Tulsa race riot

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Tulsa race riot of 1921
Buildings burning during the Tulsa race riot
Location "Black Wall Street" of Greenwood, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Date May 31 – June 1, 1921
Weapons Guns, incendiary devices
Deaths 39 officially
Other estimates range from 55 to 300
Non-fatal injuries
Over 800
Perpetrators White residents

The Tulsa race riot was a large-scale, racially motivated conflict on May 31 and June 1, 1921, in which a group of whites attacked the black community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It resulted in the Greenwood District, also known as 'the Black Wall Street'[1] and the wealthiest black community in the United States, being burned to the ground.

During the 16 hours of the assault, more than 800 people were admitted to local white hospitals with injuries (the two black hospitals were burned down), and police arrested and detained more than 6,000 black Greenwood residents at three local facilities.[2]:108–109 An estimated 10,000 blacks were left homeless, and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire, resulting in over $26 million in damages. The official count of the dead by the Oklahoma Department of Vital Statistics was 39, but other estimates of black fatalities vary from 55 to about 300.[2]:108, 228 [3]

The events of the riot were long omitted from local and state histories. "The Tulsa race riot of 1921 was rarely mentioned in history books, classrooms or even in private. Blacks and whites alike grew into middle age unaware of what had taken place."[4] With the number of survivors declining, in 1996, the state legislature commissioned a report to establish the historical record of the events, and acknowledge the victims and damages to the black community. Released in 2001, the report included the commission's recommendations for some compensatory actions, most of which were not implemented by the state and city governments. The state passed legislation to establish some scholarships for descendants of survivors, economic development of Greenwood, and a memorial park to the victims in Tulsa. The latter was dedicated in 2010.


The riot occurred in the racially and politically tense atmosphere of post-World War I northeastern Oklahoma. The territory, which was declared a state on November 16, 1907, had received many settlers from the South who had been slaveholders before the American Civil War. In the early 20th century, lynchings were common in Oklahoma, as part of a continuing effort by whites to assert and maintain white supremacy. Between the declaration of statehood and the Tulsa race riot 13 years later, 31 persons were lynched in Oklahoma; 26 were black and nearly all were men and boys. During the twenty years following the riot, the number of lynchings statewide fell to two.[5]

The newly created state legislature passed racial segregation laws, commonly known as Jim Crow laws, as one of its first orders of business. Its 1907 constitution and laws had voter registration rules that disfranchised most blacks; this also barred them from serving on juries or in local office, a situation that lasted until the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, part of civil rights legislation passed by the U.S. Congress. Major cities passed their own restrictions.[2]

On August 16, 1916, Tulsa passed an ordinance forbidding blacks or whites from residing on any block where three-fourths or more of the residents were of the other race. This made residential segregation mandatory in the city. Although the United States Supreme Court declared the ordinance unconstitutional the next year, it remained on the books.[2]

As cities absorbed returning veterans into the labor market following World War I, there was social tension and anti-black sentiment. At the same time, black veterans pushed to have their civil rights enforced, believing they had earned full citizenship by military service. In what became known as the "Red Summer" of 1919, industrial cities across the Midwest and North experienced severe race riots, often led by ethnic whites among recent immigrant groups, who competed mostly with blacks for jobs. In Chicago and some other cities, blacks defended themselves for the first time with force but were outnumbered.

Northeastern Oklahoma had an economic slump that put men out of work. Since 1915, the Ku Klux Klan had been growing in urban chapters across the country, particularly since veterans had been returning from the war. It first appeared in Oklahoma in a major way on August 12, 1921, less than three months after the Tulsa riot.[6] The historian Charles Alexander estimated that by the end of 1921, Tulsa had 3,200 residents in the Klan.[6] The city population was 72,000 in 1920.[7]

The traditionally black district of Greenwood in Tulsa had a commercial district so prosperous that it was known as "the Negro Wall Street" (now commonly referred to as "the Black Wall Street"). Blacks had created their own businesses and services in their enclave, including several groceries, two independent newspapers, two movie theaters, nightclubs, and numerous churches. Black professionals—doctors, dentists, lawyers, and clergy—served the community. Because of residential segregation in the city, most classes of blacks lived together in Greenwood. They selected their own leaders, and there was capital formation within the community. In the surrounding areas of northeastern Oklahoma, blacks also enjoyed relative prosperity and participated in the oil boom.[8]

Monday, May 30, 1921 – Memorial Day

Encounter in the elevator

Sometime around or after 4 p.m., 19-year-old Dick Rowland, a black shoeshiner employed at a Main Street shine parlor, entered the only elevator of the nearby Drexel Building, at 319 South Main Street, to use the top-floor restroom, which was restricted to blacks. He encountered Sarah Page, the 17-year-old white elevator operator who was on duty. The two likely knew each other at least by sight, as this building was the only one nearby with a washroom that Rowland had express permission to use, and the elevator operated by Page was the only one in the building. A clerk at Renberg's, a clothing store located on the first floor of the Drexel, heard what sounded like a woman's scream and saw a young black man rushing from the building. The clerk went to the elevator and found Page in what he said was a distraught state. Thinking she had been assaulted, he summoned the authorities.[9]

The 2000 official commission report notes that it was unusual for both Rowland and Page to be working downtown on Memorial Day, when most stores and businesses were closed. It suggests that Rowland had a simple accident, such as tripping and steadying himself against the girl, or perhaps they were lovers and had a quarrel.[10]

Whether – and to what extent – Dick Rowland and Sarah Page knew each other has long been a matter of speculation. It seems reasonable that they would have least been able to recognize each other on sight, as Rowland would have regularly ridden in Page's elevator on his way to and from the restroom. Others, however, have speculated that the pair might have been lovers – a dangerous and potentially deadly taboo, but not an impossibility... Whether they knew each other or not, it is clear that both Dick Rowland and Sarah Page were downtown on Monday, May 30, 1921 – although this, too, is cloaked in some mystery. On Memorial Day, most – but not all – stores and businesses in Tulsa were closed. Yet, both Rowland and Page were apparently working that day...

What happened next is anyone's guess. After the riot, the most common explanation was that Dick Rowland tripped as he got onto the elevator and, as he tried to catch his fall, he grabbed onto the arm of Sarah Page, who then screamed. It also has been suggested that Rowland and Page had a lovers' quarrel. However, it simply is unclear what happened. Yet, in the days and years that followed, everyone who knew Dick Rowland agreed on one thing: that he would never have been capable of rape.[10]

The word rape was rarely used in newspapers or academia in the early 20th century. Instead, assault was used to describe such an attack.[2]

Brief investigation

Although the police likely questioned Page, no written account of her statement has surfaced. It is generally accepted that they determined what happened between the two teenagers was something less than an assault. The authorities conducted a rather low-key investigation rather than launching a man-hunt for her alleged assailant. Afterward, Page told the police that she would not press charges.[2]

Regardless of whether assault had occurred, Rowland had reason to be fearful, as at the time, such an accusation alone put him at risk for attack. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Rowland fled to his mother's house in the Greenwood neighborhood.[10]

Tuesday, May 31, 1921

Suspect arrested

File:NabNegro Tulsa-paper.jpg
One of the sensationalist news articles that contributed to tensions in Tulsa

On the morning after the incident, Detective Henry Carmichael and Henry C. Pack, a black patrolman, located Rowland on Greenwood Avenue and detained him. Pack was one of two black officers on the city's approximately 45-man police force.[2] Rowland was initially taken to the Tulsa city jail at First and Main. Late that day, Police Commissioner J. M. Adkison said he had received an anonymous telephone call threatening Rowland's life. He ordered Rowland transferred to the more secure jail on the top floor of the Tulsa County Courthouse.[11]

Word quickly spread in Tulsa's legal circles. As patrons of the shine shop where Rowland worked, many attorneys knew him. Witnesses recounted hearing several attorneys defending him in personal conversations with one another. One of the men said, "Why, I know that boy, and have known him a good while. That's not in him."[12]

Newspaper coverage

The Tulsa Tribune, one of two white-owned papers published in Tulsa, broke the story in that afternoon's edition with the headline: "Nab Negro for Attacking Girl In an Elevator", describing the alleged incident. According to some witnesses, the same edition of the Tribune included an editorial warning of a potential lynching of Rowland, and entitled "To Lynch Negro Tonight". The paper was known at the time to have a "sensationalist" style of news writing. All original copies of that issue of the paper have apparently been destroyed, and the relevant page is missing from the microfilm copy, so the exact content of the column (and whether it existed at all) remains in dispute.[13][14][15]

Stand-off at the courthouse

The afternoon edition of the Tribune hit the streets shortly after 3 p.m., and soon news of the potential lynching spread. By 4 p.m., the local authorities were on alert. White people began congregating at and near the Tulsa County Courthouse. By sunset at 7:34 p.m., the several hundred whites assembled outside the courthouse appeared to have the makings of a lynch mob. Willard M. McCullough, the newly elected sheriff of Tulsa County, was determined to avoid events such as the 1920 lynching of Roy Belton in Tulsa, which occurred during the term of his predecessor.[16] The sheriff took steps to ensure the safety of Rowland. McCullough organized his deputies into a defensive formation around Rowland, who was terrified. The sheriff positioned six of his men, armed with rifles and shotguns, on the roof of the courthouse. He disabled the building's elevator, and had his remaining men barricade themselves at the top of the stairs with orders to shoot any intruders on sight. The sheriff went outside and tried to talk the crowd into going home, but to no avail. According to an account by Ellsworth, the sheriff was "hooted down".[17]

About 8:20 p.m., three white men entered the courthouse, demanding that Rowland be turned over to them. Although vastly outnumbered by the growing crowd out on the street, Sheriff McCullough was determined to prevent another lynching and turned the men away.[2]

Offer of help

A few blocks away on Greenwood Avenue, members of the black community were gathering to discuss the situation at the courthouse. Given the recent lynching of Roy Belton, a white man accused of murder, they believed that Rowland was greatly at risk. The community was determined to prevent the lynching of the young black man, but divided about the tactics to be used. Young World War I veterans were preparing for a battle by collecting guns and ammunition. Older, more prosperous men feared a destructive confrontation that likely would cost them dearly. O. W. Gurley walked to the courthouse, where the sheriff assured him that there would be no lynching. Returning to Greenwood, Gurley tried to calm the group, but failed. About 7:30 p.m., a mob of approximately 30 black men, armed with rifles and shotguns, decided to go to the courthouse and support the sheriff and his deputies to defend Rowland from the mob. Assuring them that Rowland was safe, the sheriff and his black deputy, Barney Cleaver, encouraged the men to return home.[2][18]

Taking up arms

Having seen the armed blacks, some of the more than 1,000 whites at the courthouse went home for their own guns. Others headed for the National Guard armory at Sixth Street and Norfolk Avenue, where they planned to arm up. The armory contained a supply of small arms and ammunition. Major James Bell of the 180th Infantry had already learned of the mounting situation downtown and the possibility of a break-in, and he took appropriate measures to prevent this. He called the commanders of the three National Guard units in Tulsa, who ordered all the Guard members to put on their uniforms and report quickly to the armory. When a group of whites arrived and began pulling at the grating over a window, Bell went outside to confront the crowd of 300–400 men. Bell told them that the Guard members inside were armed and prepared to shoot anyone who tried to enter. After this show of force, the crowd withdrew from the armory.[2]

At the courthouse, the crowd had swollen to nearly 2,000, many of them now armed. Several local leaders, including Reverend Charles W. Kerr, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, tried to dissuade mob action. The chief of police, John A. Gustafson, later claimed that he tried to talk the crowd into going home.[17]

Anxiety on Greenwood Avenue was rising. The black community was worried about the safety of Rowland. Small groups of armed black men began to venture toward the courthouse in automobiles, partly for reconnaissance, and to demonstrate they were prepared to take necessary action to protect Rowland.[17]

Many white men interpreted these actions as a "Negro uprising" and became concerned. Eyewitnesses reported gunshots, presumably fired into the air, increasing in frequency during the evening.[17]

Second offer

In Greenwood, rumors began to fly – in particular, a report that whites were storming the courthouse. Shortly after 10 p.m., a second, larger mob of approximately seventy-five armed black men decided to go to the courthouse. They offered their support to the sheriff, who declined their help. According to witnesses, a white man is alleged to have told one of the armed black men to surrender his pistol. The man refused, and a shot was fired. That first shot may have been accidental, or meant as a warning shot; it was a catalyst for an exchange of gunfire.[19]


The gunshots triggered an almost immediate response by the white men, many of whom fired on the blacks, who continued firing back at the whites. The first "battle" was said to last a few seconds or so, but took a toll, as ten whites and two blacks lay dead or dying in the street.[16] The black contingent retreated toward Greenwood. A rolling gunfight ensued. The armed white mob pursued the black group toward Greenwood, with many stopping to loot local stores for additional weapons and ammunition. Along the way innocent bystanders, many of whom were leaving a movie theater after a show, were caught off guard by the mob and began fleeing. Panic set in as the white mob began firing on any blacks in the crowd. The mob also shot and killed at least one white man in the confusion.[17]

National Guard with wounded.

At around 11 p.m., members of the Oklahoma National Guard unit began to assemble at the armory to organize a plan to subdue the rioters. Several groups were deployed downtown to set up guard at the courthouse, police station, and other public facilities. Members of the local chapter of the American Legion joined in on patrols of the streets. The forces appeared to have been deployed to protect the white districts adjacent to Greenwood. This manner of deployment led to the National Guard being set in apparent opposition to the black community. The National Guard began rounding up blacks who had not returned to Greenwood and taking them to the Convention Hall on Brady Street for detention.[17]

Many prominent Tulsa whites also participated in the riot, including Tulsa founder and KKK member W. Tate Brady who participated in the riot as a night watchman. He reported seeing "five dead negroes," including one man who was dragged behind a car by a noose around his neck.[20]

At around midnight, white rioters again assembled outside the courthouse. It was a smaller group but more organized and determined. They shouted in support of a lynching. When they attempted to storm the building, the sheriff and his deputies turned them away and dispersed them.

Wednesday, June 1, 1921

Throughout the early morning hours, groups of armed whites and blacks squared off in gunfights. At this point the fighting was concentrated along sections of the Frisco tracks, a dividing line between the black and white commercial districts. A rumor circulated that more blacks were coming by train from Muskogee to help with an invasion of Tulsa. At one point, passengers on an incoming train were forced to take cover on the floor of the train cars, as they had arrived in the midst of crossfire, with the train taking hits on both sides.[2]

Small groups of whites made brief forays by car into Greenwood, indiscriminately firing into businesses and residences. They often received return fire. Meanwhile, white rioters threw lighted oil rags into several buildings along Archer street, igniting them.[2]

Fires begin

Fires burning along Archer and Greenwood during the Tulsa race riot of 1921.

At around 1 a.m., the white mob began setting fires, mainly in businesses on commercial Archer Street at the southern edge of the Greenwood district. As crews from the Tulsa Fire Department arrived to put out fires, they were turned away at gunpoint.[2] By 4 a.m., an estimated two-dozen black-owned businesses had been set ablaze.

As news traveled among Greenwood residents in the early morning hours, many began to take up arms in defense of their community, while others began a mass exodus from the city. Throughout the night both sides continued fighting, sometimes only sporadically.


Upon the 5 a.m. sunrise, reportedly a train whistle was heard (Hirsch said it was a siren). Many believed this to be a signal for the rioters to launch an all-out assault on Greenwood. A white man stepped out from behind the Frisco depot and received a fatal bullet from a sniper in Greenwood. Crowds of rioters poured from places of shelter, on foot and by car, into the streets of the black community. Five white men in a car led the charge, but were killed by a fusillade of gunfire before they had gone a block.[2]

Overwhelmed by the sheer number of whites, more blacks retreated north on Greenwood Avenue to the edge of town. Chaos ensued as terrified residents fled for their lives. The rioters shot indiscriminately, and killed many residents along the way. Splitting up into small groups, they began breaking into houses and buildings, looting them and taking whatever they fancied. Several blacks later testified that whites broke into occupied homes, and ordered the residents out to the street, where they could be driven or forced to walk to detention centers.[2]

A rumor spread among the whites that the new Mount Zion Baptist Church was being used as a fortress and armory. Supposedly twenty caskets full of rifles had been delivered to the church, though no evidence was ever found.[2]

Attack by air

Numerous witness accounts[who?] described airplanes carrying white assailants, who fired rifles and dropped firebombs on buildings, homes, and fleeing families. The planes, six biplane two-seater trainers left over from World War I, were dispatched from the nearby Curtiss-Southwest Field outside Tulsa.[21] Law enforcement officials later stated that the planes were to provide reconnaissance and protect against a "Negro uprising".[21] Eyewitness accounts and testimony from the survivors maintained that on the morning of June 1, the planes dropped incendiary bombs and fired rifles at black residents on the ground.[21]

Several groups of blacks attempted to organize a defense, but they were overwhelmed by the number of armed whites. Many blacks surrendered. Others returned fire, and ultimately died. As the fires spread northward through Greenwood, countless black families continued to flee. Many were estimated to have died when trapped by the flames.

Other whites

As unrest spread to other parts of the city, many middle class white families who employed blacks in their homes as live-in cooks and servants were accosted by white rioters. They demanded that families turn over their employees to be taken to detention centers around the city. Many white families complied, and those who refused were subjected to attacks and vandalism in turn.[17]

Arrival of state troops

Adjutant General Charles Barrett of the Oklahoma National Guard arrived with 109 troops from Oklahoma City by special train about 9:15 a.m. He could not legally act until he had contacted all the appropriate local authorities, including the mayor, the sheriff and the police chief. Meanwhile, his troops paused to eat breakfast. Barrett also summoned reinforcements from several other Oklahoma cities. By this time, most of the surviving black citizens had either fled the city or were in custody at the various detention centers. The troops declared martial law at 11:49 a.m.,[2] and by noon had managed to suppress most of the remaining violence. A 1921 letter from an Officer of the Service Company, Third Infantry, Oklahoma National Guard arriving May 31, 1921,[22] reports taking about 30-40 African Americans in custody; putting a machine gun on a truck and putting it on patrol; being fired on from Negro snipers from the "Church" and returning fire; being fired on by white men; turning the prisoners over to deputies to take them to Police headquarters; being fired upon again by negroes and having two NCO slightly wounded;[23] searching for negroes and firearms; detailing a NCO to take 170 Negroes to the Civil authorities; and then delivering an additional 150 Negroes to the Convention Hall.[24]


Little Africa on Fire. Tulsa Race Riot, June 1st, 1921 Apparently taken from the roof of the Hotel Tulsa on 3rd St. between Boston Ave. and Cincinnati Ave.. The first row of buildings is along 2nd St. The smoke cloud on the left (Cincinnati Ave. and the Frisco Tracks) is identified in the Tulsa Tribune version of this photo as being where the fire started.


Human deaths and injuries

The reported number of dead varies widely. On June 1, 1921, the Tulsa Tribune reported that 9 whites and 68 blacks had died in the riot, but shortly afterward changed this to a total of 176 dead. On the next day, the same paper reported the count as 9 whites and 21 blacks. The New York Times said that 77 people had been killed, including 68 blacks, but then lowered the total to 33. The Richmond Times Dispatch reported that 85 people (including 25 whites) were killed; it also reported that the Police Chief had reported to the Governor Robertson that the total was 75; and that a Police Major put the figure as 175.[25] The Oklahoma Department of Vital Statistics count put the number of dead at 36: 26 black and 10 white. Walter Francis White of the N.A.A.C.P. reported that although officials and undertakers reported the numbers of fatalities as being ten white and 21 colored, he estimated that the true numbers to be 50 whites and between 150 and 200 Negroes;[26] he also states that ten white men were killed on Tuesday; six white men drove into the black section and never came out and that thirteen whites were killed on Wednesday; he also remarks that the head of the Salvation Army in Tulsa stated that thirty seven negroes had been employed as gravediggers and had buried 120 negroes in individual graves without coffins on Friday and Saturday.[27] The "Los Angeles Express" had a Headline of "175 Killed, Many Wounded."[28] Maurice Willows, an American Red Cross social worker, reported that up to 300 blacks were killed. He also reported that there was a rush to bury the bodies and that no records were made of many burials.[2]

Of the some 800 people admitted to local hospitals for injuries, the majority are believed to have been white, as both black hospitals had been burned in the rioting. Additionally, even if the white hospitals had admitted blacks because of the riot, against their usual segregation policy, injured blacks had little means to get to these hospitals, which were located across the city from Greenwood. More than 6,000 black Greenwood residents were arrested and detained at three local facilities: Convention Hall, now known as the Brady Theater, the Fairgrounds (then located about a mile northeast of Greenwood), and McNulty Park (a baseball stadium at Tenth Street and Elgin Avenue).[2]

Several blacks were known to have died while in the internment centers. While most of the deaths are said to have been accurately recorded, no records have been found as to how many detainees were treated for injuries and survived. These numbers could reasonably have been more than a thousand, perhaps several thousand.[29]

Property losses

The commercial section of Greenwood was destroyed. This included 191 businesses, a junior high school, several churches and the only hospital in the district. The Red Cross reported that 1,256 houses were burned and another 215 were looted but not burned. The Tulsa Real Estate Exchange estimated property losses amounted to $1.5 million in real estate and $750,000 in personal property ($30 million in 2018). Local citizens had filed more than $1.8 million in riot-related claims against the city by June 6, 1922.[2]

Residential block burned down
"All that was Left of his home" June 1, 1921
Taken from the southeast corner of the roof of Booker T. Washington High School, this panorama shows much of the damage within a day or so of the riot and the burning. The road running laterally through the center of the image is Greenwood Avenue, the road slanting from the center to the left is Easton, and the road slanting off to the right is Frankfort.

Legal actions

A grand jury in Tulsa ruled that Police Chief John Gustafson was responsible for the riot because he neglected his duty, and removed him from office. In a subsequent trial, he was found guilty of failing to take proper precautions for protecting life and property, and for conspiring to free automobile thieves and collect rewards. But, the former chief never served time in prison. Instead, he returned to his private detective practice.[2] No legal records indicate that any other white official was ever charged of wrongdoing or even negligence.

Dick Rowland remained safe in the county jail until the next morning, when the police transported him out of town in secrecy. All charges were dropped. He never returned to Tulsa.[2]

No charges were filed against individual white rioters.[30] Other lawsuits against insurance companies for losses were unsuccessful as well.[31]

Attempt to prevent reconstruction of Greenwood

The division between white and black residents of Tulsa was so deep that the end of the riot did not begin to bring reconciliation. The widespread destruction of Greenwood was not sufficient for those whites who wanted to separate even further from blacks. A week after the riot, W. Tate Brady was appointed to the Tulsa Real Estate Exchange ("The Exchange"). The Tulsa Chamber of Commerce had created the group to estimate the value of property damaged or destroyed in Greenwood. The Exchange also contrived a scheme to relocate black Tulsans farther north and east of the original Greenwood.

In cooperation with the City Commission, the Exchange prepared new building codes for the original Greenwood that would make rebuilding prohibitively expensive for the original owners. The land could then be redeveloped as a commercial and industrial district - no longer residential. The plan was never implemented because the Oklahoma Supreme Court overruled the proposed ordinances as unconstitutional. B. C. Franklin, the lead attorney of the black community who challenged the ordinance, was the father of John Hope Franklin, who became a notable historian.[32]

Tulsa Race Riot Commission

In 1996, following increased attention to the riot because of the 75th anniversary of the event, the state legislature authorized the Tulsa Race Riot Commission, to study and prepare a "historical account" of the riot. Undertaking the study "enjoyed strong support from members of both political parties and all political persuasions."[33] The Commission delivered its report on February 21, 2001.[34][35]

In addition to thoroughly documenting the causes and damages of the riot, the report recommended actions for substantial restitution to the black community; in order of priority:

  1. Direct payment of reparations to survivors of the 1921 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; and
  5. A memorial for the reburial of the remains of the victims of the Tulsa race riot.[36]

The Tulsa Reparations Coalition, sponsored by the Center for Racial Justice, Inc., was formed on April 7, 2001 to obtain restitution for the damages suffered by Tulsa's Black community, as recommended by the Oklahoma Commission.

In June 2001, the Oklahoma state legislature passed the "1921 Tulsa Race Riot Reconciliation Act". While falling short of the Commission's recommendations, it provided for the following:

  • More than 300 college scholarships for descendants of Greenwood residents;
  • Creation of a memorial to those who died in the riot, which was dedicated on October 27, 2010;[37] and
  • Economic development in Greenwood.[38]

The state government has made limited attempts to find suspected mass graves used to bury the unknown numbers of black dead. The Commission reported that it was not authorized to undertake the necessary archaeological work to verify the claims.

Lawsuit against Tulsa and Oklahoma

Five elderly survivors of the riot, represented by a legal team including Johnnie Cochran and Charles Ogletree, filed suit against the city of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma (Alexander, et al., v. Oklahoma, et al.) in February 2003, based on the findings of the 2001 report. Ogletree said the state and city should compensate the victims and their families "to honor their admitted obligations as detailed in the commission's report."[39] The plaintiffs did not seek reparations as such; rather, they asked for the establishment of educational and health-care resources for current residents of Greenwood.[40] The federal district and appellate courts dismissed the suit, citing the statute of limitations on the 80-year-old case.[41] The Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear the appeal.

In April 2007, Ogletree appealed to the U.S. Congress to pass a bill extending the statute of limitations for the case, given the long suppression of material about it.[42]

Representation in other media

  • The Tulsa Lynching of 1921: A Hidden Story (2000), a documentary directed by Michael Wilkerson, was first released on Cinemax in 2000.[43][44]
  • Before They Die, (2008), a documentary by Reggie Turner that is supported by the Tulsa Project, chronicles the last survivors of the Tulsa Race Riot and their quest for justice from the city and state.[45]
  • Fire in Beulah, (2001), a novel by Rilla Askew, published by Penguin Books.
  • If We Must Die, (2002), a novel by Pat Carr of Tulsa's 1921 Greenwood Riot published by TCU Press, Ft. Worth.
  • In "Live by night" (2012), a novel by Dennis Lehane, the riot is mentioned.
  • The documentary Hate Crimes in the Heartland (2014) by Rachel Lyon and Bavand Karim provides an in-depth examination of the riot.[46]

See also



  1. A Find of a Lifetime. Silent film of African-American towns in Oklahoma. 1920s. Rev. S. S. Jones for the National Baptist Convention. American Heritage magazine. Retrieved September 18, 2006
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 James S. Hirsch. Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race War and its Legacy, 2002. Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-618-10813-0.
  3. "Violence," Oklahoma Historical Society, Accessed March 1, 2015.
  4. Simons, Brandi (19 June 2011). "As Survivors Dwindle, Tulsa Confronts Past". the New York Times. Retrieved 20 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Mary Elizabeth Estes, An Historical Survey of Lynchings in Oklahoma and Texas, M.A. thesis, University of Oklahoma, (1942)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Charles C. Alexander, Ku Klux Klan in the Southwest (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1965)
  7. Tulsa History: Urban Development, Tulsa Preservation Commission
  8. video: Rev. S. S. Jones for the National Baptist Convention, "A Find of a Lifetime: Silent film of African-American towns in Oklahoma, 1920's", American Heritage, 2006, Retrieved September 16, 2006
  9. The Tulsa Race Riot. History does not take place in a vacuum - Events surrounding the arrest of Dick Rowland. By Scott Ellsworth, the Oklahoma Commission to study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Tulsa Race Riot - A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 Originally retrieved May 16, 2009. Converted to Internet Archive link November 18, 2014.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 State of Oklahoma. The Tulsa Race Riot Commission. (2000). A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, pursuant to House Joint Resolution No. 1035. pp. 37-102
  11. Krehbiel, Randy. Tulsa World. "Tulsa Race Riot legacy still felt in the city." April 29, 2011. Retrieved November 30, 2011.[1]
  12. Franklin and Franklin, My Life and An Era, pp. 195-196. Retrieved May 16, 2009
  13. Final Report of the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. 2001. pp. 55–59.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Scott Ellsworth, Death in a Promised Land (LSU Press, 1992), ISBN 978-0-8071-1767-5, pp. 47-48 (excerpt available at Google Books).
  15. Alfred L. Brophy, "Tulsa (Oklahoma) Riot of 1921" in Walter C. Rucker & James N. Upton, eds., Encyclopedia of American Race Riots (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007), ISBN 978-0-313-33302-6, p. 654 (excerpt available at Google Books).
  16. 16.0 16.1 Walter F. White, "The Eruption of Tulsa", The Nation, June 29, 1921.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 17.5 17.6 Ellsworth, Scott. "The Tulsa Race Riot". Tulsa Reparations. Retrieved 2007-04-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Final Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. pp. 60-63".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Ellsworth, Scott. "Tulsa Race Riot," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Accessed March 1, 2015.
  20. [2] Chapman, Lee Roy.Battle of Greenwood, This Land Press, 2011. Accessed Sept. 19, 2011.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Madigan, Tim. The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, New York: St Martin's Press (2001), pp. 4, 131–132, 144, 159, 164, 249. ISBN 0-312-27283-9
  22. p.1 Letter Captain Frank Van Voorhis to Lieut. Col. L. J. F. Rooney, 1921 July 30
  23. p.2 Letter Captain Frank Van Voorhis to Lieut. Col. L. J. F. Rooney, 1921 July 30
  24. p.3 Letter Captain Frank Van Voorhis to Lieut. Col. L. J. F. Rooney, 1921 July 30
  25. Richmond times-dispatch., June 02, 1921, Image 1
  26. [Walter Whites estimate of about 250 white and African American fatalities is apparently confirmed in Tim Madigan "The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921" {2013} p.224 {reference only}]
  27. reprint of June 15, 1921 Walter White essay in "The Nation" reprinted in "The Nation" August 20, 2001
  28. Los Angeles Express
  29. Clyde Collins Snow, Confirmed Deaths: A Preliminary Report, Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Tulsa Race Riot, Retrieved May 16, 2009
  30. "A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921." February 28, 2001. Internet Archive. Full text. Retrieved December 8, 2011.[3]
  31. Alfred L. Brophy, The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 in the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Oklahoma Law Review (2001) 54:61-96.
  32. Chapman, Lee Roy. This Land. "Nightmare in Dreamland." Retrieved December 7, 2011.[4]
  33. "Changes Planned for Resolution Authorizing Study of 1921 Riot", Press Release, Oklahoma House of Representatives, 13 March 1996
  34. Tulsa Race Riot: A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 - PDF version of the report. Retrieved May 16, 2009
  35. Tulsa Race Riot - A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. - HTML version of the Oklahoma Commission report to study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Tulsa Race Riot - A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 Retrieved May 16, 2009.
  36. The Final Report of the Commission, p. 21
  37. John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park
  38. Peter Schmidt, "Oklahoma Scholarships Seek to Make Amends for 1921 Riot," The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 13, 2001, A22.
  39. Adrian Brune, "A Long Wait for Justice", Village Voice, April 30 - May 6, 2003
  40. Daren Briscoe, "A Day of Reckoning", Newsweek (March 10, 2005). On line.
  41. 04-5042 - Alexander v. State of Oklahoma - 09/08/2004
  42. Jim Myers, "Race riot bill gets House hearing", Tulsa World, 4/25/2007
  43. Mel Bracht, "Tulsa race riot examined in new film; Documentary debuts today on Cinemax", The Oklahoman, May 31, 2000.
  44. Steven Oxman, "The Tulsa Lynching of 1921: A Hidden Story", Variety, May 29, 2000.
  45. "Before They Die!", movie website
  46. "Hate Crimes in the Heartland", movie website

Further reading

  • Alfred L. Brophy, Reconstructing the Dreamland: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, Race Reparations, and Reconciliation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Scott Ellsworth, Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1992.
  • Donald Halliburton, Tulsa Race War of 1921. San Jose, CA: R and E Publishing, 1975.
  • James S. Hirsch, Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
  • Rob Hower, 1921 Tulsa Race Riot: The American Red Cross-Angels of Mercy. Tulsa, OK: Homestead Press, 1993.
  • Tim Madigan, The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2001.
  • Mary E. Jones Parrish, Race Riot 1921: Events of the Tulsa Disaster. Tulsa, OK: Out on a Limb Publishing, 1998.
  • Lee E. Williams, Anatomy of Four Race Riots: Racial Conflict in Knoxville, Elaine (Arkansas), Tulsa, and Chicago, 1919-1921. Hattiesburg, MS: University and College Press of Mississippi, 1972.

External links

External video
A Find of a Lifetime. Silent film of African-American towns in Oklahoma. 1920's. Rev. S. S. Jones for the National Baptist Convention. American Heritage magazine. Retrieved September 16, 2006.