Today I Learned: Tulsa race massacre

+26 votes

Today I learned about one of the biggest moments of racial violence in modern history, which has, unfortunately, been largely forgotten about.

On one hand, Tulsa, OK, was one of the only places in the USA in 1921 where african-americans were prosperous. Indeed, the Greenwood district of Tulsa was nicknamed ''the black wall street'' in the early 20th century.

On the other hand, in the 1920s, hate groups like the KKK were at their peak recruitment. In other words, racial tensions ran high in the black wall street, and it was perhaps the ideal time and place for a mass event of racial violence to occur.

The match that lit the fuse was when a black man called Dick Rowland allegedly assaulted a white woman named Sarah Page. After Rowland was arrested, hundreds of white men went to the jail to lynch him. Around 75 black men came to ensure his safety, some of them carrying weapons.

One of the African-American men was disarmed by a white man and a shot was fired. What ensued was a riot that would claim the lives of an estimated 75-300 people with over 800 injured, most of them black. All over the city,  thousands of houses and shops were looted and burned.(Equivalent to over $30M damages in today's money)

I created a free-space profile for the Tulsa massacre, I would really appreciate help editing it. Perhaps we can also create profiles for the known victims.

Did you learn something new today?

WikiTree profile: Space:Tulsa_massacre
in The Tree House by Anonymous Grand'Maison G2G6 Mach 1 (19.4k points)
edited by Anonymous Grand'Maison
You should add the tag black_heritage to the question.
Thanks, added
There was a segment on 60 Minutes about this fairly recently. Really a sad episode......
I just added two photos from Choc Phillips profile. Please feel free to have me remove them if you do not wish to keep them.
Thanks for starting this page and bringing this event to our attention. Dave has mentioned it to the US Black Heritage Project too.

I should also add this List of known dead and wounded in the massacre here.

I'm not sure this is mentioned here on Wiketree.  With the word "coup" sometimes being used in our time, but in 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina there was the Wilmington massacre or Wilmington coup.  Something I wasn't aware of until recently.  Wikipedia has a write-up on it.  A political coup . . . with violence. Perhaps up to 300 dead.  Considered a significant event on a lot of different levels but certainly in destroying what was left of Reconstruction and establishing/solidifying a white dominance in the political/economy of the South.  Thank you for establishing this Tulsa Massacre space.

5 Answers

+5 votes
Best answer
Smithsonian magazine recently dedicated an issue to the Massacre. It's absolutely outstanding writing and anyone who's interested in this topic should find a copy.
by Kate Schmidt G2G6 Mach 7 (72.8k points)
selected by Valorie Zimmerman
+15 votes

Anonymous Grand’Maison, I did a profile on William Cleburn “Choc” Phillips. Choc had been a witness to the Tulsa massacre when he was a teenager. He later became a Tulsa policeman, and he wrote memoirs of what he had seen. His son saw the profile and wrote me that I had not written enough about his father and I had only written about the massacre, so I changed the profile. I knew very little about Choc, except that he had been married to my grand aunt Nora.

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (686k points)
Alexis, On the massacre page, I added a new heading of Witnesses and placed a link to Choc's profile there.  Thank you for creating it.  If you know of other witnesses, they can easily be added to the page.
Thank you Michelle for adding Choc Phillips.  There is supposed to be a new museum in Tulsa. With the virus, I am not sure about the opening. I do plan to go, and I will take photos. I live in Muskogee, a place where several people moved to after the massacre for safety. I am only 40 miles from Tulsa.
Awesome, I'll be happy to see pictures Alexis!
+8 votes
There was a really good documentary on Netflix about this some time back. I don't know if they still have it on there.

I grew up in Tulsa, though I haven't lived in Oklahoma in many years now. The weird thing was that this was not even talked about, or taught in the local schools, until only very recently.

Tulsa was, and is to a large extent, still very segregated.

I left the place for many reasons. The racist and insular views of many of the people there were just some.
by Eric Weddington G2G6 Pilot (409k points)
edited by Eric Weddington
+10 votes

Last year's HBO series Watchmen took place in Tulsa and started off with a depiction of that massacre. Granted this is a science fiction series taking place in an alternate universe, but still it prompted many viewers to look up the real event and brought it back into the public eye.

by Joe Murray G2G6 Mach 4 (42.0k points)
I have seen many people online (on other sites) that thought that scene in Watchmen was fictional. That something like that had to be made up, because it was unthinkable. Only to find out that they lifted directly from history. Many people still don't know about this history.
+5 votes
Has anyone tried to tie the people identified as Black or Mulatto in Tulsa on the 1920 census to the list of known victims in this massacre? It would seem to me that this might be a worthwhile endeavor, even in identifying those who remain unidentified. Also checking Oklahoma deaths in 1921?
by Carole Bannes G2G6 Mach 4 (40.5k points)
Hi Carole, the US Black Heritage Project is working on that as I write this message. We will post a new post for the event tomorrow on its 100th anniversary.

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