The Tulsa Race Riot
On the morning of May 30, 1921, in the Drexel Building at Third and Main.
Elevator operator, Sarah Page 17-year-old white female , claimed that Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old African-American bootblack, accidentally brushed up against her and grabbed her arm, causing her to flee in panic.
It reached explosive proportions when the Tulsa Tribune sensationalized the story and called for a lynching.
Accounts of the incident circulated among the city's white community during the day and became more exaggerated with each telling.
Tulsa police arrested Rowland the following day and began an investigation.
An inflammatory report in the May 31 edition of the Tulsa Tribune spurred a confrontation between black and white armed mobs around the courthouse where the sheriff and his men had barricaded the top floor to protect Rowland.
Shots were fired and the outnumbered blacks began retreating to the Greenwood Avenue business district.
500 whites where 'deputized' for violence.
The "deputies" took their newfound authority as license to do what ever they wanted to do with the law behind them.
The mob of deputies went on a killing spree. They made explosive devices that may have been dynamite or Molotov cocktails -- gasoline-filled bottles set afire and thrown as grenades.
"They'd throw it down and when it'd hit, it would burst into flames", says Ruth Avery, who was 7 at the time.
The black community starting fighting back and was pushing the white mob out.
Tulsa's police force was small and not able to halt the rioters, so Mayor T.D. Evans asked the governor to send in the National Guard.
Governor Robertson declared martial law.
Shortly after midnight, Guard units from Oklahoma City were sent to Tulsa by special train.
While the National Guard was on it's way the white mob run amok continuing to destroy Black Wall street.
The first fire was set near Archer Street and Boston Avenue.
Fire companies answered the alarm, but the rioters drove them off and would not let them fight the fire.
Guardsmen arrived and assisted firemen in putting out fires, took imprisoned blacks out of the hands of vigilantes and imprisoned all black Tulsans not already interned.
At dawn on June 1, 1921, smoke hung over the north end of Tulsa., Black Tulsa was looted and burned to the ground by white rioters.
Piles of bricks and rubble, a few chimneys and columns standing here and there in the ruins, was all that remained of the black area.
The section looked like it had been hit by an atomic bomb.
Later that morning, the armed blacks made their last stand at the foot of Standpipe Hill.
They were huddled in groups behind trees and in small buildings.
According to a report in the Tulsa Tribune newspaper, the National Guard mounted two machine guns and poured a deadly fire into the area.
The black group then surrendered.
They were disarmed and marched in columns to Convention Hall, the McNulty baseball park at 11th Street and Elgin Avenue, the Fairgrounds and a flying field east of Tulsa, some for as long as eight days.
Tulsa had a black population of about 7,000 at that time and many of them fled into the Osage Hills and to the surrounding towns to escape the riot.
On the afternoon of June 2, the National Guard troops left the city, and Tulsans began giving assistance to the displaced blacks.
It had been an ugly, wasteful and sad two days for the city.
Twenty-four hours after the violence erupted, it ceased.
There was no further violence from either side and several weeks after the riot, work started on rebuilding the burned-out area.
In the wake of the violence, 35 city blocks lay in charred, over 800 people were treated for injuries and estimated reports of deaths began at 36*.
The American Red Cross estimated that the real death toll was over 300.
Property damage ran into the millions. The Greenwood District burned to the ground. But ever courageous, the Greenwood District pioneers rebuilt the community from the ashes, bigger and better than ever.