acts of criminal mis-ther on foot or by car or truck. Finally, the conduct by Tulsa police officers during thewhite rioters then set the homes and other course of the riot. According to one white eye -buildings on fire, using torches and oil-soaked witness, a “uniformed [white] policeman on Eastrags. House by house, block by block, the wall Second Street went home, changed his uniformof flame crept northward, engulfing the city’s to plain clothes, and went to the Ne gro dis trict andblack neighborhoods.155 led a bunch of whites into Negro, houses, some Atrocities occurred along the way. Accord- of the bunch pilfering, never offered to protecting to one account, published ten days after the men, women or children, or property.” This par-riot in a Chicago newspaper, ticular account was buttressed by the testimony Another cruel instance was when they of an African American witness, who reported [white rioters] went to the home of an old that he had seen the same officer in question “on couple and the old man, 80 years old, was the morning of the riot, June 1, kicking in doors paralyzed and sat in a chair and they told of Negro homes, and assisting in the destruction him to march and he told them he was crip- of property.”160 pled, but he’d go if someone would take 74
    • Dedicated only weeks before the riot, the Mount Zion Baptist Church was a great source of pride for many black Tulsans. But after a prolonged battle, the white rioters burned it—as well as more than a half dozen other African American churches—to the ground (Courtesy Department of Special Collections, McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa). Despite the daunting odds against them, a canvas cover then lay it on the bed of theblack Tulsans valiantly fought back. African truck. They rolled up the belts with theAmerican riflemen had positioned themselves empty shell casings, put away those thatin the belfry of the newly-built Mount Zion were still unused, and in what seemed lessBaptist Church, whose commanding view of than ten minutes from the time the truckthe area just below Standpipe Hill allowed was parked at the location, drove away.them to temporarily stem the tide of the white While standing on the high ground whereinvasion. When white rioters set up a machine the ma chine gun had been fir ing, wegun-probably the same weapon that had been watched the activity below for a few min -used earlier that morning at the grain elevator, utes. Most of the houses were beginning toand unleashed its deadly fire on the church burn and smoke ascended slowly in to thebelfry, the black defenders were quickly over- air while people flitted around as busy aswhelmed. As “Choc” Phillips later described bees down there. From the number that ranwhat happened: in and out of the houses and the church, In a couple of minutes pieces of brick there had evidently been a couple of hun - started falling, then whole bricks began dred who remained behind when the mob tumbling from the narrow slits in the cu - bypassed the area. pola. Within five or six minutes the open- A short while later, Mount Zion was ings were large jagged holes with so many torched. 161 bricks flying from that side of the cupola Attempts by black Tulsans to defend their wall that it seemed ready to fall. homes and property were undercut by the ac - The men stopped firing the machine tions of both the Tulsa police and the local Na- gun and al most im me di ately the houses on tional Guard units, who, rather than focus on the outer rim of the area that had been pro- disarming and arresting the white rioters, took tected by the snipers, became victims of steps that led to the eventual imprisonment of the arsonists. We watched the men take practically all of the city’s African American the ma chine gun from the tri pod, wrap it in citizens. Guardsmen deployed on Standpipe 75
    • Hill made at least one eastward march in the four men searched me. They told me to lineearly hours of June 1, rounding up African up in the street. I requested them to let meAmericans along the way, before they were get my hat and best shoes, but they refusedfired upon, apparently by whites as well as and abusively ordered me to line up. Theyblacks, near Greenwood Avenue. The guards- re fused to let one of the men put on any kindmen then marched to Sunset Hill, where they of shoes. After lining up some 30 or 40 of ushanded over their black prisoners to local po- men, they ran us through the streets to Con-lice officers.162 vention Hall, forcing us to keep our hands An arrest by a white officer was not a guar- in the air all the while. While we were run-antee of safety for black Tulsans. Ac cord ing to ning, some of the ruffians would shoot atThomas Higgins, a white resident of Wichita, our heels and swore at those who had diffi-Kansas who happened to be visiting Tulsa culty keeping up. They actually drove a carwhen the riot broke out, “I saw men of my own into the bunch and knocked down two orrace, sworn officers, on three occasions search three men. 165Negroes while their hands were up, and not Harold M. Parker, a white bookkeeper for thefinding weapons, extracted what money they Oklahoma Producing and Refining Corporationfound on them. If the Negro protested, he was at the time of the riot, later corroborated howshot.” 163 armed whites sometimes shot at the heels of White civilians also took black prisoners. their black prisoners. “Sometimes they missedWhen the invasion began, Carrie Kinlaw, an and shot their legs,” Parker recalled a half cen-African American woman who lived out to - tury later, “It was sheer cruelty coming out.”166ward the Section Line, had to run toward the The most infamous incident involving whitefighting in order to help her sisters retrieve civilians imprisoning African Americans wastheir invalid mother. Reaching the elderly that which concerned Dr. A.C. Jackson, Tulsa’swoman in a “rain of bullets,” Kinlaw later noted black surgeon. Despite the increasingwrote: gunfire, Dr. Jackson had decided to remain in - My sisters and I gathered her up, placed side of his handsome home at 523 N. Detroit, her on a cot, and three of us carried the cot along the shoul der of Standpipe Hill. But when a and the other one carried a bundle of group of armed whites arrived on his front lawn, clothes; thus we carried Mother about six Jackson apparently walked out the side door of blocks, with bullets falling on all sides. his home with his hands up, saying, “Here I am About six squads of rioters overtook us, boys, don’t shoot.”167 What happened next was asked for men and guns, made us hold up later recounted by John A. Oliphant, a white at- our hands. torney who lived nearby, in testimony he pro - Not all of her captors, however, were adults. vided after the riot:“There were boys in that bunch,” she added, Q. About what time in the morning did you“from about 10 years upward, all armed with say it was Dr. Jackson was shot?guns.”164 A. Right close to eight o’clock, between Black Tulsans also faced dangers while in seven thirty and eight o’clock.the custody of white civilians. James T. West a Q. Dr. Jackson was a Negro?teacher at Booker T. Wash ing ton High A. Yes, sir.School, was arrested by whites at his home on Q. And he was coming toward you and theseEaston Street that morning. “Some men ap - other men at the time he was shot?peared with drawn guns and ordered all of the A. Yes, Sir, coming right between his house,men out of the house,” he recalled immedi- right in his yard be tween his home and the houseately after the riot, below him. Q. What did these men say at the time he was I went out immediately. They ordered shot? me to raise my hands, after which three or 76
    • A. They didn’t say anything but they pulleddown on him; I kept begging him not to shoothim, I held him a good bit and I thought hewouldn’t shoot but he shot him twice and theother fellow on the other side-and he fell-shothim and broke his leg. Q. One man shot him twice? A. Yes, sir, this is my recollection now. Q. Then another one shot him through theleg? A. Yes, I didn’t look at that fellow. Q. These same men that shot him carriedhim to the hospital? A. No, they didn’t. Q. What did they do? A. I have never seen them after that, I don’tknow a thing about what became of them. Dr. Jackson died of his wounds later thatday.168 Not all black Tulsans, however, counte-nanced surrender. In the final burst of fightingoff of Standpipe Hill that morning, a deadlyfirefight erupted at the site of an old clay pit, While the white rioters continued their assault upon the Af ri- can-American com mu nity, black Tulsans soon found them selveswhere several African American defenders sub ject to ar rest by Tulsa of fi cials and “spe cial dep u ties”(Cour-were said to have gone to their deaths fighting tesy Bob Hower).off the white invaders. Stories also have beenpassed down over the years regarding the ex- In the wake of the invasion came a wall ofploits of Peg Leg Taylor, a legendary black de- flame, steadily moving northward. “Is thefender who is said to have singlehandedly whole world on fire?” asked a young playmatefought off more than a dozen white rioters. of eight-year-old Kinney Booker, who was flee-Along the northern face of Sunset Hill, the ing with his family from their home on Northwhite guardsmen posted there found them- Frankfort. Not far away, a fiery horror was un-selves, at least for a while, under attack.169 derway. As later recounted by Walter White in Black Tulsa, it was clear, was not going The Nation magazine:without a fight. One story was told to me by an eyewit- De spite their gal lant ef fort, how ever, ness of five colored men trapped in a burn-Tulsa’s African American minority was sim- ing house. Four burned to death. A fifthply outgunned and outnumbered. As the white attempted to flee, was shot to death as hemobs continued to move northward, into the emerged from the burn ing struc ture, and hisheart of the black residential district, some of body was thrown back into the flames.the worst violence of the riot appears to have Humans, however, were not the only victimstaken place. “Negro men, women and children of the conflagration. More than a few blackwere killed in great numbers as they ran, trying Tulsans kept pigs and chickens in their back -to flee to safety,” one unidentified informant yards in those days. They too perished in thelater told Mary E. Parrish, “. . . the most horri- flames, as did some dogs and other familyble scenes of this oc cur rence was to see women pets.171dragging their children while running to Efforts made by the Tulsa Fire Department tosafety, and the dirty white ras cals fir ing at them halt the burn ing were of lit tle ef fect. The ear li estas they ran.”170 attempts by firemen to put out fires in the Afri- 77
    • While only the au thor i ties de tained a hand ful of white ri ot ers, most black Tulsans soon found them selves held un der guard. Even inthe pre dom i nantly white neigh bor hoods on the city’s south side, Af ri can-American do mes tic work ers were rounded up and taken tothe various in tern ment cen ters (Cour tesy De part ment of Spe cial Col lec tions, McFarlin Library, Uni ver sity of Tulsa).can American district were halted, at gunpoint, the hill to the north east among theby crowds of white ri ot ers. There af ter, what ef- out-buildings of the Ne gro settle mentforts that were made appear to have been di - which stops at the foot of the hill. Afterrected towards keeping the flames away from about 20 minutes “fire at will” at the armednearby white neighborhoods. This may also groups of blacks the latter began fallinghave played a role in how another new black back to the northeast, thus getting goodchurch, the First Baptist Church located at Ar- cover among the frame buildings of the Ne-cher and Jackson, was spared. “Yonder is a gro settlement. Immediately we moved for-nigger church, why ain’t they burning it?” a ward, “B” Company advancing directlywhite woman allegedly asked on the morning north and the Ser vice com pany in aof June 1. Because, she was told, “It’s in a north-easterly direction.173white district.”172 More remarkable, the guardsmen came upon As the morning wore on, and the fighting a group of African Americans barricaded insidemoved northward across Greenwood, there a store, who were attempting to hold off a mobwas a startling new development. On the heels of armed white rioter’s. Rather than attempt toof their brief gun battle with African American get the white invaders and the black defenders toriflemen to their north, the guardsmen who disengage, the guardsmen joined in on the at -were positioned along the crest of Sunset Hill tack. Again, as de scribed by Cap tain McCuen:then joined in the invasion of black Tulsa, withone detachment heading north, the other to the At the northeast corner of the Negro set-northeast. As later described by Captain John tlement 10 or more Negroes barricadedW. McCuen in the after action report he sub- themselves in a concrete store and dwellingmitted to the commander of Tulsa’s National and a stiff fight ensued between these Ne -Guard units: groes on one side and guardsmen and civil- ians on the other. Several whites and blacks We advanced to the crest of Sunset Hill were wounded and killed at this point. We in skirmish line and then a little further captured, arrested and disarmed a great north to the military crest of the hill where many Ne gro men in this set tle ment and then our men were ordered to lie down because sent them under guard to the convention of the intense fire of the blacks who had hall and other points where they were being formed a good skirmish line at the foot of concentrated.174 78
    • Whites detained fleeing African Americans as well as those that stayed near their homes and businesses (Cour tesy De part ment ofSpecial Collections, McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa). No longer remotely impartial, the men of American refugees were apparently hidden by“B” Company, Third Infantry, Oklahoma Na - the Phelpses during the daylight hours.177tional Guard, had now joined in on the assault Other white Tulsans also hid blacks, or di -on black Tulsa. rectly confronted the white rioters. Mary Jo As African Americans fled the city, new Erhardt, a young stenographer who roomed atdangers sometimes appeared. Mary Parrish the Y.W.C.A. Building at Fifth and Cheyenne,later reported that as the group of refugees she did both. After a sleepless night, punctuated bywas with “had traveled many miles into the the sounds of gunfire, Erhardt arose early on thecountry and were turning to find our way to morning of June 1. Heading downstairs, sheClaremore,” they were warned to stay clear of then heard a voice she recognized as belonginga nearby town, where whites were “treating our to the African American porter who workedpeo ple aw fully mean as they passed there. “Miss Mary! Oh, Miss Mary!” he said,through.”175 Similar stories have persisted for “Let me in quick.” Armed whites, he told her,decades. were chasing him. Quickly secreting the man in- Not all white Tulsans, however, shared the side the building’s walk-in refrigerator, Erhardtracial views of the white rioters. Mary Korte, a later recalled,white maid who worked for a wealthy Tulsa Hardly had I hidden him behind the beeffamily, hid African American refugees at her carcasses and returned to the hall doorfam ily’s farm east of the city. 176 Along the road when a loud pounding at the service en-to Sand Springs, a white couple named Merrill trance drew me there. A large man was try-and Ruth Phelps hid and fed black riot victims ing to open the door, fortunately securelyin the basement of their home for days. The locked, and there on the stoop stood threePhelps home, which still stands, became some- very rough-looking mid dle-aged whitething of a “safe house” for black Tulsans who men, each point ing a re volver in my gen eralhad man aged not to be im pris oned by the white direction!authorities. Traveling through the woods andalong creek beds at night, dozens of African “What do you want?” I asked sharply. Strangely, those guns frightened me not at 79
    • The Zarrow Family. The parents of Jack andHenry Zarrow, founder of Sooner Pipeling,owned a grocery store in the riot-torn area. Itwas spared because they were white. TheZarrow’s hid many of the flee ing blacks in theirbusiness (Courtesy Greenwood Cultural Cen -ter). all. I was so angry I could have torn those rican American children, who had evidently ruffians apart-three armed white men chas- been separated from their parents, walking ing one lone, harmless Negro. I cannot re- along the street. Suddenly, an airplane appeared call in all my life feeling hatred toward on the horizon, bearing down on the two fright- any person, until then. Apparently my feel- ened youngsters. Morales ran out into the street, ings did not show, for one answered, and scooped the little ones into her arms, and “Where did he go?” “Where did WHO out of danger. go?” I responded. A group of armed whites later demanded that “That nigger," one demanded, “did you Morales hand the two terrified children over to let him in here?” them. “In her English, she told them ‘No’,” her daughter Gloria Lough, later recalled. “Some - “Mis ter,” I said, “I’m not let ting how or other," she added, “they didn’t shoot ANYBODY in here!,” which was per- her." The youngsters were safe.179 fectly true. I had already let in all I in- As the battle for black Tulsa continued to tended. rage, it soon became evident, even in neighbor- “It was at least ten minutes before I felt hoods far removed from the fighting, that on secure enough to release Jack,” Erhardt June 1, 1921, there would be very lit tle busi ness added, “He was nearly frozen, dressed as usual in the city of Tulsa. When Guy Ashby, a thinly as he was for the hot summer night, young white employee at Cooper’s Grocery on but he was ALIVE!” 178 Fourteenth Street, showed up for work that Some whites, in their efforts to protect black morning, his boss was on his way out the door.Tulsans from harm put themselves at risk. “The boss told me there would be no work thatNone, perhaps, more so than a young Hispanic day as he was declaring it ‘Nigger Day’ and hewoman named Maria Morales Gutierrez. A re- was going hunting niggers,” Ashby later re-cent immigrant from Mexico, she and her hus- membered, “He took a rifle and told me to lockband were living, at the time of the riot, in a up the store and go home.”180small house off Peoria Avenue, near Independ- Downtown, normal ac tiv i ties were even moreence Street. Hearing a great deal of noise and in disarray, as business owners found them-commotion on the morning of June 1, Morales selves shorthanded, and crowds of onlookersventured outside, where she saw two small Af- took to the streets, or climbed up on rooftops, to stare at the great clouds of smoke billowing over 80
    • The riot was felt along the southern edge of the city as well, particularly in the well-to-do white neighborhoods off of 21st Street, as car - loads of armed white vigilantes went door to door, rounding up live-in African American cooks, maids, and butlers at gunpoint, and then hauling them off toward downtown. A number of white homeowners, however, fearing for the safety of their black em ploy ees, stood in the way of this forced evacuation. When Charles and Amy Arnold refused to hand over their house - keeper, cries of being “nigger lovers” were fol-Any flee ing fam i lies were de nied free dom by whites po si tioned lowed by a brick being thrown through theiron es cape routes (Cour tesy De part ment of Spe cial Col lec tions, front window.182McFarlin Li brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa). Even out in the countryside, miles from town,the north end of town. At the all-white Central people knew that something was happening inHigh School, several male students bolted Tulsa. Since daybreak, huge columns of blackfrom class when gunfire was heard nearby. smoke had been rising up, hundreds of feet intoOne of the students later recalled, “struck out the air, over the north end of the city.for the riot area.” Along the way, he added, The smoke was still there, some four hoursthey were met by a white man who handed later, when the State Troops finally arrived inthem a new rifle and a box of shells. “You can town.have it,” the man told them, “I’m going home The special train from Oklahoma City, carry-and going to bed.”181 ing Adjutant General Charles F. Barrett and theShortly af ter the out break of vi o lence, the Tulsa po lice pre sented the lo cal Na tional Guards men with a ma chine gun—only it provedto be de fec tive. A sec ond ma chine gun that was in the hands of white ci vil ians, how ever, was used to con sid er able ef fect dur ing the at-tack on Greenwood (Cour tesy De part ment of Spe cial Col lec tions, McFarlin Li brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa). 81
    • As more and more Af ri can Amer i cans were de tained the “pro tec tive cus tody” al ter nate holding lo ca tions had to be used includingMcNulty base ball Park (De part ment of Spe cial Col lec tions, McFarlin Li brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa).approximately 109 soldiers and officers under supply dealer who was visiting Tulsa at the timehis com mand, pulled into Tulsa’s bul- of the riot. “This law less loot ing con tin ued fromlet-scarred Frisco and Santa Fe passenger de - about 9 until 11 o’clock,” he added, “when mar-pot at approximately 9:15 a.m. on the morning tial law prevented further spoilation.”184of June 1, 1921. The soldiers, who arrived There were ongoing horrors as well. “Onearmed and in uniform, were all-members of an Negro was dragged behind an automobile,Oklahoma City based National Guard unit. In with a rope around his neck, through the busi -Tulsa, they soon became known, by both ness district,” reported the Tulsa World in itsblacks and whites, as the “State Troops,” a “Second Extra” edition on the morning of Juneterm which had the intrinsic benefit of helping 1." Decades later, both former Tulsa mayorto dis tin guish the out-of-towners from the lo cal L.C. Clark, and E.W. “Gene” Maxey of theNational Guard units. Like the local guards- Tulsa County Sher iff’s Depart ment, con-men, the State Troops were also all-white. 183 firmed this report. “About 8:00 a.m. on the By the time the State Troops ar rived, Tulsa’s morning of June 1, 1921, Maxey told riotdevastating racial conflagration was already chronicler Ruth Avery,ten-and-one-half hours old. Dozens of blacks I was downtown with a friend when theyand whites had been killed, while the wards of killed that good, old, colored man that wasthe city’s four remaining hospitals — the blind. He had amputated legs. His body wasall-black Frissell Memorial Hospital had al - attached at the hips to a small wooden plat-ready been burned to the ground by white riot- form with wheels. One leg stub was longerers — were filled with the wounded. Most of than the other, and hung slightly over thethe city’s African American district had al- edge of the platform, dragging along theready been torched, while looting continued in street. He scooted his body around by shov-those black homes and businesses that were ing and pushing with his hands coveredstill standing. “One very bad thing was the with baseball catcher mitts. He supportedway whites delved into the personal belong- himself by selling pencils to passersby, orings of the Negroes, throwing their posses- accepting their donations for his singing ofsions from trunks and otherwise damaging songs.them,” reported M.J. White, a Denver dental 82
    • The street car tracks ran north and south dragging him behind the car in broad daylight on Main Street, and the tracks were laid on on June 1, right through the center of town on pretty rough bricks. The fellow that was Main Street.”185 driving the car I knew—an outlaw and a When the State Troops arrived in Tulsa, the bootlegger. But I won’t give his name be - majority of the city’s black citizenry had either cause he has some folks here. There were fled to the countryside, or were being held — al- two or three people with him. They got legedly for their own protection — against their that old col ored man that had been here for will in one of a handful of hastily set-up intern- years. He was helpless. He’d carry an old ment centers, including Convention Hall, the tin cup, sing, and mooched for money. fairgrounds, and McNulty baseball park. There One of them thuggy, white people had a were still, however, some pockets of armed new car, so he went to the depot, and came black resistance to the remnants of the white in- back up Main Street between First and Sec- vasion, especially along the northern reaches of ond Streets. We were on the east side of the Af ri can Amer i can dis trict. In cer tain bor der- the street. These white thugs had roped line areas such as the residential neighborhood this colored man on the longer stump of that lay just to the east of the Santa Fe tracks his one leg, and were dragging him behind where the Jim Crow line ran right down the cen- the car up Main Street. He was hollering. ter of the street, a number of African American His head was being bashed in, bouncing homes had escaped destruction, sometimes on the steel rails and bricks. through the efforts of sympathetic white neigh- “They went on all the speed that the car bors.186could make,” Maxey added, “. . . a new car, Upon their arrival in Tulsa, the State Troopswith the top down, and 3 or 4 of them in it, apparently did not proceed immediately to where the fighting was still in progress, al-Remarkably, a handful of Tulsa’s finest African-American homes were still standing when the State Troops arrived in town. Butabout one-hour later, a small group of white men were seen en ter ing the houses, and set ting them on fire. By the time the State Troopsmarched up Standpipe Hill, it was too late, the homes were gone (Cour tesy Tulsa His tor i cal So ciety). 83
    • though it is uncertain how long this delay policemen I will protect all this propertylasted. The reasons for this seeming hold-up and save a million dollars worth of stuffappear to be largely due to the fact that certain they were burning down and looting.” Isteps needed to be fulfilled — either through asked the fire department for the fire depart-pro to col or by law — in or der for mar tial law to ment to be sent over to help pro tect my prop-be declared in Tulsa. Accordingly, after de- erty and they said they couldn’t come, theytraining at the Frisco and Santa Fe station, Ad- wouldn’t let them.190jutant General Barrett led a detachment of Oliphant’s hopes were raised, however, whensoldiers to the courthouse, where an unsuc- he observed the arrival of the State Troops, fig-cessful attempt was made to contact Sheriff uring that they might be able to save the homesMcCullough. Barrett then went to city hall, along North Detroit. “I sent for them,” he testi-where, after conferring with city officials, he fied, I sent for the militia to come, send over fif-contacted Governor Robertson in Oklahoma teen or twenty of them, that is all I wanted." But,City and asked to be granted the authority to instead, at around 10:15 a.m. or 10:30 a.m., aproclaim martial law in Tulsa County. Other party of three or four white men, probablydetachments of State Troops, meanwhile, ap- so-called ‘Special Dep uties," each wearingpear to have begun taking charge of black badges arrived, and then set fire to one of theTulsans who were being held by armed white very homes that Oliphant had been trying to pro-civilians.187 However, another account of the tect. By the time the State Troops arrived in theriot, published a decade later, alleges that upon neighborhood later that morning, it was too late.their arrival in Tulsa, the State Troops wasted Most of the homes were already on fire. 191valuable minutes by taking time to prepare and One of the few that was not belonged to Dr.eat breakfast.188 Robert Bridgewater and his wife, Mattie, at 507 As it turned out, while the State Troops were N. Detroit. Returning to his home — after beingoccupied downtown, not far away, some of the held at Convention Hall — in order to retrievefin est Af ri can Amer i can homes in the city were his med i cine cases, Dr. Bridgewater later wrote,still standing. Located along North Detroit Av-enue, near Easton, they included the homes of On reaching the house, I saw my pianosome of Tulsa’s most prominent black citi- and all of my elegant furniture piled in thezens, among them the residences of Tulsa Star street. My safe had been broken open, all ofeditor A.J. Smitherman, Booker T.Washing- the money stolen, also my silverware, cutton High School principal Ellis W. Woods, and glass, all of the family clothes, and every-businessman Thomas R. Gently and his wife, thing of value had been removed, even myLottie.189 family Bible. My electric light fixtures For several hours that morning, John A. were broken, all of the window lights andOliphant a white attorney who lived nearby, glass in the doors were broken, the disheshad been tele phon ing po lice head quar ters in an that were not stolen were broken, the floorseffort to save these homes, that had been looted were cov ered (literally speak ing) withbut not burned. Oliphant believed that a hand- glass, even the phone was torn from theful of officers, if sent over immediately, could wall.192see to it that the homes were spared. As he later The Bridgewaters, as they well knew, wererecounted in sworn testimony: among the fortunate few. Most black Tulsans Q. Judge, when you phoned the police no longer had homes anymore. station what reply did you get? By the time that marital law was declared in Tulsa County at 11:29 a.m. on June 1, the race A. He said, some body in there, I riot had nearly run its course. Scattered bands of thought I knew the voice but I am not cer- white ri ot ers, some of whom had been awake for tain, he said, I will do the best I can for more than twenty-four hours straight, continued you." I told him who I was, I wanted some to loot and burn, but most had already gone policemen, I says, “If you will send me ten 84
    • As the riot wore on, African-Americanfamilies frequently became separated,as black men were often the first to beled away at gunpoint. For many blackTulsans, it was hours—and, in somecases, much lon ger—be fore theylearned the fate of their loved ones (De-part ment of Spe cial Col lec tions,McFarlin Li brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa).home. Along the northern and eastern edges of fenders had apparently held off the whites whoblack Tulsa, where homes were mixed in with were gathered along the railroad embankment.stretches of farmland, it had become difficult When a second group of whites, armed withfor the rioters to distinguish the homes of Afri- high-powered rifles, arrived on the scene, thecan Americans from those of their white African Americans were soon overrun.194neighbors. The home that riot survivor Nell Most of the city’s black population, mean -Hamilton shared with her mother out near the while, was be ing held un der armed guard. ManySection Line was, perhaps, spared for just that families had been sent, at first, to Conventionreason.193 Hall, but as it filled to capacity, black Tulsans A final skirmish appears to have occurred a were taken to the baseball park and to the fair -little after Noon, when the remaining members grounds. As the day wore on, hundreds wouldof the white mob exchanged fire with a group soon join them. As the men, women, and chil -of African Americans not far from where the dren who had fled to the countryside, or hadSanta Fe railroad tracks cut across the Section taken ref uge at Golden Gate Park, be gan to wan-Line, just off of Peoria Avenue. The black de- der back toward town, they too, were taken intoFrom their po si tions along Standpipe and Sun set Hills, mem bers of the Tulsa-based units of the Oklahoma Na tional Guard also tookblack Tulsans into “protective custody.” And as the local guardsmen began mak ing for ays into the African-American district, theyac tively took black pris on ers (Cour tesy Oklahoma His tor i cal So ci ety). 85
    • On the morn ing of June 1, most black Tulsans who were taken into cus tody were brought to Con vention Hall, on Brady Street. But asthe day wore on, and more and more African Americans were placed under arrest, new internment centers had to be established(Cour tesy Oklahoma His tor i cal So ci ety).custody. While the white authorities would Additional detachments of State Troops fromlater argue, and not without some validity, that other Oklahoma cities and towns arrived inthis was a protective measure designed to save Tulsa through out June 1, and with their help, theblack lives, other reasons including a lingering streets were eventually cleared. All businesseswhite fear of a “Negro uprising” undoubtedly were ordered to close by 6:00 p.m. One hourplayed a role in their rationale. In any event, later, only members of the military or civil au -following the destruction of their homes and thorities, physicians, or relief workers were al -businesses on May 31 and June 1, black Tulsa lowed on the streets. It was later claimed that bynow found itself, for all prac ti cal pur poses, un- 8:00 p.m. on the evening of June 1, order hadder arrest.195 been re stored.197 The Tulsa race riot was over. Following the declaration of martial law, the Doctors, relief workers, and members of theState Troops began to move into what little re- military and civil authorities were not, how-mained of Tulsa’s African American neighbor- ever, the only ones who were active in Tulsa onhoods, disarming whites and sending them Wednesday evening, June 1, 1921. As Walteraway from the district. After the riot, a number White later reported:of black Tulsans, strongly condemned, in no O.T. Johnson, commandant of the Tulsauncertain terms, the actions of both the Tulsa Citadel of the Salvation Army, stated thatPolice Department and the local National on Wednesday and Thursday the SalvationGuard units during the conflict. However, the Army fed thirty-seven Negroes employedState Troops were largely praised. “Everyone as grave diggers and twenty on Friday andwith whom I met was loud in praise of the State Saturday. During the first two days theseTroops who so gallantly came to the rescue of men dug 120 graves in each of which a deadstricken Tulsa,” wrote Mary Parrish, “They Negro was buried. No coffins were used.used no partiality in quieting the disorder. It is The bodies were dumped into the holes andthe general belief that if they had reached the covered over with dirt. 198scene sooner, many lives and valuable prop-erty would have been saved.” 196 86
    • Scene in front of Convention Hall asAfrican Americans are being incar-cerated on June 1 (Cour tesy De part-ment of Spe cial Col lec tions,McFarlin Li brary, Univer sity ofTulsa). Other written evidence, including funeral What they found was a blackened landscapehome records that had lain unseen for more of vacant lots and empty streets, charred tim -than seventy-five years, would later confirm bers and melted metal, ashes and bro kenthat African Amer i can riot vic tims were bur ied dreams. Where the African American commer-in unmarked graves at Oaklawn Cemetery. 199 cial district once stood was now a ghost town ofBut oral sources would also point to additional crumbling brick storefronts and the burned-outunmarked burial sites for riot victims in Tulsa bulks of automobiles. Gone was the DreamlandCounty, including Newblock Park, along the and the Dixie, gone was the Tulsa Star and theSand Springs road, and the historic Booker T. black public library, gone was the Liberty CafeWashington Cemetery, located some twelve and Elliott & Hooker’s clothing store, H.L.miles southeast of the city.200 Byars’ clean ers and Mabel Lit tle’s beauty sa lon. Conducted, no doubt, under trying circum- Gone were literal lifetimes of sweat and hardstances, the burial of Tulsa’s African Ameri- work, and hard-won rungs on the ladder of thecan riot dead would nevertheless bear little in American Dream.common with the interment of white victims. Gone, too, were hun dreds of homes, and moreLargely buried by strangers, there would be no than a half-dozen African American churches,headstones or graveside services for most of all torched by the white in vad ers. Nearlyblack Tulsa’s riot dead. Nor would familymembers be present at the burials, as most ofthem were still being held under armed guardat the various detention centers. It appears thatin some cases, not only did some black Tulsafamilies not learn how their loved ones died,but not even where they were buried. In the week following the riot, nearly all ofTulsa’s African American citizenry had man-aged to win their freedom, by one way or an-other, from the internment centers. Largelyhomeless, and in many cases now penniless,they made their way back to Greenwood. As black Tulsans won their release from the various internmentHowever, Greenwood was gone. cen ters, and re turned to Green wood, most dis cov ered that they no lon ger had homes any more (Cour tesy De part ment of Spe cial Collections, McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa). 87
    • at gunpoint, toward the various internment cen- ters.201 Some would soon find a new outlet for their racial views in the hooded order that was about to sweep across the white community. Other white Tulsans were horrified by what had taken place. Immediately following the riot, Clara Kimble, a white teacher at Central High School opened up her home to her black coun - terparts at Booker T. Washington High School, as did other white families.202 Others donated food, cloth ing, money, and other forms of as sis- tance. For many whites, the riot was a horrorStone and brick walls were all that were left of most of the never to be forgotten, a mark of shame upon thehomes in the Greenwood section (Courtesy Oklahoma His -tor i cal So ci ety). city that would endure forevermore. However, for black Tulsans, the trials andten-thousand Tulsans, practically the entire tribulations had only just begun. Six days afterblack community, was now homeless. the riot, on June 7, the Tulsa City Commission Across the tracks and across town, in passed a fire ordinance designed to prevent theTulsa’s white neighborhoods, no homes had rebuilding of the African American commercialbeen looted and no churches had been burned. district where it had formerly stood, while theFrom the outside, life looked much the same as so-called Reconstruction Commission, an orga-it had been prior to the riot, but even here, be- nization of white business and political leaders,neath the surface, there was little normalcy. had been fuming away offers of outside aid . In In one way or another, white Tulsans had the end, black Tulsans did rebuild their commu-been stunned by what had happened in their nity, and the fire ordinance was de clared un con-city. More than a few whites, including those stitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.whose homes now featured stolen goods, had Yet, the damage had been done, and the tone ofundeniably, taken great joy in what had oc- the official local response to the disaster had al-curred, particularly the destruction of Green - ready been set. Despite the Herculean efforts ofwood. Some whites had even applauded as the American Red Cross, thousands of blackblack families had been led through the streets, Tulsans were forced to spend the winter ofMany African Americans wereforced to spend the winter afterthe riot in tents (Cour tesyOklahoma His tor i cal So ci ety). 88
    • Iron bed frames were all that remained of many residences in North Tulsa (Courtesy Oklahoma His torical Society).1921-22 living in tents. Others simply left. of armed Negroes, which precipitated and wasThey had had enough of Tulsa, Oklahoma. the direct cause of the entire affair.”205 For some, staying was not an option. It soon A few other court cases, largely involvingbecame clear, both in the grand jury that had claims against the city and various insurancebeen im pan eled to look into the riot, and in var- com pa nies, lin gered on for a num ber of years af-ious other legal actions that, by and large, lan- terward. In the end, while a handful of Africanguished in the courts, that African Americans Americans were charged with riot-related of-would be blamed for causing the riot. No- fenses, no white Tulsan was ever sent to prisonwhere, per haps, was this stated more force fully for the murders and burnings of May 31, andthan in the June 25, final report of the grand June 1, 1921. In the 1920s Oklahoma court-jury, which stated: rooms and halls of government, there would be We find that the recent race riot was the no day of reck on ing for ei ther the per pe tra tors or direct result of an effort on the part of a cer- the victims of the Tulsa race riot. Now, some tain group of colored men who ap peared at seventy-nine years later, the aged riot survivors the courthouse on the night of May 31, can only wonder if, indeed, that day will ever 1921, for the purpose of protecting one come. Dick Rowland then and now in the cus- tody of the Sheriff of Tulsa Country for an al leged as sault upon a young white woman. We have not been able to find any evidence either from white or colored citi- zens that any organized attempt was made or planned to take from the Sheriff’s cus - tody any prisoner; the crowd assembled about the courthouse being purely specta- tors and curiosity seekers resulting from rumors circulated about the city. “There was no mob spirit among the whites,no talk of lynching and no arms," the report Com mem o ra tion of the riot con ducted by Ben Hooks (Cour tesyadded, “The assembly was quiet until the arrival Green wood Cul tural Cen ter). 89
    • Endnotes 1 A number of general histories of Tulsa have been written over the years, the most recent being Danney Goble,Tulsa!: Biography of the American City (Tulsa: Council Oaks Books, 1997). In addition, also see: William Butler,Tulsa 75: A History of Tulsa (Tulsa: Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, 1974); Angie Debo, Tulsa: FromCreek Town to Oil Cap i tal (Nor man: Uni ver sity of Oklahoma Press, 1943); Clar ence B. Douglas, The His tory of Tulsa,Oklahoma: A City With a Personality (3 vols.; Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1921); Nina Dunn, Tulsa’sMagic Roots (Tulsa: Oklahoma Book Publishing Company, 1979); James Monroe Hall, The Beginning of Tulsa(Tulsa: Scott-Rice Company, 1928); and Courtney Ann Vaughn-Roberson and Glen Vaughn-Roberson, City in theOsage Hills: Tulsa, Oklahoma (Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company, 1984). 2 John D. Porter, comp., Tulsa County Handbook, 1920 (Tulsa: Banknote Printing Company, 1920). Dr. Fred S.Clinton, “Interesting Tulsa History,” a 1918 pamphlet, a copy of which is located in the Tulsa His tory ver ti cal files inthe library of the Oklahoma Historical Society. [Federal Writers’ Project], Tulsa: A Guide to the Oil Capital (Tulsa:Mid-West Printing Company, 1938), pp. 23-25, 32, 50, 54. Tulsa City Directory, 1921 (Tulsa: Polk-HoffhineDirectory Company, 1921). Vaughn-Roberson and Vaughn-Roberson, City in the Osage Hills, p. 199. On the old Tulsa city cemetery, which was located near what is now the intersection of Second Street and FriscoAv e nue, see: Jim Downing, “Bull dozers Dis turb Pi o neers’ Fi nal Rest,”Tulsa World, Feb ru ary 17, 1970, pp. 113, 613;Mrs. J.O. Misch, “Last Resting Places Not Al ways Fi nal” and other un dated clip pings lo cated in the Tulsa Cemeteriessub ject files at the Tulsa His tor i cal So ci ety; and, in ter view with S.R. Lewis, In dian Pio neer His tory Col lec tion, Fed eralWriters’ Project, vol. CVI, pp. 351-352, Oklahoma Historical Society. 3 Tulsa City Directory, 1921. Clinton, “Interesting Tulsa History”. Porter, Tulsa County Handbook, 1920. Goble,Tulsa! pp. 78-111. 4 While a complete architectural history of Tulsa as not yet been written, the homes of the oil barons have been thesubject of careful study. See: Marilyn Inhofe, Kathleen Reeves, and Sandy Jones, Footsteps Through Tulsa (Tulsa:Liberty Press, 1984); and, especially, John Brooks Walton, One Hundred Historic Tulsa Homes (Tulsa: HCEPublications, 2000). 5 On the history of Greenwood, see: Eddie Faye Gates, They Came Searching: How Blacks Sought the PromisedLand in Tulsa (Austin: Eakin Press, 1997); Hannibal B. Johnson, Black Wall Street: From Riot to Renaissance inGreenwood’s Historic Greenwood District (Austin: Eakin Press, 1997); Henry C. Whitlow, Jr., “A History of theGreen wood Era in Tulsa”, a pa per pre sented to the Tulsa His tor i cal So ci ety, March 29, 1973; Fran cis Dominic Burke,“A Sur vey of the Ne gro Com mu nity of Tulsa, Oklahoma” (M.A. the sis, Uni ver sity of Oklahoma, 1936); and, [Na tionalUrban League], A Study of the Social and Economic Condition of the Negro Population of Tulsa, Oklahoma(Washington, D.C.: National Urban League, 1945). 6 The standard work on the history of African Americans in Oklahoma is Jimmie Lewis Franklin, Journey TowardHope: A History of Blacks in Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982). 7 On B.C. Franklin, see: John Hope Franklin and John Whittington Franklin, eds., My Life and An Era: TheAutobiography of Buck Colbert Franklin (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997). The John HopeFrank lin quote is from his Fore word to Scott Ellsworth, Death in a Prom ised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 (Ba tonRouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982), p. xv. 8 On the transfer of entrepreneurial experience from the all black towns to Greenwood, credit is due to ProfessorD.F.G. Williams, an urbanist at Washington University in St. Louis. Professor Williams is currently preparing ascholarly article about Tulsa’s African American community at the time of the riot, and was kind enough to share anearly version of this work, titled “Economic Dualism, Institutional Failure, and Racial Violence in a Resource BoomTown: A Reexamination of the Tulsa Riot of 1921.” 9 Mary E. Jones Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster (rpt; Tulsa: Out on a Limb Pub lishing, 1998), pp. 11, 17. TulsaCity Directory, 1921. Sanborn Fire insurance Maps, Tulsa Historical Society. “Tulsa’s Industrial and CommercialDistrict,” 1921 map published by the Dean-Brumfield Com pany, Tulsa. Daily Okla ho man, June 2, 1921. Oral historyinterview with Nell Hamilton Hampton, Tulsa, September 16, 1998. Oral history interview with Ed ward L. Goodwin,Sr., Tulsa, November 21, 1976, by Ruth Sigler Avery in Fear: The Fifth Horseman — A Documentary of the 1921Tulsa Race Riot, unpublished manuscript. 10 Mabel B. Lit tle, “A His tory of the Blacks of North Tulsa and My Life”, type script, dated May 24, 1971. Tulsa Star,April 11, 1914. Oklahoma City Black Dispatch, June 10, 1921. Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, pp. 115-126.Franklin and Franklin, My Life and An Era, p. 193. Tulsa City Directory, 1921. Oral history interviews with: RobertFairchild, Tulsa, June 8, 1978; V.H. Hodge, Tulsa, June 12, 1978; W.D.Wil liams, Tulsa, June 7, 197 8; B.E. Caruthers,Tulsa, July 21, 1978; Elwood Lett, Tulsa, May 28, 1998; and Otis Clark, Tulsa, June 4, 1999. 11 [State Arts Council of Oklahoma], “A Century of African-American Experience — Greenwood: From Ruins toRe nais sance”, ex hi bi tion bro chure. Oral his tory in ter views with W.D. Wil liams, Tulsa, by: Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear: 90
    • The Fifth Horse man; and Scott Ellsworth, June 7, 1978. Tulsa City Directory, 1921. Tulsa Star, January 4, 1919. NewYork Evening Post, June 11, 1921. William Redfearn vs. American Central Insurance Company, Case 15851,Oklahoma Supreme Court. 12 Tulsa Star: May 30, 1913; June 13, 1913; February 7, 1914; March 7, 1914; April 4, 1914; April 11, 1914;September 12, 1914; February 16, 1918; May 4, 1918; and January 4, 1919. Tulsa World, June 6, 1921. DailyOklahoman, June 2, 1921. Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Di sas ter, pp. 83, 89-90. Tulsa City Di rec tory, 1921. Kavin Ross,“Booker T. Wash ing ton High School — Ellis Walker Woods His tor i cal Marker/Me mo rial Pro posal”, c1999. James M.Mitchell, “Politics in a Boom Town: Tulsa from 1906 to 1930" (M.A. thesis, University of Tulsa, 1950). On the Af ri can Blood Broth er hood, see: the July and No vem ber 1921 is sues of The Cru sader, the of fi cial jour nal ofthe or ga ni za tion; “Ne groes Brand Story Race Ini ti ated Riot as Fake”,New York Call, June 5, 1921; and, in ter views withBinkley Wright, Los Angeles, California, February and August 25, 2000, by Eddie Faye Gates; and Tulsa World,March 26, 2000. On the intellectual and political life of Greenwood prior to the riot, additional credit is due to the most helpfulinsights of Mr. Paul Lee, a journalist and filmmaker who is currently working on a documentary on early blackmigration to Oklahoma. 13 Tulsa City Directory, 1921. Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, pp. 41, 78-80. Gates, They Came Searching, pp.165-167. Tulsa Star, March 6, 1915. On the education of the new Mount Zion Baptist Church building, see the Tulsa World, April 10, 1921, p. B-8. 14 Tulsa Star: May 30, 1913: May 29, 1915; June 26, 1915; July 10, 1915; and February 13, 1919. Panish, Events ofthe Tulsa Di sas ter, p. 115. Wal ter F. White, “The Erup tion of Tulsa", The Na tion, June 29, 1921, pp. 909-910. [Na tionalAssociation for the Advancement of Colored People], “Minutes of the Meeting of the Board of Directors, June 13,1921", 1,A,l, NAACP Papers, Library of Con gress, Wash ing ton, D.C. Oral his tory in ter view with Sey mour Wil liams,Tulsa, June 2, 1978. J.B. Stradford, who was forced to flee Tulsa after the riot, was cleared of any wrongdoing in the affair at a 1996ceremony. See: “Black Man Cleared of 1921 Tulsa Riot”, Arizona Republic, October 27, 1996, p. A14; MaryWisniewski Holden, -75 Years Later: Vindication in Tulsa", Chicago Lawyer, December 1996; and Jonathan Z.Larsen, “Tulsa Burning”, Civilization, IV, I (February/March 1997), pp. 46-55. Significantly, Stradford wrote a memoir — a few pages of which have turned up in Tulsa — which, if published,promises to be a most important historical document. 15 Williams, “Economic Dualism, Institutional Failure, and Racial Violence in a Resource Boom Town”. Whitlow,“A History of the Greenwood Era in Tulsa”. Tulsa City Directory, 1921. Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, pp.82-83. Gates, They Came Searching, pp. 102-103. Tulsa Star: March 7, 1914; and January 4, 1919. Oral historyinterview with Mabel B. Little, Tulsa, May 24, 1971, by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear: The Fifth Horseman. African Americans who tried to shop downtown were often the targets of discriminatory and derogatory behaviorby white merchants and customers. See, for example, “Colored Woman Insulted”, in the Tulsa Star, July 11, 1913. At least one white merchant in an otherwise all-white block of stores did, however, actively seek black customers.See the advertisements for the North Main Department Store in the Tulsa Star, March 27 and April 17, 1920. 16 [National Urban League], A Study of the Social and Economic Condition of the Negro Population of Tulsa,Oklahoma, pp. 37-39, 87-89. [Oklahoma Writers’ Project], “Ra cial El e ments”, type script, dated Jan u ary 17, 1938, inthe Federal Writers’ Project topical files, 81.05, Archives and Manuscript Division, Oklahoma Historical Society.Tulsa City Directory, 1921. Gates, They Came Searching, pp. 62-64, 83-86. Oral history interviews with KinneyBooker, Tulsa, May 30, 1998; and, Elwood Lett, Tulsa, May 28, 1998. For a lon ger term per spec tive, see also the com ments of Mar ian Ramsey Jones, Ber tha Black McIntyre, and Walter“Pete” Wil liams fol low ing Hannibal John son’s ar ti cle, “Green wood: Birth and Re birth”,Tulsa Peo ple Mag a zine, July2000, pp. 12-18. 17 Tulsa City Directory, 1921. On the lives of the African American men and women who lived in the “Professor’sRow” off of Standpipe Hill, see the forthcoming article by Paul Lee in Essence magazine. While a com plete copy of the study con ducted by the Amer i can As so ci a tion of So cial Workers has not been lo cated,this report — and its findings — was cited in subsequent publications. The quote is from The Proceedings of theNational Conference of Social Work, 56th Annual Session, June 26 to July 3, 1929 (Chicago: University of ChicagoPress, c1929), pp. 393-394. The study is also cited in Jesse O. Thomas, “American Cities — Tulsa”, an unidentified1924 ar ti cle, a copy of which is lo cated in the Oklahoma sub ject file of the Schomburg Cen ter Clip ping File 1925-1974,Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library, New York, NY. 18 Kathy Callahan, “Mozelle May Re calls Early Tulsa His tory”, Tulsa World, April 29, 1974. Tulsa City Directory,1921. Gates, They Came Searching, pp. 62-65, 139-140. Walton, One Hundred Historic Tulsa Homes. Oral history 91
    • interviews with: Henry C. Whitlow, Jr., Tulsa, June 6, 1978; and Kinney Booker, Tulsa, May 30, 1998. Telephoneinterviews with Jewel Smitherman Rogers, Perris, California, 1998-2000. 19 John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr., From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans, 7thedition (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), pp. 346-354. Ar thur I. Waskow, From Race Riot to Sit-In: 1919 and the1960s (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1966). John Higharn, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of AmericanNativism, 1860-1925 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1955). Richard Maxwell Brown, Strain ofViolence: Historical Studies of American Violence and Vigilantism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975). 20 The classic study of the Chicago riot is William M. Tuttle, Jr.’s Race Riot. Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919(New York: Atheneum, 1970). Following the riot, the Chicago Commission on Race Relations conducted an extensive investigation of what hadoc curred. Its re port, The Ne gro in Chi cago: A Study of Race Re la tions and a Race Riot (Chi cago: Uni ver sity of Chi cagoPress, 1922), is still quite useful. 22 Tuttle, Race Riot, pp. 29-30. 22 Ibid., pp. 244-245. Franklin and Moss, From Slavery to Freedom, p. 351. A num ber of other World War I era ri ots have also been the sub ject of ex ten sive study. See, for ex am ple: Elliott M.Rudwick, Race Riot at East St. Louis, July 2, 1917 (Car bon dale: South ern Il li nois Uni ver sity Press, 1964); U.S. Houseof Representatives, Sixty-Fifth Congress, 2nd Session, “Report of the Special Committee Authorized by Congress toIn ves ti gate the East St. Louis Riots” (Wash ing ton, D.C.:Gov ern ment Print ing Of fice, 1918): and, Rob ert V. Haynes, ANight of Violence: The Houston Riot of 1917 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976). 23 The literature on interracial sexual relations in America — including historical, sociological, and psychologicalanal y ses, as well as the work of some of the coun try’s fin est nov el ist — is vo lu mi nous. For a his tor i cal per spec tive, twoplaces to begin are: Joel Williamson, The Crucible of Race: Black-White Relations in the American South SinceEmancipation (New York: Ox ford Uni ver sity Press, 1974); and Dan T. Carter, Scottsboro: A Trag edy of the Amer i canSouth (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1969). 24 Frank lin and Moss, From Slavery to Freedom, pp. 348-349. Classic studies of lynching include: Arthur F. Raper,The Trag edy of Lynching (Cha pel Hill: Uni ver sity of North Carolina Press, 1933); James R. McGovern, Anatomy of aLynching: The Killing of Claude Neal (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1982); and James Allen,Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America (Santa Fe: Twin Palms Publishers, 2000). 25 Rob ert T. Kerlin, The Voice of the Negro, 1919 (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1920). Frank lin and Moss, From Slav eryto Freedom, pp. 323-360. Emmett J. Scott, History of the American Negro, in the World War (Chicago: HomewoodPress, 1919). 26 LA. Newby, Jim Crow’s Defense: Anti Negro Thought in America, 1900-1930 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana StateUniversity Press, 1965). Mary Frances Berry, Black Resistance/White Law: A History of Constitutional Racism inAmerica (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1971). C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (NewYork: Oxford University Press, 1957). 27 Da vid A Chalmers, Hooded Amer i can ism: The His tory of the Ku Klux Klan (Chi cago: Quad ran gle Books, 1965).Kenneth T. Jackson, The Ku Klux Klan in the City (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967). 28 Tulsa Star, November 11, 1916; February 16, 1918; May 4, 1918; and November 23, 1918. Interview withSeymour Williams, Tulsa, June 2, 1978. Goble, Tulsa!, pp. 120-121. 29 Richard Kluger, Simple Justice (New York: Ran dom House, 1977), pp. 102-104. Arrell M. Gib son, Oklahoma: AHis tory of Five Cen turies (Nor man: Harlow Pub lishing Cor po ra tion, 1965), p. 353. Kay M. Teall, ed., Black His tory inOklahoma: A Resource Book (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma City Public Schools, 1971), pp. 172, 202-204, 225. 30 Mary Eliz a beth Estes, “An His tor i cal Sur vey of Lynch ings in Oklahoma and Texas!’ (M.A. thesis, Uni ver sity ofOklahoma, 1942), pp. 130-134. 31 Carter Blue Clark, “A History of the Ku Klux Klan in Oklaboma7’ (Ph.D. dis sertation,University of Oklahoma,1976), pp. vii-xi, 36-80, 169-219. Charles C. Alexander, The Ku Klux Klan in the Southwest (Lexington: Uni ver sity ofKentucky Press, 1965). W.C. Witcher, The Reign of Ter ror in Oklahoma (Ft. Worth, n.p., c 1923). Marion Monteval,The Klan Inside Out (Claremore: Monarch Publishing Company, 1924). Howard A. Tucker, History of GovernorWalton’s War on the Klan (Oklahoma City: Southwest Publishing Company, 1923). 32 Charles Oquin Meyers, Jr., “The Ku Klux Klan in Tulsa County During the Early 1920s” (Honor’s pa per,Department of History, University of Tulsa, 1974), pp. 6, 12-19. Laurie Jane (Barr) Croft, “The Women of the Ku.Klux Klan in Oklahoma”(M.A. the sis, Uni ver sity of Oklahoma, 1984), p. 51. Clark, “A His tory of the Ku Klux Klan inOklahoma”, pp. 36, 47, 52, 65, 71, 89. 33 Tulsa World, July 30, 1922. Meyers, “The Ku Klux Klan in Tulsa Country", pp. 9-12. Ku Klux Klan Papers,Department of Special Collections, McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa. 92
    • 34 Al ex an der, The Ku Klux Klan in the South west, pp. 66, 142-58, 228. Chalmers, Hooded Americanism, pp. 52-55.Meyers, “The Ku Klux Klan in Tulsa Country”, pp. 20-22, 26-35. Bruce Bliven, “From the Oklahoma Front”, NewRepublic, Oc to ber 17, 1923, p. 202. Jewel Smitherman Rog ers, “John Henry Smitherman: A Pro file of The Fa ther, TheMan, and The Officer of the Law”, typescript, November 1999. Interview with Willa Catherine Smitherman, Tulsa,February 14, 1978, by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear: The Fifth Horseman. Oral history interviews with: William M.O’Brien, Tulsa, March 2, 1998; and Richard Gary, Tulsa, March 16,1999. 35 Meyers, “The Ku Klux Klan in Tulsa County”, pp. 33-38. Tulsa Man membership register/ledger, 1928-1929,Department of Special Collections, McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa. Oral history interview with Ed Wheeler,Tulsa, February 27, 1998. 36 CIark, “A History of the Ku Klux Klan in Oklahoma”, pp. 42-45. 37 Ibid., pp. 36-38 38 TuIsa World, June 6, 1921. Ruth Sigler Avery, Fear: The Fifth Horseman. 39 The Tribune, in particular, paid close attention to Klan activities in Dallas. See the Tulsa Tribune: January 29,1921, p. 8; Feb ru ary 4, 1921, p. 1; April 2, 1921, p. 1; April 3, 1921, p. 5; May 22, 1921, p. 1; and May 24, 1921, p. 1. 40 Tulsa Tribune, May 22, 1921, p. 2. On the May brothers, see also the March 27, 1921 issue, p. 2. 41 Meyers, “The Ku Klux Klan in Tulsa County”, pp. 3-7. Clark, “A His tory of the Ku Klux Klan in Oklahoma”, pp.46-47. 42 Tulsa Tribune, April 17, 1921, p. 5. Tulsa World: April 10, 1921, p. 4; April 14, 1921,, p. 4; April 18,1921, p. 4:April 20, 1921, p. 4; and April 23,1921, p. 4. [Na tional As so ci a tion for the Ad vance ment of Colored Peo ple], “Min utesof the Meeting of the Board of Directors, June 13, 1921,” NAACP Papers, Library of Congress. Exchange BureauBulletin, I, 26 (July 7[?], 1921). On economic conditions in Tulsa prior to the riot, see: Harlow’s Weekly, December 17, 1920 and September16,1921; Tulsa Tribune, April 14,1921, p. 6; Tulsa World, May 19,1921, p. 4; Tulsa City Commission, Record ofCommission Proceedings, August 26, 1921; Ralph Cassady, Jr., Price Making and Price Behavior in the PetroleumIndustry (New Ha ven: Yale Uni ver sity Press, 1954), p. 136; and, U.S. Bu reau of the Cen sus, His tor i cal Sta tis tics of theUnited States, Colonial Times to the Present (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1975), Volume 2, p.208. 43 “Federal Report on Vice Conditions in Tulsa,” April 21-26, 192 , by Agent T.G.F., a copy of which is located inthe At tor ney Gen eral Civil Case Files, Re cord Group 1-2, Case 1062, State Ar chives Di vi sion, Oklahoma De part mentof Libraries. 44 Abundant evidence on the illegal consumption of alcohol in Tulsa County can be found in the Attorney GeneralsCivil Case Files, Record Group 1-2, Case 1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. See, inparticular: the tes ti mony of E.S. McQueen, L. Medlen, and Mrs. W.H. Clark; “State ment of John Burnett”; ”Memo toMajor Daily"; and, “Special Report on Vice Conditions in and Around the City of Tulsa, by H.H. Townsend”, Tulsa,May 18,1921. Oral his tory in ter view with El wood Lett, Tulsa, May 28, 1998. Tulsa Tribune: Feb ru ary 7, 1921, p. 1; Feb ru ary 11,1921, p. 5; February 12, 1921, p. 1; February 13, 1921, p. 3; and April 15, 1921, p. 13. 45 The quote from Charles C. Post is from the Tulsa Tribune, May 8, 1921, p. 1. See also: Tulsa World, April 22,1921, p. 1; Tulsa Tri bune, May 18, 1921, p. 2; and, “State ment of Bar ney Cleaver,” At tor ney Gen erals Civil Case Files,Record Group 1-2, Case 1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. 46 White, “The Eruption of Tulsa”, p. 909. Tulsa World: April 23, 1921, pp. 1,3; and May 13, 1921, p. 1. TulsaTribune: Jan u ary 13,1921, p. 12; Feb ru ary 12, 1921, p. 1; March 5, 1921, p. 1; March 9, 1921, p. 10; March 13, 1921, p.7; March 14, 192 1, p. 1; March 21, 1921, p. 1; April 5, 1921, p. 1; April 13, 1921, p. 1; May 1, 1921, p. B-14; May 2,1921, p. 1; May 11, 1921, p. 1; May 18, 1921, p. 1; May 20, 1921, p. 1; and May 28, 1921, p. 1. 47 Tu1sa World. April 4,1921, p. 4; April 15, 1921, p. 4; May 13, 1921, p. 4; May 18,1921, pp. 1, 13; May 19, 1921,pp.1, 4; May 20, 1921, pp.1, 2; May 21, 1921, pp. 1, 4,17; and May 22, 1921, pp. 1, 17. Tulsa Tri bune, May 1, 1921, p.B-14. 4. Tulsa Tribune: April 17, 1921, p. 1; April 19, 1921, p. 16; and May 25, 1921, p. 16. 49 Estes, “Historical Survey of Lynchings in Oklahoma and Texas,” p. 131. Interview with George B. Smith, RedFork, Oklahoma, Au gust 24, 1937, by W.T. Hol land, Vol ume LXIX, pp. 470-475, In dian Pi o neer His tory Col lec tion,Federal Writers’ Project, Oklahoma Historical Society. 50 William T. Lampe, Tulsa County and the World War (Tulsa: Tulsa Historical Society, 1918). [National CivilLiberties Bureau], “The ‘Knights of Liberty’ Mob and the I.W.W. Prisoners at Tulsa, Okla., No vember 9, 1917",pamphlet, 1918. Goble, Tulsa!, pp. 118-122. 93
    • 53 Tulsa Times: November 10, 1917, p. 6; and November 12,1917, p. 7. Tulsa Democrat: November 10, 1917, p.8;and No vem ber 11, 1917, pp. 1, 3.Tulsa World. No vem ber 10, 1917, p. 1; No vem ber 11, 1917, p. 1; No vem ber 12, 1917,p. 4; and November 13, 1917, p. 4. 52 Tulsa World. August 22, 1920, p. 1; and August 24, 1920, p. 1. Tulsa Tribune: August 22, 1920, p. 1; August 24,1920, pp. 1, 4; August 25, 1920, p. 1; and August 28, 1920, p. 1. 53 Tulsa Tribune: Au gust 23, 1920, p. 1; and Au gust 27, 1920, p. 1. Tulsa World. Au gust 25, 1920, pp. 1, 12; Au gust28, 1920, pp. 1, 9; Au gust 29, 1920, p. 9; Au gust 30, 1920, p. 1; Sep tem ber 1, 1920, p. 12; and Sep tem ber 2, 1920, pp. 1,9. 54 Tulsa World, August 25, 1920, p. 12; and August 31, 1920, p. 4. Tulsa Tribune, August 28, 1920, p. 1 . 55 Tu1sa Tribune, August 28, 1920, p. 1. 56 Ibid., August 29, 1920, pp. 1-2. Tulsa World. August 29, 1920, p. 1; and August 30, 1920, p. 3. 57 Tulsa Star, Sep tem ber 4, 1920, p. 1. Tulsa Tri bune, Au gust 29, 1920, pp. 1, 2. Tulsa World: Au gust 29, 1920, p. 1;and August 30, 1920, pp. 1-3. See also: White, “The Eruption of Tulsa”, p. 909. 58 Tulsa World, August 30, 1920, pp. 1-3. 59 Both the lynching of Roy Belton, and how Tulsans responded to the event, was covered extensively in both ofTulsa’s daily news pa pers. See: Tulsa Tri bune: Au gust 31, 1920, p. 12; Sep tem ber 6, 1920, p. 1; Sep tem ber 9, 1920, p.1; Sep tem ber 10, 1920, p. 1; Sep tem ber 21, 1920, p. 2; Sep tem ber 24, 1920, p. 1; and Sep tem ber 29, 1920, p. 4. TulsaWorld: August 30, 1920, p. 4; August 31, 1920, pp. 1, 4; Sep tem ber 1, 1920, pp, 1, 4, 12; Sep tem ber 2, 1920, pp. 1, 4;Sep tem ber 3, 1920, pp. 1, 18; Sep tem ber 5, 1920, p. A- 1; Sep tem ber 6, 1920, p. 1; and Sep tem ber 10, 1920 pp. 1, 13. 60 Tulsa Star, September 4, 1920, pp. 1, 4. 61 Ibid., March 6, 1920, p. 8. 62 Clark, “History of the Ku Klux Klan in Oklahoma”, p. 17. 63 Tulsa Star, March 6, 1920, p. 8. 64 Ibid., September 4, 1920, pp. 1, 4. 65 TuIsa Democrat, March 18, 1919, p. 1. Tulsa World, March 18, 1919, p. 1. Tulsa Times, March 18, 1919, p. 1. 66 TuIsa Times: March 20, 1919, p. 1; March 21, 1919, p. 1; and March 22, 1919, p. 3. Tulsa World, March 21, 1919,p. 1; Tulsa Democrat: March 19, 1919, p. 11; March 20, 1919, p. 9; and March 21, 1919, pp. 10,16. 67 Tulsa Tribune, June 12, 192 1, p. 1. 68 Tulsa Star, September 4, 1920, pp. 1, 4. 69 Bio graph i cal sketch of Rich ard Lloyd Jones by Ha zel S. Hone, May 10, 1939; “Rich ard Lloyd Jones” from Who’sMo in Tulsa, 1950, by Clarence Allen; and, miscellaneous newspaper clippings on Jones, all located in the “Tulsa’vertical subject files, Oklahoma Historical Society. 70 Tulsa Tribune: Jan u ary 13, 1921, p. 12; Feb ru ary 12, 1921, p., 8; March 5, 1921, p. 10; April 5, 1921, p. 16; April7, 1921, p. 16; May 1, 1921, p. B-14; May 3,1921, p. 18; and May 13, 1921, p. 24. 71 Ibid.: Jan u ary 3, 1921, p. 12; March 2,1921, p. 1; March 4, 1921, p. 1; March 5, 1921, p. 1; March 28, 1921, p. 1;March 29, 1921, p. 1; March 31, 1921, p. 1; April 4, 1921, p. 1; April 5, 1921, p. 1; April 13, 1921, p.1; May 8, 1921, p.1; May 16, 1921, p. 12; May 17, 1921, p. 1; May 19, 1921, pp. 1, 2; May 20, 1921, pp. 1, 2, 22; May 21, 1921, pp. 1, 2;May 22, 1921, p. B-14; May 24, 1921, pp. 1, 18; and May 25, 1921, pp. 1, 3.16. The Tulsa World painted a somewhat ros ier por trait of crime con di tions in Tulsa. See, for ex am ple: April 15, 1921,p. 4; April 17, 1921, p. 16; May 19, 1921, pp. 1, 3; May 19, 1921, pp. 1, 4; May 20, 1921, pp. 1, 2; May 21, 1921, pp. 1,4, 17; and May 22, 1921, pp. 1, 17. On po lit i cal is sues which may have in flu enced the Tribune’s campaign, as well as the subsequent in ves ti ga tions ofthe Tulsa Police Department, see: Ronald L. Trekell, History of the Tulsa Police Department, 1882 - 1990 (N.p, n.p.,n.d.); Mitch ell, “Pol i tics in a Boom Town”; Randy Krehbiel, “Root of the Riot”, Tulsa World, Jan u ary 30, 2000, pp. A-1, A-2; and, John R. Woodard, In Re Tulsa (N.p., n.p., 1935). 72 Tulsa Tribune: May 14, 1921, p. 10; May 16, 1921, p. 12; and May 25, 1921, p. 16. 71 Ibid.: March 3, 1921, p. 1; April 17, 192 1, p. 1; May 24, 1921, p. 1; May 26, 1921, p. 14; and May 27, 1921, p. 1. 74 Ibid, June 4, 1921, p. 8. 75 Tulsa Tribune, May 21, 1921, pp. 1, 2. Typescript reports by members of Cooke’s party can be found in theAt tor ney Gen erals Civil Case Files, Re cord Group 1-2, Case 1062, State Ar chives Di vi sion, Oklahoma De part ment ofLibraries. 94
    • 76 Tulsa Tribune: May 26, 1921, p.1; and May 27,1921, p. 1. Tulsa World: May 26, 1921, p. 1; and May 27, 1921, p.8. Tulsa Tribune, May 30, 1921, p. 1. 77 71 Oral history interview with Damie Rowland Ford, Tulsa, July 22, 1972, by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear: The FifthHorseman. Frank lin and Frank lin, My Life and An Era, p. 199. Tulsa City Di rec tory, 1921. Oral his tory in ter views with:W.D. Williams, Tulsa, June 7, 1978; and Robert Fairchild, Tulsa, June 8, 1978. Booker T. Washington High SchoolAlum ni Ros ter, 1916-1929. Loren L. Gill, “The Tulsa Race Riof’ (M.A. the sis, Uni ver sity of Tulsa, 1946), p. 22. ”MobFury and Race Ha tred as a Na tional Dan ger", Lit er ary Di gest, LXIX (June 18, 1921). In ter view with Al ice An drews inGates, They Came Searching, pp. 41-42. Dick Rowland’s last name is sometimes spelled “Roland”. Similarly, Sarah Page’s surname is sometimes given as“Paige”. 79 Oral his tory in ter views with: Rob ert Fairchild, Tulsa, June 8, 1978; and W.D. Wil liams, Tulsa, June 7,1978. TulsaCity Directory, 1921. Tulsa Tribune, May 22, 1921, p. 4. 80 Tulsa Tribune: April 17, 1921, p. 5; May 31, 1921, p. 1; and June 1, 192 1, p. 4. White, “Eruption of Tulsa, pp.909-910. 81 Oral history interviews with: Damie Rowland Ford, Tulsa, July 22, 1972; S.M. Jackson and Eunice ClomanJackson, Tulsa, June 26, 1971; and Robert L. Fairchild, Tulsa, April 18, 1971; all by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear: TheFifth Horseman. Oral history interview with Robert Fairchild, Tulsa, June 8, 1978. 82 Tulsa World, May 29, 1921, p. A-1. Tulsa Tri bune: May 29,1921, pp. 2,8, B-1, B-10, B-12; and May 30,1921, p .l.Oral history interview with Damie Rowland Ford, Tulsa, July 22,1972, by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear: The FifthHorseman. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Tulsa, Tulsa Historical Society. 83 New York Eve ning Post, June 11, 1921. White, “Erup tion of TuIsa”, p. 910. ”Mob Fury and Race Ha tred", LiteraryDigest, op cit. Tulsa World, June 2, 1921, p. 2. Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Di sas ter, p. 18. Oral his tory in ter views with:Darnie Rowland Ford, Tulsa, July 22, 1972; Robert Fairchild, Tulsa, April 18, 1976; Mabel B. Little, Tulsa, May 24,197 1; S.M. Jackson and Eunice Clornan Jack son, Tulsa, June 26, 197 1; all by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear: The FifthHorseman. 84Tulsa Tri bune, May 31, 192 1, p. 1. Tulsa World, June 2, 192 1, pp. 1-5. White, “Eruption of Tulsa”, p. 909. Oralhistory interviews with: W.D. Williams, Tulsa, June 7, 1978; and Robert Fairchild, Tulsa, June 8, 1978. 85 Oral his tory in ter view with Damie Rowland Ford, Tulsa, July 22, 1972, by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear: The FifthHorseman. On lynching, see also, “The Ideology of Lynching”, in Stephen J. Whitfield, A Death in the Delta: TheStory of Emmett Till (New York: The Free Press, 1988), pp. 1-14. 86 Tulsa Tribune, May 31, 1921, p. 1. Oral history interview with Damie Rowland Ford, Tulsa, July 22, 1972, byRuth Sigler Avery, in Fear: The Fifth Horseman. In early May 1921, the Tulsa Tribune reported that the Tulsa Police Department had eighty-eight officers; TulsaTribune, May 2, 1921, p. 1. The Tulsa City Di rec tory, 1921, however, lists only fifty-seven of fi cers, four of whom areidentified as African American. 87 Franklin and Franklin, My Life and An Era, pp. 195-196. 88 Tulsa World, May 31, 1921. 89 Gill, “Me Tulsa Race Riot’, pp. 21-22. 90 Red Cross Collection, Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, Tulsa Historical Society. The State Edition copy of “Nab Negrofor Attacking Girl in Elevator” was uncovered by Bruce Hartnitt, a Tulsa-based researcher, in the collections of theOklahoma Historical Society sometime prior to 1996. 91 Oral history interview with W.D. Williams, Tulsa, June 7, 1978. 92 Oral history interview with Robert L. Fairchild, Tulsa, April 18, 1971, by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear: The FifthHorseman. State ment of “A.H.” in Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Di sas ter, p. 62. Charles F. Barrett, Oklahoma Af ter FifiyYears: A History of the Sooner State and Its People, 1889-1939 (Hopkinsville, Kentucky: Historical RecordAssociation, 1941), p. 206. 93 Franklin and Franklin, My Life and Era, p. 196. 94 Ross. T. Warner, Oklahoma Boy (N.p., n.d., n.d.), p. 136. Pe ti tion No, 23325, B.A. Waynes and M.E. Waynes vs.T.D. Evans et al., Tulsa County District Court. New York Evening Post, June 11, 1921. Testimony of John A.Gustafson, State of Oklahoma vs. John A. Gustafson, Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State ArchivesDivision, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. 95 Tulsa World, June 1, 1921, “Final Edition”, pp. 1, 8. Major James A. Bell to Lieutenant Colonel L .J .F. Rooney,“Report on Activities of the National Guard on the Night of May 31 and June 1, 1921", Testimony of John A. 95
    • Gustafson; and Lau rel Buck tes ti mony; all in At tor ney Gen erals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Ar chives Di vi sion,Oklahoma De part ment of Li braries. A. J. Smitherman, ”A De scrip tive Poem of the Tulsa Riot and Mas sa cre", un datedpamphlet, Oklahoma Historical Society. 96 Tulsa Tribune: June 3, 1921, p. 1; and June 6, 1921, P. 3. Tulsa World, June 1, 1921, “Final Edition”, p. 8.Oklahoma City Black Dispatch, June 3, 1921, p.1. New York Evening Post, June 11, 1921. Typescript notes on thetes ti mony of A.B. Nesbitt; and mis cel la neous hand writ ten notes; both in the At tor ney Generals Civil Case Files, Case1062, State Ar chives Di vi sion, Oklahoma De part ment of Li braries. Oral his tory in ter view with Dave Faulk ner, Tulsa,May 7, 1971, by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear: The Fifth Horseman. 97 Oral history interview with W.D..Williams, Tulsa, June 7, 1978. Franklin and Franklin, My Life and An Era, pp.96-97. Oral his tory in ter view with Rob ert Fairchild, Tulsa, by Eddie Faye Gates, in They Came Searching, p. 7 1. TulsaWorld, June 2, 192 1, p. 1. White, “Eruption of Tulsa”, pp. 909-910. Smitherman, ”Me Tulsa Riot and Massacre".Handwritten notes on the testimony of O.W. Gurley; and typescript notes on the testimony of Henry Jacobs; both inAttorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. 98 Oklahoma City Black Dis patch, June 3,1921, p. 1. Tulsa World. June 2, 1921, p. 7; June 3, 1921, p. 1; June 6, 1921, P. 3; June 9, 1921, p. 4; and June 10, 1921, p. 8. Ma jor James A. Bell to Lieu ten ant Col o nel L. J. F. Rooney, “Reporton the Activities of the National Guard”, typescript notes on the testimony of John Henry Potts; and miscellaneoushandwritten notes; all in Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Archives Division, OklahomaDe part ment of Li braries. White, “Erup tion of Tulsa:, pp. 909-910. Oral his tory in ter views with: W.D. Wil liams, Tulsa,June 7, 1978; and Seymour Williams, Tulsa, June 1, 1978. 99 Barrett, Oklahoma After Fifty Years, p. 207. Laurel Buck testimony, Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. 100 Bell, “Report on the Activities of the National Guard”, op cit. Tulsa Tribune: January 16, 1921, p. 5; and March20, 1921, Magazine Section, p. 2. 101 Bell, “Report on Activities of the National Guard.” See also: Major Paul R. Brown to the Adjutant General ofOklahoma, “Work of the Sanitary Detachment During the Riot in Tulsa”, Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries; and, Robert D. Norris, Jr., ”The OklahomaNational Guard in the Tulsa Race Riot: Tentative Summary of Finding", typescript, 1999. 102 John A. Gustafson testimony; and handwritten notes to the testimony of W. M. Ellis; both in At tor ney Gen eralsCivil Case Files, Case 1062, State Ar chives Di vi sion, Oklahoma De part ment of Li braries. Ste phen P. Kerr, “Tulsa RaceWar, 31, May 1921: An Oral History," unpublished manuscript, 1999. St. Louis Argus, June 101-1921. 103 John A. Gustafson testimony; and miscellaneoushandwritten notes; both in At tor ney Gen erals Civil Case Files,Case 1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries 104 Oral history interviews with Ernestine Gibbs, Augusta Mann, Rosa Davis Skinner, Robert Fairchild, and AliceAn drews, all by Eddie Faye Gates, in They Came Searching, pp. 42-43, 71, 85-86, 151, 165-166. Hand writ ten notes tothe tes ti mony of O. W. Gur ley; type script notes to the tes ti mony of W.C. Kelley; and John A. Gustafson testimony; allin Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. 105 Following the riot, some claimed that Sheriff McCullough had actually requested that this second contingent ofAf ri can Amer i can men come down to the Court house, a highly un likely pos si bil ity. It is, how ever, pos si ble to en vi siona sce nario whereby a tele phone call by McCullough to Dep uty Sher iff Bar ney Cleaver - per haps made to the of fices ofthe Tulsa Star - might have been misinterpreted, in the heat of the moment, as a request for assistance. Tulsa Tri bune,June 3, 1921, pp. 1, 3. Tulsa World, June 10, 1921, p. 8. New York Evening Post, June 11, 192 1. White, ‘Eruption ofTulsa", pp. 909-9 10. John A. Gustafson testimony; Laurel Buck testimony; and, handwritten notes to W. N. Ellistestimony; all in Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department ofLibraries. Oral history interview with I.S. Pittman, Tulsa, July 28, 1978. 106 Oral history interview with Robert Fairchild, Tulsa, June 8, 1978. Handwritten notes to the testimony of W. E.Dudley, Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. TulsaWorld, July 7, 1921, p. 3. Tulsa Tribune, June 3, 1921, pp. 1, 3. 107 Tulsa World, June 1, 1921, “Final Edition”, p.1. White, “Eruption of Tulsa," pp. 909-910. William Cleburn“Choc” Phillips, “Mur der in the Streets,” un pub lished mem oir of the 1921 Tulsa race riot, pp. 32-34, 47. Handwrittennotes to the testimony of “Witnesses in Order”, Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State ArchivesDivision, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. 108 Tulsa Tribune, June 1, 1921, p. 3. Tulsa World, June 1, 1921, “Final Edition”, p. 8. Oklahoma City BlackDispatch, June 3, 192 1, p. 1. New York Times, June 2, 1921. 109 Oral history interview with Dr. George H. Miller, M.D., Tulsa, August 1, 1971, by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear:The Fifth Horseman. Tulsa City Directory, 1921. 96
    • 110 Okmulgee Daily Dem o crat, June 1, 1921. Oklahoma City Black Dis patch, June 3, 1921, p. 1. Tulsa World, June 1,1921, “Final Edition”, p. 8. Tulsa Tribune, June 1, 1921, p. 3. New York Times, June 2,1921. 111 Phillips, “Murder in the Streets”, p. 46. 112 Laurel Buck testimony; handwritten notes to “Witnesses in Order” testimony; and miscellaneous handwrittennotes; all in Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department ofLibraries. Tulsa World, June 10, 1921, p. 8. Gill, “Tulsa Race Riot”, p. 28. Who ac tu ally per formed the swear ing-in of the “Spe cial Dep uties” is un clear, as is what may have been the “of fi cialpol icy” — if any — of both the Po lice De part ment and the city gov ern ment in re sponse to the vi o lence dur ing the earlyhours of the riot. The lat ter was of ten prom i nently fea tured in a num ber of law suits filed af ter the riot. See, in par tic u lar:“Brief of Plantiff in Error” and ”Answer Brief of Defendant in Error", William Redfern vs. American CentralInsurance Company (1925), Oklahoma State Supreme Court; and documents involving various cases filed byin di vid u als who suf fered prop erty losses dur ing the riot, in clud ing C.L. Netherland vs. City of Tulsa, Loula T. Wil liamsvs. Fire Association of Philadelphia, Osborne Monroe vs. Mechanics and Traders Insurance Company of NewOrleans, and H.J. Caver vs. T.D. Evans, et at.. 113 Let ter from A. J. Perrine, Tulsa, July 2, 1921, to the At tor ney Gen eral, Oklahoma City; Lau rel Buck Testimony;Statement of [J.W.] MeGee; Major Byron Kirkpatrick to Lieutenant Colonel L. J.F. Rooney, “Activities on Night ofMay 31, 1921 at Tulsa, Okla.”; all in Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Archives Division,Oklahoma De part ment of Li braries.Tulsa World: June 1, 1921, “Fi nal Edi tion”, p. 1; and June 2, 192 1. Oklahoma CityBlack Dis patch, June 3, 1921, p. 1. Oral his tory in ter view with L. C. Clark, Tulsa, June 25, 1975, by Ruth Sigler Avery,in Fear: The Fifth Horseman. 114 Oral history interview with W.R. Holway, by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear: The Fifth Horseman. 115 Phillips, “Murder in the Streets,” p. 38. Tulsa World, May 31, 1921, p. 5. 116 Tulsa Tribune, June 1, 1921, p. 5. Tulsa World, June 1, 1921, “Fi nal Edi tion”, p. 1.New York Times, June 1, 1921.Phil lips, “Mur der in the Streets”, pp. 37-41. Oral his tory in ter views with: Mrs. C.A. (Helen) Donohue Ingraham, Tulsa,May 4, 1980; and W.R. Holway; both by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear: The Fifth Horseman. 117 Major C.W. Daley to Lieutenant Colonel L. J. F. Rooney, “Information on Activities During Negro Uprising,May 31, 1921", Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department ofLibraries. New York Evening Post, June 11, 1921. 118 Denver Post, June 4,1921. Kan sas City Post, June 2,1921. New York Tri bune, June 2, 1921. New York Times, June2,1921. Tulsa World, June 2, 1921, p. 2. Tulsa Tribune, June 1, 1921, p. 5. Daley, “Information on Activities DuringNegro Uprising”. Handwritten notes to “Witnesses in Order” testimony, Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case1062, State Ar chives Di vi sion, Oklahoma De part ment of Li braries. Oral his tory in ter view with W.D. Wil liams, Tulsa,June 7, 1978. 119 Ed Wheeler, “Pro file of a Race Riot,” Im pact Mag a zine, IV (June-July 197 1), p. 21. Oral his tory in ter view withW.D. Williams, Tulsa, June 7,1978. Tulsa World, June 2, 1921, p. 2. Tulsa Tribune, June 3, 1921, p. 1. 120 White, “Eruption of Tulsa,” p. 910. 121 Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, p. 19. Tulsa World, June 1, 1921, “Second Extra Edi tion”, p. 1; and June 2,1921, p. 2. Tulsa Tribune, June 3, 1921, p. 1. New York Times, June 2, 1921. New York Post, June 1, 1921. CaptainFrank Van Voorhis to Lieu ten ant Col o nel L. J. F. Rooney, “Detailed Report of Negro Uprising for Ser vice Com pany,Third Infantry, Oklahoma National Guard”, Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Archives Division,Oklahoma Department of Libraries. 123 Bell, “Re port on Ac tiv ities of the Na tional Guard”. See also: Kirkpatrick, “Ac tiv ities on Night of May 31, 1921 ”;and, Barrett, Oklahoma After Fifty Years, pp. 207-210. 124 Bell, “Report on Activities of the National Guard.” Brown, ‘Work of the Sanitary Detachment". Kirkpatrick,“Activities on Night of May 31, 1921.” Barrett, Oklahoma After Fifty Years, pp. 207-212. 125 Captain John W. McCuen to Lieutenant Colonel L. J. F. Rooney, “Duty Performed by [”B"] Company, ThirdInfantry, Oklahoma National Guard, at Negro Uprising, May 31, 1921"; Lieutenant Roy R. Dunlap to LieutenantColonel L. J. F. Rooney, “Report on Negro Uprising, May 31, 1921"; Van Voorhis, ”Detailed Report of NegroUprising"; Daley, “Information on Activities During Negro Uprising and, Letter from Lieutenant Colonel L. J. F.Rooney and Charles W. Daley to the Adjutant General, June 3, 1921; all in Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. 126 Letter from Lieutenant Colonel L. J. F. Rooney and Charles W. Daley to the Adjutant General, June 3, 1921.Kirkpatrick, “Activities on the Night of May 31, 1921.” Bell, “Report on Activities of the National Guard.” McCuen,“Duty Performed by [”B’] Company." Van Voorhis, “Detailed Report of Negro Uprising.” Daley, “Information on 97
    • Activities During Negro Uprising.” Muskogee Daily Phoenix, June 4, 1921, P. 1. Gill, ‘Tulsa Race Riot", pp. 30-31,40-41. 127 Interview with Major Frank Van Voorhis, Tulsa, October 25, 1937, by Effie S. Jackson, Indian Pioneer HistoryCol lec tion, Oklahoma His tor i cal So ci ety. Let ter from Lieu ten ant Col o nel L. J. F. Rooney and Charles W. Daley to theAdjutant General, June 3, 1921. Kirkpatrick, “Activities on Night of May 31, 1921.” McCuen, “Duty Performed by[”B"] Company". 128 Oral history interview with Seymour Williams, Tulsa, June 2, 1978. 129 Oral his tory in ter view with W.D. Wil liams, Tulsa, June 7, 1978. Smitherman, “The Tulsa Riot and Mas sa cre.” 130 Oral his tory in ter views with: El wood Lett, Tulsa, May 29, 1998; and Nell Ham il ton Hampton, Tulsa, Sep tem ber16, 1998. Oklahoma City Black Dispatch, June 10, 1921, p. 8. Tulsa World, June 1, 1921, “Third Extra,” p. 1. 131 Smitherman, “The Tulsa Race Riot and Massacre”. 132 Letter from Lieutenant Colonel L. J. F. Rooney and Charles W. Daley to the Adjutant General, June 3, 1921. 133 Ibid. 134 Tulsa World, June 1, 1921, “Final Edition,” p. 1. Oral history interview with Harold Madison Parker, Tulsa,January 3, 1973, by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear: The Fifth Horse man. Gill, ‘Tulsa Race Riot," p. 28. Phillips, “Murderin the Streets, ” pp. 47-51. McCuen, “Duty Per formed by [”B"] Com pany." Dunlap, “Re port on Ne gro Up ris ing”. VanVoorhis, “Detailed Report of Negro Uprising”. Daley, “Information on Activities During Negro Uprising”. 135 Phil lips, “Mur der in the Streets.” Jno. A. Gustaftson, Chief of Police Wm. McCullough, Sheriff V. W. Biddison,District Judge.139 J. B. A. Robertson, June 1, 1921, Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Archives Division,Oklahoma Department of Libraries. 139 Copy of telegram from John A. Gustafson, Wm McCullough, and V. W. Biddison to Governor J. B. A.Robertson, Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department ofLibraries. 142 Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster," pp. 19-21. Tulsa City Directory, 1921. 143 Phillips, “Murder in the Streets,” pp. 68-73. 144 Oklaborna City Black Dispatch, June 10, 1921. Patrolmen Henry C. Pack and Robert Lewis were two of theapproximately four African Americans who served on the Tulsa Police force at the time of the riot. 145 Chicago Defender, June 11, 1921. 146 Testimonials of James T. West, Dr. R. T. Bridgewater, and J. C. Lati mer in Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster,pp. 20-21, 38, 45-47, 60-61. Tulsa World, June 1, 1921, “Extra,” p. 1. Chicago Defender, June 11, 1921. New YorkMail, June 1, 1921. Phillips, “Murder in the Streets,” pp. 70-73. Oral history interviews with: W.D. Williams, Tulsa,November 29,1970; and S.M. Jackson and Eunice Cloman Jackson, Tulsa, June 26, 197 ; by Ruth Sigler Avery, inFear: The Fifth Horseman. 147 Phillips, “Murder in the Streets”, p. 70. 148 Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Di sas ter, p. 65. Phil lips, “Mur der in the Streets”, pp. 70-71. New York World, June 2,1921. 149 Oral history interview with W.D. Williams, Tulsa, June 7, 1978. 150 Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, pp. 18-21. Tulsa City Directory, 1921. 151 Oklahoma City Black Dispatch, June 10, 1921. 152 Testimonial of Dr. R .T. Bridgewater in Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, p. 45. 153 Bar ney Cleaver vs. The City of Tulsa, et al., 1921. Tes ti mo nials of James T. West and “A.H.” in Parrish, Events ofthe Tulsa Disaster, pp. 37, 62. Oklahoma City Black Dispatch, June 10, 1921. New York Times, June 2,1921. Oralhistory interviews with: W.D. Williams, Tulsa, November 29, 1970; and S. M. Jackson and Eunice Cloman Jackson,Tulsa, June 26, 1971; by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear: The Fifth Horseman. Chicago Defender, October 25, 1921.Franklin and Franklin, My Life and An Era, p. 197. Oral history interview with Allen Yowell, Tulsa, June 5, 1999. Black Tulsa was not de stroyed—as some have al leged—from the air, but by fires set by whites on the ground. Andsimilar, latter-day claims that Mount Zion Baptist Church was specifically targeted and bombed must also be viewedwith a healthy dose of skepticism, given the rather primitive aerial bombing capabilities that existed, worldwide, in1921. That said, how ever, the ev i dence does in di cate that some form of ae rial bom bard ment took place in Tulsa on themorning of June 1, 1921—thus making Tulsa, in all probability, the first U.S. city bombed from the air. 98
    • 154 Letter from Lieutenant Colonel L. J. F. Rooney and Charles Daley to the Adjutant General, June 3, 1921. VanVoorhis, “Detailed Report of Negro Uprising.” Testimonials of Dr. R.T. Bridgewater and Mrs. Carrie Kinlaw inParrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, pp. 45-57, 50-51. John A. Oliphant testimony, Attorney Generals Civil CaseFiles, Case 1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. Oral history interview with KinneyBooker, Tulsa, May 30,1998. New York Times, June 2, 1921. 155 Testimonials of James T. West, Mrs. Rosetta Moore, P.S. Thompson, Carrie Kinlaw, J.P. Hughes, and “A.H.” inParrish, Events of the Tulsa Di sas ter, pp. 37, 42-44, 50-52, 62-63. Gill, “Tulsa Race Riot,” pp. 31, 55. Phil lips “Mur derin the Streets”, pp. 70, 87-88. New York Evening Post, June 11, 192 1. Franklin and Franklin, My Life and An Era, p.197. 156 Chicago Defender, June 11, 1921. 157 Oral history interviews with George Monroe, Tulsa, 1997-2000. 158 Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, pp. 49, 55-56. Laurel Buck testimony, and notes to the testimony of O. W.Gur ley, At tor ney Gen erals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Ar chives Di vi sion, Oklahoma Department of Libraries.Gill, “Tulsa Race Riot,” p. 31. Tulsa World, June 1, 1921, “Final Edition”, p. 1. Chicago Defender, June 11, 1921.Oklahoma City Black Dispatch, June 10, 1921. The entire issue of fires being set in Greenwood by whites in military-style uniforms is further-and perhapshope lessly—com pli cated by the use of the am big u ous term, “Home Guards.” When used by whites, it usu ally re fers toa loose or ga ni za tion of white vet er ans. When em ployed by Af ri can Amer i cans, how ever, the term also ap pears to re fer,at times, to the local, Tulsa-based units of the National Guard. See, also: Robert D. Norris, Jr., “The Home Guard”,unpublished manuscript, ca 2000; and, Ellsworth, Death in a Promised Land, p. 131, n13. 159 Typescript note on the testimony of V.B. Bostic in letter of June 8, 1921, Attorney Generals Civil Case Files,Case 1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. See also John A. Oliphant testimony, Ibid. 160 Type script notes on the tes ti mony of Jack Krueger and Rich Rickard in let ter of June 8, 1921, At tor ney Gen eralsCivil Case Files, Case 1062, States Archives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. 161 Phillips, “Murder in the Streets,” pp. 92-93. Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, p. 21. Tulsa Tribune, June 1,1921, p. 5. Kansas City Post, June 2,1921. New York Times, June 2, 1921. Gill,’Tulsa Race Riot," pp. 32-33. John A.Oliphant tes ti mony, At tor ney Gen erals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Ar chives Di vi sion, Oklahoma De part ment ofLi braries. See also: oral his tory in ter view with W.D. Wil liams, Tulsa, June 7, 1978; and oral his tory in ter view with Dr.Ray mond Knight, Oklahoma City, Feb ru ary 10, 197 1, by Ben Woods, Liv ing Leg ends Li brary, Oklahoma ChristianCollege. 162 McCuen, ‘Duty Performed by [“B”] Company." Van Voorhis, ‘Detailed Report of Negro Uprising."Testimonials of E.A. Loupe and “A.H.” in Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, pp. 49, 62-63. Miscellaneoushand writ ten notes, At tor ney Gen erals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Ar chives Di vi sion, Oklahoma De part ment ofLibraries. Oral history interviews with: Seymour Williams, June 2, 1978; W. D. Williams, June 7, 1978; RobertFairchild, June 8, 1978; V. H. Hodge, Tulsa, June 12, 1978; and I. S. Pittman, Tulsa, July 28, 1978. 163 From the Wichita Daily Eagle, reprinted in the Chicago Defender, June 11, 1921. 164 Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, pp. 50, 55. Oklahoma City Black Dispatch, June 10, 1921. Daley,“Information on Activities During Negro Uprising.” John A. Oliphant testimony, Attorney Gen erals Civil Case Files,Case 1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. 165 Testimonial of I. T. West in Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, p. 37. 166 Oral his tory in ter view with Har old Mad i son Parker, Tulsa, Jan u ary 3, 1972, by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear: TheFifth Horseman. 167 Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, p. 55. 169 John A. Oliphant tes ti mony, At tor ney Gen erals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Ar chives Division, OklahomaDepartment of Libraries. Oklahoma City Black Dispatch, June 10, 1921. Oral history interview with WilhelminaGuess Howell by Eddie Faye Gates, in They Came Searching, pp. 113-115. 169 Van Voorhis, “Detailed Report of Negro Uprising.” McCuen, “Duty Performed by [”B"] Company." Phillips,“Mur der in the Streets,” pp. 73-74, 93-95. In ter view with Binkley Wright, Los An geles, Feb ruary and Au gust 25, 2000,by Eddie Faye Gates. Curlee Hackman, “Peg Leg Taylor and the Tulsa Race Riot,” in J. M. Brewer, ed., AmericanNegro Folklore (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1968), pp. 34-36. 170 Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, pp. 62-63. 171 Oral history interviews with: Kinney Booker, Tulsa, May 30, 1998; and Otis Clark, Tulsa, June 4, 1999. White,“Eruption of Tulsa”, p. 910. 99
    • 172 Guthrie Daily Leader, June 1, 1921. Tulsa Tribune: June 1, 1921, p. 6; and June 3, 1921, p. 1. Tulsa World, June2,1921, p. 2. Affidavit of Albert Herring, December 2,1921, Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, StateArchives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, p. 55. 173 McCuen, “Duty Performed by [”B"] Company." 174 Ibid. 175 Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, p. 22. 176 Undated letter by Mary Korte. Letter from Joan Morgan, Kansas City, Missouri, June 1998. “Mary Uhrig KorteTells of Early Life in Tulsa,” Giebar fam ily ge ne a log i cal news let ter, 1992. Notes on Mary Korte by Nora Stallbaumer,Tulsa, April 3, 1998. Tulsa City Directory, 1921. 177 Oral history interview with Merrill A. “Red” Phelps 11, Tulsa, August 12, 1999. 178 Mary Jo Erhardt, “My Most Hideous Birthday,” unpublished memoir. 179 Oral history interview with Gloria Lough, Tulsa, June 4, 1999. 180 Oral history interview with Guy Ashby, Tulsa, November 5, 197 1, by Bruce Hartnitt. 181 Gill, “Tulsa Race Riot”, pp. 36-37, n39. 182 Barrett, Oklahoma Af ter Fifty Years, p. 212. Oral his tory in ter view with Mrs. Harry Frantz, Enid, May 9, 1985, byJoe L. Todd, Oklahoma Historical Society. Telephone interview with Mark Childers, Santa Fe, New Mexico,December 10, 1998. Tulsa City Directory, 1921. 183 Tulsa World, June 1, 1921, “Third Ex tra,” p. 1. “Re port from Gen eral Barrett,” mis cel la neous type script. Barrett,Oklahoma Af ter Fifty Years, pp. 211-212. Kirkpatrick, “Ac tiv ities on Night of May 3 1, 192 L” Daley, “In for ma tion onActivities During Negro Uprising”. 184 Tulsa World, June 1, 1921: “Sec ond Ex tra,” p, 1; and “Third Ex tra,” p. 1. Tulsa Tribune, June 1, 192 1, p. 1. NewYork Times, June 2, 192 1. Denver Post, June 4, 1921. 185 Tulsa World, June 1, 1921, “Second Extra,” p.1. Oral history in ter views with: L.C. Clark, Tulsa, June 25, 1975,by Hansel Johnson and Ruth Avery; and with E.W. “Gene” Maxey, Tulsa, 1971 and 1985; both in Avery, Fear. TheFifth Horseman. 186 Oklahoma City Black Dispatch, June 10, 1921. Tulsa Tribune: June 1, 1921, p. 8; and June 2, 1921, p. 3.Testimonials of Rich ard I. Hill and Dr. R. T. Bridgewater in Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, pp. 41, 44-47. Oralhis tory in ter views with S.M. Jack son and Eunice Cloman Jack son, Tulsa, June 26, 1971, by Ruth Sigler Avery, in Fear:The Fifth Horseman. John A. Oliphant testimony, Attorney Generals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State ArchivesDivision, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. 187 Tulsa World, June 1, 1921, “Third Extra,” p. 1. Barrett, Oklahoma After Fifty Years, pp. 212-213. 188 Frances W. Prentice, “Oklahoma Race Riot,” Scribner’s Magazine, XC (August 1931), pp. 151-157. Prenticewas mar ried to Clar ence C. Prentice, sales man ager for the Sabine Oil and Mar keting Com pany. At the time of the riot,the couple lived at 1446 S. Denver. Tulsa City Directory, 1921. 189 John A. Oliphant testimony, At tor ney Gen erals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Ar chives Division, OklahomaDepartment of Libraries. Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, pp. 55-56, 120. Tulsa City Directory, 1921. 190 John A. Oliphant testimony, At tor ney Gen erals Civil Case Files, Case 1062, State Ar chives Division, OklahomaDepartment of Libraries. 191 Ibid. 192 Testimonial of Dr. R. T. Bridgewater in Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, pp. 46, 120. Tulsa City Directory,1921. 193 Tulsa Tribune, June 1, 1921, p. 1. Tulsa World, June 2, 1921, p.1. Barrett, Oklahoma After Fifty Years, pp.212-213. Phillips, “Murder in the Streets,” pp. 103-105. John A. Oliphant testimony, Attorney Generals Civil CaseFiles, Case 1062, State Archives Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. Oral history interview with NellHamilton Hampton, Tulsa, September 16, 1998. Phillips, “Murder in the Streets”, pp. 97-103. 195 Some black Tulsans also found ref uge in the First Pres by te rian Church and other white churches. Tes ti mo nials ofJames T. West, Jack Thomas, Mrs. Rosetta Moore, Dr. R. T. Bridgewater, and C.L. Netherland, in Parrish, Events ofthe Tulsa Disaster, pp. 23-24, 38, 39, 42, 44-47, 57. Tulsa World: June 1, 1921, “Third Extra”, p. 1; and June 2, 1921,pp. 1, 2. New York Times, June 2,1921. Robert N. Hower, “An gels of Mercy”: The Amer i can Red Cross and the 1921Tulsa Race Riot (N.p., n.p., 1993), p. A-2. Oral history interviews with Ernestine Gibbs and Robert Clark Frayser, byEddie Faye Gates, in They Came Searching, pp. 86, 247. Oral history in ter views with: W.D. Wil liams, Tulsa, June 7,1978; and Nell Ham il ton Hampton, Tulsa, Sep tem ber 16, 1998. Van Voorhis, “De tailed Re port of Ne gro Up ris ing.” 100
    • 196 Tulsa Tribune, June 1, 1921, pp. 1, 2. Tulsa World, June 2, 1921, pp. 1, 2. Barrett, Oklahoma Af ter Fifty Years, p.214. Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster. 197 Tulsa World, June 2, 1921, pp. 1, 7. Tulsa Tribune, June 2, 1921, p. 2. Barrett, Oklahoma After Fifty Years, pp.213-215. 199 White, “Eruption of Tulsa,” p. 910. 199 Burial record ledgers for Stanley & McCune Funeral Directors, Tulsa, 1921. 200 Preliminary scientific tests—primarily involving ground-penetrating radar-were performed at OaklawnCem e tery, Newblock Park and Booker T. Wash ing ton Cem e tery (now a part of Rolling Oaks Me morial Park) in 1998and 1999. It is hoped that further and more definitive-tests will be performed in 2001. The principal historical sources for each of the three sites include the following: Oaklawn Cemetery. Oaklawn Cemetery burial records, Public Works Department, City of Tulsa. Historic andpresent-day Oaklawn Cemetery maps. Burial records ledgers, Stanley & McCune Funeral Directors, Tulsa, 1921.Tulsa County Commission, Minutes of Proceedings, 1921. Salvation Army records, Salvation Army SouthernHis tor i cal Cen ter, At lanta, Geor gia. Ruth Sigler Avery,Fear: The Fifth Horse man. Oral his tory in ter views with ClydeEddy, Tulsa, 1998-1999. Booker T. Wash ing ton Cem e tery. His toric and pres ent-day maps for Booker T.Wash ing ton Cem e tery. Oral his toryinterviews with Larry Hutchings, Tulsa, April 10, 1998; John Irby, Tulsa, July 17, 1998; Chris Brockman, Tulsa, April14, 1998; Elwood Lett, Tulsa, May 28, 1998; Gladys J. Cummins, Bro ken Ar row, April 20, 1998; Ray mond Beard, Jr.and Sarah Beard, Tulsa, May 25, 1998; Mavelyn Blocker, Tulsa, May 24, 1998; Deborah Childers, Tulsa, May 24,1998; Don Kennedy, Tulsa, May 24, 1998; Sarah (Butler) Thompson, Tulsa, May 25, 1998; and Sherry Thompson,Tulsa, May 23, 1998. Newblock Park. His toric and pres ent-day maps and ae rial pho to graphs of Newblock Park. Tim o thy A. Posey, “TheImpact of the New Deal on the City of Tulsa” (M.A. thesis, Oklahoma State University, 1991). ‘Tulsa Parks,” TulsaJournal, 1, 3 (July 1984). Tulsa Tribune: February 15, 1921, p. 2; May 17, 1921, p. 1; and May 18, 1921, p. 3. Oralhis tory in ter views with: Wil liam M. O’Brien, Tulsa, March 2, 1998; Rob ert D. Norris, Jr., Tulsa, March 25, 1998; RuthAvery, Tulsa, February 20, 1998; Bruce Hartnitt, Tulsa, May 30, 1998; Ed Wheeler, Tulsa, February 27, 1998; FrankMason, Tulsa, March 26, 1998; Jeff Britton, Tulsa, March 26, 1998; Leslie Lawrence, Owasso, March 26, 1998; andJoe Welch and Harvey Schell, Sand Springs, March 18, 1998. Additional infonmation has been collected on other potential burial sites, including one other eyewitness account,and on the trans por ta tion of the bod ies of the dead. “His tor i cal In for ma tion About the Tulsa Race Riot,” tele phone log,Jan u ary through March 1999. Oral his tory in ter views with: Rich ard Gary, Tulsa, March 16, 1999; El len Prater Lasson,Tulsa, August 12, 1999; and Wade Foor and Charlie Anderson, Tulsa, June 5, 1999. 201 Old and young had to pile on trucks," wrote Mrs. Rosetta Moore after the riot, “and when we were being driventhrough town, men were seen clapping their hands, re joic ing over our con di tion.” Tes ti mo nial of Mrs. Rosetta Moore,in Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, p. 42. 202 Chicago Defender, June 11, 1921. Statement of J. W. Hughes, in Hower, “Angels of Mercy,” p. A-3. Tulsa CityDirectory, 1921. Oral history interviews with Jewel Smitherman Rogers, Perris, California, 1999- 2000. See also theforth com ing ar ti cle by Paul Lee in Es sence Mag a zine about the ex pe ri ences of Julia Duff, a young teacher at Booker T.Washington High School, during the riot. 203 On the aftermath of the riot, including relief efforts, local political maneuverings, and various legal actions, see:Ellsworth, Death in a Promised Land, pp. 71-97. 204 The extensive post-riot relief efforts by the American Red Cross, and its intrepid local relief director, MauriceWillows, is well-documented in Robert A. Hower, “Angels of Mercy”: The American Red Cross and the 1921 TulsaRace Riot. 205 Tulsa World, June 26, 1921, pp. 1, 8. 101
    • (Courtesy Oklahoma HistoricalSociety). Airplanes and the RiotBy Richard S. Warner There is no question that airplanes were in into the possible involvement of U.S. militarythe air over Tulsa during and after the Tulsa aircraft in the riot. Wheeler, who had access torace riot. The question is: what were they being military records which are no longer available,used for? learned that there were only six U.S. military We cannot entirely believe all the reports airplanes in Oklahoma at the time of the riot.that have appeared over the years in newspa- Based at Fort Sill, some 212 miles from Tulsa,pers, or as recounted by survivors, descendants these six planes were World War I Jennys, withof survivors, and others. The prob lem is to sep- a range of about 190 miles. Of the six planes, thearate the probable from the improbable. For records showed that two were inoperable andexample, in one unidentified newspaper ac- undergoing maintenance while two had justcount from June 12, 1921, it was alleged that, been delivered and were not yet in flying condi-“The planes used during the riot and which set tion. Only two were serviceable planes and nei-fire to brick buildings are owned by the United ther was in the air on May 31 or June 1, 1921.2 ItStates Government.”1 Subsequent research, is, therefore, reasonable to conclude that the air-however, casts considerable doubt upon this planes reported over Tulsa during the riot wereclaim. While researching for his article, ”Pro- not U.S. military aircraft, Hence, they must havefile of a Race Riot," that appeared in the been privately or commercially owned air-June-July, 1971 issue of Impact Magazine, planes, probably based in Tulsa.Brigadier General Ed Wheeler (ret.) looked 103
    • The story of aircraft in Tulsa goes back to Sometime in 1921, a second air field was es-July 4, 1903, when the first recorded local tablished in Tulsa by Paul Arbon, a World War Iflight, a balloon ascent, took place. 3 Three B r i t i s h p i l o t a n d d e a l e r f o r t h e B r i t-years later, during the summer of 1906, Jimmy ish-manufactured, Bristol aircraft. Arbon’s air -Jones constructed an airplane of his own de - field was located at the northwest corner ofsign at his home in Tulsa. He and his partner, Federal Drive and Sheridan Road, and featuredBill Stigler, disassembled the plane and took it only one hangar.9to a pasture near Red Fork. There they reas- Registration of airplanes by the U.S. Govern-sembled it, except for the installation of the ment was not required in 1921. Thus, no recordscontrol cables to make a test flight. It was a hot exist of actual airplane ownership during theday and Jones and Stigler decided to go home time of the riot. Without government records,and finish the job the next day. That afternoon, one can assume that if there were fourteenhowever, a strong wind came up and destroyed planes at the Curtiss-Southwest Air Field at thethe plane. 4 end of 1921, and probably no more than one (a The next airplane in Tulsa was designed and demonstrator) at the Paul Arbon Air Field, theconstructed by Herman DeVry, who owned a total number of airplanes based in Tulsa at themachinery repair business. DeVry hired A. C. time of the riot would not have been more thanBeach, an English pilot then living in Tulsa, to fifteen.test the airplane. After four tries, it finally took Most of these were probably owned by theoff from a field southwest of Sand Springs and Curtiss-Southwest Airplane Company, but arose to 800 feet, staying aloft for 20 minutes. few were probably owned by individuals orAfter several other attempts to fly, the engine companies. There is really no way to determineblew up and DeVry quit the air craft busi ness.5 the ownership of the planes, but it is very likely The first airfield in Tulsa was established in that at least one was owned by the Sinclair Oil1917 by Harold Breene on the south side of Company. A “St. Clair Oil Company plane” isFederal Drive (now East Admiral Place), at ap- mentioned in some ac counts of the riot and thereproximately South Hudson Avenue. A spur is a photograph in the files of the Tulsa Histori-railway line served as the field’s west border. cal So ci ety of a Jenny re fu el ing at theThere was one hangar. Mr. Breene purchased a Curtiss-Southwest Air Field from bar relsnumber of surplus Curtis Jenny airplanes that marked “Sinclair Oils.” Tulsa was the headquar-he later sold to aviation enthusiasts. 6 ters of the Sinclair Oil Company at that time and In 1920, Mr. Breene sold his Tulsa aviation the top executives lived here.10interests to B.L. Brookins and Bill Campbell. Apparently, among the planes in Tulsa at theT h e n e w c o m pany, c a l l e d t h e time of the riot, were a Stinson Detroiter, a sin-Curtiss-Southwest Airplane Company, was gle engine plane with an enclosed cabin capablethe agency for Curtis and Waco airplanes. 7 of holding several people as well as another In early 1921, the airfield was moved to a tri-motor, make unknown. Stinson did manufac-new location on a farm owned by Mr. Brookins ture a tri-motor at that time according to person-located just east of North Memorial Avenue nel at the Tulsa Air and Space Center.11and north of East Apache Street. It was situated There are many references to airplanes duringin what is today a corner of Tulsa International the riot, but few can be additionally documentedAirport. According to the January 1, 1922 is- through further research. Mary E. Jones Parrishsue of the Tulsa Spirit, a Tulsa Chamber of included a number of references to airplanes inCommerce publication, the airfield contained her book, Events of the Tulsa Disaster. In hertwo large steel hangars, 90’ x 60’ in size and own account of her experiences during the riot,capable of holding eighteen airplanes, a motor she men tions see ing “fast ap proach ingrepair shop, a wing and fuselage shop, and a aeroplanes.” Moreover, in her escape from thegasoline and oil service station. Fourteen air- riot area, Parrish tells of nearing the “aviationplanes were based there.8 fields” —in all likelihood the Curtiss- South - 104
    • The losses in the Green wood busi ness dis trict alone—in clud ing two the aters, three ho tels, more than a dozen res tau rants, and scoresof shops, family-run businesses, and professional offices—were staggering. One contemporary observer called the deaths and de-struction cased by the race riot “without parallel in America” (Courtesy Oklahoma Historical So ci ety).west Air Field—and seeing the “planes out of I saw aeroplanes, they flew very low. To my sur-their sheds, all in readiness for flying, and prise, as they passed over the business district,these men with high-powered rifles getting they left the entire block a mass of flame.”12into them." Parrish adds that “The aeroplanes Other contemporary sources also reported thecontinued to watch over the fleeing people like presence of airplanes. Walter White wrote in thegreat birds of prey watching for a victim, but I June 29, 1921 issue The Nation that “eighthave not heard of them doing any harm to the aeroplanes were employed to spy on the move-people out in the direction where we were." ments of the Negroes and according to someEvents of the Tulsa Disaster also includes in - were used in bombing the colored section.”13terviews including one with Mr. James T. Mabel E. Little, in her unpublished biogra-West, a teacher at Booker T. Washington High phy, wrote that, “airplanes dropped incendiarySchool, who reported that airplanes “flew over bombs to enhance the burning of Mount Zionvery low, what they were doing I cannot say, Baptist Church and business buildings.”14 A re-for I was in my room.” Dr. R. T. Bridgewater, porter for the Oklahoma City Black Dispatchan assistant county physician, stated that he wrote that ”Airplanes were seemingly every-was “near my residence and aeroplanes began where. They seemed to fly low and I could seeto fly over us, in some instances very low to the the men in the planes as they passed us." In anground,” and that he heard a woman say, “look interview with Dr. Payne and Mr. Robinson thatout for the aeroplanes, they are shooting upon appeared in the same issue, it was stated that,us.” Mrs. Parrish also wrote that “more than a “These two men with their wives succeeded indozen aeroplanes went up and began to drop reaching the open country. They were finallyturpentine balls upon the Negro residences,” spotted by the air murderers who showered loadbut she gives no source for this statement nor after load of leadened missiles upon them.” W.does it appear that she witnessed this herself. I. Brown, a porter on the Katy Railroad whoLastly, Parrish also included the testimonial of reached Tulsa Wednesday morning, June 1,an anonymous eyewitness, who stated, “Then with the National Guard, recited this story: 105
    • “We reached Tulsa about 2 o’clock. Air - in 1937 when this case was dismissed. This is theplanes were circling all over Greenwood. We same Elisha Scott, a prominent African Americanstopped our cars north of the Katy de pot, go ing attorney of Topeka, Kansas, who, according to anto wards Sand Springs. The heav ens were light- October 14, 1921 article in the Chicago Defender,ened up as plain as day from the many fires claimed to have a thirty-one page affidavit signedover the Negro sec tion. I could see from my car by Van B. Hurley, supposedly a white formerwindow that two airplanes were doing most of Tulsa policeman, that told of a meeting betweenthe work. They would every few seconds drop local aviators and officials prior to the invasion ofsomething and every time they did there was a black Tulsa on the morning of June 1. These indi-loud explosion and the sky would be filled viduals allegedly planned an attack on the blackwith flying debris.”15 area by air planes. There is no re cord that a “Van B. Bruce Hartnitt, of Tulsa Junior College, in- Hurley” ever was a policeman or even existed.terviewed Mabel Bonner Little in 1969 and This affidavit was never made public or appar-1971. He asked Mrs. Little, “Do you remember ently used in any of the lawsuits. After his death,during the time of the riot itself, if there were Mr. Scott’s home burned and his personal papersany airplanes, people dropping stuff?” Mrs. evidently were de stroyed. Beryl Ford, an au thor ityLittle replied, ”Oh yes, they dropped those in- on Tulsa’s photographic history, after examiningcendiary bombs, that’s what burned those big pho to graphs of the Green wood dam age, has statedbuildings down, they couldn’t have destroyed that the buildings were not destroyed by explo-them with anything else . . .”16 sives. The debris shown in photographs, he be- In case No. 23, 331 filed in the District Court lieves, is located inside the shells of the buildings,of Tulsa County between Barney Cleaver, where it had fallen af ter the raf ters had burned, andplaintiff, and The City of Tulsa, one of the de- not outside where it would have been scattered iffendants was “The St. Clair Oil Company.” explosives had been used. Outbuildings also areThe fourth paragraph of the plaintiffs petition shown to be largely undamaged, something thatalleges that: was unlikely had explosives been used.17 “The St. Clair Oil Company, a corporation, An unidentified newspaper reported that Eddid, at the request and insistence of the city’s Lockett was shot from an airplane that had fol-agents, and in furtherance of the conspiracy, lowed him for about eight miles from Tulsa. Itaforementioned and set out, furnish airplanes was reported that “several hundred persons sawon the night of May 31, 1921, and on the morn- the aviator shoot Lockett and were later fired oning of June 1, 1921, to carry the defendant’s by the same plane themselves.” The body of acity’s agents, servants, and employees, and man was found on June 6, 1921 near theother persons, being part of said conspiracy Curtiss-Southwest Air Field. Although there isand other conspirators. That the said J.R. no record of an “Ed Lockett,’ there is a funeralBlaine, captain of the police department, with home record of an Ed Lockard who was foundothers, was carried in said airplane which eight miles from Tulsa on June 6, 1921, and isdropped turpentine balls and bombs down and buried in Oaklawn Cemetery in Tulsa.upon the houses of the plaintiff . . . ” The Chicago Defender, on June 11, 1921, re- The 1921 Tulsa City Directory does not list a ported that “at 4:30 a steam whistle soundedJ.R. Blaine, but it does list a G.H. Blaine, a po- three times. With the coming of daylight air -lice captain. Captain Blaine appears in a number planes from the local avi a tion field, in which theof newspaper articles concerning airplanes and Cadillac company is interested, directed thethere is no question that he was a pi lot or pas sen- movement of the oncoming army. At 6:15 a.m.ger on a number of flights. The same source does men in the planes dropped fire bombs of turpen-not list a “St. Clair Oil Company,” but its pho- tine or other inflammable material on the prop-netic similarity to the Sinclair Oil Company is erty.” The articles goes on to say, “One man,too close to be ignored. It is interesting to note leaning far out from an airplane, was broughtthat Elisha Scott was the attorney for the plaintiff down by the bullet of a sharpshooter and his 106
    • body burst upon the ground.” Other newspa- support this. The newspapers targeted to blackpers published similar claims. readers were full of stories of turpentine or ni - The St. Louis Argus, on June 10, 1921, re - troglycerin bombs being dropped and menported that “The Negroes held their own until shooting from planes. Mary E. Jones Parrishabout 6 o’clock in the morning when a fierce mentions bombing incidents, but one is from anattack was made upon them from the hill by anonymous source and the other may have notcannons, and airplanes soared over the Negro been wit nessed by her. In Bar ney Cleaver’s law-section dropping fire on their houses.” J.W. suit, his petition alleges that turpentine bombsHughes, principal of Dunbar Grade School, were dropped on his house, thereby destroyingwrote a statement that said that “at five o’clock it. How ever, he ap par ently did not wit ness this.a whistle was blown, seven aeroplanes were Allen Yowell stated that in 1950 or 1951 heflying over the colored district . . .”18 was having his hair cut in a barber shop in As some newspaper accounts mention nitro- Tulsa. There be heard a man, who looked to beglycerin bombs, it is in ter est ing to note that the 50 or 60 years old, who said that during the timeTulsa World published an article on April 20, of the riot, he and a friend obtained some dyna-1921 titled, “Tulsa Man First to Transport Ni- mite, commandeered an airplane, flew over thetro by Means of an Airplane.” The article dis- riot area, and dropped the dynamite on a groupcusses the great dan ger in trans port ing of fleeing African American refugees not farnitroglycerin and notes that a careless move - from where some railroad tracks cross East Pinement “may only leave a grease spot.”19 Street. Yowell said, “the man was bragging There is quite a bit of information that the about this, and while he did not know if the storypolice used airplanes to search the outskirts of was correct or not, he felt that the man was tell-the black area for fleeing people. When indi- ing the truth. He did not know the man’s nameviduals were seen, a message was placed in a and never saw him again.”22container and dropped to search parties on the Another oral informant, Lillian Lough, re-ground. These contain ers may have been ported that her grandmother, a re cent im mi grantthought to be bombs by some. In reply to a re- from Mex ico, lived on the edge of the black areaquest for information from people concerning in 1921. At the time of the riot, she saw twothe riot, one man called in and said that his un- young black boys running down the street beingcle, Charles Foor, a Tulsa policeman, flew one followed by a two-seater airplane. The man inof these search planes. He said that three planes the rear seat was shooting at the boys. She thenwere used and they flew in a “V’ formation ran out and grabbed the boys and took them intowith his uncle in the lead. The planes, he be - the house. The man in the airplane stoppedlieved, were used for reconnaissance only. 20 shooting when she appeared.23 On June 7, 1921, the Tulsa World re ported that It is within reason that there was some shootingCaptain George Blaine of the Tulsa Police De - from planes and even the drop ping of in cen di ar ies,partment had flown over a number of black com- but the evidence would seem to in di cate that it wasmunities around Tulsa to see if any armed mobs of a minor nature and had no real effect in the riot.were forming. This was in answer to persistent While it is certain that airplanes were used by therumors that an attack upon Tulsa was being police for reconnaissance, by photographers andplanned by African Americans in these commu- sightseers, there probably were some whites whonities. His flight took him over Boley, Red Bird, fired guns from planes or dropped bottles of gaso-Taft, Wybark, and oth ers. Blaine, it was re ported, line or something of that sort. However, they werefound no evidence of any such activity.21 probably few in numbers. It is important to note, a Although it is within reason to believe that number of prominent African Americans at thesome individuals did drop inflammables or ex- time of the riot including James T. West, Dr. R.T.plosives on the riot area, there is very little to Bridgewater, and Walter White of the NAACP, did not speak of any aggressive actions by air - planes during the conflict. 107
    • Endnotes 1 “Search Homes for Loot Taken Dur ing the Con flict”, un iden ti fied ar ti cle, Tuskegee In sti tute News Clip ping Files,“1921–Riots, Tulsa.” 2 Interview with Ed Wheeler, Tulsa, 1999. 3 Tulsa Division Skywriter, April 26, 1968, a publication of the North American-Rockwell Corporation. 4 David Moncrief, “Early Tulsa Takes Flight” an unidentified October 1981 article located in the files of The TulsaHistorical Society. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 The Tulsa Spirit, January 1, 1922. 9 Tulsa Division Skywriter, April 26, 1968. 10 “Rushing in the Roaring 20s”, Tulsa World, June 15, 1969. 11 Interview with Beryl Ford and personnel of the Tulsa Air and Space Center, Tulsa, 1999. 12 Mary E. Jones Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, (rpt ed; Tulsa: Out On a Limb Publishing, 1998). 13 Walter White. “Eruption of Tulsa”, The Nation, June 29, 1921. 14 “A His tory of the Blacks in North Tulsa and My Life (A True Story)” by Mabel E. Lit tle, un pub lished manu script. 15 Oklahoma City Black Dispatch, June 10, 1921. 16 Transcript of interview between Bruce Hartnitt and Mabel Bonner Little, circa 1969-1971. 17 Telephone interview with Beryl Ford, Tulsa, 1999. 18 Chicago Defender, June 11, 1921. St. Louis Argus, June 10, 1921. 19 Tulsa World, April 20, 1921. 20 Telephone interview with Wade Foor, Tulsa, 1999. 21 Tulsa World, June 7, 1921 22 Telephone interview with Allen Yowell. Tulsa, 1999. 23 Telephone interview with Lillian Lough, 1999. Confirmed Deaths in the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921: A Preliminary Report by Clyde Collins Snow 108
    • (Cour tesy De part ment of Spe cial Col lec tions, McFarlin Li brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa). Confirmed Deaths: A Preliminary ReportBy Clyde Collins Snow A Cautionary Foreword Until this data is collected and analyzed, no fi- It should be em pha sized that this re port is, as nal report can be completed.indicated in the title, preliminary. While col - Acknowledgmentslecting data for this study, it has become obvi- In my final report, I will include a full list ofous that much critical information on how the many persons who have helped me. In thismany people were killed and who they were is preliminary effort acknowledgments must belacking. Much of this information still resides limited to the wise and indefatigable Mr. Dickin the memories and family records and other Warner and Ms. Sue Bordeaux of the Oklahomapersonal documents of the survivors and par - State Department of Health. Much of the basicticipants of the riot - both black and white — information upon which this report is based wasand their descendants. For this reason, we are originally compiled by Dick; he is also a mag-reaching out, both locally and nationally, for nificent fact-checker. Sue Bordeaux’s vastmore information on possible persons killed in knowledge of the vital records system and herthe riot whose deaths were never recorded. We enthusiasm in putting it to work in this projectalso suspect much additional information of was invaluable. Naturally, neither one of themimportance is contained in still unexamined are responsible for any factual errors or eccen-documents such as life insurance claims, will tric opinions which may appear in this prelimi-probates, census records, etc. Hopefully, these nary report — they are all my own.documents still survive in obscure archives. 109
    • future. When con ducted ob jec tively, they gen er- ally attain these goals. Unfortunately, no impartial investigation was conducted of the 1921 Tulsa race riot in its im- mediate aftermath, while memories of the par - ticipants and victims were still fresh, and the physical evidence, including the bodies of the dead, could be forensically examined. Today, eight de cades af ter the event, only the doc u men- tary evidence — much of it lost or of doubtful authenticity — and the fading memories of the rapidly dwindling survivors remains. A key piece of information in any investigation of incidents involving loss of human life is an ac- curate assessment of the number of victims. Such determinations are important for several reasons. For example, where preliminary estimates of the number of dead are part of an ongoing investiga- tion, they can be used to make reasonable allot- ments of often scarce manpower, equipment, and financial resources to the task and to determine the overall investigative strategy. Accurate estimates of the dead and injuredFrom the first shots that were fired at the courthouse on May can also help identify factors contributing to31, to the last fight ing that took place on June 1, the Tulsa race such disasters and, thus, provide guidelines forriot proved to be a par tic u larly le thal af fair. And while a de fin-i tive death count is still elu sive, it is clear that doz ens of blacks ameliorating the loss of life in similar futureand whites lost their lives in the catastrophe (Department of cases. For example, in Honduras, the immigra-Special Collections McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa). tion of the rural poor to urban areas resulted in large numbers of them building small houses on The Need for Accurate Casualty Counts “waste” land along the steep banks of major During the past half-century, it has become river courses and other areas sub ject to flood ing.increasingly common for major disasters, nat- As a consequence, many thousands of such set-ural and man-made, to become the subject of tlers drowned or died in mud slides during thepublic investigation. Such investigations may massive hurricane of 1998. This loss of lifebe official — that is, conducted by any govern- could be minimized by governmental or privatemental branch, judicial, executive or legisla- aid to provide housing sites in safer areas or, attive and at any level, federal, state or local. the least, as sure the prompt evac u a tion of peo pleUnofficial, but no less searching and reveal- from such vulnerable places when warnings ofing, investigations may be conducted by the impending hur ri canes are re ceived in the fu ture.press or private entities. Examples of such in- When the disasters are man-made, such asquiries in the recent past include the several in- acts of terrorism, war crimes or other massivevestigations of the deaths of the followers of human rights violations, an accurate assessmentDavid Koresh in the Branch Davidian Com - of the number of victims is a necessary step inpound in Waco, Texas in 1994. Such inquiries any forensic investigation conducted to exhumeare designed to shed light on the causes of such the victims so that they may be identified and re-disasters, establish culpability when possible turned to the families, make suitable reparationsand appropriate and provide guidelines to pre- to the persons affected and, hopefully andvent or, if they do occur again, design proce- above all, provide evidence to bring the perpe-dures for effectively dealing with them in the trators to justice. 110
    • Before the ashes of Greenwood had cooled, story had not changed since it was recounted in thedisagreements over the number of dead began Muskogee (OK) Phoenix in 1921, Sergeant Esleyto surface. Estimates of the total number of would testify that the victim died in her husband’sdead have varied by an order of magnitude, arms after being struck by five bullets fired by aranging from about fifty to as many as five black who stole up behind her while she and herhundred. They also vary greatly in the reliabil- family were watching the fires in Greenwoodity of the sources on which they are based. from the front porch of their home on Sunset Hill.Here, I have chosen a more conservative ap- He might further state, as he did eight decades ago,proach by compiling a list of persons who that, after watching his mother die, Mrs. Deary’shave, at one time or another, been named as fifteen year old son joined the riot and helped setvictims of the Tulsa race riot. At the outset, I some of the fires. On cross-examination, ofshould point out that this compilation is not course, Sergeant Esley would be forced to admitlikely to include all of the riot fatalities since it that even in 1921, when he first told his story, heis probable that at least some and, perhaps had not been able to remember the victim’s namemany, deaths went unrecorded. At the same but only . . . “that it sounded like Deary." Further-time, however, I feel that it may prove valuable more, he was not sure whether she was shot lateto future scholars since it provides at least a Tuesday night or on Wednesday morning. Nowfirm minimum of the number of dead. suppose, that the astute defense lawyer introduces Classification of Deaths (as they always do, at least on television), a “sur- Based on the information presently avail- prise” witness, and a fragile little old lady makesable, riot fatalities of both races can be divided her way to the stand.2 She would state that herinto two groups. Within the first are those es- name was Mrs. S. A. Gilmore and that, in 1921,tablished by primary sources such as death cer- she was living at 225 E. King in the Sun set Hill ad-tificates and mortuary records. The second dition, which overlooked the Greenwood district.group consists of deaths mentioned only in On Wednesday morning, while she and her hus -secondary sources (newspaper stories, maga- band were watching the battle below, she receivedzine articles, books, etc.) dealing with the race five wounds in the arms and chest. While theriot. In this study, I have designated individu- shots came in the direction of Greenwood, it wasals in the first group as confirmed, and those of never cer tain whether they were fired by a black orthe second as reported deaths. she was struck by stray shots being fired in the The distinction between the two groups is gen eral di rec tion of Sun set Hill by mem bers of themade clearer when put in a forensic context. white mob. Taken to Morningside Hospital, sheFor example, bearing in mind that there is no lingered close to death for several days3 but even-statute of limitations on murder and that the tually recovered. The defense attorney would thenvictims killed in the Tulsa race riot were homi- introduce as documentary evidence Tulsa City Di-cide victims, it is at least theoretically possible rectories which show that Mrs. Gilmore did in -that murder charges could be brought against deed reside at 225 E. King at the time of the riot inan alleged per pe tra tor.1 If the victim were to be 1921 and, in fact, was stilling living there twoDr. Andrew C. Jackson, the prominent black years later. He would also point out that Mrs.physician who was gunned down after emerg- Gilmore was the only white female reported toing from his burning Greenwood home with have been shot dur ing the riot in the abun dant lo calhis hands held high, the death certificate signed and national press cov er age. And fi nally, he wouldeighty years ago would be unchallengeable ev- show that an exhaustive search of death recordsidence of his death in any court. failed to produce any ev i dence of the death of Mrs. On the other hand, let us imagine that an el- Deary in the form of funeral home, cemetery or,derly black man was charged with the death of most importantly, a death certificate. While thea white woman iden ti fied only as “Mrs. Deary” jury would rush out to acquit, the red-faced pros-by the now extremely aged ex-Sergeant Esley ecutor would sit contemplating how much heof the Tulsa National Guard. As suming that his 111
    • would enjoy ripping out the pacemaker of his the years since the riot also were a source ofstar witness, Sergeant Esley. names. The hypothetical trials for the murders of The next step in this analysis was to enter theDr. Jackson and Mrs. Deary, by juxtaposing names, along with other data pertaining to thethe tragic and the comic, serve to illustrate the victims, into a computerized database. Once en-crucial difference between confirmed and re - tered, other information on a particular victimported deaths as I have classified them here. could be pursued. For example, an especiallyOnly the most dim-witted prosecutor would important procedure was to search for the per -consider ac tu ally tak ing the Deary case to court son’s death certificate in the files maintained bybased on Sergeant Esley’s story. On the other the Oklahoma State Department of Health, cen-hand, the Jackson murder would have been a sus data, Tulsa City Directories. Funeral homestrong case for the prosecution since the docu- and cemetery records of the period also werementary evidence clearly establishes his death help ful, and in a few cases, valu able in for ma tionand the witnesses, both black and white, could was supplied by the victim’s family members.have provided clear and convincing evidence Death Certificatesof the circumstances of his death. Unfortu- In 1921, Oklahoma death certificates con-nately, however, no investigation of this death sisted of two sections, one to be completed bywas ever undertaken by the Tulsa police or the undertaker and the other by the physicianother city, county, or state officials. who attended the deceased. Normally, the com- Readers should be aware the categorization ple tion of a death cer tif i cate re quired four steps:of individual deaths as confirmed or reported 1. The undertaker would begin the process byin this preliminary study is not necessarily fi - filling in the personal data on the dead person.nal. This is be cause the data pres ently avail able This would include the name, sex, race, age, oc-on many of the victims is still incomplete. Asfurther information comes to light, at leastsome of the deaths classified as reported mightbe fully confirmed. This is well-illustrated bythe case of Ed Lockard, which will be dis-cussed in detail in the final report. As noted above, much more data must becollected and analyzed to produce a final re -port. This is particularly true in regard to re -ported deaths. Therefore, in this preliminaryreport, only the data so far compiled on con -firmed deaths will be presented. METHODS AND DATA SOURCES Analytic Method The initial effort of this study consisted ofcombing all known documentary sources forthe names of individuals mentioned as victimsor possible victims of the riot. The most im -portant primary source was, of course, contem-porary local and national press accounts inwhich the names of riot victims were given.These names include not only the reported fa -talities but, also, those who were wounded se-verely enough to be ad mit ted to lo calhospitals. In addition to press stories, the vari- Death cer tif i cate for an un known Af ri can Americanous books, reports, and articles published in 112
    • cupation, birthplace and occupation of the de- those who died under their care a few days afterceased as well as the names and birthplaces of the riot than those who were dead on arrival orhis or her parents. The informant (usually the succumbed a few hours later.next-of-kin) providing this information also To compound the problem, many death cer-was asked to sign the certificate. tificates were signed not by physicians but by 2. The certificate would then be sent to the Tulsa County Attorney W.D. Seavers. Thisattending physician who provided the date, was legal because at the time, state law al-time, and cause of death. Signed by the physi- lowed officers of the court to certify deathscian, it was returned to the undertaker. that had not been attended by a physician. As 3. Next, the undertaker would complete his nearly the entire Tulsa medical establishmentpart of the certificate by listing the cemetery was tied up in the care of the wounded, noand date of interment or, if the body was buried doc tors were avail able to exam ine bod ieselsewhere, the date and place of shipment. found at the scene. Apparently, this task fell to 4. Finally, the undertaker would submit the Seavers, who signed out eigh teen vic timscompleted certificate to the vital statistics reg- whose bod ies were found in the still smoul der-istrar of the county in which the death oc- ing ruins of Greenwood, or who died after be-curred. After assigning it a unique register ing brought to temporary detention centersnumber, the registrar would forward it to the where blacks were held during the first hoursBureau of Vital Statistics of the Oklahoma of the riot. It is not clear whether Seavers actu-State Health Department in Oklahoma City. ally visited the scene to examine the bodies or In the case of the riot victims, the orderly whether the death certificates were brought toprocess outlined above was not always fol - him by undertakers.lowed. In particular, the personal informa- Mortuary Recordstion on the deceased was sometimes left At the time of the riot, the bodies of thevague or incomplete. Informants who were known victims were taken from the hospitalsnot immediate family members did not often where they were pronounced dead or, some-know such details as the exact age, mari tal times, directly from the scene to local mortuar-status, or birthplace of the deceased, much ies. There they were prepared for burial in Tulsaless the names of the dead person’s father or or shipped to other cities designated by theirmother. This was especially true for black next-of- kin. The records of these establish-victims since their next-of-kin were still in ments (Mobray’s, Mitchell-Fleming, and Stan-the detention camps and could not come to ley-McCune), provide data on the deceased notthe mortuaries to claim their relatives if, in- found on the death certificates.deed, they were informed of their deaths atall. Press Accounts The information provided by physicians The events of the riot received heavy cover-also was sketchy. For example, the exact age in local, state, and national newspapers astime of death was not recorded and, in many well as other journals, both white and black, ofcases, it is not clear whether the victim was the time. As with all such news events, press at-dead on arrival at the hospital or survived for tention was most intensive in the days immedi-a few hours. Also, the causes of death on ately fol low ing the riot, then dwin dled rap idly inmany cer tif i cates are la conic: “Gun shot the weeks that followed. Over the years, how -wound (riot)” with no details on the number ever, occasional newspaper feature stories andand location of wounds. Such lapses of over- magazine articles dealing with the riot and its af-worked and harried physicians, termath have appeared. The most valuable sin-overwhelmed by the influx of several hundred gle source for these materials was the extremelywounded in addition to the dead, is understand- thorough newspaper clippings collection fromable. It is interesting that the doctors provided the Tuskegee Institute microfilm files.more de tailed in for ma tion on the cer tif i cates of 113
    • While the white riot dead ap pear to have all been given proper buri als, lit tle ef fort was made by the white au thor i ties to iden tify the bod iesof black riot victims. Indeed, as both long-forgotten funeral home records and death cer tif icates would confirm, some unidentified Af ri-can-American riot vic tims were hur riedly bur ied in un marked graves at Oaklawn Cem e tery (Courtesy Green wood Cultural Cen ter). Books and Monographs Sex Over the years, several books have been All thirty-nine victims, in clud ing the still bornpublished dealing with the Tulsa race riot. infant, were diagnosed as males. However, itThese include one by a riot survivor and sev- should be pointed out that the bodies of foureral others by historians who have collected blacks — all signed out by County Attorneywritten and oral accounts from survivors and Seavers — were so badly burned that identifica-their descendants. tion was impossible. Since it is often impossible Miscellaneous Sources to de ter mine the sex in such cases with out an au- In the course of this investigation, several topsy, the reliability of a layman’s diagnosis inresearchers have generously provided unpub- these four cases is questionable.lished reports and documents on the riot which Racethey have collected in their own studies of the Twenty-six (66%) of the thirty-nine victims,event. including the stillborn, were diagnosed as DATA ANALYSIS blacks. Again, the four bodies that were so badly To date, death certificates on thirty-nine vic- burned that the could not be identified (seetims have been found. They are listed in Table above) must be considered. This is especially1 which summarizes the principal variables true since thermal damage often results in thepresently available on them. It should be noted destruction of the delicate, paper-thin epidennisthat not all of the tabulatedinformation was ab- that is made up of cells which, in blacks, containstracted from the death certificates alone. For the melanin pigments determining skin color.example, most of the information on the loca- When this layer is extensively destroyed, it ex-tion of their wounds was found in other poses the underlying dermis that, in all races, isriot-related doc u ments, par tic u larly con tem po- no darker than the skin of a light complexionrary press accounts, which often provide more white person, making it easy for an inexperi-specific information on the nature of their inju- enced ob server to mistakenly di agnosis aries than was noted on the death certificates. burned black body as white. However, in the present case, since all the burn victims were See Table 1 Tulsa Race Riot Deaths found in fire-destroyed Greenwood, it is likely that they were indeed those of blacks. 114
    • Age only fifteen (58%) of the twenty-six blacks and, As noted above, among the black victims was of these, at least seven are given as estimatesan infant diagnosed as a stillborn. This case is (usually to the nearest fifth year, e.g., “35",interesting since it is apparently related to an ac- “40", etc.). This distribution again clearlycount given to Eddie Faye Gates by a riot survi- shows that black victims were signed out withvor, Rosa Davis Skinner. According to Mrs. less care and regard than whites; little or no ef-Skinner, she and her husband Thomas, alarmed fort was made to identify blacks by contactingby the shooting, fled their home at 519 West their next-of-kin.Latimer a little after midnight on the night of See Table 2 Distribution of Known,the riot. Estimated and Unknown Ages by Race “When we got to Greenwood, we met up Despite the fact that no age estimates werewith a lot more black people who were running given for nearly half of the black victims, statis-tying to find a safe place. We ran into a couple tical comparison of the available age data on the— the man was one of [her husband’s] best races is interesting. In the analysis below, I havefriends. The wife had just had a baby that had excluded the stillborn which, as a non-violentdied at birth. She had put it in a shoe box and death, is clearly a special case (see above). Thewas waiting until morning to bury it when the mean age of white vic tims was aroundriot broke out. Well durin’ all that runnin’ and twenty-seven years compared to thirty-fourpushin’ and shovin’ when black people were years for blacks. This difference is statisticallytrying to get safely away from the riot, that po’ significant (Table 3).little baby got lost! Everybody was just runnin’and bumpin’ into each other. They never did See Table 3 Age of Confirmed Riot Deathsfind that child.” by Race Ac cord ing to in for ma tion in the Stan- Birthplace / Residenceley-McCune mortuary records, sometime on The distribution of the known victims by stateJune 1, po lice brought in the body of a new born of birth or residence is shown in Table 4. Theinfant. It had been found in Greenwood earlier state of residence was inferred from mortuaryin the day by two white men who turned it over records which show the state where the bodyto the police. The body was described as that of was shipped for burial. This information isa black male measuring “less than twelve available in the records of only two (8%) of theinches long.” It apparently bore no signs of twenty-five black victims. Again, an indicationtrauma and was signed out as a stillborn. Like of the lack of attention given them before theirmany of the other black victims, it was buried hasty burials. This is in con trast to the whites forin Oaklawn Cemetery. The evidence seems which birthplaces/residence of all thirteen werecompelling that the baby lost by its fleeing given. It is of interest to note that eleven (85%)mother and that brought to the mortuary were of the white vic tims were from out sideone and the same. This case is important for Oklahoma. The significance of this finding willtwo reasons. First, the story of this tiny victim be discussed more fully below. In all, natives orprovides a poignant glimpse of the madness residents of ten states are rep re sented among thethat pre vailed on that ter ri ble day. Sec ond, this white victims.infant is the only one of the thirty-nine known See Table 4 Distribution of Confirmedvictims that did not die of gunshot wounds Deaths by Race and State of Birth orand/or burns. Residence Ages are given on the death certificates of Marital Statusall thirteen of the white victims (Table 2). One Of the white victims, nine (69%) were single,of these was apparently an estimate based on separated or divorced. Only three were marriedexamination of the body. The others were pro- and the wife of at least one of these does not ap-vided by informants who knew the actual ageof the victim. In contrast, ages are given for pear to have been living in Tulsa at the time of his death. The mar i tal sta tus of one is un known. 115
    • Among blacks, the marital status of seven- are documented; all four of these men died inteen is not given. Of the remaining eight, five hospitals on June 2, or later. The wound loca-were married and three were single. tions of the remaining twenty-one blacks, all of See Table 5 Distribution of Confirmed whom died during the first twelve hours of the Deaths by Race and Marital Status riot, were unspecified. The wounds of the twelve whites whose locations are known were Occupation nearly evenly distributed by anatomical region. The occupations of ten (40%) of the black The overall pattern of wound distribution isvictims are known. Among them were two pro- rather typical of those seen in hotly contestedfessionals, a physician, and a realtor (who also armed confrontations carried on at moderate towas a tailor). The remaining eight included distant ranges. In this, it contrasts strongly withfive listed as “laborers,” a bank porter, an patterns observed in extra-judicial executionsiceman, and an elevator operator. by firing squads.4 Among the twelve (92%) of the white vic -tims whose occupations are known, there was See Table 8 Anatomical Distribution ofa high school student, two cooks, a salesman, a Gunshot Wounds of Confirmed Deathho tel clerk, and a day la borer. Five were skilled Victimsblue col lar work ers and, of these, three were oil Place of Deathfield workers; the other-two, a boiler maker At the time of the riot, Tulsa had four majorand a machinist might also have been em- white hospitals. Tulsa blacks were served onlyployed in petroleum-related jobs. The sole pro- by Frissell Memorial Hospital, that was burnedfessional among the whites was the office during the riot. Greenwood blacks who did notmanager of a large local oil company. Thus, at flee Tulsa altogether were first taken to tempo-least one-third and pos si bly as many as rary detention centers set up in the armory andone-half of the white victims were petroleum Convention Center in downtown Tulsa. Theindustry workers. lightly wounded who were forced to walk to the See Table 6 Distribution of Confirmed detention centers. Those more seriously injured Deaths by Race and Occupation were either carried to the centers by the un- wounded or transported there by various means, Cause of and Manner of Death including privately owned trucks and automo- All of the thir teen whites were killed by gun- biles, some of which were driven by white vol-shot wounds. Among the twenty-five black unteers.5adults, at least twenty-one (84%) died of gun- While it appears that small first aid stationsshot wounds. The cause of death of the remain- were set up at the de ten tion cen ters early on Juneing four, all signed out by County Attorney 1, it must have become quickly apparent thatSeavers, were given as burn but, as noted pre- they were not sufficient to provide the care thatviously, any underlying fatal gunshot wounds the dozens of wounded required. Accordingly,may not have been apparent in the absence of the basement of Morningside Hospital wasautopsy. hastily converted to accommodate blacks. Ap - Of the thirty-nine confirmed deaths, the parently, this makeshift facility included notmanner of death of all but that of the stillborn only cots for the wounded but a small operatingblack male were ho mi cides. The lat ter is clas si- room where all surgery on the admitted blacksfied as “natural.” At least one, and possibly was performed. For the next few days, all in -two, whites were killed by persons of their own jured blacks were treated in the Morningsiderace who apparently mistook them for blacks. base ment, that may not have ex ceededSee Table 7 Cause and Manner of Death of 5,000-square-feet of floor space.6 A brief Confirmed Death Victims glimpse of con di tions there can be gained from a Wounds story in the Tulsa World on June 2, that noted Of the twenty-five blacks who died of gun- sixty-three wounded blacks were being treatedshot injury, the wound locations of only four there. So far as is presently known, none of the 116
    • other white hospitals in Tulsa opened their See Table 9 Distribution of Confirmeddoor to African American patients. Deaths by Place of Death All thir teen of the white fa tal i ties were taken Date of Deathfrom the scene to one of four hospitals where The records indicate that four of the white ca-they were either pronounced dead on arrival sualties died before midnight on May 31. If this(DOA) or died later. Unfortunately, the death is correct then these men were most likely killedcertificates are not always clear as to whether in the downtown area where the fighting firstthe victims who were admitted late on May 31, began. Seven others died on June 1, and one onor in the early morning hours of June 1, were June 2. The last white fatality died in the earlyactually dead when brought to the hospital, or morning hours of June 6. He was wounded adied shortly afterwards. So far as can be pres- few hours earlier when white militia men firedently de ter mined, at least two and pos si bly four on the car in which he was riding. The perpetra-whites were actually dead on arrival. All four tors, a least one of whom was wearing hiswere pronounced dead at Oklahoma Hospital World War I army uniform, claimed that theby the same physician, Dr. Lyle Archerloss. driver of the car refused to obey their orders to Only eight (31%) of the twenty-six black fa- stop.talities were brought to hospitals. Six died in None of the twenty-six black victims is listedMorning side, that as men tioned above, was the as having died on the evening of May 31.only one where blacks were treated in the first Twenty-one were signed out as having died onfew days of the riot. A seventh died in Cinna- June l, two on June 2, and two others on June 7,bar Hospital on June 7, about a week after the and June 10, respectively. The last black to dieriot. Presumably, he had been transferred from of riot wounds was a twenty-one year old whoMorningside af ter Cinnabar had been re- lingered until August 20, eleven weeks after theopened. The last died on August 20, in the Red riot.Cross hospital that was set up in the Green - The fact that no black fatalities were recordedwood’s black Dunbar School after the riot. for the eve ning of May 31, is cu ri ous. Ac cord ing The other eighteen (69%) blacks were not to several sources, many shots were fired bytaken to hospitals. The bodies of these sixteen both sides during the retreat of the blacks fromindividuals were found in the downtown area the courthouse area back to Greenwood, andwhere the fighting began or in the ruins of some early newspaper accounts describe blacksGreenwood. Five days after the riot on June 6, lying wounded or dead in the downtown area. Ifthe badly decomposed body of a black man the latter are true, it suggests that no medical aidwas found about eight miles east of Tulsa. He was extended to those wounded blacks unfortu-had died of a gunshot wound of the neck. He nate enough to have been left behind during thewas later identified as a man who had escaped retreat to Greenwood.from a temporary detention center. All of these bodies were taken directly to See Table 10 Confirmed Deaths by Date ofmortuaries and their death certificates were Deathsigned out by County Attorney Seavers. An - Mortuariesother of these “non-hospital” victims died in As in most of the United States at the time,the armory detention center where he was Tulsa mortuaries were racially restricted. Thetaken after he was shot down by a teen-aged three ma jor es tab lish ments serv ing whitemember of the mob while trying to surrender Tulsans were Mitchell-Fleming, Mowbray, andoutside his home in Greenwood. Ironically, Stanley-McCune. Black funerals were handledthis man — a prominent physician — lay with- by a single Greenwood funeral home operatedout medical attention for several hours before by S. M. Jackson, a graduate of the Cincinnatihe finally succumbed to a bullet wound of the (Ohio) School of Embalming. In 1971, Jacksonchest. His death certificate was also signed by was in ter viewed by Tulsa his to rian Ruththe county attorney.7 Avery.8 His account of his riot experiences is 117
    • valuable since it provides some insight into the The Oaklawn Burialsway the dead, both black and white, were han- In light of the controversy surrounding the to-dled. On the morning of June 1, when the white tal number of black victims of the race riot andmob stormed into Greenwood, Jackson’s fu- the disposal of their bodies, the documentedneral parlor was burned down. At the time, he burials in Oaklawn take on a special signifi-was holding four embalmed bodies for burial; cance. This is especially true in the light of theonly two of these were retrieved (leaving one preliminary archaeological findings.9to wonder about the fate of the other two). At As noted above, twenty-one black victims,first interned, he was promptly paroled by the 84% of the total, were buried in Oaklawn. Atowners of Stanley-McCune who temporarily that time, the cemetery was segregated by racehired him to help process the bodies who were and blacks were buried in the west ern-most sec-brought to their establishment. During the next tion, so it is safe to assume that these black riotfew days he embalmed several blacks whose victims also were bur ied there. Five of these vic-bodies were to be shipped to other cities for tims, all of whom died in Morningside Hospital,burial. were buried by Mowbray mortuary. All these Stanley McCune also had a hastily arranged hospital cases died of gunshot wounds. Theirc o n t r a c t with Tulsa County to bury death certificates were signed by a single physi-(unembalmed) the bod ies of blacks whose rel a- cian, J. F. Capps, M.D. Dr. Capps signed out twotives could either not afford to claim them for of these as “John Does.” Four died on June 1, andprivate burial or were not informed of the the fifth in the early morning of June 2.deaths. In all, Stanley-McCune handled the The remaining sixteen were bodies found at thearrangements for two whites and eighteen scene and taken to Stanley-McCune; their deathblacks. The bodies of all of the blacks were certificates were signed by County Attorneyprepared for burial by Mr. Jackson. He em - Seavers. Six of these, four of whom were badlybalmed two of these that were claimed and burned, were not identified. A seventh unidenti-were buried in other cities. The remaining fied body was that of the previously describedsixteen were not embalmed and placed in stillborn. The remaining nine were identified.plain wood coffins. Mr. Jackson was able to These Oaklawn burials were conducted atre build his Green wood busi ness and han dled county expense. The Mowbray and Stanley-the funeral of the last black riot victim who McCune records indicate that the victims weredied on August 20, and whose body was not embalmed but buried in plain wooden cof-claimed by his family for burial in his native fins; they also show that the mortuaries chargedMississippi. the county $25 for each burial. An important See Table 11 Distribution of Confirmed feature of the Stanley-McCune records was a Dead by Mortuary notation indicating the “grave number” of each burial. These numbers form a single sequence Burial Places from 1 to 19, except for graves 15, 16 and 17. It Only three of the white victims were buried is possible that these graves were filled by threein Rose Hill, a privately operated cemetery. of the Mowbray. Unfortunately, grave numbersAnother was buried in Watonga, a small town were not given in the Mowbray records.in western Oklahoma. The remaining nine The data cur rently avail able on thesewere bur ied in other states. Five of the black fa- Oaklawn burials is given in Table 13. They aretalities were buried outside of Tulsa: two in significant for several reasons. First, should ar-other Oklahoma towns and three outside the chaeological exploration of the area go for-state. The remaining twenty-one blacks (84%) ward, the excavators should encounter them.were interred in Oaklawn, the Tulsa municipal Assuming, as the records indicate, that theycemetery. were buried in separate graves in the order indi- See Table 12 Burial Places of Confirmed cated by the Stanley-McCune grave numbers, Dead they should be encountered in an orderly row(s). 118
    • If so, the available information that we have on money. With no strong domestic ties to keepthem should be valuable in obtaining tentative them home that night, drift ing around in the bus-identifications. For example, the skeletons in tling downtown area on a nice summer evening,graves 7, 9, 13, and 18 should show some signs perhaps looking for ladies, liquor or other ex -of fire exposure. If so, they should provide ten- citement, they also were the kind who might betative leads to the non-burned skeletons in ad- expected to show up around the courthousejacent graves. 10 By narrowing the number of when the talk about lynching a black accused ofpossible decedents, the effort (and the cost) of as sault ing a white girl got started. SinceDNA identification could be substantially re - boot-legging was a busy cottage industry induced. Tulsa, it is possible that at least some of themSee Table 13 Burials of Confirmed Dead in had high blood-alcohol levels by the time the Oaklawn Cemetery trouble began. Black victims, in contrast, tended to be older DISCUSSION than whites. They ranged in age from nineteen Of course, this small group of documented to sixty-three. Blacks averaged close to 35 yearsfatalities cannot be considered a statistically- in age — nearly seven years older than thedefined random sample of those who had some whites. This difference is statistically signifi-role in the riot, either as active members of the cant. Of the eight for whom marital data is avail-mob or as passive victims. However, it is prob- able, five were listed as married. While theirably typical enough to provide some glimpses occupational status tended to be lower than thatof the kinds of people who were caught up in of the whites (and none were employed in thethe riot. petroleum industry), two, a realtor who also The whites ranged in age from sixteen to owned a tailor shop and a highly-regarded phy-thirty-nine years. As a group, they tended to be sician, were solidly middle class. Unlike theyoung, with a median age of twenty-seven whites, most of whom were young, single, new-years. The state of birth or residence of all thir- comers to Tulsa, this group of black victims ap-teen are known and, of these, only two were pears to have been stable, older citizens of theborn in Oklahoma. The bodies of all but four Greenwood community.were shipped to other states for burial and, of These thirty-nine cases also demonstrate that,the four Oklahoma burials, only three took compared to white victims, those who wereplace in Tulsa. Of the ten for whom we have black victims were treated with what would to-marital information, seven were single, one day be considered cavalier, if not criminal, care-was divorced and another had been separated lessness. This is in di cated by the fact that at leastfrom his wife for nearly twelve years. Among one was allowed to bleed to death without med-the three married men, the wife of one was not ical attention in a detention center instead of be-living in Tulsa at the time of the riot. At least ing taken immediately and directly to a hospitalfour and possibly six were employed in petro- after being gunned down in Greenwood whileleum-related jobs; three others held jobs sug - trying to surrender. Another indication of this isgesting transient status: two were cooks and found in the death certificates. Those of at leastthe third listed as a “laborer.” Judging from four of the thirteen whites were pronouncedtheir occupations, all were of lower socioeco- dead before midnight on May 31, indicating thatnomic status except one, an oil company junior they were promptly taken to hospitals. In con -executive. trast, none of the death certificates of black vic- In short, the limited demographic informa- tims are dated earlier than June 1, a finding thattion that can be drawn from such a small sam- suggests that whether dead or still alive, they layple indicates that these men were probably unattended for at least several hours. More evi-fairly typical of white Tulsans of the oil boom dence is provided by the fact that adequate treat-days: young, single, non-professionals from ment fa cil i ties were de nied blacks un tiloutside Oklahoma who had been lured to sometime in the late morning or afternoon ofTulsa by the promise of good jobs and good 119
    • June 1, when a makeshift ward and surgery to their black neighbors. Their brave actionswas hastily set up in the basement of one of the have been well documented elsewhere and willseveral hospitals that normally admitted only not be considered in detail here.whites. Only then were the many black It should also be pointed out that what hap -wounded provided with care, and some al- pened in Tulsa could have taken place in almostlowed to die under the care of nurses and phy- any other city in the United States in 1921. Norsicians. were the conditions and circumstances leading If Tulsa medical care givers were callous to this tragic event a uniquely Oklahoman, orand care less in their treat ment of black riot vic- even “Southern” phenomenon. In the data con -tims, representatives of the Tulsa funeral in - sidered here, this is probably best illustrated bydustry were not far behind them. This is shown the known birthplaces or residences of theby the hasty, “county” burials in Oaklawn on white fatalities. Of the thirteen men who wereJune 1 and 2. Their death certificates in most killed, only two were native Oklahomans. Nonecases signed by a layman, County Attorney were from states of the deep South. Five — theSeavers. Much of the vital information on two Oklahomans, a Texan, an Arkansan and athese certificates such as address, age, marital native of Kentucky — were from Confederatestatus, next-of-kin, etc. was left blank or filled border states in which the populations were ofin with a hastily scrawled “don’t know”. This deeply divided loyalties during the Civil War.indicates that authorities with the responsibil- The remaining seven were from midwestern ority to contact families and identify victims did northeastern states.not bother to track them down in the admit- CONCLUSIONS ANDtedly crowded and confused detention centers. RECOMMENDATIONSThus, some families that might have been able In summary, perhaps the least that can be saidand willing to claim their dead and bury them of the physicians, undertakers, police, and pros-properly were not given this opportunity. ecutors of Tulsa of the time was that they wereWhether they could af ford to or not, most prob- not hypocritical: they treated their black fel-ably did not know for sure that their relatives low-citizens no better when they were dead thanwere already dead and buried in unmarked they did when they were alive.pauper graves until they were released from Although this preliminary report is limited todetention. treatment of the confirmed dead, it cannot be Another finger of blame points to law en - closed without considering the as yet uncon-forcement authorities at the local and county firmed dead of the Tulsa race riot. First to belevels. As noted previously, all of these deaths considered are the eighteen deaths that occurred— both black and white — were homicides in the Maurice Willows Hospital operated bywhich oc curred within the ju ris dic tion of ei ther the Red Cross until January 1, 1922. A system-the Tulsa Police Department (thirty-seven atic search of vital statistics records to find theircases) or the Tulsa County Sheriffs Depart- names and the causes of their deaths has not yetment (two cases). Yet, so far as is known, these been made. Some may have died of complica-murder cases were not investigated while at tions of wounds received dur ing the riot; if so, ofleast some of the perpetrators could be identi- course, such deaths would add to the riot deaths.fied and apprehended. Prosecutorial authori- Others, particularly, if chil dren or el derly whoseties, both county and state, also are ac count able homes were destroyed or their family life dis -since they apparently did not aggressively rupted, may have succumbed easily to diseasespress for such investigations. they may have otherwise survived; while actu- These hard truths cannot be presented with- ally not killed in the riot the deaths of these vic-out pointing out that many white Tulsans and tims would certainly have to be considered asTulsa institutions (particularly some churches riot-related.and the local Red Cross) took a courageous As noted in the introduction of this prelimi-role in the riot by offering protection and care nary report, we already have the names of many 120
    • possible descendants and, hopefully, may ob- Therefore, it is possible that bodies found in thetain still more. These reported dead will first ruins of Greenwood during the days immedi-be scanned against vi tal sta tis tics re cords to see ately after the riot were simply buried withoutif their death certificates have been somehow documentation.overlooked. If they are not found, it will not That this may have indeed happened is sug -necessarily mean that they did not die in the gested by a statement ap par ently made by Ma jorriot since there is at least some tenuous evi- O. T. Johnson, a Salvation Army officer sta -dence that more people, especially blacks, tioned in Tulsa at the time. According to storiesdied in the riot whose deaths were not re- in at least two newspapers, the Chicago De-corded. Most of this evidence, it is true, is in fender, June 11, 1921 and St. Louis Argus, Junethe form of wildly varying estimates that ap - 10, 1921, Johnson is said to have stated that hepeared in both the Tulsa and national press in hired a crew of over three dozen grave diggersthe days and weeks immediately following the who labored for several days to dig about 150riot. Many Tulsans, white and black, have rec- graves for Negro victims. Unfortunately, any of-ollections of bodies of victims being disposed ficial report that Major Johnson may have sub -of in irregular ways in the first few days fol - mitted to the Salvation Army has not yet beenlowing the riot. These estimates and stories located. However, the possibility the statementcannot be dismissed lightly. attributed to him was indeed true is at least As one whose entire professional life has partly supported by two witnesses. One, Eunicebeen devoted to the investigation of mass di - Cloman Jackson, the wife of black mortician S.sasters such as fires and floods, aircraft acci- M. Jackson stated in 1971 that her step-fatherdents, hu man rights vi o la tions, war crimes and was part of a crew of fifty-five grave diggers;acts of terrorism throughout the world, this when she was asked where the bodies were bur-writer is fully aware of the often exaggerated ied, she replied that “. . .most of them were out atestimates of the number of victims that surface Oaklawn. That was the cemetery for buryingin the wake of the chaos and confusion follow- them. . ..”11 Clyde Eddy, a young boy at theing such events. At the same time, experience time, remembers seeing large wooden crates,has shown that in manner of these situations, each containing several burned bodies, await -official counts of the dead or often seriously ing burial in Oaklawn in the days following theunderestimated. riot. If bodies were collected from the burned In the present case, it should be pointed out out area of Greenwood they may well have beenthat, like nearly all other states at the time of collected in crates rather than individual coffinsthe riot, Oklahoma had no adequate system for and transported to Oaklawn for burial by Majorthe medicolegal examination of violent or un- Johnson and his large crew of grave diggers.attended deaths. Today, the law mandates that They most likely wood have been carried onall such deaths fall within the medicolegal re - trucks, railroad flatcars (the Frisco tracks ransponsibility of the State Medical Examiner. adjacent to Oaklawn), or both, thus accountingBodies of such victims are examined and, for the several eyewitness reports that bodieswhen necessary, autopsied by forensic pathol- were seen being carried from the Greenwoodogists to determine the cause and manner of area on both trucks and flatcars.death. At the time of the riot, the law required The theory that perhaps as many as 150 bod-that death certificates be signed by attending ies were buried in Oaklawn under Major John-physicians or, as we have seen, certain public son’s su per vi sion can be framed as anofficials in exceptional cases. However, it ap- hypothesis that can be tested by archaeologicalpears that there was no controlling legal au - exploration of the area described elsewhere inthority (to use a phrase currently in vogue) that this volume by Drs. Brooks and Witten.12 Suchrequired that medically unattended deaths not an effort would, at the least, result in the recov-coming to the attention of officers of the court ery of the twenty-one black confirmed deadbe documented with a state death certificate. from their unmarked graves so that they can be 121
    • more suitably memorialized and, possibly, it would result in the recovery of the bones of theiden ti fied. If the hy poth e sis turns out to be true, undocumented dead and, thus, help provide a solution to a lingering mystery. Endnotes 1 Theoretical indeed, since at this late date the perpetrator most likely would be as dead as his victim and the case,thereby, moved to a higher (or, possibly, lower) jurisdiction. 2 The geriatric problems of conducting such a trial would be a nightmare. Imagine the complications resulting fromthe inter-tangling of iv and catheter tubes of the witnesses and defendant as they traded places on the witness stand! 3 Tulsa World, June 3, 1921. 2 The geriatric problems of conducting such a trial would be a nightmare. Imagine the complications resulting fromthe inter-tangling of IV and catheter tubes of the witnesses and defendant as they traded places on the witness stand! 3 Tulsa World, June 3, 1921. 4 Snow, Clyde. 1993 Forensic Anthropology Report. in Anderson, Snow et al. The Anfal Campaign in IraqiKurdistan: The Destruction of Koreme. (Middle East Watch/Physicians for Human Rights, New York and Boston:1993). 5 At this time, the three or four am bu lances in Tulsa were op er ated by mor tu ar ies and it ap pears that all of them werefully employed in taking wounded whites to the various hospitals. 6 Warner, personal communication, November 11, 2000. 7 What a excruciatingly cruel fate for a physician to have his death certificate signed by a lawyer! 8 Avery, R. “African-American S.M. Jack son (Mor ti cian) and his wife, Eunice Cloman Jack son on June 26, 1971 ”,unpublished transcript of taped interview. 9 See the report of Drs. Brooks and Witten elsewhere in this publication. 11 Eddy, loc. cit. 12 Brooks and Witten, loc. cit. 122
    • (Courtesy De part ment of Spe cial Col lec tions, McFarlin Li brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa). The Investigation of Potential Mass Grave Locations for the Tulsa Race Riot by Robert L. Brooks and Alan H. Witten Introduction burned and another 400 looted. The business On the night of May 31, and June 1, 1921 the district of Greenwood was to tally de stroyed andCity of Tulsa witnessed a racial conflict be - probably accounts for much of the $4 million intween whites and the minority black popula- claims filed against the city in 1921.1 Followingtion living in the Greenwood section that was this night of destruction and bloodshed, blacksunprecedented in United States history during were forcibly interned under armed guard.the twentieth century. This violence, some- Eventually, over 4,000 blacks were held at thewhat erroneously labeled as a riot, was brought fairgrounds and other locations. Under provi-about by the inflammatory coverage by the sions of the imposed martial law, blacks alsoTulsa Tribune of an alleged rape attempt of a were re quired to carry iden tity or “green cards.”white girl by a young black male. Tensions had This introduction only serves to broadly por-been mounting with a number of racial inci- tray the conditions that existed in Tulsa duringdents occurring prior to the night of May 31. the “Race Riot.” Detailed accounting regardingThe economic success of the Greenwood com- the causes of the riot, the progression of events,munity un doubt edly played a role in fuel ing re- casualties, and property are discussed in othersentment among the white population and chapters of this report. This study focuses onfurther escalating the violence. Through the those who died during the violence, what hap -night of May 31, and into the morning of June pened to their remains, and our efforts to relo-1, whites virtually destroyed the Greenwood cate them almost 80 years later.section. There were an undetermined number Casualties in the Tulsa Race Riotof deaths, both black and white, with estimates As portrayed in the many studies concerningrang ing from the of fi cial count of 36 to ap prox- the Tulsa Race Riot, there is no well- documentedimately 300. Over 1,000 residences were 123
    • evidence for the number of people who died guns and pistols pitted against unarmed victims,during the violence. Ellsworth notes that the at least not at the beginning.Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Statis- Based on these considerations, the mortalitytics estimate was ten whites and 26 blacks, profile would have comparable numbers ofwhereas estimates in the Red Cross records deaths among black and white males initially.were around 300 deaths.2 There were other fig- As white numbers swelled and they successfullyures in the Tulsa Tribune, in two contradictory made their way into Greenwood, the number ofar ti cles, of ca su al ties of 68 and/or 175. While an black deaths would increase and also would re-accurate number of individuals who died during flect increasing numbers of women and childrenthe violence may not be possible some 80 years in residences. This profiling provides somelater, some perspective can be gained by exam- credibility (although no hard evidence), for ca -ining the black population of Tulsa and the sualty counts between 175 and 300. If thereGreenwood section and likely mortality profiles were a greater number of victims than reported,during a conflict of this nature. then the City of Tulsa and the Army National It is estimated that approximately 11,000 Guard would have to deal with a significantblacks resided in Tulsa in 1921, most living in health problem. Based on weather records forthe area of the Greenwood section. The black the City of Tulsa on May 31 and June 1, the tem-population probably represented around ten peratures hovered around 100 degrees. Thispercent of the total population of Tulsa. Using would have made it a necessity that victims bethe Bureau of Vital Statistics counts, casualties handled expediently to prevent outbreaks ofamong blacks using this statistic would be two disease. One means of dealing with the deaths ofpercent of the black population. large numbers of people is through mass graves. Given the intensity of the conflict and the The following section discusses the plausibilityfact that many of the blacks resisting invasion of mass graves and possible locations.of their community by whites were armed vet- Mass Graves and the Tulsa Race Rioterans of World War I, it would not be unrea- There are numerous accounts as to the dispo-sonable to estimate 150 to 300 deaths. A death sition of the riot victims. There are reports oftoll of 150 is only slightly greater than one per- victims being placed on flat bed rail road cars andcent of the black population. It is also sus - moved by rail from Tulsa. Other accounts havepected that the number of whites who died victims being thrown in the Arkansas River orwould exceed the ten individuals cited by the being incinerated. However, the most fre-Department of Health. Unlike many riots, the quently re ported ver sion is of vic tims be ing bur-racial conflict in Tulsa on the night of May 31, ied in mass graves. Some of these are oralinitially contained well-armed groups of histories of riot survivors. However, in manyblacks and whites. Later, as blacks were over- other cases they are secondary histories, storiesrun by the increasing number of whites invad- that have been handed down through genera-ing Green wood, they lost the nu mer i cal tions and across kinship lines as well. The diffi-capability for defending their property and culty here has been distinguishing oral historiessometimes, their lives. that carry a higher level of credibility where The historicity of the Tulsa Race Riot must there is some additional thread of evidence, in-also be factored into the intensity of the vio- formation, or something that makes that partic-lence. World War I ended three years prior to ular individual’s testimony more believable,the violence. Thus, there were many blacks as from others of more speculative nature. In sort-well as white males who re tained re cent ing through the hundreds of taped oral histories,knowledge of warfare and armed conflict. telephone calls, and written accounts, three lo-Some of these veterans probably had retained cations were identified that held greater credi-their rifles from the war. Simply stated, this bility. This was based on the frequency of theirwas not a riot of a few individuals with shot - reporting, the veracity of the individuals giving the account, and the plausibility of the location. 124
    • Bed frames rise out of the de struc tion in the Green wood dis trict (Cour tesy Oklahoma His tor ical So ci ety).What is meant by plau si bil ity is whether the lo- water pumping system buildings, numerouscation would have functioned as a mass grave utility lines, as well as the Parkview drainageor as a means of disposing of the victims. For channel leading to the Arkansas River. There isexample, the city incinerator was reportedly also a railroad line between the park and the Ar-used to cremate riot victims. However, accord- kansas River as well as a levee constructed bying to Clyde Snow, an internationally known the Corps of Engineers in the 1940s. Thus, theforensic scientist, this would not have been a landscape is markedly different than that wit -feasible strategy based on what we know of the nessed by Tulsans in the summer of 1921. Theresize of the incinerator and the likely number of have been numerous un ver i fied ac counts of vic-riot victims. It would have been too time con- tims of the riot being buried in Newblock bysuming and requiring too much engineering whites and/or the National Guard. Accounts ofcoordination. The three locations frequently their remains be ing sub se quently un earthed dur-cited and thought to merit further study were ing the many public works projects taking placeNewblock Park, Oaklawn Cem e tery, and there since the time of the riot have been re-Booker T. Washington Cemetery. ported. However, no evidence exists in the City Newblock Park is located adjacent to the of Tulsa’s files documenting a mass grave or hu-downtown area and the Greenwood section. It man remains being found in Newblock. The nu-is bounded to the south by the Arkansas River, merous reports of bodies being placed on theto the east by a residential area and 7th Street, sand bar north of the 11th Street Bridge also fig-to the north by Charles Page Boulevard, and on ures in the Newblock Park ac count. If vic tims ofthe west by more city property (Figure 1). At the riot were to be placed in a mass grave in thethe time of the Tulsa Race Riot, Newblock Newblock Park area, this sand bar of the Arkan-Park was the location of the city landfill, the sas River adjacent to the park could have servedcity incinerator, and a substantial amount of as a staging area for the event.open land. Because of wooded tree lines, Oaklawn Cemetery is also located in themuch of the area of Newblock may have been downtown area although not adjacent to theblocked from view. Today, Newblock Park is Greenwood section. It is bounded to the west bydramatically altered from the way it appeared the Cherokee Expressway (I-444), to the southin 1921; much of the park is greenspace. How- by 11th Street, and to the east by Peoria, and toever, this greenspace hides the remains of old the north by 8th Street (Figure 2). At the time of 125
    • the riot, Oaklawn functioned as a cemetery, the case of human rights violations in foreignone that contained plots for people from many countries this has been accomplished through thedifferent socio-economic lifestyles, including use of informants and mechanical equipment.white and black paupers. Like much of the However, in the case of the Tulsa Race Riot,Tulsa landscape, Oaklawn changed signifi- some 80 years later, survivors of the riot’s knowl-cantly in the following 80 years. The Cherokee edge and memory of the 1920s landscape, com-Expressway did not exist at the time of the pared to that of today, is questionable. WithoutTulsa Race Riot and undoubtedly claimed the precise knowledge of mass grave locations, theextreme western portion of the cemetery dur- use of mechanical equipment to search for re -ing its construction. Reports of victims of the mains is not cost-effective. Thus, archaeologicalriot being buried at Oaklawn include individ- examination methods were used to seek massual graves in addition to the mass interment. grave locations in the three site areas.Currently, there are markers for two blacks Archaeologists frequently examine the land -who died during the riot in the black section of scape for evidence of prehistoric and early his-Oaklawn. It is not known whether the place - toric peoples settlements. While evidence ofment of the headstones for these graves is ac- these settlements may be exposed on the sur -cu rate or not. As with Newblock Park, burial of face, they are frequently buried by many feet ofthe riot victims is attributed to whites. soil de pos its. Thus, ar chae ol o gists have re sorted The final location that was frequently men- to using a variety of methodological tools totioned was Booker T. Washington Cemetery. cost-effectively examine the subsurface. SomeUnlike the other sites, Booker T. Washington of these methods use conventional mechanicalCemetery is located in south Tulsa at what was equipment such as backhoes and hydraulic cor-in 1921 a rural outlier of the city. Booker T. ing rigs. These offer the advantage of providingWashington is bounded to the south by a creek physical evidence of subsurface remains. Theirdrainage and sand borrow pit, to the north by disadvantages are that they disturb the groundSouth 91st Street, to the west by a Catholic subsurface and are heavy users of time and fi -Cemetery, and commercial and residential nancial resources. Beginning in the 1940s, ar -land to the east (Figure 3). At the time of the chaeologists began to explore non-invasiveriot in 1921, there was probably little develop- means of examining the soil subsurface throughment with most of the area being agricultural application of the principles of physics.3 Byland. The accounts of Booker T. Washington’s sending dif fer ent types of phys i cal im pulses intouse as burial place for riot victims also vary the ground subsurface, archaeologists couldfrom the other two locations. Ac cord ing to oral measure dif fer ences be tween nat u ral soil for ma-histories of riot survivors, it was blacks that tions and culturally altered conditions. Thesebrought victims to Booker T. Washington for contrasts are referred to as anomalies. Whenburial. sampling over a large area, the pattern in these This occurred a few days after the riot sug- anomalies can often be articulated with recog-gesting that these may have been blacks that nizable shapes (e.g., houses, fireplaces, graves,were wounded during the riot and died a few etc.). Geophysical applications in archaeologydays after the conflict. were more frequently practiced in Europe from Archaeological Methods and the Search the 1940s through 1960s, However, following for Mass Graves the transistor revolution of the 1970s, they be - Research conducted by Scott Ellsworth and came widely used around the world, particularlyDick Warner revealed the three locations de - in the United States.4 There are three basicscribed above as holding the greatest potential methods of geophysics applied in archaeology:for mass graves within the Tulsa city limits. magnetometer, resitivity, and radar.The problem then was how to examine the The magnetometer measures changes in mag-three sites to determine whether they might netic properties between cultural features andyield evidence of a large communal grave. In natural properties of the soil. These changes or 126
    • differences are usually due to the presence of Based on the cost-effectiveness of examiningferrous metal objects although baked clays large areas and the non-invasive nature of thearound burned houses or fireplaces also may m e t h o d s , geo p h y s i c a l ex a m i n a t i o n o fpresent a strong magnetic response. Magne- Newblock Park, Oaklawn Cem e tery, andtometers today are extremely sensitive and can Booker T. Washington Cem e tery ap peared to bepick-up responses from small objects such as the most reasonable approach to study of this is-nails or gun parts. Resitivity involves measur- sue. The Commission at their February, 1999ing the resistance to an electrical current in - meeting ap proved use of geo phys ics to ex am inejected into the sub soil. Typically, the for potential mass grave sites.differences in values yielded by resitivity are a Archaeological Geophysics at the Threeresult of variation in ground moisture. These Suspected Mass Grave Locationschanges in ground moisture content are fre-quently due to collection of moisture around Phase Icultural features such as houses, walls, and On July 20 and 21, 1998, initial geophysicalprivies. The third method applied is ground examination of the three-suspected mass gravepenetrating radar. Here, radar signals are pro- locations was undertaken. David L. Maki andjected into the ground and are reflected back Geoffrey Jones of Archaeo-Physics conductedupon encountering an object or natural feature the geophysical investigations. Conditions at the(much like sonar on ships). The difference in time of the study were extremely hot and dry.the character of soil between a natural soil se- Temperatures on the two days of fieldwork werequence and one where some type of cultural 105 and 106 degrees. As discovered later, the ex-feature is present (e.g., house, trash pit, or tensive heat and drought of the summer of 1998grave) will variably reflect back to the radar had some bearing on the results of the July work.unit and present an approximation as to the The following details on Phase I investigationsshape of the anomaly. have been excerpted from Maki and Jones.6 There are obvious benefits to use of geo - Methodsphysical methods in archaeological investiga- The search for mass graves at the three loca-tions. They permit cost-effective subsurface tions was carried out with a pulse EKKO 1000examination of large areas. In many, areas, the ground penetrating radar unit (GPR). Groundhighly portable nature of to day’s equip ment al- penetrating radar was selected for this initial ex-lows examination of confined or congested ar- amination because of its successful use in de -eas (e.g. wooded areas). Most importantly, tecting both prehistoric and historic graves in athese geo p h y s i c a l a p pli ca tions a r e variety of settings. A noted in Maki and Jonesnon-invasive and do not physically disturb the report the GPR unit may locate anomaliessubsurface areas under investigation.5 There through reflections from disturbed soil associ-are some disadvantages as well. They can re - ated with the grave shaft such as bones, coffins,spond to nearby surface features and they are grave goods, and breakdown in normal soil con-sensitive to “noise” in the subsurface and may ditions. Two different frequency antenna’spresent distorted signals. In such cases, infor- were used, 450 MHz and 225 MHz. The highermation on anomalies may be misleading or er- frequency antenna was used to obtain better res-roneous. The other drawback to these methods olution although this frequency also experiencesis that they lack a “ground truth” element. The a loss in the depth of ground penetration. Theactual character of the anomaly can only be antenna utilized was determined by local soilconfirmed by physical examination of the conditions at each locality. Each of the three po-subsurface though excavation. tential mass grave locations was also sketched In the spring of 1998, it was recommended and a grid im posed over the area to be ex am ined.to the Tulsa Race Riot Commission that a Newblock Parksearch for mass graves sites be attempted Using information obtained from their oralthrough use of geophysical investigations. history re search, Scott Ellsworth and Dick 127
    • Warner assisted in the selection of the area for the three areas. A 15 meter square (ca. 45 feet)examination. This area is near the eastern ex- grid was laid-out for Area A and data were sys-tent of the park immediately adjacent to the tem at i cally col lected at .75 me ter (ca. 30 inches)Parkview drain age chan nel. Soils at Newblock spacing using a 225 MHz antenna. Area B was aPark consisted of silt, sand, and clay with rela- grid roughly 25 meters (75 feet) east-west by 7tively high moisture content. From a baseline meters (21 feet) north-south. Area C was a gridestablished for the study area, data were sys - of some 13 meters (40 feet) north-south by 8tematically collected along transects spaced meters (25 feet) east-west.some .75 meters (ca. 30 inches) apart using the These two areas were inspected using a225 MHz antenna. A total of 38 transects of transect interval of one meter and 225 MHz an-GPR data were collected. Depth of subsurface tenna. Forty-three transects of ground penetrat-pen e tra tion of the ra dar sig nal was lim ited to .5 ing radar data were col lected. As was the case atmeters to 1.5 meters due to high conductivity Newblock Park, depth of subsurface penetrationsoils. In ter pre ta tion of the Newblock Park data by the radar signal was limited due to high con-was also complicated by reflection from the ductivity soils. There was also a “ringing” re -numerous building foundations and buried sponse that made signal interpretation difficult.utility lines, especially the sewer lines. How - Despite these difficulties, 14 anomalies wereever, one anomalous area of interest was iden- identified at Oaklawn with 13 of these locatedtified and is present on Transects 8-11 (Figure within Area A (Figure 5). The remaining anom-4). Additionally, Transect 10 exhibits sloping aly was found in Area B. Seven of these anoma-reflections that might represent the walls of a lies occur with burial markers. Thus, theseshallow excavation (or pit). There also was an distinctive reflections probably reflect markedinverted reflection that potentially reflects a and unmarked single interments. No evidenceburied object of some nature. Investigations was found to suggest the presence of a masswere inconclusive as to the specific nature of grave in the three areas surveyed at Oaklawnthe reflective pattern. Cemetery. However, this again does not dis- While one anomaly was revealed during the count the potential for a mass grave site withinwork at Newblock Park, this does not discount another, unexamined part of the cemetery.the potential for other anomalies in areas not Booker T. Washington Cemeteryinvestigated. With in for ma tion pro vided by Scott Oaklawn Cemetery Ellsworth and Dick Warner, three areas at As was the case at Newblock Park, Scott Booker T. Washington Cemetery were selectedEllsworth and Dick Warner assisted in identi- for GPR study. Soils here differed from those atfying the areas at Oaklawn to be examined. the other two locations, consisting of a homoge-Here, the study area was restricted to the black nous sand with relatively low moisture content.part of the cemetery. Three areas (A, B, and Q Area A was a roughly 40 meter (ca. 120 feet) bywere targeted for GPR survey. Areas A and B 7 meter (21 feet) rectangular segment south ofwere square and rectangular plots of land the gravel road. Area B was a 22 meter (ca. 66within the black section of the “The Old Pot - feet) by 22 meter (66 feet) square north of theters Field” of the cemetery near 11th Street. gravel road and roughly 20 meters (60 feet)Area C was a rectangular plot of land on the north of Area A. Area C contained two separatewest side of Oaklawn near est the Cher o kee Ex- segments. The first was a 40 meter (120 feet) bypressway. One noteworthy feature of areas A 8 meter (ca. 25 feet) rectangular unit orientedand B was the presence of recognized single north-south, whereas the second was a smallergrave areas as marked by headstones. Soils in 18 meter (55 feet) by 3 meter (9 feet) unit ex -Oaklawn Cemetery are much like those at tending east-west approximately 5 meter (15Newblock Park, exhibiting a mixture of silt, feet) east of the initial Area C unit. Ground pen-sand, and clay and a relatively high moisture etrating radar data were systematically collectedcontent. Baseline grids were established for from the three units using 1 and 2 meter (3 and 6 128
    • feet) transect spacings. Because of the sandy With this in for ma tion, avoid ance of ar eas with anature of the soil, both 225 MHz and 450 MHz high density of utility cables, conduits, etc. wasantennas were used. The 450 MHz antenna accomplished. Ten core samples were drawnwas used in Areas A and B and both antenna from the anomaly. The cores were typically ex-frequencies were used in the two Area C seg- tended to a depth of 2 meters (6 feet). Materialments. A total of 40 transects were collected recovered from these samples included brickfrom the three areas. One anomaly was identi- frag ments, con crete, bro ken glass andfied in Area A and was thought to potentially whiteware, and cinders. The de bris ap pears to berepresent an individual grave. A much larger uni formly dis trib uted through out the area of theanomaly was recorded in the initial unit in anomaly with little stratigraphic integrity. TheArea C (Figure 6). The reflection suggested a artifactual data were suggestive of fill for whatzone of disturbed soil approximately 6.5 me - was apparently the basement or subfloor of aters (ca. 20 feet) by 3 meters (9 feet) extending water pump station. The reflective shapex ofto a depth of at least a meter. This anomaly this fea ture as de tected with the ground pen e trat-was thought to potentially represent a pit such ing radar prob ably represents the slightlyas one might find with a mass grave. slumped subsurface walls of the razed building. Investigations at Newblock Park, Oaklawn Thus, the anom aly at Newblock Park can be dis-Cemetery, and Booker T. Washington Ceme- counted as a mass grave site. This does not,tery did not conclusively demonstrate the pres- however, mean that Newblock Park can be dis-ence of mass graves. However, anom a lies were counted as holding potential for a mass grave.found at Newblock Park and Booker T. Wash- Booker T. Washington Cemeteryington Cemetery that merited further investi- During the study of Newblock Park, thega tion. Dur ing the fall of 1998, it was truck-mounted coring rig was damaged andrecommended to the Tulsa Race Riot Com - could not be used to investigate the anomaly inmission that these anomalies be physically Area C at Booker T. Wash ing ton. The work herestudied to ascertain whether they represented was accomplished using manually operated cor-mass graves. This request was approved by the ing rods. These rods were capable of probing toCommission in October, 1998. depths of up to 1 meter (3 feet). Between 10 and Phase II 15 probes were randomly placed through the Following approval to study the anomalies anomaly in Area C. No cultural material or evi-at Booker T. Washington and Newblock Park, dence of graves was obtained during this work.a methodology was developed to allow us to Soils from the cores were uniform, correspond-determine the nature of the anomalies without ing to the natural soil stratigraphy, with no evi-significantly disturbing these features. The dence of a disturbed context. At approximatelyplan was to take core samples from each of the 90 cm (35 inches), a sand lens with some clayanomalies using a three-inch truck-mounted content was encountered. This also markedbull probe. The three-inch cores would mini- slightly moister soils. Because of the droughtmally disturb the anomalies while providing conditions encountered in July, it appears thatnecessary information on the context and con- the radar was reflecting back from this moistertent of these features. This work was per- clay lens, presenting a pit-like image. The po -formed with the assistance of Dr. Lee Bement tential single grave in Area A also was investi-us ing the Ar che o log i cal Sur vey’s truck gated with three core probes. These weremounted coring rig on December 16, 1998. negative as well. Although there are multiple re- Newblock Park ports of Race Riot victims being buried at Because of the potential for buried utility Booker T. Washington, these locations werelines at Newblock Park, an initial step in the in- not discovered during this work.vestigation was to obtain from the City of InterpretationsTulsa a map identifying the placement of lines The December, 1998 investigations con-in relation to the anomaly to be investigated. ducted at Newblock Park and Booker T. Wash- 129
    • ington Cemetery failed to substantiate the iron fence facing 11th Street. Fourteen head -anomalies as the sites of mass graves or even stones or footstones are present within the unit.individual graves. The work did re veal why the The unit, referred to as the Clyde Eddy Area,ground pen e trat ing ra dar presented these was first examined using a Geometrics 858 ce-anomalies as pitlike features. This demon- sium magnetometer. North-south transects werestrates the necessity of physically investigat- walked with the magnetometer at 1 meter (3ing such features before viewing them as valid feet) intervals. Signals were acquired at a rate ofmass grave locations. The first two phases of 5 samples per second. Numerous magneticwork also address but small portions of the anomalies were identified. Most of these repre-three potential locations. That other areas sent headstones reinforced with iron rebar orwithin Newblock Park, Oaklawn Cemetery, ferrous objects associated with single markedand Booker T. Washington Cemetery hold interments. However, there was one large mag-mass grave sites cannot be discounted. netic anomaly at 24.5 west and 3.5 south that Phase III could not be explained by the presence of the In the spring of 1999, an eyewitness was single graves (Figure 7). This anomaly extendsfound to the dig ging of a mass grave at over an area of some 2 me ters (6 feet)Oaklawn Cemetery. Mr. Clyde Eddy, who was north-south by 2.6 meters (ca. 8 feet) east-westa child of ten at the time of the riot, witnessed to a depth of 1 to 1.6 meters (3-5 feet). This waswhite laborers at Oaklawn digging a “trench.” a strong ferrous object signal. It could representThere also were a number of black riot victims a coffin with considerable quantity of ferrouspresent in several wooden crates. While Mr. metal hard ware or a fer rous metal ob ject with noEddy did not directly see the victims being relation to the cemetery. Because it is doubtfulplaced in this trench-like area, it is reasonable that victims of the riot would have been buriedto assume that its purpose was for a mass with sizable amounts of metal or in metal cof -grave. Mr. Eddy recalls this area being within fins, this feature prob a bly did not re late to burialthe white section of the “Old Potters Field” of the race riot victims.and was able to point out the area in a visit to The Clyde Eddy Area was subsequently ex -Oaklawn during the spring, 1999. Based on amined using electromagnetic induction (EMI)this new in for ma tion, fur ther study of Oaklawn with a GEM-2. The GEM-2 is a broadband in -Cemetery was approved. Because a specific strument that responds to variations in electricalarea was identified, thus limiting the search conductivity somewhat like a resitivity device.area, it permitted a more expansive examina- Transects were covered in a manner identical totion using geophysical methods. Three differ- that for the magnetometer (1 meter spac ing withent geophysical applications were used at 5 sam ples per sec ond). The GEM-2 re ceives sig-Oaklawn: magnetometer, electromagnetic in - nal variation from both high conductivity ob -duction, and ground penetrating radar. Dr. jects (metal) as well as non-metallic conductors.Alan Witten of the Department of Geology and Data acquired with the GEM-2 obtained resultsGeophysics, University of Oklahoma con- similar to that of the magnetometer. However,ducted these investigations at Oaklawn on June in addition to these responses, the GEM-2 also4, 1999 and subsequently, on November 22, identified an area in the northwestern quadrant1999. that exhibits a regular shape and could represent A rectangular grid of 15 meters (45 feet) an area of altered soil electricalconductivity as anorth-south by 50 meters (150 feet) east-west result of past excavation (Figure 8). This waswas established over the area that Mr. Eddy roughly an area some 5 meters (15 feet) square.iden ti fied. Be cause the lo ca tion was based on a Ground penetrating radar was initially per -visual history from some 80 years ago, the tar- formed on June 4, in conjunction with the 200geted area was enlarged by about a factor of MHz an ten nas with a Mala Geosciencesfour to ensure complete coverage. This rectan- RAMAC system. Transects of systematicallygular area lies within 4 meters (12 feet) of the collected GPR data for the Clyde Eddy Area re- 130
    • vealed no reflections of possible cultural ori- Conclusions and Recommendations forgin. This work, though, was con ducted with out Further Studythe benefit of the results of the magnetometer Between July,1998, and November, 1999,and EMI data, A second GPR study was con- geophysical investigations were conducted atducted on November 22, 1998. three locations thought to potentially represent GPR data acquisition in this second survey sites of mass graves for victims of the Tulsawas focused on the two anomalies revealed by Race Riot. Ex am i na tion of se lect ar eas atthe magnetometer and ENR Two grid areas Newblock Park and Booker T. Washingtonwere established and north-south transects at 1 Cemetery through use of ground penetrating ra-meter (3 feet) in ter vals were run for the two po- dar failed to reveal any features suggestive of atential features. Both 250 and 500 MHz anten- mass grave. As has been reiterated throughoutnas were used in data collection. The 250 MHz this report, the failure to identify a mass grave atantenna provided no new data; the reflections specified locations does not negate the potentialwere basically the same as those obtained on for a mass grave within either Newblock ParkJune 4 , 1998. The 500 MHz antenna presented or Booker T. Washington Cemetery. It onlya much different picture. The radar identified documents that such a feature was not presentan anomaly in the same location as that re - within the area examined.vealed by the GEM-2 unit. Ground penetrating Ini tial study of Oaklawn Ceme tery withradar data depict a feature measuring approxi- ground penetrating radar revealed a number ofmately 5 meters (15 feet) square, a unit essen- individual internments but no evidence of atially the same size as that defined by the mass grave. With an eye wit ness ac count per mit-GEM-2. The GPR data additionally suggest ting a narrowing of the search window, a secondthe presence of an isolated object in roughly examination was conducted at Oaklawn Ceme-the center of the anomaly and that the feature tery. Through use of electromagnetic inductionhas walls that appear to be vertical with and ground penetrating radar, a 5 meter (15well-defined corners (Figure 9). feet) square anomaly with vertical walls was Interpretations and Conclusions identified within the area pointed out by the The third phase of geophysical work at eyewitness as where a trench was dug for bury-Oaklawn Cemetery resulted in the identifica- ing riot victims. While this evidence is compel-tion of two subsurface anomalies or features. ling, it cannot be viewed as factual until theOne anomaly represents a highly ferrous feature has been physically examined by exca-subsurface deposit. This is not believed to be vation to determine if this represents a graveassociated with the Tulsa Race Riot. The other site, and, more importantly, if a grave, whetheranomaly bears all the characteristics of a dug it contains multiple individuals. The situation atpit or trench with vertical walls and an unde- Oaklawn Cemetery has been further compli-fined object within the approximate center of cated by cemetery records indicating that anthe feature. Because this anomaly showed up adult white male had been buried there shortlyon both EMI and GPR surveys, it is not be - before the riot and two white children were bur-lieved to be a false signal. The vertical walls ied within the boundaries of this feature follow-also support an argument for this being some i n g t h e r i o t . T h i s i n for ma tion s e e m ssort of dug feature. Without the presence of an contradictory to the presence of a mass grave ateyewitness, this would just represent another this location.“anomaly” to be examined. However, with There are a number of recommendations thatMr. Eddy’s testimony, this trench-like feature should be considered. They are enumerated astakes on the properties of a mass grave. It can follows:be argued that the geophysical study, com- 1 . Oral history and ar chi val work should con-bined with the account of Mr. Eddy, are com- tinue the search for more specific data on areaspel ling ar gu ments for this fea ture be ing within Newblock Park and Booker T. Washing-considered a mass grave. ton Cemetery. Other locations that have some 131
    • credibility should also be reexamined (if mer- a north west-southeast di rec tion) to ef fect the re-ited). flection of the signal. Other options would be 2. Continued examination of records at the use of different antenna and changing theOaklawn Cemetery to resolve the somewhat signal rate.paradoxical issue of a mass grave where other 4. At the discretion of commissions govern-non Race Riot related people were reportedly ing the Race Riot investigation, the City ofburied. Tulsa, and the Greenwood community limited 3. Further examination of the potential mass physical investigation of the feature be under-grave feature at Oaklawn with geophysical ap- taken to clarify whether it indeed represents aplications. This would involve changing the mass grave. This is not a recommendation to ex-angle of orientation used in the transects (e.g., hume any remains but to clarify the nature of this anomaly. Endnotes 1 Ellsworth, Scott, 1982. Death in a Prom ised Land: Yhe Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. (Lou i si ana State Uni ver sity Press,Baton Rouge: 1982). 2 Ibid., p. 70. 3 Aikens, M. J., Physics and Archaeology. (Claredon Press, London and New York: 1961). 4 Wynn, J. C., “Archaeological Prospection: An Introduction to the Special Issue. Special Issue: “Geophysics inArchaeology,” Geophysics 51(3), 1986. 5 Heimmer, D. H., Near-Surface, High Resolution Geophysical Methods for Cultural Resource Management andArchaeological Investigations. (National Park Service, U.S. Government Printing Services, Denver: 1992). 6 Maki, D. and G. Jones, “Search for Graves from the Tulsa Race Riot Using Ground Penetrating Radar.”Archaeo-Physics, Report of Investigations Number 5, 1998. 132
    • (Cour tesy De part ment of Spe cial Col lec tions, McFarlin Li brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa). History Uncovered: Skeletal Remains as a Vehicle to the PastBy Phoebe Stubblefield and Lesley M. Rankin-Hill ever, they remain obscure in publications of I am invisible, understand, simply because their times and the history books. Elites leavepeople refuse to see me. significant documentation of their lives in a va- —Ralph Ellison riety of forms and these materials have a high Overview probability of being archived. The few sources During the last 20 to 30 years, several large of documentation for the poor and under classesand nu mer ous small Af ri can Amer i can skel e tal of a society are likely to be lost.populations have been studied by physical an- Therefore, when African American skeletalthropologists. Each population has contributed populations are discovered or recovered theysignificantly to the reconstruction of African pres ent a unique op por tu nity to add to the his tor-American lives, experiences, communities, ical record and document the lives of the indi-and historical events. African Americans to a vid u als and their com mu nity. Phys i calgreat extent are the “invisible people” in the anthropological studies provide a direct methodhistorical record. This is a common problem of assessment (providing evidence) when skele-whenever one studies non-elite people in the tal populations like the New York Africanhistorical past, especially members of the Burial Ground or the Dallas Freedmen’s ceme-underclass. These are the people who facili- tery become available.tated the lives of the wealthy and the powerful African American skeletal populations haveof society; they built cities, provided goods become available under several conditions: 1)and ser vices, and, to a great ex tent, were the es- the intentional excavation due to land redevel-sential elements of a growing society. How - opment or threat of environmental damage; 2) 133
    • the accidental discovery of an abandoned cem- and re pa tri at ing the de ceased from World War IIetery; 3) ar chaeologicalexcavationprojects for and the Korean War brought the field into prom-historical/anthropological research and docu- inent activity. Technical advances at this timementation. These skeletal populations, repre- and a steady increase in academic interest in thesent a broad spectrum of African American field led to its later organization as a section oflifestyles throughout the eighteenth, nine- the American Academy of Forensic Sciences inteenth, and twentieth centuries in the Western 1972. Since that time, forensic anthropology hasHemisphere. been a recognized subfield of physical anthro- Biological and behavioral factors affect the pology and the forensic sciences, requiring thehuman skeleton because the skeleton is a dy - usual academic rigors of obtaining the highernamic system, that undergoes growth and de - degrees in anthropology (at least a Master’s de-velopment throughout the individual’s life gree), as well as the special training and certifi-span. In general, these biological and cultural cation of its section in the Academy.factors can interfere in the normal processes of A forensic anthropologist is a physical an-bone growth and loss, caus ing dis ease ep i sodes thropologist who has been trained to recognizeand/or periods of delayed growth. These expe- and examine human skeletal remains for indica-riences can be usually indelibly recorded on tions of sex, age, height, unique characters ofthe skeleton and dentition. Through observing the individual, features which might indicatethese “historical remnants” of bones and teeth, how the person died, and processes that affectthe physical anthropologist has a means of the skeleton after death. Although a forensic pa-measuring a population’s health. In addition, thologist or other medical doctor may seem athe skeleton can record the actual cause(s) of more appropriate conductor of such analyses,death and/or contributory factors surrounding their education and training focuses on changesdeath. in soft tissue. The forensic anthropologist is ex- Therefore, the potential contribution and pected to recognize bone outside of its naturalimportance of the Tulsa Race Riot victims’ context even if it is reduced to small fragments.skeletal remains would be significant to both He or she can iden tify all the bones of the hu manthe documentation of the historical event and skeleton, determine if a bone is human or not,to African American history. It is imperative and understand that the shape of a bone is re -that these remains be located, recovered, lated to its function in the body and its owner’s“given a voice” through skeletal analysis, and relationship to other animals.then reinterred with dignity, as most of the Af- Forensic anthropologists serve the public inrican American skeletal populations have been several types of investigations. As a result theyand will be in the future. work with the other agents concerned with the A discussion of the basic types of analysis disposition of human remains, such as medicaland information that physical anthropologists examiners or coroners, local and federal law en-and forensic anthropologists can provide is forcement and family organizations. The mostpresented below. common circumstances are criminal investiga- The Role of Forensic Anthropology in the tions on a local or federal level, such as a local Identification of Deceased Individuals homicide or the results of terrorist activity. Forensicanthropology has had an ac tive role Other circumstances include mass disasters ofin American science and medicolegal investi- natural or human cause, such as the recovery ofga tions since at least 1878, when Har vard anat- tornado or aviation accident victims. The U.S.omist Thomas Dwight published his essay on Army maintains a staff of forensic anthropolo-identifying human skeletal remains.1 Existing gists at a facility based in Hawaii who are dedi-as a poorly recognized subfield of the scien- c a t e d t o t h e c o n tin ued re cov ery a n dtific discipline called physical anthropology, identification of Americans lost in the pastforensic anthropology received little scholarly armed conflicts. Frequently the public learns ofor public notice until the task of identifying the forensic anthropologists work when it in- 134
    • While stories have per sisted for years that the bod ies of riot vic tims were thrown into the Arkan sas River, there is lit tle ev i dence to sup portthis oral tra di tion. Con sid er able oral and writ ten ev i dence does ex ist, how ever, which points to Af ri can-American riot vic tims be ing bur ied inun marked graves at Oaklawn Cem e tery, Booker T. Wash ing ton Cem e tery, and per haps, Newblock Park (Courtesy de part ment of Spe cialCol lec tions, McFarlin Li brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa).volves cases of historical interest, such as the investigations, the anthropologists services be -ex hu ma tion of Pres i dent Zachary Tay lor for an gin and end (if no hu man bones are found) at thisinvestigation of the cause of his death, or the step when he or she is called to a locality or med-recovery and identification of the remains of ical examiner’s office and asked to make a de -the last Czar of Russia and his household. termination. At an investigation scene the The varieties of occasion that require the forensic anthropologist will search for and iden-skills of a forensic anthropologist are suffi- tify human bone, look for indications of burials,ciently diverse that the anthropologist may en- and conduct necessary excavations in a system-ter the project at various points and utilize a atic manner using thorough documentation. Inwide assortment of skills. The list below is a the search for burials, in addition to using visualsummary of exercises that could be employed clues, the anthropologist may employ special-in a generic investigation. While it seems a ized equipment and techniques, such as groundshort list, many activities take place under penetrating radar and infrared photography.each section. While all of the items listed will As part of recovery of remains, the anthropol-be cov ered, most of the re main der of this chap- ogist may map the locality in order to have a re-ter will focus on item three, laboratory analy- cord of the position of the remains relative to asis. fixed landmark and any significant features of 1. Scene or locality search for skeletal re - the site. This is a typical part of a crim i nal in ves-mains or burials tigation and can be conducted in conjunction 2. Recovery of remains by surface recovery with scene investigators. Locating the site on anor excavation existing map and noting the physical address of 3. Laboratory analysis the location may suffice, but in wooded areas or 4. Report production along roadsides the anthropologist may employ As previously stated, forensic anthropolo- a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit to getgists are trained to discriminate between hu - the geographic coordinates of the site. If a burialman and non-human bone. In many is involved the site must be mapped with the lo- 135
    • cation of the burial indicated (sometimes the The best as sess ments are a sum mary con clu sionburial is the site), while the burial itself re - based on as many parts of the skeleton as possi-ceives a mapping grid. The grid provides a ble. This technique becomes especially impor-means of mapping the location of each bone or tant when dealing with mature in dividuals,artifact found within the burial. An organized because they have fewer age-specific charactersand thorough excavation may provide the in- than infants, children, and young adults.formation that allows the reconstruction of the Age Determination in Infants, Children, andevents surrounding the burial of the deceased. Young AdultsIn one instance the late Dr. William Maples The techniques for determining skeletal agesuccessfully documented differing times of in children are based on standards of skeletaldeath for multiple individuals in one grave, and dental maturation developed for living chil-based on the information gained from his thor- dren. Infant remains are aged by comparing theough excavation.2 In addition to any physical length of the long bones of the legs or arms tomapping of the burial, good note taking, pho- guidelines for the maturation of living infants.tography and/or videotaping during the exca- One difficulty in aging infant remains is thatvation also will ensure a good record of what their bones are very fragile, do not pre serve wellwas found during the excavation. under ground, and are rarely recovered from Once human remains are found, they are burials. Older children, depending on how farcollected in a manner that will protect the pri- into development they are, can be aged by vari-vacy of the family of the deceased, keep mate- ous techniques, including long bone length, de-rial remains in association, and prevent fragile gree of completed growth of the teeth, andmaterial from further breakage or deterioration degree of completed growth of the long bones.from exposure to air and sun light. The re mains Age assessments using dental remains are pri -are then maintained in a secure location while marily based on the degree of development ofthe an thropologist conducts the analy sis. each tooth crown and root, the simultaneousGood security ensures the remains and any presence of adult and baby teeth, and whether aitems with them stay to gether and are not adul- tooth has erupted and if so how far. This tech -terated or altered by outside influences. nique is useful from infants with teeth still de - What Skeletal Remains Tell Us veloping inside the jaws, to teenagers with In everyday living, our skeletons are frames developing wisdom teeth. The dental eruptionfrom which we work our muscles, frames sequence may alone be enough to obtain an agewhich we pro tect from break ing when ever pos- assessment, but eruption of the wisdom teethsible and rely on as silent partners as we move cannot be considered an indication of adulthoodthrough and manipulate the world around us. be cause their erup tion times are highly vari able.Yet human bones are not just a frame for the The long bones of the arms and legs eachflesh, they also are frames for our identities. have a main shaft that develops ends that fuse asAn anthropologist can get more information the person matures. The age that the ends de -from a skeleton with all of its parts present, no velop and fuse to the main shaft occurs so regu-bones broken, and little or no degradation from larly that age can be assessed within a couplethe environment. Even fragmentary remains years if enough of the skeleton is present. Limbwill tell much about their former owner. Fo- bones stop being useful for age assessment inrensic anthropologists investigate six proper- early adult hood. The bones in the arm, be ing theties when examining skeletal remains: age, last to fully develop, do so at about 18 years insex, ancestry, stature, unique characters of the women and 19 years in men. As a general ruleskeleton, and indications of trauma. when confronted with a skeleton that looks ma- Age Assessment ture on first glance, the collarbone is examined Unless the skeleton is sparsely represented, first. The collarbone is the latest fusing longforensic anthropologists do not rely on only bone, becoming complete by about 25 years inone technique to arrive at an age assessment. males and females. If the collarbone is com - 136
    • pletely united, the anthropologist uses tech- increase in size and number as a person growsniques for aging adult remains. older. Another indicator of greater maturity is Age Estimation in Adults the presence of ossified soft tissue, such as the Assessing age in the adult skeleton presents thyroid and cricoid cartilage of the throat, thea special challenge because any parts that were cartilage joining the ribs to the sternum, andgoing to fuse as a part of maturation have done sclerotic portions of the descending aorta. Asso. Most standardized techniques for age as - stated earlier, every suitable method, beginningsessment in adults focus on age related changes with the most reliable, should be used for an ageto mature bone in portions of the post-cranial assessment, but forensic anthropologists are es-skeleton. In 1920 and again in 1989, anthropol- pecially careful while using qualitative clues.ogists published standards for age changes at An overused and overworked body will have ar-the fibrous joint between the pubic bones, tile thritic development and ossified soft tissue at apubic symphysis.3 Similarly, in 1986, anthro- younger age than otherwise expected.pol o gists be gan pub lish ing stan dards for the age Sex Assessmentchanges to the sternal end of the fourth rib. 4 It is extremely difficult to estimate sex for Quite frequently a skeleton is too fragmen- pre-pubertal remains because the characters oftary or too poorly preserved to retain the pubic the skeleton that indicate sex do not appear untilbones or the fourth rib. In such a case more after puberty. A few techniques have been pro-marginal age estimation techniques may be posed for estimating sex in infants, but the reli-used such as closure of the cranial sutures. ability of these techniques is ques tion able. HuntContrary to popular belief, cranial suture clo- and Gleiser (1955) developed a technique forsure, as seen by the disappearance of the lines children age two to eight, based on a combina-separating the bones of the cranium, is one of tion of dental and skeletal development of thethe most unreliable techniques for estimating hand and wrist. This technique works betterage. Cranial sutures do not close in a system- than 50 percent of the time, but does require aatic fashion in any human population. As a re- fairly intact skeleton.sult, an age estimate of 30 to 50 years is not For adult remains, estimating sex can be oneuncommon from this technique, which only of the simpler parts of a forensic analysis if cer-signifies that the remains are adult, as was al - tain parts of the skeleton are present. Given aready known. Cra nial su tures are used only as a choice, a forensic anthropologist would alwayslast resort, such as when only a cranium is prefer to have an intact pelvis, with the secondfound. choice being an intact skull. For either part two In ad di tion to us ing the suit able stan dard ized approaches are used to estimate sex, a morpho-techniques for the skel e tal re mains, the an thro- logical assessment and/or a metric assessment.pologist also examines all the collected re- The morphology or shape of the pelvis differsmains for general indicators of age. He or she between males and females. This difference canexamines the teeth, to see how worn or de- be recorded by noting the presence of featurescayed they are in order to assess how long they associated with a particular sex, or by measur-were in use. Tooth wear is a population de - ing the pelvis and using statistical analysis to es-pendent character because some populations timate sex.use their teeth as tools, get more dental care, or Forensic anthropologists understand that theeat more grit than others. The joint surfaces sex differences in the human pelvis are relatedand ver te brae also are ex am ined for signs of ar- to differences in function and are trained to rec-thritic development. In general, an older body ognize the physical differences associated withwill show more signs of lost cartilage and have function. The female pelvis differs from themore extensive bony growth on the margins of male in being designed to pass a large brainedthe joint. Vertebrae in particular begin devel- infant through a narrow space. The pelvis isoping bony growths called osteophytes as a made of three bones, the two innominates plusperson enters his or her 30s. The osteophytes the sacrum. The innominates, themselves are 137
    • composed of three bones that fuse at about age points of a forensic identification, ancestry and13 in girls and 15 in boys, the pubis, ischium, stature.and ilium. As a means of orientation, consider Determining Ancestrythat when you sit down on a firm surface the The skull is the best source of information forbone that makes contact is the ischium, the estimating ancestry from the human skeleton.bony hip you rest your hand on is the ilium, and Just as with the pelvis in sex assessment, mor -the part that may unfortunately connect with phological and metric analysis of the skull canthe bar on a mens bike is the pubis. The female show the geographic population to which an in-pelvis differs visibly from the male by having, dividual belonged. A geographic population isamong other features, a rectangular shape to the large collection of people such as Europe-the body of the pubis, a wide sciatic notch be- ans, Africans, and Asians that is usually called atween ilium and ischium, and a pronounced “race.” Here the term race is avoided becauseangle beneath the body of the pubis. the skull only indicates genetic ancestry, not the In contrast to the pelvis, sex differences in so cial con no ta tions of race. So cial is sues of racethe skull make males exceptional. Larger size such as “passing,” or “one-drop rule,” are rarelyplays a part here rather than a different shape, represented by the shape of the skull. In thebecause while skulls serve the same function same way that someone resembles his or herno matter the sex, men tend to be larger and or other relatives, that resemblance carries downmore ro bust than are women. Greater to the bone and can be approximated with mea-robusticity means that in the male skull projec- surements and careful observation. When as -tions protrude farther, and ridges are rougher sessing ancestry we frequently state it in termsand sharper. In the skull, the male brow tends of descent. Typically in the United States we en-to project farther than in females, and the mass counter in di vid u als of European, African, Asianof bone behind the ear, the mastoid process, (which includes Native Americans), or mixedtends to be larger. Size and ruggedness also descent. This does not mean that the individualwill dis tin guish male long bones and ver te brae. in question recently immigrated to the United Forensic anthropologists do not rely solely States; rather, it means that the person’s ances-on morphology to estimate sex because there try is derived from that population.are several circumstances when this technique Forensic anthropologists determine ancestryis insufficient. Skeletal remains are frequently by examining the morphology of the skull andfragmentary. Also, differences in size and by taking measurements at several points on theshape occur as central tendencies surrounded skull. In a morphological exam the anthropolo-by variation. Therefore, we can say that the fe- gist looks for particular sets of anatomical fea -male pelvis has certain features, but we do not tures that are found with greater frequency inexpect every female pelvis to have all those certain populations. Closely related people willfea tures in the same de gree. In ad di tion, hu man share more cranial features with each other thanpopulations dif fer in the de gree to which males with their more distant re la tions on the next con-are more robust than females. Consider the tinent. On the other hand, since large popula-contrast of the American quarterback with his tions are not made up of clones, thecheerleader girlfriend juxtaposed to the East - anthropologist cannot expect everyone in a par-ern European bride. The alternative to, or sup- ticular population to have the same features inport for a morphological assessment is to the same degree or combinations. Also, since allcompare measurements of the pelvis, skull, or humans are related, the anthropologist cannotother parts of the skeleton to statistical samples expect any cranial feature to necessarily be ex-gen er ated for par tic u lar pop u la tions. The equa- clusive to a particular population. Therefore, antions of Giles and Elliot are frequently used to assessment of ancestry is based on a suite ofdetermine sex for skulls from Americans of characters that tend to appear or are found inEuropean and African descent. 5 Statistical similar degree in particular populations. For ex-procedures are very important in the next two ample, the anthropologist might look for a short, 138
    • high cranium combined with a narrow nasal and incomplete, Steele developed equations foraperture as part of an indication of European predicting the complete length of the longancestry, but he or she would not require a bone.8 One additional concern regarding statureshort, high cranium because some Europeans estimation is that as people enter their 40s theyhave long craniums. Nor would we look only begin losing height, so stature estimates forfor the ratio of skull length to height because older individuals must be corrected. The rate ofdifferent populations can have the same ratio. correction is minus 0.06 centimeters for everySee the table below for a list of some of the decade past 30.characters used for determining ancestry. Trauma Analysis In addition to the morphological assess- The assessment of trauma in skeletonized re-ment, the forensic anthropologist can conduct mains requires the ability to distinguish be-a met ric anal y sis of the skull. A met ric anal y sis tween perimortem trauma and postmortemrequires that a skull be measured across sev- damage. Perimortem trauma is damage causederal points, and those measurements compared to bone in the interval surrounding the time ofto a statistical sample of individuals of known death. The interval is defined by the time periodancestry. In the United States many forensic during which the bone is “green” or behavesanthropologists rely on another set of equa- with the plasticity of its living state. Any traumations designed by Giles and Elliot that distin- that occurs while the bone is fresh and green isguish between people of European, African, perimortem trauma including damage that oc -and Native American descent.6 Anthropolo- curs shortly after death. Perimortem trauma thatgists at the University of Tennessee also have would have either contributed to or is directlypro duced a sta tis ti cal pack age called associated with the cause of death is classifiedFORDISC that serves a combined function of as trauma associated with the cause of death.ancestry and stature estimation. Metric analy- For ex am ple, perimortem rib frac tures can oc cursis is often the preferred route to ancestry de- in a victim without those fractures being thetermination because it does not require that the cause of death, but the accompanying cranialeye be trained to recognize morphological gunshot wound would be trauma associatedtraits, and because it is more effective on frag- with the cause of death.mentary skulls. Forensic anthropologists are trained to recog- Stature Estimation nize the types of trauma that can be found on Estimation of the standing height of the liv- bone including blunt force, sharp force, gunshoting individual is an exclusively metric proce- wounds, and burning. By visual inspection,dure. An thro pol o gists have de vel oped touch, use of a light microscope, and radiogra-predictive equa tions that es ti mate stat ure based phy, the an thro pol o gist can identify these formson the length of various bones of the body. on trauma from the characteristic marks theyThese equations exist for several populations, leave on bone. Blunt force trauma is associatedincluding Native Americans and Americans of with fractured or crushed bone, such as in aAfrican and European descent. Trotter and greenstick fracture or a depressed cranial frac -Gleser designed the most commonly used ture. Blunt force injuries to green bone mayequations in response to the repatriation effort leave clear identifying marks of the instrumentof WWII and Korean War dead.7Normally, leg used to inflict the trauma, such as grooves or di-length is the greatest contributor to standing rect impressions of the weapon. Sharp forceheight, so most of the predictive equations are trauma includes incised cuts, stab wounds, andbased on length of the long bones of the leg, the chop ping in ju ries. This type of trauma leaves anfemur, tibia, and fibula. Other anthropologists assortment of marks, such as nicks, punctures orhave developed equations for the complete serrated grooves, which are observable byskeleton, vertebrae, long bones of the arm, and touch, plain vision, and under the microscope.bones of the hands and feet. In cases where The anthropologist may make a silicone cast ofpreservation is poor and bones are fragmentary cutmarks for later comparison to the cutting 139
    • edge of a suspect weapon. Gunshot wounds, graphs to postmortem radiographs of the sameespecially to thin or tabular bones, have char- area, and matching the anatomy and/or medicalacteristic beveled shapes. Bullets frequently appliances found in each. Another technique,leave traces of lead on the bone, which can be called video superimposition, allows the anthro-seen on an x-ray. Typical fracture patterns are pologist to match photographs taken in life tofound on bone burned during the perimortem the features of the skull. In cases when the re -interval. Fire damage may occur in conjunc- mains represent a complete unknown, the an -tion with other forms of trauma, so the anthro- thropologist may build or commission a facialpologist is prepared to find evidence that reconstruction of the deceased based on the as-might be obscured by the charring and break- sessment of sex, ancestry, age, and publishedage caused by burning. data on skin thickness. The reconstruction is ei- Postmortem damage occurs after death, af- ther three-dimensional, using clay to representter the bone has become brittle from decompo- the skin, or conceived of in two dimensions by asition and drying. Some damage may occur sketch artist.during recovery such as marks acquired during The recent advances in genetic analysis hasexcavation from shovels, trowels or probes, made it possible to describe the most uniquedamage from careless handling such as break- characters of the individual, his or her DNA se-age, and marks from scalpels or scissors. Other quence. In non-living tissue, bone is the bestforms of damage are from natural agents such preserver of DNA. Therefore, it is possible toas dog or other carnivore chewing, rodent take a small sam ple from the pre served bone of agnaw marks, root etching, and flaking and deceased person and match the DNA to a sam -cracking caused by exposure to sunlight. At - ple collected while the individual was living, ortempts to dispose of remains also will cause to match the sample to the nearest relatives.postmortem damage, such as cutmarks, chemi- Only a small bone sample is needed, because acal burns, and burning from fire. Forensic an- technique called PCR (polymerase chain reac-thropologists are care ful to mini mize the tion) allows the volume of DNA to be amplifiedoccurrence of postmortem damage during and until there is an abundant amount to sequence.after re cov ery of re mains. Post mor tem dam age The Reportis distinguishable from perimortem trauma by After all the analyses and descriptions arethe lack of indicators of plastic behavior in the complete, the forensic anthropologist generatesbone, a color difference between the outside a report of his or her findings. This report willbone and the newly exposed bone, and the pat- document in a succinct and clear form all thetern (e.g., only at joints) or type (e.g., carni- findings and conclusions regarding sex, ances-vore chewing) of the damage. try, stat ure, trauma anal y sis, and in di vid u al iz ing Idiosyncratic Characters char ac ter is tics, made by the an thro pol o gist. Any Individual characters can be the clearest in- supporting documents such as radiographs, pho-dicators of identity in skeletal remains. The fo- tographs, slides, or videotapes will accompanyrensic anthropologist carefully inspects the the report. Depending on the nature of the in -skeletal remains in order to document any fea- vestigation this report will be submitted to atures that might have been noted by family med i cal ex am iner, com mit tee, or fam ily or ga ni-members or placed in a medical or dental re - zation, or, in the case of an interdisciplinary pro-cord. The anthropologist documents healed ject, be combined with the reports of the otherfractures, atypical anatomy, signs of diseases project members.that affect bones such as anemia, syphilis, can- Conclusioncer, or medical appliances such as prostheses, It is clear from the above description thatwires and sutures, and dental restorations and “dead men do tell tales.” Physical anthropolo-plates. gists and forensic anthropologists tell the stories The anthropologist can make positive iden- of the individual skeletons and skeletal popula-tifications by comparing antemortem radio- tions they study. This work identifies individu- 140
    • als, and provides evidence for reconstructing died in Greenwood in 1921 are recovered theycommunities and historical events. The focus will be treated with respect and their stories willof locating the remains of Tulsa Race Riot vic- be documented. Their voices, therefore, will betims is not to prove that it happened or to count added to the historical record, finally givingthe dead. When the individuals who lived and them and their families closure with dignity. Endnotes 1 T.D. Stewart and Charles C. Thomas, “Essentials of Forensic Anthropology”, 1979. 2 William R. Maples and Michael Browning, Dead Men Do Tell Tales, (Doubleday, 1994). 3 Todd, T.W., “Age Changes in the Pubic Bone: I. The Male White Pubis.” American Journal of PhysicalAnthropology 3:285-334, 1920. Katz, D. and Suchey, J.M., “Race Dif fer ences in Pu bic Symphyseal Aging Pat terns inthe Male.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 80:167-172, 1989. 4 Iscan M.Y., Loth, S R. and Wright, R.K., “Metamorphosis at the Sternal Rib: A New Method to Estimate Age atDeath in Males.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 65:147-156, 1984. 5 E. Giles and O. Elliot, “Sex determination by Discriminant Function Analysis of Crania,” American Journal ofPhysical Anthropology 21:53-68, 1963. 6 E. Giles and O. Elliot, “Race Iden ti fi ca tion From Cra nial Mea sure ments,” Jour nal of Fo ren sic Sci ences 7:147-157.233 “Stature Estimation,” 1962. 7 trotter M. And Gleser G. 1952. Estimation of stature from long bones of American whites and Negroes. AmreicanJournal of Physical Anthropology 10:463-514. 8 Steele, D. Gentry, “Estimation of Stature from Fragments of Long Limb Bones,” T.D. Stewart ed., “PersonalIdentification in Mass Disasters,” National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.,1970. pp. 85-97. 141
    • (Cour tesy De part ment of Spe cial Col lec tions, McFarlin Li brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa). Riot Property LossBy Larry O’Dell An account of the property damage in North 1920-1923. This would not only show the resi-Tulsa during the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot can dence of many African Americans affected byimpart solid information. But researching the the riot, but also would give a clue to the wealthhistory of an African American controlled and prosperity of black Tulsa by revealing thecommunity seventy-nine years later, however, addresses of businesses, professionals, and civicentails many problems associated with the ra - locations. Also, listing the name and location ofcial cli mate of the era. Through out the re search a resident in 1920, and then tracking that nameprocess not just the destruction of property, but through 1923, should shed insight on whetheralso the loss of life had to be considered. When there was a huge population loss in North Tulsatallying up the monetary value of a community and help to pinpoint citizens that may not havethe results are insignificant when compared to survived the riot.the loss of a father, mother, brother, sister, son, The database utilized city directories, 1920or daughter. Yet, the physical character of the census information, and the appendix to Marycommunity and the property lost are an impor- E. Jones Parrish’s account, Events of the Tulsatant aspect to any undertaking to understand Disaster, which has a partial list of losses andthis awful occurrence in Oklahoma history. their addresses. With its document’s comple- Most of Tulsa’s African American popula- tion, this database became a tool itself whention re sided in the north east sec tion of the city. compared to maps, interviews, Sanborn Insur-The first step in the research involved building ance maps (created for insurance purposes anda database of North Tulsa for the years of including descriptions of building and the mate- 143
    • (Courtesy Greenwood Cultural Center).rials they are made of), plat maps, warranty The database listed 159 businesses in 1920;deed records, building permits, Red Cross re - after the riot in the 1922 city directories, 120ports, and so on. The database highlights prob- businesses are listed. The Red Cross reportedlems in the records for North Tulsa. Many of that 1,256 houses burned, that 215 houses werethe African Americans in the census records looted and not burned, and the total number ofdo not show up in the 1920 city directory and building not burned but looted and robbed wasvice versa. Poor research or lack of interest by 314. According to 1920 census entries, a num -the city directory would probably account for ber of the residences in North Tulsa containedthe discrepancies. The census takers would more than just one family, Greenwood Avenuelikely mirror this attitude. held the heart of the district, with two theaters The United States census of 1920 reported and many of the prominent businesses located10,903 African Americans living in Tulsa there. Distinguished business owners and lead -County. The census also claimed that 8,878 ers of the community resided on Detroit Ave-blacks lived in the city of Tulsa, or that 10.8 nue, the west ern bound ary to the Af ri canpercent of Tulsans were African Americans.1 American section; across the street were whiteThe influx of African Americans continued, houses and businesses. Another economicallytotaling almost 11,000 by 1921 and, according prosperous section of the African American dis-to the database founded on city directory esti- trict was the Lacy sector in the eastern part ofmates, included 191 businesses. There were the community.2fifteen doctors, one chiropractor, and two den- Three sources corroborate an approximatetists practicing in the district as well as three value for the destroyed property: the Tulsa Reallawyers. This section of town contained a li - Estate Exchange Commission; the claims filedbrary, two schools, a hospital, and an office of against the city in the City Commission meet -the Tulsa public health services. Two newspa- ings; and the actual damage claimed in courtpers, the Tulsa Star and the Oklahoma Sun, cases against insurance companies and the citywere published in North Tulsa. African Amer- of Tulsa. The Tulsa Real Estate Exchange Com-ican fraternal lodges and churches dotted the mission reported 1.5 million dollars worth ofneighborhoods and business districts in the property damage, with one-third of it being innortheastern quadrant of the city. the business district. This research by the com - mission was done shortly after the riot and may 144
    • be suspect because of their temporary involve- which is in close re la tion to the $1.5 and the $1.8ment in the plan to re lo cate the black million of the other estimates.5population and de velop the Green wood area for a Of course, not all residents took insurancetrain station.3 The Real Estate Commission esti- companies or the city to court, but most of themated personal property loss at $750,000. Be - prominent businessmen and women, as well astween June 14, 1921, and June 6, 1922, Tulsa the influential residents did have detailed peti-residents filed riot-related claims against the city tions drawn out against both entities. In 1937,for over $1.8 million dollars. The city commis- Judge Bradford J. Williams summarily dis-sion disallowed most of the claims. One excep- missed most of the court cases. North Tulsanstion occurred when a white resident obtained claimed a variety of possessions in these cases.compensation for guns taken from his shop. 4 For ex am ple, Dr. R. W. Mot ley claimed not onlyThe sum of the actual damage filed in the 193 his surgical instruments and medicines, butretrieved court cases equaled $1,470,711.56, Chippendale book cases, a set of the Harvard Destruction in the black business district incurred most of the financial loss of the riot (Courtesy of West - ern His tory Collec tions, University of Oklahoma Li- braries). 145
    • Ruins of a building com pleted months prior to the riot (Cour tesy Oklahoma His tor i cal So ci ety).Classics, a mahogany library table, a silk mo- lots in the Greenwood addition to black resi-hair library outfit, a Steinway piano, and dents in the years before the riot. A powerfulRodgers silverware, among other items. Other member of the chamber of commerce, Averyclaims were for livestock, rental property, and served as a member of the Tulsa Water Boardother essential materials. A study of these for the Spavinaw water project, and he also di -claims reveals the diverse wealth and poverty rected the Executive Welfare Committee thatin the community, one that could match or ex- collected $26,000 for the Red Cross after theceed that of many other many communities in riot.8 E.W. Sinclair also conducted real busi -1921 Oklahoma. ness in North Tulsa. Sinclair was the president According to Mary Parrish’s book, court of Exchange National Bank and vice presidentcase claims, warranty deed records, and court of Sinclair Pipeline. Other significant whiteclerk records, many African Americans in property owners in the district were: S.R.Tulsa owned rental property. Black Tulsans Lewis, vice-chairman of the taxpayer’s commit-who suffered significant financial loss attrib- tee; W.H. Botkin, real estate financier; Tateuted to rental prop er ties in cluded R.T. Brady, former Democratic national committee-Bridgewater, J.H. Goodwin, Sadie Partee, man and Oklahoma commander of the Sons ofLoula Williams and G.W. Hutchins. Many Confederate Veterans; T.E. Smiley, realtor; R.J.other African Amer icans possessed rental Dixon, realtor; George Stephens, realtor; H.E.prop erty, in cluding Carrie Kinlaw, Virgil Bagby, department manager of Exchange Na -Rowe, John Swinger, Emma Works, S.M. tional Bank; Claude Sample, realtor; H.C.Jackson, J.B. Stradford, Osborne Monroe, Stahl, information not found, but probably re -C.W. Henry, Mrs. Warren and A.L. Stovall. lated to W.E. Stahl involved in insurance, loans Also, many white Tulsans conducted real and bonds; Earl Sneed, lawyer; Win Redfearn,estate busi ness in the Af ri can Amer i can dis trict proprietor of the Dixie Theater; The Brockmanprior to the riot. One of the better known white brothers, realtors; and J.A. Oliphant, lawyer.9businessmen, Cyrus S. Avery, sold multiple 146
    • Portion of the Sanborn map dated 1920 with occupants drawn from the 1921 City Di rec tory overlapped. It is problematic to determine property own- buildings would be on one lot making the as -er ship in 1921 North Tulsa for a va ri ety of rea- signment of street addresses almost entirelysons. The city renamed some of the streets in guesswork. Another problem consists of prop -the area af ter the riot, cre at ing com pli ca tions in erty transfer that is conducted by means otherthe transference of an address from pre-riot to than money convoluting the value of the prop -modern.10 Also, urban renewal and the accu- erty. In many instances a transfer of deed wouldmulation of North Greenwood property for the be listed as costing the buyer only one dollar.highway and Rogers State University (Now When looking for a certain individual or fam-OSU-Tulsa), create a gap in the records of ily, the best place to begin is the compiled data-property and cause old addresses, legal and base of city di rec to ries. Af ter finding theotherwise, do not display on the county clerk address, if it can be located on the existingcomputer system. City di rec to ries list res i dents Sanborn maps, the size and make up of the struc-by their city ad dress, and even com par ing these ture and its location on the property can be de-to city plats can cause confusion on the legal termined. The Sanborn map will also pinpointaddress; but, luckily, all warranty deeds and the legal address. If it is located outside theother tracking devices are made with the legal Sanborn map area it needs to be ex am ined on theaddress, making this a time-consuming but not plat maps. Using the legal address, ownershipan insurmountable task. A great problem can be determined by going to the Tulsa Countyarises when the legal address is all that is Clerk’s office. In theory, finding the last trans-known; matching it to a street address tends to action in the tract indexes before 1921 shouldbe complex unless the owner and not the renter in di cate the owner at the time of the riot. Be sidesis listed in the city directory. Oftentimes two problems listed in the paragraph above, how - 147
    • Black Tulsans sal vaged what they could from their burned homes and busi nesses and be gan to re build on their own, us ing what ever ma te ri-als they could find. It took some congregations years to rebuild their burned churches (Courtesy Oklahoma Histor i cal Society). ever, many times the lot will be split and sold the riot could have been used as a beauty parlor; to two par ties, mak ing it dif fi cult to de cide who after the riot Mrs. Little put an ad for her beauty owned what part of the lot. parlor in Mary Parrish’s book, Events of the Examining the proper ties of Percy and Tulsa Disaster, that claimed the address as 1301 Mabel Little pro vides an ex am ple of how us ing Greenwood.11 the database, warranty deed records, plats, and Another example is Osborne Monroe. Ac- county court house records can provide needed cording to the 1921 Tulsa City Directory, Mon- data. The Littles resided at 617 East Independ- roe and his wife, Olive, lived at 410 Easton, lot ence, which is not on a portion of the Sanborn 3, block 17 North Tulsa, and worked as a porter Insurance maps. Percy had interest in the Bell at 117 South Main Avenue. Mary Parrish listed and Little Restaurant on land owned by J. the loss of their residence as $1,000. According Hodnett or W. Appleby at 525 Cameron. The to the Sanborn Insurance maps their house be - Littles had just bought some land off Green - fore the riot was a one-story frame house with a wood Avenue at the legal address lots 13-14, porch. In August 1920, Monroe received a block 8 Greenwood Addition, for $600 from building permit to build a $2,000 one-story C.S. Avery on April 12, 1921. The bank re - frame structure on lot 1 block 15 North Tulsa leased them from their mortgage on June 8, Addition. In a petition filed against the Me- 1923. The 1923 directory lists P.L. Little at chanics and Traders Insurance Company of 1301 Greenwood. This residence should be on New Orleans, Osborne Monroe claimed fire de- the land they purchased. This property before stroyed his property, consisting of two one-story 148
    • shingle-roof, frame building with stone piers business dealings, especially in real estate, byfoundation and brick chimneys and flues, on whites and oftentimes, by major leaders of theJune 1, 1921. Six months after the riot, Mr. white busi ness or civic com mu nity con ducted inMonroe requested building permits on Decem- North Tulsa. The majority of the wealth oc-ber 6, 1921, to build a frame building on lot 1, curred in the “Deep Greenwood” business sec-block 15 North Side Addition and on Decem- tion and in the residential areas around Detroitber 12, 1921 to build three frame buildings on Avenue and what was known as the Lacy Sectorlot 1, block 15 North Tulsa Addition at $400 northeast of the busi ness dis trict. Using the threeeach. This would be on the 500 block of Exeter different sources explained above (Records ofor North Elgin Place.12 The Tulsa Real Estate Exchange Commission, By early July 1921, the city of Tulsa began claims addressed at the Tulsa City Commissiongranting building permits to African American meetings, and the various court cases) each withresidents of North Tulsa. O.W. Gurley re- its own particular faults, an estimate of just un-ceived a permit on July 2 for a one-story brick der $2 million of property damage in 1921 dol-building that was to cost him $6,000. The earli- lars can be made. When using a consumer priceest to rebuild were gen er ally the “Deep Green- index inflation calculator, a tool provided by thewood” business owners. For example, Gurley, website at NASA, a 1921 amount of $1.8 mil -Goodwin, Woods, Young, Bridgewater, and lion would equal an amount of $16,752,600 inWilliams were among the first to gain a build- 1999.16ing permit. 13 This happened amidst the efforts The tragedy and triumph of North Tulsa tran-of white Tulsa to industrialize this sector with scends numbers and amounts and who ownedvarious codes to prevent black rebuilding.14 what portion of what lot. The African AmericanThe city manager or the fire marshal likely is- community not only thrived in an era of harshsued more permits to individual families as the “Jim Crow” and oppression, but when the big -winter of 1921 approached.15 otry of the majority destroyed their healthy Although much of the research on owner- community, the residents worked together andship of all property in North Tulsa may not be rebuilt. Not only did they rebuild, they againde fin i tive, the char ac ter of the Green wood area successfully ran their businesses, schooled theircan be deciphered before and after the riot. A children, and worshiped at their magnificentthriving area of the town of Tulsa where the churches in the shadow of a growing Ku Kluxmajority of the business district was owned Klan in Oklahoma and continuing legal racialand managed by the African American resi- separatism for more than forty years. In fact, onedents, Green wood also con tained a di verse res- of the largest Ku Klux Klan buildings, not onlyi den tial area. But, there were ex ten sive in the state, but the country stood within a short walking distance of their community.17 149
    • (Cour tesy Oklahoma His tor i cal So ci ety). Endnotes 1 Bureau of the Census, 1920. 2 Scott Ellsworth, Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana StateUni ver sity Press. 1982).Tulsa City Di rec tories for 1920-1923 (Tulsa: Polk-Hoffhine Di rec tory Com pany, 1920-1923). 3 Ibid., p. 72. 4 Records of Commission Proceedings, City of Tulsa, September 2, 1921. J.W. Megee’s pawnshop received$3,994.57 for guns and ammunition taken from the store during the riot. 5 Court cases vs. the City of Tulsa and var i ous in sur ance com pa nies. Al though the pu ni tive dam ages were claimed inmany of these cases, for this purpose only actual damage was tallied. 6 Dismissal records from court cases filed. 7 Motley vs. Mechanics and Traders Insurance Company, Case No. 23404 Tulsa Country District Court (1937) 8 Avery, Ruth Sigler, “Cyrus Stevens Avery,” Chronicles of Oklahoma, 45 (Spring 1967), pp 84-91. 9 Tulsa City Directory, 1921 (Tulsa: Polk-Hoffhine Directory Company, 1921) 10 Comparing the 1920 to the 1922 Tulsa City Directories. 11 Tulsa City Directories, Tulsa County Court cases, etc. 12 Tulsa City Directories, Court Cases, Deed Records, etc. 13 Building permits garnished from The Tulsa Daily Legal News, 1921-1922. 14 Ellsworth, Death in a Promised Land, pp. 84-89. 15 Ibid., p. 90. 16 <http://www/jsc.nasa.gov/bu2/inflateCPIhtm>. The CPI in fla tion cal cu la tor is for ad just ing costs from one year toanother using the Con sumer Price In dex in fla tion in dex. The cal cu la tor is based on the average inflation index duringthe cal en dar year. The CPI rep re sents changes in prices of all goods and ser vices pur chased for consumption by urbanhousehold. User fees and sales and excise taxes paid by the con sumer are also in cluded. In come taxes and investmentitems (like stocks, bonds and life insurance) are not included. 17 Carter Blue Clark, “A His tory of the Ku Klux Klan in Oklahoma” (Ph.D, diss., Uni ver sity of Oklahoma, 1976), p. 71. 150
    • The William’s Dreamland Theaterbefore the riot, destruction after theriot, rebuilding process, and openedafter the riot (All Photos CourtesyGreenwood Cultural Center). 151
    • On June 7, 1921, the Tulsa City Com mis sion passed a fire or di nance whose real pur pose was to prevent black Tulsans from rebuilding the Greenwood commercial district whre it had pre vi ously stood. Af ri can Amer i can at tor ney B. C. Frank lin, shown at right, helped the legal ef fort that was suc cess ful in over turn ing the or di nance (Cour tesy Tulsa His tor i cal So ciety). Assessing State and City Culpability: The Riot and the LawBy Alfred L. Brophy The Tulsa riot represented the breakdown of draws largely upon testimony in the Oklahomathe rule of law.1 As Bishop Mouzon told the Supreme Court’s 1926 opinion in Redfearn v.congregation of the city’s Boston Avenue American Central Insurance Company to por -Methodist Church just after the riot, “Civiliza- tray the events of the riot. Then it explores thetion broke down in Tulsa.” I do not attempt to attempts of Greenwood residents and otherplace the blame, the mob spirit broke and hell Tulsans who owned property in Greenwood towas let loose. Then things happened that were obtain relief from insurance companies and theon a footing with what the Germans did in Bel- city after the riot.gium, what the Turks did in Armenia, what the Investigating Tulsa’s Culpability in the RiotBolshevists did in Russia.2 That breakdown of This section summarizes the evidence of thelaw is central to understanding the riot, the re- city’s culpability in the riot. It emphasizes thatsponse afterwards, and the decision over what, Tulsa failed to take action to protect against theif anything, should be done now. riot. More important, city officials deputized This essay assesses the culpability of the men right after the riot broke out. Some of thosecity and the state of Oklahoma during the riot, deputies — probably in conjunction with somequestions that are of continuing importance to- uniformed police — officers were responsibleday. This essay begins by reviewing the chro- for some of the burning of Greenwood. Afternology of the riot, paying particular attention the riot, the city took fur ther ac tion to pre vent re-to the actions of governmental officials. It building by passing a zoning ordinance that re- 153
    • Green wood Busi ness Dis trict dev as tated by the race riot (West ern his tory Col lec tion, Uni versity of Oklahoma Libraries).quired the use of fire proof ma te rial in Important details of the riot are recorded inrebuilding. several contemporary accounts. The 1926 4 “The Riot” opinion of the Oklahoma Supreme Court in Redfearn v. American Central Insurance Com- Questions of Interpretation and Sources pany, the least biased of the contemporaneous In reconstructing the historical record of the “official” reports of the riot, demonstrates the1921 Tulsa Race Riot, there are difficulties in close connection between Tulsa’s special policeinterpretation. Questions ranging from general and the riot.5 It culminated a two year suit byissues such as the motive of Tulsa rioters and William Redfearn, a white man who owned twowas a riot inevitable given the context of vio- buildings in Greenwood: the Dixie Theatre andlence and racial tension in 1920s Tulsa to spe- the Red Wing Hotel. Redfearn lost both build -cific issues such as whether Dick Rowland ings, both were insured for a total of $19,000.would have been lynched had some black The American Central Insurance Company re -Tulsans not appeared at the courthouse, the na- fused payment on either building, citing a riotture of instructions the police gave to their dep- exclusion clause in the policies. Redfearn suedu ties, and how many people died can be on the policy and the case was tried in April,answered with varying degrees of certainty.3 1924. The insurance company claimed that theThe record establishes with about as much cer- property was destroyed by riot and the judge di-tainty as on any issue related to the riot that rected a verdict for the defendant at the conclu-“special” deputy police officers were deeply sion of the trial. During the trial and subsequentinvolved in the burning of Greenwood. Con - appeal, Redfearn and the insurance companytemporaneous reports establish the shameful advanced competing stories about the riot. Theirrecord of the hastily deputized police. briefs present one of the most complete stories Looking for Evidence: The Official of the riot now available.6 They also capture the Investigations uncertainty of facts and outcome that is central to a true understanding of history. For we have 154
    • Cu ri os ity reigned as whites toured the de stroyed Green wood dis trict af ter the riot (Cour tesy West ern His- tory Collection, Uni ver sity Of Oklahoma Li braries).the written, neatly stylized version of “ancient teen-year-old Dick Rowland had assaulted sev-myth” and the other unwritten, chaotic, full of enteen-year-old Sarah Page, a white elevatorcontradictions, changes of pace, and surprises operator.8 Sometime around 4:00 p.m. to 5:00as life itself.7 As we try to re cover the un writ ten p.m. and certainly by 6:30 p.m., rumors thathistory, Redfearn’s hundreds of pages of testi- Dick Rowland would be lynched that eveningmony are indispensable. It may no longer be cir cu lated in the Green wood com mu nity.9possible to think of the events put in motion by Greenwood residents were becoming more anx-the Tulsa Tribune’s story on Rowland having ious as the evening wore on. William Gurley,any other outcome. However, it is necessary to owner of the Gurley Hotel in Greenwood andunderstand the contingencies, to put ourselves one of the wealthiest blacks in Tulsa, went withback in the events as they were occurring, and Mr. Webb to the courthouse to investigate theto understand how forces came together in the rumored lynching. The sheriff told him “thereriot. We now know the broad contours of the would be no lynching; if the witness could keepriot, but the testimony fills in gaps in specific his folks away from the courthouse there would-areas and recovers the chaotic, fearful envi- n’t be any trouble.” Gurley then went back to re-ronment in which black and white Tulsans port his conversation with the sheriff to thestruggled to prevent violence, even as strong crowd gathered outside his hotel. The crowdforces, like the ideas of equality and enforce- was skeptical. “You are a damn liar,” said onement of the law against mob violence clashed person. “They had taken a white man out of jail awith white views of the place that blacks few weeks before that, and that they were goingshould occupy. The following account is to take this Negro out.” At that point the speakerdrawn from those briefs and is supplemented “pointed a Winchester at [Gurley], and waswith contemporary newspaper stories. stopped by a Negro lawyer named Spears.”10 Evolution of the Riot At approximately 9:00 p.m., the situation was As best as we can now de ter mine, a crowd of be com ing more heated. William Redfearn,whites began gathering at the Tulsa County owner of a theater testified:courthouse in the early evening on Tuesday, that he closed his business about 9:00May 31. They were drawn there at least in part p.m. or 9:30 p.m. on the evening of May 31.by a newspaper story implying that nine- He closed it because a colored girl came 155
    • into the theatre and was going from one closed up shop around 10:30 p.m. His car had person to another, telling them something, been com man deered by blacks and he was taken and he looked out into the street and saw back towards the courthouse by a black man. As several men in the street talking and he passed the courthouse, he was told he “had bunched up. Upon inquiry as to what was better get on home to his family, if he had one, or wrong, someone said there was going to else get some arms, for the thing was coming be a lynching and that was the reason they on.”16 The police department’s reaction to the had come over there. 11 events ”coming on" was to commission hun- Redfearn went to the courthouse, where dreds of white men.17someone asked him to go back to Greenwood, One of the best descriptions of the unfoldingto try to dis suade the black res i dents from com- of events came from Columbus F. Gabe, a blacking to town. Despite Redfearn’s efforts, he was man who lived in Greenwood for about 15unsuccessful. When he returned, “there was a years. His testimony at the Redfearn trial pre -bunch of men standing in front of the police serves the unfolding of the entire riot and thusstation and across the street when he arrived at allows us to reconstruct a picture through a sin-that place; that there was probably fifty or gle character. He first heard about the lynchingsixty men in front of the police station.12 The around 6:30 p.m. He went home to pick up apolice chief attempted to persuade the blacks gun, and then he went to the courthouse. Whento disperse. Gurley told the court about the un- Gabe arrived at the courthouse, there were per-stable scene at the courthouse: haps about 800 people there and tensions were already running high. Some peo ple were yell ing That some white man was making a to “Get these niggers away from here.” Mean - speech and advised the people to go home, while, Gabe was told by a carload of blacks to stat ing that the Ne groes were rid ing arm himself. Whites were going to the armory to around with high powered revolvers and arm themselves and several carloads of armed guns downtown; that the speech had some blacks headed to wards the court house. Gabe left effect and the crowd started to disperse, the courthouse area, but was still within earshot but would soon come back; that while this when the gun that began the riot went off. The man was speaking the witness noticed next morning, he was ousted from his house by “some colored men coming from Main two men. One said to the other, “Kill him,” and street; that when the machine was up in the other said, “No, he hasn’t a gun, don’t hurt front of the courthouse, the people there him,” and said, “Get on up with the crowd.” He closed in around that bunch of men, and was then taken to the Convention Center. 18 that when they got mixed up a pistol went Barney Cleaver, a black member of the Tulsa off, but the crowd soon dispersed, and he Sheriffs Department, presented similar testi- didn’t know whether anyone was killed or mony about the way the forces gathered mo - not.13 men tum around the riot. He was po lic ing Shooting started after the confrontation.14 Greenwood Avenue when he heard rumors of a After the shooting, “hell . . . broke loose,” as lynching, so he drove up to the courthouse. Ac-O.W. Gur ley told Wil liam Redfearn when they cording to Cleaver, as the blacks were dispers-met that night.15 The record is not as clear on ing, a gun fired and then people began to runwhat happened immediately after the initial away. He stayed at the courthouse until aboutshooting. White witnesses were likely reluc- four o’clock the next morning and then hetant to testify and few blacks witnessed the headed back to Greenwood, where he met aboutnext events around the courthouse. 15 or 20 black men. He told the group that no The mob broke into Bardon’s pawnshop, one had been lynched and that they should golooking for guns. Henry Sowders, a white man home. Someone then “made the remark that hewho operated the movie projector in the Wil - was a white man lover.”19liams’ Dreamland Theater in Greenwood, 156
    • On the morn ing of June 1, most black Tulsans who were taken into cus tody were brought to Con vention Hall, on Brady Street. Later, de ten tionar eas were es tab lished at the fair grounds and McNulty ball park (Cour tesy West ern His tory Collection,Universityof Oklahoma Li braries). The next morn ing, a whis tle blew about 5:00 The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s opinion ina.m., and the invasion of Greenwood began. Redfearn, written by Commissioner Ray, ac-Gurley left his hotel around 8:30 a.m., because knowledges the city’s involvement in the riot.he became worried that it might burn and as The court wrote that “the evidence shows that awhite rioters appeared. Gurley stated, great number of men engaged in arresting the “Those were white men, they was wear - Negroes found in the Negro section wore police ing khaki suits, all of them, and they saw, badges or badges indicating they were deputy me standing there and they said, ‘You sheriffs.” It questions, however, whether the better get out of that hotel because we are ”men wearing police badges" were officers or going to burn all of this Goddamn stuff, were “acting in an official capacity.21 That better get all your guests out.’ And they rat- state ment in di cates Com mis sioner Ray’s tled on the lower doors of the pool hall and pro-police bias. The case was appealed from a the res tau rant, and the peo ple be gan on the directed ver dict against Redfearn, that meant the lower floor to get out, and I told the people trial judge concluded there was no evidence in the hotel, I said ‘I guess you better get from which a jury could conclude that the men out.’ There was a deal of shooting going wear ing badges were of fi cers. Yet, cases in volv- on from the elevator or the mill, somebody ing resisting arrest routinely conclude that a po- was over there with a machine gun and lice badge indicates one’s authority to arrest. shooting down Greenwood Avenue, and Simply put, if one of the blacks involved in the the people got on the stairway going down riot resisted one of the men wearing a badge, he to the street and they stampeded. ”20 could have been prosecuted for resisting arrest. Commissioner Ray could have insulated the in- Gurley hid under a school building for a surance company from liability with the state -while. When he came out, he was detained and ment that, even assuming the men wearingtaken to the Convention Center. badges were police officers, they were actingThe Oklahoma a Supreme Court’s Version beyond their authority and were thus acting as of the Riot 157
    • Af ri can Amer i cans were de- tained by many different white’s, not only the police or National Guard (Cour- tesy Department of Special Collections, McFarlin Li- brary, Uni ver sity of Tulsa).rioters. Ray’s inconsistency in applying prece- wore badges and started fires.26 Green Smith, adent suggests that his motive was not a solely black carpenter who lived in Muskogee and was inimpartial decision of the case before him, but Tulsa for a few days working on the Dreamlandthe insulation of the police department and Theater installing a cooling system, testified to theTulsa from liability. role of the special police during the riot. He awoke There is substantial testimony in Redfearn’s before 5:00 a.m. and went to work at the theater,brief, moreover, demonstrating a close con - but soon heard shooting. The shooting was heavynection between the “police deputies” and the from 5:00 a.m. until around 8:00 a.m., and then itPolice Chief Fire Marshal, Wesley Bush, let up. But by 9:30, “there was a gang came downstated that when he arrived at the police station the street knocking on the doors and setting thesometime after 10:00 p.m., buildings afire.” Smith thought they were police. the station was practically full of peo - In response to a cross-examination question, how ple, and that the people were armed; that he could know they were police, Smith testified, there would be bunches of men go out of “They came and taken fifty dollars of money, and the police station, but he didn’t know I was looking right at them.”27 He saw a gang of where they would go; that they would about ten to twelve wearing “Special Police” and leave the police station and go out, and “Deputy Sheriff’ badges. ”Some had ribbons and come back - they were out and in, all of some of them had regular stars.”28 Smith was ar- them, that they were in squads, several of rested and taken to the Convention Center. them together.22 The insurance company’s brief presents The instructions those special deputies re- a different story, one that blames Tulsaceived are unclear. According to pleadings in a blacks. But perhaps most telling is the insur-suit filed by a black riot victim, one deputy offi- ance company’s argument at the end of thecer gave instructions to “Go out and kill you a brief, in which the insurance company wasd__m nigger.”23 Another allegation was that the arguing that there was a riot and, therefore,mayor gave instructions to ”burn every Negro they did not have to pay for the losses.house up to Haskell Street."24 Other contempo- There were from a few hundred to severalrary reports contain similar allegations.25 thousand people engaged in the Tulsa race Whether they received instructions to “ru[n] riot. They met at different places includingthe Negro out of Tulsa,” as one of the photos of the courthouse, Greenwood Avenue, thethe riot was captioned or not, many of the rioters hardware store, and the pawn shop. They fully armed themselves with guns and am - 158
    • (Photo Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society). munition, with a common intent to exe- They became as deputies the most danger- c u t e a c o m m o n plan, to-wit: the ous part of the mob and after the arrival of extermination of the colored people of the adjutant general and the declaration of Tulsa and the destruction of the colored set- martial law the first arrests ordered were tlement, homes, and buildings, by fire.29 those of special officers whohad hindered Apportioning Blame to the City the fire men in their abortive efforts to put Whatever interpretation one places on the out the incendiary fires that many of theseorigin of the riot, there seems to be a consensus special officers were accused of setting.30emerging from historians that the riot was Several other white men testified about themuch worse because of the actions of Tulsa of- role of the police. Ac cord ing to tes ti mony foundficials. Major General Charles F. Barrett, who in the Oklahoma Attorney General’s papers, awas in charge of the Oklahoma National Guard bricklayer, Laurel Buck, testified that after theduring the riot and thus was a participant in the riot broke out he went to the police station andclosing moments of the riot, wrote in his book asked for a commission. He did not receive it,Oklahoma After Fifty Years about the role of but he was instructed to “get a gun, and get busythe deputies in fueling the riot. The police and try to get a nigger.”31 Buck went to thechief had deputized perhaps 500 men to help Tulsa Hardware Store, where he received a gun.put down the riot. Like many other men, Buck was issued a He did not realize that in a race war a weapon by Tulsa officials. Buck then stood large part if not a ma jor ity, of those spe cial guard at Boston and Third. In the words of the deputies were imbued with the same spirit lawyer who questioned Buck, he ”went to get a of destruction that animated the mob. Negro." By that he meant that, if be had seen a 159
    • black man shooting at white people he would The record from the testimony of crediblehave “tried to kill him.” He was “out to protect whites before the attorney general and in thethe lives of white people . . . under specific or- Redfearn case, in conjunction with Generalders from a policeman at the police depart- Barrett’s book, demonstrate the involvement ofment.” And the only reason Buck did not kill the city in the destruction.any blacks was that he did not see any. The State Culpability: The Divided (andnext morning he went near Greenwood, where Ambiguous) Roles of the National Guardhe saw two uni formed po lice of fi cers break ing During the opening moments of the crisis, theinto buildings and setting them afire. 32 local units of the National Guard behaved admi- Another witness, Judge Oliphant, linked the rably. They defended the armory against apolice and their special deputies to burning, crowd of gun-hungry whites, then offered theireven mur der. The sev enty-three-year old assistance to the police in putting down the riot.Oliphant went to Greenwood to check on his However, it is precisely that offer of assistancerental property there. He called the police de- and their subsequent cooperation with the Tulsapartment around eight o’clock and asked for police that calls their behavior into question.help protecting his homes.33 No assistance There also is substantial evidence that thecame, but shortly after his call, a gang of men out-of-town units of the National Guard — those— four uniformed officers and some deputies who had traveled throughout the night from— came along. Instead of protecting property, Oklahoma City — helped restore order when“they were the chief fellows setting fires.”34 they arrived around 9:00 am on the morning ofThey shot Dr. A.C. Jackson and then began June 1. They deserve some of the credit for limit-burning houses.35 ing the loss of life caused by the white mobs that Oliphant tried to dissuade them from burn- invaded Greenwood. Nevertheless, the localing. “This last crowd made an agreement that units of the National Guard may have acted un -they would not burn that property [across the constitutionally in restoring order. The guards -street from my property] because I thought it men arrested every black resident of Tulsa theywould burn mine too and I promised that if could find and then took them into “protectivethey wouldn’t, . . . I would see that no Negroes custody.” That left Greenwood property unpro-ever lived in that row of houses any more.”36(Courtesy Department of Spe cial Col lec tions, McFarlin Li brary, Uni ver sity Of Tulsa). 160
    • tected -and vulnerable to the “special deputies” to the court house un til they re ceived or ders fromwho came along and burned it. Lieutenant Colonel Rooney, the officer in The key questions then become, what was charge of the Tulsa units of the National Guard.the role of the local units of the National Guard Van Voorhis arrived after the riot had brokenthat were present in Tulsa even before the riot out at 10:30 p.m., with two officers and sixteenbroke out and were there throughout the riot? men. They went to the police station, whereWhat was the role of the out-of-town units of they apparently began working in conjunctionthe Na tional Guard that ar rived from with the police. At 1: 15 a.m. they “produced” aOklahoma City around 9:00 a.m. the morning machine gun and placed it on a truck, along withof June 1? three experienced machine gunners and six The local units knew that there was trouble other enlisted men. They then traveled aroundbrewing in the early evening of May 31. They the city to spots where “there was firing” untilclosely guarded their supply of ammunition 3:00 a.m., when Colonel Rooney ordered themand guns and waited orders from the governor to Stand Pipe Hill. At that point, Rooney de -about what to do next. Sometime after 10:00 ployed the men along Detroit Avenue, fromp.m., following the violent confrontation at the Stand Pipe Hill to Archer, where they workedcourthouse, the local units, under the direction “disarming and arresting Negroes and sendingof Colonel Rooney, went into action and trav- them to the Convention Hall by police cars andeled the few blocks from the armory to the po- trucks.”38 Van Voorhis’s report details the cap-lice sta t i o n , where they es tab lished ture of more than 200 “pris on ers.” Vanheadquarters. The soldiers helped to stop loot- Voorhis’s men were able to disarm and captureing near the courthouse.37 They then began those Greenwood residents without much gun -working in conjunction with local authorities fire. It appears that his men killed no one.to try to quell the riot. There was consideration Captain McCuen’s men, however, did firegiven to protecting Greenwood by keeping upon a number of Greenwood residents in thewhite mobs out. But such a plan was aban - process of responding to what the local units ofdoned in favor of another, which had disas- the Guard called a “Negro uprising.” Sometimetrous consequences for Greenwood. The local after 11:00 p.m., McCuen brought 20 men to theunits of the Guard systematically dis armed and po lice sta tion, where Col o nel Rooney had set uparrested Greenwood residents, leaving their headquarters. They guarded the border betweenproperty defenseless. When the “special depu- white Tulsa and Greenwood for several hours.ties” came along in the wake of the Guard, it Then they began moving towards Greenwoodwas a sim ple task to burn Green wood prop erty. and established a line along Detroit, on the west After-Action Reports: The Testimony of side of Greenwood. They began pushing into the Local Units of the National Guard Greenwood, using a truck with an old (and The National Guard’s after-action reports likely inoperable machine gun on it), probablydescribe their role in the riot using their own around 3:00 a.m. McCuen’s men, like Vanwords. Two reports in particular suggest that Voorhis’s, were working in close conjunctionthe local units of the Guard — while ostensi- with the Tulsa police. They arrested a “largebly operating to protect the lives and property number” of Greenwood residents and turnedof Greenwood residents — disarmed and ar - them over to the “police department automo-rested Greenwood residents (and not white ri - biles,” that were close by “at all times." Thoseoters), leaving their property defense less, cars “were manned by ex-service men, and inallowing deputies, uniformed police officers, many cases plain-clothes men of the police de-and mobs to burn it. partment.”39 The close connection between the According to the report filed by Captain local units of the National Guard and the policeFrankVan Voorhis, the police called around department is not surprising. Major Daley, for8:30 p.m. to ask for help in controlling the instance, was also a police officer.40 The Guardcrowds at the courthouse. No guardsmen went established its headquarters at the police station 161
    • .41 The local units were instructed to follow the followed shortly afterwards. In essence, thedirections of the civilian authorities. 42 Once guardsmen facilitated the destruction of Green-they went into operation, the local units took wood because they removed residents who hadcharge of a large number of volunteers, many no desire to leave and appeared more than capa-of whom were American Legion members and ble of defending themselves. While the af-veterans of the war. 43 ter-action reports are sparse, they create a Some may argue that the Guard was taking pic ture of the lo cal units of the Guard work ing inGreenwood residents into protective custody. In- close con junc tion with the lo cal ci vil ian au thor i-deed, the local units of the National Guard told ties to disarm and arrest Greenwood res i dents. Itthe men they were disarming, and they were was those same civilian authorities who werethere to protect them.44 Nevertheless, the af- later criticized for burning, looting, and killingter-action reports suggest that the Guard’s work in Greenwood.in conjunction with local authorities was de- Colonel Rooney, who was in charge of the lo-signed to put down the supposed “Negro upris- cal units of the Guard, admitted that the Guarding,” not to protect the Greenwood residents.45 fired upon Greenwood residents. However, he McCuen’s men did not seem to be working claimed that his men only fired when firedto protect blacks. In fact, after daylight he re - upon.47 Rooney’s men were lined up facing intoceived an urgent request from the police de - Greenwood and they positioned to protect whitepartment to stop blacks from firing into white property and lives. When the Guard heard thathomes along Sunset Hill, located on the north- blacks were firing upon whites, they moved intowest side of Greenwood. “We advanced to the po si tion to stop the fir ing. When the Tulsa policecrest of Sun set Hill in a skir mish line and then a thought that five hundred black men were com-little further north to the military crest of the ing from Muskogee, they put a ma chine gun crewhill where our men were ordered to lie down on the road from Muskogee with orders to stop atbecause of the intense fire of the blacks who the invasion “at all hazards.”48 When Colonelhad formed a good skirmish line at the foot of Rooney heard a rumor that the five hun dred blackthe hill to the northeast among the outbuild- men had commandeered a train in Muskogee, heings of the Negro settlement which stops at the went off to organize a patrol to meet it at the sta-foot of the hill.” The guardsmen fired at will tion.49 Yet, in contrast, when whites were firingfor nearly half an hour and then the Green - upon blacks who were in the Guard’s custody,wood residents began falling back, “getting they re sponded by hur ry ing the pris on ers along atgood cover among the frame buildings of the a faster pace. The Guard seems to have been toone gro settlement.” As the guards men ad- busy working in conjunction with civilian au-vanced, they continued to meet stiff opposi- thorities arresting Greenwood residents, or tootion from some “negroes who had barricaded preoccupied putting down the ”Negro uprising"themselves in houses.” According to McCuen, to protect Greenwood property.the men who were barricaded “refused to stop McCuen con cluded that “all firing” hadfiring and had to be killed.” It is unclear how ceased by 11:00 a.m. The reason for the end ofmany they killed. Later, at the northeast corner the fighting was not that the Guard had suc-of the settlement, “ Ten or more negroes barri- ceeded in bringing the white rioters under con-caded themselves in a concrete store and a trol. Rather, it was that the Greenwood residentsdwelling.” The guardsmen fought along side had been arrested or driven out. “Practically allcivilians, and at this point, some blacks and of the Negro men had retreated to the northeastwhites were killed.46 or elsewhere or had been disarmed and sent to As the guardsmen were advancing, fires ap- concentration points.”50peared all over Greenwood. Apparently, the Interpreting the Local Units’ Actionswhite mobs followed closely after the guards- There re mains the ques tion of how onemen as they swept through Greenwood disarm- should interpret the actions of the Nationaling and arresting the residents. They fires Guard’s local units. Individuals appear to have 162
    • been ar rested based on race. Some have argued them protection, as well as see that theirthat the Guard took Greenwood residents into prop erty was saved . . .. When they returnedprotective custody and that they protected to what were once their places of businesslives by doing so. There were simply too few or homes, with hopes built upon the prom -guardsmen to protect all of Greenwood from ises of the Home Guards, how keen wasinvasion by white mobs.51 So the question be- their disappointment to find all of theircomes, is it permissible to draw such distinc- earthly possessions in ashes or stolen.52tions based on race in time of crisis? Was it Parrish’s account testifies to the be liefconstitutionally permissible to arrest (or take among Greenwood residents that the localinto protective custody) Greenwood residents? troops were culpable and the out-of-town unitsDid the local units of the National Guard be - were responsible for ending the riot, or at leasthave properly? Mary Jones Parrish captured for restoring order afterwards.the frustration of Greenwood residents after While in ex tremely rare in stances it is per mis-the riot: sible for the government to draw invidious dis- It is the general belief that if [the state tinctions based solely on race,53 such action troops from Oklahoma City] had reached must be narrowly tailored. In 1921, the Su- the scene sooner many lives and valuable preme Court recognized that it was inappropri- property would have been saved. Just as ate for the government (as opposed to private praise for the State troops was on every individuals) to segregate on the basis of race.54 tongue, so was denunciation of the Home The reports of the Guard units based in Tulsa ac- Guards on ev ery lip. Many stated that they knowl edge that they ar rested many blacks, be gin- [the local guard] fooled [the residents] out ning as early as 6:30 a.m. on June 1.55 At that of their homes on a promise that if they point, much of Greenwood was still intact. It is would give up peacefully they would give likely that had the local units not arrested those 163
    • residents, their homes would not have been va- safety. In rejecting the argument, the Unitedcant and they might not have been burned. In es- States Supreme Court observed that communitysence the Guard created the danger when they hostility might be a serious problem, but it re -took Greenwood residents into custody. fused to per mit con tin ued de ten tion on that ba sis Much of the United States Supreme Court’s once loyalty was demonstrated.63law on racial arrests arises out of World War The most important-and most heavily criti-II. Three cases in particular address the consti- cized case of the trilogy was Korematsu, whichtutionality of drawing distinctions based on upheld the forced relocation of Japanese Ameri-race: Hirabayashi v. United States, 56 decided cans. The court upheld the relocation, with thein June 1943, and Korematsu v. United bold contention that “when under conditions ofStates.57 and Ex Parte Endo, 58 decided on the modern warfare our shores are threatened bysame day in December 1944. They all ad- hostile forces, the power to pro tect must be com-dressed the legality of the United States laws mensurate with the threatened danger.”64 Theregarding Japanese Americans. Hirabayashi, majority opinion acknowledged that the major-the first of the race cases to reach the United ity of those interned were loyal.65 We now rec-States Supreme Court, addressed the constitu- ognize the decision as improper. Indeed, thetionality of a curfew imposed on Americans of Civil Rights Act of 1988, that provided $20,000Japanese ancestry living in Hawaii. A majority compensation to each Japanese American per -of the court upheld the racially discriminatory son interned during World War II was premisedcurfew. One concurring justice observed that on the belief that Korematsu and the relocation“where the peril is great and the time is short, that it upheld was wrong. The act apologized fortemporary treatment on a group basis may be the relocation and internment and providedthe only practicable expedient whatever the ul- some compensation for those affected.ti mate per cent age of those who are de tained for Jus tice Rob erts’ dis sent ing opin ion incause.”59 The concurring opinions were care- Korematsu, argued that the relocation was un -ful to note that distinctions based on race were constitutional, and recognized that citizensextraordinarily difficult to justify. They went might occasionally be taken into protective cus-“to the brink of constitutional power.”60 While tody. At other times, the government can, Rob-arrests might be justified upon a showing of erts ac knowl edged, “ex c l u d e cit i z e n simmediate harm, they had to be justified. “De- temporarily from a locality.” For example, ittention for reasonable cause is one thing. De- may exclude citizens from a fire zone.66 But thetention on account of ancestry is another,” internments went beyond limited exclusion forJustice William O. Douglas wrote.61 Justice the protection of the people excluded and soMurphy’s con cur rence fur ther lim ited the gov- Roberts thought them improper. Korematsu in-ernment’s power to detain American citizens volved internment “based on his ancestry, andwithout any showing that they posed a solely because of his ancestry, without evidencethreat. 62 or inquiry concerning his loyalty. . ..”67 While the Supreme Court unanimously up- The evidence seems to establish that the localheld a curfew imposed upon American citi- units of the National Guard, in conjunction withzens on the basis of race, in two cases decided police deputies, arrested based on race, not onthe next year, some justices voted against con- danger to the Greenwood residents themselves.tinued distinctions based on race. In Ex Parte The fear of Tulsa’s police force was that theEndo, Mitsuye Endo, an American citizen Greenwood residents were engaged in an upris-whose loy alty to the United States was unques- ing. Their response was to disarm and arrest, intioned, challenged her continued detention in a some cases taking life to do so. That behavior isrelocation camp. The United States sought to suspect even under the majority’s opinion injustify the detention on the ground that there Koremastsu. Under Justice Roberts’s dissent,were community sentiments against her and the actions of the local units of the Nationalthat, in essence, she was detained for her own Guard are even more suspect. There is one other 164
    • precedent that is important in interpreting the account of Van B. Hurley, who was identifiedNational Guard’s actions: the United States as a former Tulsa police officer, was printed inSupreme Court’s 1909 decision in Moyer v. the Chicago Defender in October 192 1. ThePeabody. 68 That case arose from a conflict be- account was circulated by Elisha Scot, an at -tween miners and mining companies in Colo- torney from Topeka, Kansas, who representedr a d o . T h e p r e s i d e n t o f t h e W e s t ern a number of riot victims. The Defender re-Federation of Miners was arrested by the Na- ported that Hurley, “who was honorably dis -tional Guard and detained for several weeks, charged from the force and given splendideven though there ‘was no probable cause to recommendations by his captains and lieuten-arrest him. Simply put, he had committed no ants,” named city officials who planned the at-crime. Colorado’s governor explained that tack on Greenwood using airplanes. Hurleythere was an insurrection and that he had to ar- described “the conference between local avia-rest Moyer and detain him to put down the in- tors and the officials. Af ter this meet ing Hurleysur rec tion. 6 9 Jus tice Holmes gave the asserted the airplanes darted out from hangarsNational Guard, acting under the governor’s and hovered over the district dropping nitro-orders, broad power to arrest in order to put glyc erin on buildings, setting them afire.”down an insurrection. Holmes refused to al- Hurley said the officials told their deputies tolow a suit against the gov er nor for de pri va tion deal aggressively with Greenwood residents.of constitutional rights, as long as the gover- “They gave instructions for every man to benor had a good faith belief that the arrest was ready and on the alert and if the niggers wanted tonecessary. It is easier, though, to classify the start anything to be ready for them. They neverarrest of one person in Moyer, as justified, put forth any efforts at all to prevent it whatever,than the wholesale arrest of Greenwood resi - and said if they started anything to kill every b_dents. Moyer supported limited arrests to stop son of a b_ they could find.”73 Hurley’s accountinsurrections. The local units of the National is somewhat suspect, but it fits with LaurelGuard, in conjunction with deputized Tulsa Buck’s testimony that the police told whitepolice officers, arrested thousands. In the pro- Tulsans to “get out and get a nigger.”cess — according to their own reports—they At a minimum, there was substantial planningkilled an unspecified number of blacks. Such by the police for the systematic arrest and deten-actions are difficult to defend even applying tion of Greenwood residents. Fire Marshal Wes-the legal standards of the times. ley Bush reported that he saw armed men Newspaper Accounts of the Official coming and going from the police station all eve- Involvement in the Riot ning.74 The Tulsa Tribune re ported that there had The accounts of the riot as it was unfolding been plans to take Greenwood residents toin the Tulsa World show the coordination of the Convention Center. It is very difficult atthe police, National Guard, and white citi - this point to reconstruct the instructions fromzens. Some white men were working to arrest the mayor and police chief to the dep u ties. That“every Negro seen on the streets.” Many of difficulty arises in large part because the citythose people had at a minimum volunteered refused to allow a serious investigation of thetheir services to the police. 70 “Armed guards riot. There are, however, a substantial numberwere placed in cars and sent out on patrol of reports of those instructions and the patternduty. Companies of about 50 men each were of destruction certainly fits with those reports.organized and marched through the business Quite simply, it is difficult to explain the sys-streets.”71 As the Tulsa World stated in an ed- tematic arrest of blacks, the destruction of theiritorial on June 2, “Semi-organized bands of property, and the timing of the invasion ofwhite men systematically applied the torch Greenwood without relying upon some coordi-while others shot on sight men of color.”72 nation by the Tulsa city government, with the The black press presented starker pictures assistance of the local units of the Nationalof official involvement in the destruction. An Guard.75 165
    • Many owners of destroyed property took ac tion against in sur ance com pa nies. Statutory Liability for City’s Failure to The Aftermath of the Riot: Of Prosecutions, Protect Lawsuits, and Ordinances Asking for rep a ra tions for the riot does not As Tulsans began to shift the rubble after there quire us to read our own mo ral ity back onto riot, they asked themselves how had such a trag-Tulsa at the early part of the century. Many edy oc curred, who was to blame, and how mightstates provided a rem edy for the city’s fail ure they rebuild. A grand jury investigated the riot’sto protect riot victims in the 1920s. At the causes and returned indictments against abouttime of the riot, for instance, Illinois had a seventy men, mostly blacks. The city re-zonedstatute providing a cause of action for dam - the burned district, to discourage rebuilding, asage done by riot when the local government Greenwood residents and whites who ownedfailed to protect against the rioters. The Il li- property in Greenwood filed lawsuits againstnois law pro vided that the mu nic i pal ity the city and their insurance companies. The law-where violence occurred was liable to the suits, filed by more than one-hundred peoplefamilies of “lynching” victims. It allowed who lost property, testify to the attempts madeclaims for wrongful death up to $5,000.76 by riot victims to use the law for relief, and itsThe Illinois courts construed “lynching” to failure to assist them, even after the governmentinclude deaths during race riots.77 If the riot had destroyed their property.had occurred in Il linois, there would have The Failure of Reparations Throughbeen a right to recover if the police failed to Lawsuitsprotect the victims. Tulsans knew about the Greenwood residents and property ownersstatutes in Illinois and Kansas. They even (both black and white), filed more than one-consulted an attorney from East Saint Louis hundred suits against their insurance compa-for help in understanding their legal liabil- nies, the city of Tulsa, and even Sinclair Oility.78 Company, that allegedly provided airplanes that were used in attacking Greenwood. Not one of 166
    • those suits was successful. One, filed by Wil - ply, a classic case of in ter preter’s ex treme bi asesliam Redfearn, a white man who owned a hotel coloring their vision of events.and a movie theater in Greenwood, went to The grand jury, which began work on June 7,trial and then on appeal to the Oklahoma Su - took testimony from dozens of white and blackpreme Court. Redfearn’s insurance company Tulsans. It operated within the framework es -denied liability, citing a riot exclusion clause. tablished by Tulsa District Judge Biddson. HeThe clause exempted the insurance company instructed the jurors to investigate the causes offrom liability for loss due to riot. the riot. Biddson feared that the spirit of law - The Oklahoma Supreme Court interpreted lessness was growing. The jurors’ conclusionsthe damage as due to riot-an understandable would be “marked indelibly upon the publicconclusion, and thereby immunized insurance mind” and would be important in deterring fu-companies from liability. 79 Following the fail- ture riots.83 It cast its net widely, looking at theure of Mr. Redfearn’s suit, none other went to riot as it unfolded as well as social conditions intrial. That is not surprising. It is difficult to see Tulsa more generally.how anyone could have prevailed in the wake The grand jury fixed the immediate cause ofof the Redfearn opinion. They lay fallow for the riot as the appearance “of a certain group ofyears and then were dismissed in 1937. colored men who appeared at the courthouse . . . The Grand Jury and the Failure of for the pur pose of pro tect ing . . . Dick Prosecutions Rowland.” From there it laid blame entirely on Just as the legal system had failed to provide those people who sought to defend Rowland’sa ve hi cle for re cov ery by Green wood res i dents life. It discounted rumors of lynching. “Thereand property owners, the legal system failed to was no mob spirit among the whites, no talk ofhold Tulsans criminally responsible for the lynching and no arms.”84reign of terror during the riot. The grand jury, Echoing the discussions of the riot in theconvened a few days after the riot, returned white Tulsa newspapers, the grand jury identi-about seventy in dictments. A few people, fied two remote causes of the riot which weremostly blacks, were held in jail. Others were “vital to the public interest.” Those causes werereleased on bond, pending their trials for riot- the “agitation among the Negroes of socialing. However, most of the cases were dis- equality” and the break down of law enforce-missed in Sep tem ber, 1921, when Dick ment. The agitation for social equality was theRowland’s case was dismissed. When Sarah first of the remote causes the jury discussed:Page failed to appear as the complaining wit- Certain propaganda and more or less agitationness, the district attorney dismissed his case.80 had been going on among the colored popula-Other dismissals soon followed .81 Apparently, tion for some time. This agitation resulted in theno one, black or white, served time in prison accumulation of firearms among the people andfor murder, larceny, or arson, although some the storage of quantities of ammunition, all ofpeople may have been held in custody pending which was accumulative in the minds of the Ne-dismissal of suits in the fall of 1921. gro which led them as a people to believe in The grand jury’s most notable action is not equal rights, social equality, and their ability tothe indictments that it returned but the white- demand the same.85wash it. engaged in. Their report, which was The Nation broke the grand jury’s code.published in its entirety in the Tulsa World un- Charges that blacks were radicals meant thatder the heading “Grand Jury Blames Negroes blacks were insufficiently obsequious. Theyfor Inciting Race Rioting: Whites Clearly Ex- asked for legal rights.onerated,”82 told a laughable story of black cul- Negroes were uncompromisingly denounc-pability for the riot. The report is an amazing ing of “Jim-Crow” cars, lynching, peonage; indocument, that demonstrates how evidence short, were asking that the Federal constitu-can be selectively interpreted. It is, quite sim- tional guar an tees of “life, lib erty, and the pur suit of happiness” be given regardless of color. The 167
    • Negroes of Tulsa and other Oklahoma cities fire ordinance to incorporate parts of Green-are pioneers; men and women who have dared, wood. That expansion made rebuilding in themen and women who have had the initiative burned district prohibitively expensive. The cityand the courage to pull up stakes in other presented two rationales: to expand the indus-less-favored states and face hardship in a trial area around the railroad yard and to furthernewer one for the sake of greater eventual separate the races.87progress. That type is ever less ready to submit The story of the zoning ordinance is one of theto insult. Those of the whites who seek to few tri umphs of the rule of law to emerge from themaintain the old white group control naturally riot. Greenwood residents who wanted to rebuilddo not relish seeing Negroes emancipating challenged the ordinance as a violation of propertythemselves from the old system.86 rights as well as on technical grounds. They first Such was the mind set of the grand jury that won a temporary restraining order on technicalthey thought ideas about racial equality were to grounds (that there had been insufficient noticeblame for the riot, instead of explaining why before the ordinance was passed). Then, follow-Greenwood residents felt it necessary to visit the ing re-promulgation of the ordinance, they won acourthouse. Thus, the grand jury recast its evi- permanent injunction, apparently on the groundsdence to fit its established prejudices. And as it that it would deprive the Greenwood propertydid that, as it confirmed white Tulsa’s myth that owners of their property rights if they were notthe blacks were to blame for the riot, it helped to permitted to rebuild.88remove the moral impetus to reparations. And so, hav ing won one court vic tory, Green- Preventing Rebuilding? wood residents were left to their own devices: Given the context of racial vi o lence and seg- free to rebuild their property, but without the di-re ga tion leg is la tion of Pro gres sive-era rect assistance from the city that was crucial toOklahoma, it makes sense that one of the city doing so. Now the question is whether the citygov ern ment’s first re sponses was to ex pand the and state wish to ac knowl edge that as a debt and to pay it?(Cour tesy West ern His tory Col lec tion, Uni ver sity of Oklahoma Li braries). 168
    • Endnotes 1 This brief report on “the riot and the law” is necessarily summary. For a fuller exploration of many of the issuesdiscussed here, see Alfred L. Brophy, “Reconstructing the Dreamland” (2000), available at 2 Black Agitators Blamed for Riot, Tulsa World, June 6, 1921. 3 There are seven key questions, which need answers in developing a clear picture of the riot: (1) How did Tulsa gofrom minor event in elevator to attempted lynching? (2) How did Tulsa go from confrontation at the courthouse to riot? (3) What was the role of the police? That question has several sub-parts: (a) How many were commissioned as deputies? (b) What instructions did police give the deputies? (c) How much planning was there for the attack on Greenwood? (4) What was the role of the mayor? (5) What was the role of the NationalGuard? (6) What motivated the changing of the fire ordinance and the rezoning of Greenwood to require building usingfireproof material? How was that resolved? (7) Was a riot inevitable? That question has several sub-parts: (a) Was there planning before the evening of May 31, to “run the Negro out of Tulsa,” as some alleged. See, e.g.,“The Tulsa Riots”, 22 The Crisis. pp. 114-16 July 1921. “Compare Public Welfare Board Vacated by Commission:Mayor in Statement on Race Trouble”, Tulsa Tribune, June 14, 1921 (reprinting Mayor T.D. Evans speech to CityCommission. June 14, 1921) “It is the judgment of many wise heads in Tulsa, based upon observation of a number ofyears that this uprising was inevitable. If that be true and this judgment had to come upon us, then I say it was goodgen er al ship to let the de struc tion come to that sec tion where the trou ble was hatched up, put in mo tion and where it hadits inception.” (b) Were racial tensions so great that there would have been a riot even without the attempted lynching of DickRowland? See Wal ter F. White, “The Erup tion of Tulsa”, The Na tion, pp. 909-910 (de tail ing el e ments of ra cial ten sionand lawlessness in Tulsa). See also: R. L. Jones," Blood and Oil", Survey 46, June 1921. On questions of historical interpretation, where the record is only imperfectly preserved, there are inevitableuncertainties. 4 221 Pacific Reporter p. 929 (1926). 5 The other “of fi cial” re ports, the grand jury re port and the fire mar shall’s re port, are lesshelp ful in re con struct ing theriot. The hast ily pre pared grand jury re port blamed Tulsa’s blacks for the riot. The grand jury report focused blame on“exaggerated ideas of equality.” See “Grand Jury Blames Negroes for Inciting Race Rioting: Whites ClearlyExonerated”, Tulsa World, June 26, 1921, pp. 1,8 (reprinting grand jury report). The grand jury report, for instance,de clared that the riot was the di rect re sult of “an ef fort on the part of a cer tain group of col ored men who ap peared at thecourt house . .. for the pur pose of pro tect ing . . . Dick Rowland....” Id. at 1. An in di rect cause of the riot was the “ag i ta tionamong the Ne groes” for ideas “of so cial equal ity.” Id. It is an ex traor di nary doc u ment, which il lus trates in vivid de tailhow an in ves ti ga tion can se lect ev i dence, re fuse to seek out al ter na tive tes ti mony, and then for mu late an in ter pre ta tionthat is remarkably biased in the story it creates. The fire marshal’s report cannot be located. There was another investigation, perhaps by a special city court ofin quiry. See “Hun dred to be Called in Probe”, Tulsa World, June 10, 1921. “With the for mal em pan el ing and swearingin of the grand jury Thursday morning the third investigation into the causes and placing or responsibility for the racerioting in Tulsa law week was begun.”; “Police Order Negro Porters Out of Hotels”, Tulsa Tribune, June 14, 1921.“This ac tion fol lows scath ing crit i cism of the sys tem that al lowed the Ne gro por ters to carry on their ne far i ous prac ticesof selling booze and soliciting for women of the underworld made . . . at the city’s court of inquiry held sev eral weeksago.” 6 Brief of Plain tiff in Er ror, Wil liam Redfearn, Plain tiff in Er ror v. Amer i can Cen tral In sur ance Com pany, 243 P 929(Okla. 1926), No. 15,851 [hereinafter Plaintiff’s Brief]. Of the previous his to ri ans of the riot, only Ellsworth has even men tioned Redfearn’s suit. See Ellsworth, supra note2, at 135, n. 57. No one has utilized the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s opinion or the briefs. 7 Ellison, “Going to the Ter ri tory”, in Ellison, Going to the Territory, p. 124 (1986). See also Brent Staples, ParallelTime: Growing Up in Black and White, 1994, (exploring ways that life unfolds and the ways that individuals andfamilies perceive, react to, and rewrite that history). Ellison’s essay spoke in terms similar to those employed byBernard Bailyn, whose widely read monograph on Thomas Hutchinson, the governor of Massachusetts on the eve of 169
    • the American Revolution, presented a sympathetic portrait of the Loyalist, in an effort to present a comprehensivepor trait of the com ing of Rev o lu tion. See Ber nard Bailyn, The Or deal of Thomas Hutch in son IX, 1974. One hopes thatthe Redfearn tes ti mony, when com bined with a care ful read ing of the other texts, will en able us to “embrace the wholeevent, see it from all sides.” Id. We might even see “the in es cap able bound aries of ac tion; the blind ness of the ac tors-ina word, the tragedy of the event.” Id. The competing narratives of the insurance company and Redfearn showed the ways that Tulsans interpreted whathappened dur ing the riot and the con clu sions they drew from those events. Cf. Ju dith L. Maute, Peevyhouse v. Gar landCoal and Mining Co. Revisited: The Ballad of Willie and Lucille, 89 NW. U. L. REV. 1341, 1995, (ex plor ing in de tailthe background to an infamous Oklahoma case). Redfearn shows the competing interpretations of the riot’s originseven within the Green wood com mu nity it self and the con straints im posed upon the Oklahoma Su preme Court by de sireto limit the city’s liability. The testimony shows the diversity of opinions in Tulsa and the ways that legal doctrineshapes those opinions. Those com pet ing in ter pre ta tions can tell us a great deal about larger Tulsa and Amer i can so ci ety, much as stud ies ofmedicine and law serve as mirrors for society more generally. See, e.g., Edward H. Beardsley, A History of Neglect:Health Care for Blacks and Mill Workers in the Twentieth-Century South VIII, 1987; Eben Moglen, TheTransformation of Morton Horwitz, 93 Column. L. Rev. 1042, 1993, (discussing modes of legal history and thereflections on culture they provide). 8 See R. Halliburton, “The Tulsa Race War of 1921", 2 J. Black Studies, pp. 333-57, 1972. (citing story, ”Nab Negrofor Attacking Girl in an Elevator", Tulsa Tribune, May 31, 1921. 9 Plaintiff s Brief, supra note 6, at 44; 47 (testimony of Barney Cleaver); Brief of Defendant in Error, WilliamRedfearn, Plain tiff in Er ror v. Amer i can Cen tral In sur ance Com pany, 243 P 929 (Okla. 1926), No. 15,851 [hereinafterDefendant’s Brief] at 74 (Testimony of Columbus F. Gabe). 10 Defendant’s Brief, supra note 9, at 101 (Testimony of O.W. Gurley). 11 Plaintiff s Brief, supra note 6, at 30 (Testimony of O.W. Gurley). 12 Ibid. 13 Ibid., at 48-49. 14 A somewhat different, more detailed version of the confrontation appears in Ronald L. Trekell, History of theTulsa Police Department, 1882-1990, 1989. 15 Plaintiff’s Brief, supra note 6, at 48. 16 Ibid., at 44. 17 Charles F. Barrett, Oklahoma After Fifty Years: A History of the Sooner State and Its People, 1889- 1939, 1941. 18 Plaintiff’s Brief, supra note 6, at 40. 19 Ibid., at 44. 20 Defendant’s Brief, supra note 9, at 106. 21 221 Pacific Reporter, at 931. 22 Plaintiff s Brief, supra note 6, at 67. 23 Petition in Robinson v. Evans, et al, Tulsa County District Court, No. 23,399, May 31, 1923. 24 Ibid. 25 See, e.g., Walter F. White, “The Eruption of Tulsa”, 112 Nation, June 29, 1921. 26 See, e.g., Plaintiff s Brief, supra note 6, at 61. It is important to note that one early criticism was that the sherifffailed to deputize of fi cers to quell fears of a lynch ing. See “Tulsa in Re morse,” New York Times, June 3, 1921. GeneralBarrett “declared the Sheriff could have [pacified the armed men] if he had used power to deputize assistants. TheGeneral said the presence of six uniformed policemen or a half dozen Deputy Sheriffs at the county building Tuesdaynight, when whites bent on taking from jail Dick Rowland . . . clashed with Negroes intent on protecting Rowland,would have prevented the riot.”. See also “Tulsa Officials ‘Simply Laid Down’,” Sapulpa Herald, June 2, 1921.Reporting General Barren’s belief that officials could have prevented riot by dispersing both blacks and whites. 27 Plaintiff’s Brief, supra note 6, at 62. 28 Ibid., (emphasis in original). While the Oklahoma Supreme Court referred to the some of the special deputies assheriff’s deputies and some evidence mentions sheriffs deputies, it appears that the police were the only officials whocom mis sioned spe cial dep u ties. I would like to thank Rob ert Norris and Rik Espinosa for clari fy ing this point with me. 29 Defendant’s Brief, supra note 2, at 207 (emphasis added). 30 Charles F. Barrett, Oklahoma After Fifty Years, 1941. 170
    • 31 Testimony of Laurel Buck 30, Attorney General’s Civil Case Files, RG 1-2, A-G Case No. 1062, Box 25(Oklahoma State Archives). 32 Testimony of Laurel Buck, supra note L1, at 32. See also “Witness Says Cop Urged Him to Kill Black”, TulsaTribune, July 15, 1921; “In struc tion is Denied by Court”, Tulsa World, July 16, 1921, (sum ma riz ing Buck’s tes ti mony). 33 Testimony of John A. Oliphant, at 2, Attorney General’s Civil Case Files, RG 1-2, A-G Case No. 1062, Box 25(Oklahoma State Archives). 34 Ibid., at 6. 35 Ibid., at 7. 36 Ibid., at 8. 37 See “Weapons Must be Returned,” Tulsa World, June 4, 1921, (asking for return of weapons and threateningprosecution if weapons are not returned). 38 Frank Van Voorhis, “Detailed Report of Negro Uprising for Service Company, 3rd Infantry Oklahoma NationalGuard,” July 30, 1921. 39 John W. McCuen, “Duty Performed by Company 3rd In fan try Oklahoma Na tional Guard at Ne gro Up ris ing May31, 1921" (undated) Oklahoma State Archives. 40 See “Rooney Ex plains Guard Op er a tion,”Tulsa World, June 4,1921; L .J. F. Rooney and Charles W. Daley to Adj.Gen. Bart lett, June 3, 1921 (Oklahoma State Ar chives) “I asked Ma jor Daley where [the ma chine gun) had come fromand he said ‘we dug it up’ and I inferred that he meant it was the property of the Police Department of which MajorDaley is an officer.”. 41 Brian Kirkpatrick, “Activities on night of May 31, 1921, at Tulsa, Oklahoma.” July 1, 1921, Oklahoma StateAr chives “Af ter pa trols had been es tab lished . . . I es tab lished your head quar ters in the of fice of the Chief of Po lice.” 42 Around 10:00 p.m. on the eve ning of May 31, Oklahoma’s Ad ju tant Gen eral, Charles Barrett, who later crit i cizedthe local Tulsa authorities, told Major Byron Kirkpatrick of Tulsa to “render such assistance to the civil authorities asmight be required.” Kirkpatrick, supra note 41. 43 Kirkpatrick, supra note 41 “I as sumed charge of a body of armed vol un teers, whom I un der stand were Le gion men,and marched them around into Main Street. There the outfit was divided into two groups, placed under the charge ofof fi cers of their num ber who all had mil i tary ex pe ri ence, and or dered to pa trol the business sec tion and court-house, andto report back to the Police Station at intervals of fifteen minutes.”; C. W. Daley, “Information on Activities duringNe gro Up ris ing May 31, 1921,” July 6, 1921, Oklahoma State Ar chives “There was a mob of 150 walking up the streetin a column of squads. That crowd was as sem bled on the comer of Sec ond and Main and given in structions by myselfthat if they wished to as sist in main tain ing or der they must abide by in struc tions and fol low them to the let ter rather thanrunning wild. This they agreed to do. They were split up at this time and placed in groups of 12 to 20 in charge of anex-service man, with instructions to preserve order and to watch for snipers from the tops of buildings and to assist ingathering up all Negroes bringing same to station and that no one was to fire a shot un less it was to pro tect life af ter allother methods had failed.”. 45 Van Voorhis, supra note 38, at 3. 46 McCuen, supra note 39, at 2. 47 See “Rooney Explains Guard Operation”, Tulsa World, June 4, 1921. “None of my men used their rifles exceptwhen fired upon from the east. The most visible point from which enemy shots came was the tower of the new brickchurch. This was sometime just prior to daybreak.” 48 There were fears, for ex am ple, that blacks were com ing from Muskogee to re in force the Green wood res i dents: “Inresponse to a call from Muskogee, indicating several hundred Negroes were on their way to the city to assist TulsaNe groes should fight ing con tinue, a ma chine gun squad loaded on a truck, went east of the city with or ders to stop at allhazards these armed men.” “Race War Rages for Hours After Outbreak at Courthouse; Troops and Armed MenPatrolling Streets”, Tulsa World, June 1, 1921. 49 Ibid. See also Daley, supra note 43. “Upon receiving information that large bod ies of Ne groes were com ing fromSand Springs, Muskogee and Mohawk, both by train and automobile. [sic] This information was imparted to the autopatrols with in struc tions to cover the roads which the Ne groes might in on. At this point we re ceived in for ma tion that atrain load was com ing from Muskogee, so Col. Rooney and my self jumped into a car, as sem bled a company of Legionmen of about 100 from among the pa trols who were op er at ing over the city, and placed them in charge of Mr. Kinney amember of the American Legion and directed him to bring men to the depot which was done in a very soldierly andor derly man ner. In struc tions were given that the men form a line on both sides of the track with in struc tions to al low noNegroes to unload but to hold them in the train by keeping them covered. The train proved to be a freight train and noone was on it but regular train crew.” 171
    • 50 McCuen, supra note 39, at 2. 51 See, e.g., “Guards men at Cen ter of Riot Dis cus sion”, Daily Okla ho man, May 23, 2000, (re port ing de bate over roleof National Guard’s role in riot). 52 Mary Jones Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, p. 31, (circa 1921) (reprinted 1998). 53 See Lee v. Washington, 390 U.S. 333, 1968. Affirming desegregation order in Alabama prison but observing thatthere might be instances where segregation was necessary to maintain order. The last time the United States SupremeCourt upheld overt (non-remedial) racial distinction was Koremastu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214, 1944. Thatdecisions—and the United States gov ern ment’s will ful with hold ing of ev i dence show ing that such dis crim i na tion wasunnecessary—became the basis for the Civil Rights Act of 1988. See Eric K. Yamamoto, “Ra cial Reparations:Japanese Americans and African American Claims”, 40 Boston College Law Review 477-523, 1998. 54See, e.g.,Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U.S. 60, 1917 (invalidating as unconstitutional a zoning ordinance that segregated on thebasis of race). While Professor Aoki has recently analyzed the early twentieth century alien laws as importantprecursors to the in tern ment of Jap a nese-Americans dur ing World War II, Keith Aoki, “No Right to Own?: The EarlyTwentieth-Century ”Alien Land Laws" as a Prelude to Internment", 40 Boston College Law Review 37-72, 1998, noone has yet interpreted the internment of blacks during the Tulsa riot, which drew no legal protest, as a test ing groundfor the idea of internment. See “85 Whites and Negroes Die in Tulsa Riots”, supra note at 2. “Guards surrounded thearmory, while others assisted in rounding up Negroes and segregating them in the detention camps. A commission,composed of seven city officials and business men, was formed by Mayor Evans and Chief of Police Gustafson, withthe approval of General Banett, to pass upon the status of the Negroes detained." 55 See Van Voorhis, supra note 38. 56 320 U.S. 81, 1943. 57 323 U.S. 214, 1944. 58 323 U.S. 283, 1944. 59 320 U.S. at 107. 60 Ibid., at 111. 61 Ibid., at 108. 62 Ibid. at 113. 63 323 U.S. at 302-03. 64 323 U.S. at 220. 65 Ibid., at 218-19. 66 Ibid., at 231. 67 323 U.S. at 226. 68 212 U.S. 78 (1909). 69 Ibid., at 85 “So long as arrests are made in good faith and in the hon est be lief that they are needed in or der to headthe insurrection off, the Governor is the final judge and cannot be subjected to an action after he is out of office. . ..” 70 “Race War Rages for Hours After Outbreak at Courthouse: Troops and Armed Men Patrolling Streets, TulsaWorld, June 1, 1921. ”Thousands of persons, both the inquisitive including several hundred women, and men, armedwith ev ery avail able weapon in the city taken from ev ery hard ware and sport ing goods store, swarmed on Sec ond streetfrom Boulder to Boston avenue watching the gathering volunteer army offering their services to the peace officers." 71 “Race War Rages for Hours After Outbreak at Courthouse: Troops and Armed Men Patrolling Streets,” TulsaWorld, June 1, 1921. 72 “The Disgrace of Tulsa,” Tulsa World, June 2, 1921. 73 “Ex-Police Bears Plots of Tulsans: Officer of Law Tells Who Ordered Airplanes to Destroy Homes,” ChicagoDefender,Oct. 25, 1921. See also: “At tor ney Scott Digs Up In side In for ma tion on Tulsa Riot,” Black Dis patch, Oc to ber20, 1921. 74 Plaintiffs Brief, supra note 6, at 67. 75 See also Walter F. White, ‘The Eruption of Tulsa," The Nation, June 29, 1921. Later White published anotheraccount of the riot: “I Investigate Lynchings,” American Mercury, January, 1929. 76See, e.g.,"Act to Suppress MobViolence," Illinois, Hurd’s Revised Statutes, 1915-16 chap. 38, section 256a. 77 See, e.g., City of Chicago v. Sturigs, 222 U.S. 323, 1908, (upholding constitutionality of Illinois statute imposingli a bil ity on cit ies for three-quarters value of mob dam age, re gard less of fault); Ar nold v. City of Cen tral ia, 197 Ill. App. 172
    • 73, 1915, (imposing liability without negligence under Illinois statute, Hurd’s Revised Statutes, 1915-16 chap. 38,section 256a, on city that failed to protect citizens against mob); Barnes v. City of Chicago, 323 M. 203 (1926)(interpreting same statute and concluding that police officer was not “lynched”). 78 “City Not Liable for Riot Damage”, Tulsa World, August 7, 1921. 79 221 Pacific Reporter, 929, 1926. 80 State v. Rowland, Case No. 2239, Tulsa County District Court, 1921. 81 See State v. Will Robinson et al, Case No. 2227, Tulsa County District Court, 1921. 82 Tulsa World, June 26, 1921. 83 “Judge Biddson’s Instructions to Grand Jury,” Tulsa Tribune June 9, 1921. 84 “Grand Jury Blames Ne groes for In citing Race Rioting: Whites Clearly Ex on er ated,” Tulsa World, June 26, 1921. 85 Ibid. 86 Walter F. White, “The Eruption of Tulsa”, The Nation, 909 June 29, 1921. One justice on the Georgia SupremeCourt ex plained the or i gins of an At lanta riot in this way: “This one thing of the street car em ploy ees be ing re quired bytheir position to endure in patience the insults of Negro passengers was, more largely than any other one thing,responsible for the engendering of the spirit which man i fested it self in the riot.” Georgia Railway & Elec. Co. v. Rich,71 S.E. 759, 760 (Ga, 1911). 87 See “Burned Dis trict in Fire Limits,” Tulsa World, June 8, 1921, (re port ing the “real es tate ex change” or ga ni za tionsup ported ex pan sion of fire lim its, be cause it would help con vert burned area into in dus trial area near the rail road tracksand would “be found desirable, in causing a wider separation between Negroes and whites”). 88 “Negro Sues to Rebuild Waste Area,” Tulsa World, August 13, 1921; “Three Judges Hear Evidence in NegroSuit,” Tulsa World, August 25, 1921. The three-judge panel upheld the ordinance to the extent that it prohibited thebuild ing of per ma nent struc tures. But it al lowed the build ing of tem po rary struc tures. Ibid. The prop erty own ers ar guedthat the city was depriving them of their property by such restrictive building regulations and that the restrictionsen dan gered their health. See Pe ti tion in Lockard v. Ev ans, et al., Tulsa County Dis trict Court, Case 15,780 para graphs6-7, August 12, 1921. Their argument was based, at least in part, on the emerging police power doctrine that the statecould reg u late to pro mote health and mo ral ity. The pe ti tion ers ap plied a cor ol lary to that doc trine, ar gu ing that the citywas prohibited from interfering with that protection. The judges granted first a temporary restraining or der against theordinance in August because there was insufficient notice when it was passed. See “Can Recon struct Re stricted Area,Dis trict Judges Grant Re straining Or der to Ne groes”, Tulsa World, Au gust 26, 1921. Then, fol low ing re-promulgationof the ordinance, the judges granted a per ma nent in junc tion against it, citing the ordinance’s effect on property rights.See “Cannot Enforce Fire Ordinance, Court Holds Unconstitutional Act Against The Burned District,” Tulsa World,September 2, 1921. The judges’ opinion has been lost. 173
    • 174
    • Notes on Contributors Dr. John Hope Franklin, a native of Rentiesville, is the James B. Duke Professor of History Emeritus at DukeUniversity. A member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, he is the author of numerous books, including From Slavery toFreedom, now in its eighth edition. His father, the well-known Tulsa attorney B. C. Franklin, survived the riot. Dr. Scott Ellsworth was born and raised in Tulsa. The author of Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of1921, he formerly served as a historian at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Dr. Robert L. Brooks is the Director and State Archaeologist of the Oklahoma Ar che o log ical Survey. He isresponsible for the management and protection of Oklahoma’s heritage resources, including unmarked graves andburial sites. Alfred L. Brophy is a pro fes sor of law at Oklahoma City Uni ver sity. A spe cial ist in prop erty law, he is president ofthe board of directors of Oklahoma Indian Legal Services. Dr. Danney Goble, a native Oklahoman, attained his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri. He has authored numerousbooks of regional history and the American South. He now is on the faculty at the University of Oklahoma. Larry O’Dell is a historian with the Oklahoma Historical Society. Raised in Newcastle, he currently serves as aresearch associate for the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture project. Dr. Lesley Rankin-Hill is an associate pro fes sor of an thro pol ogy at the Uni ver sity of Oklahoma. A specialist in thestudy of burial remains and historic cemeteries, she is the author of A Biohistory of 19 th Century Afro-Americans. Dr. Clyde Snow, of Nor man, is an in ter na tion ally rec og nized fo ren sic an thro pol o gist. An ex pert in the iden ti fi ca tionof human skeletal remains, he currently serves as a consultant to the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner. Phoebe Stubblefield is a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at the University of Florida. A specialist in forensicanthropology, she is also the grandniece of survivors of theTulsa race riot. Richard S. Warner, a lifelong Tulsan, is a member of the board of directors of the Tulsa Historical Society. Awell-known au thor ity on the his tory of Tulsa, he has con trib uted to the Chron i cles of Oklahoma and other professionalpublications. Dr. Alan H. Witten is the Schultz Pro fes sor of Geo phys ics at the Uni ver sity of Oklahoma. An ex pert in near-surfaceremote sensing, he has coordinated scientific research for archaeological investigations both in the United States andoverseas. 175
    • EpilogueBy State Senator Maxine Horner There is an intergenerational effect from the and terrorized through segregation and racism.1921 Tulsa race riot that is the unconscious He urged blacks “to pull themselves up by thetransmittal of an ex pe ri ence that is most mys te- bootstraps.” In Tulsa they did. Staying in theirrious and intriguing. In response to an incident place did not appease whites or inspire thelike the riot which in effect, was potentially an friendship forecasted by Washington.act of ethnic cleansing, the message was clear: After the epitaph for the black boulevard was“We abhor you people and wish you were not written in flames, the aftermath led more towardhere and in fact, are willing to make that hap- a con spir acy to fur ther de hu man ize the suf fer ingpen.” population than to demonstrate a justice toward There are char ac ter is tics of people who have its fellow citizens. That city government offi-been through a shared experience such as the cials and real estate interests attempted to forceGreat Depression or in this case, the “riot” that blacks off their land and develop the proprietiesemerged haunted as a result of that experience. as an industrial area is a matter of record.The way they relate to their children and Churches, schools, homes and business enter-grandchildren and the world around them is prises were destroyed. Men, women and babiesnot how they may have related had it not been were carried away dead, to unknown places, asfor that experience. funerals were banned for not too mysterious rea- If a people have been terrorized to the de - sons. The National Guard issued Field Order 4gree that North Tulsa sur v i v o r s and on June 2, that all able bodied Negro men weredescendents were, it could be expected that “required to render such service and performthey would not make themselves noticed or be such labor as required by the military commis-noticed by the group that terrorized them in the sion.” In my view that is involuntary servitude,first place. Alternative ways of relating and re- slavery by Marshal Law. Why did the Nationalsponding may have to be developed or adapta- Guard not clear the area of all persons, black andtions made by both groups for good or ill will. white? Why were 6,000 African American citi-It is that perspective that allowed the horror of zens placed in concentration camps and walkedthe riot in the first place. Since statehood and through the streets as a defeated enemy - when itbeyond, Oklahoma has taken its black citizens was in fact, a riot by whites? It was the blackthrough intimidation, stereotypical condition- community under attack by terrorists. With esti-ing, segregation, and le gal and so cial en gi neer- mates of from 150 to 300 dead, it was at besting. Some of those conventions were even shameful, at worse, a massacre.transmitted by representatives of the African This report does not answer all my questions,American com mu nity sug gest ing that they cast nor did I anticipate it would. It does draw a cleardown their buckets wh