The Worst Race Riot In America
Unprecedented Civil Unrest

Oklahoma was oil-rich in the 1920s, with Tulsa known as the "Oil Capital of the World."

The city's African-American population lived very comfortably, to the extent that Greenwood was nationally known as "The Black Wall Street" -- which engendered resentment among some whites.

Greenwood District attracted pioneers from all over America who sought new opportunities and fresh challenges. Legal segregation forced blacks to do business among themselves.

"The fact that hardly anyone today knows anything about the lynching is one of the main reasons we made [the documentary]," said associate producer Michael Brown, who lives in Tulsa. "

Although people here in Tulsa know about the riot from their upbringing, it's still barely talked about. It was time to change that."

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.

By 1942, some 242 businesses called the Greenwood District home. Having experienced a decline in the 1960's, 1970's, and early 1980's, the Greenwood District is now poised for yet another renaissance. BLACK WALL STREET speaks to the triumph of the human spirit.

Neftali put together a combination of accounts covered by several news agencies and eye whiteness to give you a clear picture what it was like for 24 hours in Tulsa.
Sources include:
Connie Passalacqua TULSA, Okla. (APBnews.com)
The Tulsa Historical Society
60 Minutes
Eye whiteness accounts

What could cause such a holocaust here in the United States?

How could the crime be covered up for all these years?

These are some of the questions explored in :

The Tulsa Lynching of 1921:
A Hidden Story, premierd on Cinemax. It aired on the 79th anniversary of the riot. The film is written, produced and directed by Michael Wilkerson.
The viciousness of the violence is explicitly depicted in the documentary by an astonishing array of period photographs. "Most were private photos taken by the African-Americans and passed down through families," said Brown.

They are the only real record, he says. The Tulsa Tribune's file photos of the riot mysteriously vanished.

 "Why has no one wanted to talk about the riot all these years?" asked Brown. "I don't know. The subject was probably something too painful and-or shameful." Several survivors, who were children in 1921, are interviewed in the documentary.

Their recollections are particularly vivid.

"Those who would were all happy to do it." Also taking part in the documentary as guest voices is an impressive list of celebrities, including Ed Asner, Nell Carter, Mary Steenburgen, Celeste Holm, Mike Farrell and Bill Cosby, who agreed to take part in the film within a day of being asked, said Brown.

The predominant voice in the documentary, though, belongs to Alfre Woodard, who enacts Mary Parrish, a typing teacher who chronicled the events of the riot in a self-published book. "Alfre Woodard is a Tulsa girl, born and bred," said Brown, "and she really relished doing this."

Brown added that the film received its world premiere in a cultural center located right in the middle of what was once Greenwood. "Not one person in the audience moved throughout the whole thing," he reported. "And at the end there was a great silence -- then we got a standing ovation."

Gaurdsmen brought in after blacks fought back.
More devastation from over bombing.
Machine Guns were brought in by national guard troops the cut down as many blacks as possible. The Ku Klux Klan attacked the community and it was and still remains the only US city in history to be bombed.
They're were 60-70 survivors of the Greenwood riot. The rest fled in near by hills to be rounded up and held, some for 8 days.
Greenwood being bombed by white citizens dropping explosives from air planes left over from world war 1 on town.
10,00 black families were left homeless after bombing. White families lost no homes. 35 blocks were destroyed in all. Over 300 black Americans were killed in the riot.
White man looking down at a dead black man.
Black owned businesses where destroyed.

Black bodies of men were brought in and piled-up to be mass buried.
Government officials did not want the real death toll to be released.

There is an anonymous section reserved for paupers. Cemetery pictured above.  Buried on-top of one another 3-5 bodies in one box.
There where no funeral the authorities outlawed funerals. There where no coffins, no head stones, no records of the burials but 10yr old Klyde Eddie pictured below saw it all:

Klyde Eddie strolled by Tulsa "Oak lawn" with a friend and saw  some men digging with big wooden creates. We went in and lifted the lid two one of the boxes and saw three black men dead on top of each other. We went over to another create larger and there where four bodies in it. We saw four or five more boxes scattered around.  About that time one of the men saw us and ran us out.
Tent homes built after riot.

The Standpipe Hill survivors arrested and taken to  Convention Hall.
Survivor talks about his experience:
"I ran under my bed when  a soldier stepped on my hand. My sister put her hand over my mouth so I wouldn't scream".
Kenny Booker's father took his wife and 5 children took the attack just before armed whites came to the front door.

Booker, then a teen-ager, hid with his family in their attic until the home was torched. "When we got downstairs, things were burning. My sister asked me, 'Kenny, is the world on fire?' I said, 'I don't know, but we're in a heck of a lot of trouble, baby.'"

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

Final Note:
It shocks me to know racism is still alive and well in Tulsa. Only lighting up a bit today.

There is no room in my heart for the bitter taste of racism.  In my walk with Christ I see all the obstacles that can stray a man from his true  righteous place.

He thinks he is above other man.

I believe he is a product of keeping hate  alive through teachings of thier parents and grand parents, and great grandparents, and know they are teaching thier kids the ways of racism and so on.

I call it "Generational  Ignorance".
Keeping  children in the darkness of  historical truth.

May we all learn a lesson from the knowledge of this tragic massacre.

God help the few remaining. May they achieve some kind of closure in this life time.
                                             Neftali Santiago

The National Guard released a body count of 36 people dead. They wanted to keep the riot out of the press spotlight down playing the true body count of 300.