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The destruction of Tulsa, Okla.’s “Black Wall Street” district, also known as the “Tulsa Race Riot,” is one of the most explosive racial incidents of the early 20th Century. Angry white rioters destroyed Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood, then considered the most affluent all-Black district in the nation.

The riots were sparked by unconfirmed reports of an assault of a White girl by a Black man. Jim Crow was a fact of life in Tulsa. The city passed a 1916 ordinance that forbade Blacks and Whites to live within a block of one another. This led to the self-contained Greenwood area, which blossomed into a prosperous district of Black-owned businesses and homes.

Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old Black shoeshiner, had an encounter on May 30, 1921 inside the Drexel Building elevator with a 17-year-old white operator named Sarah Page as he was headed to a restroom. A clerk in the building heard screams and alerted police, who launched an investigation.

Although Page did not press charges, the next day, a local newspaper accused Rowland of assaulting Page. Rowland was arrested that afternoon. Whites demanded that the sheriff release Rowland so they could lynch him. When Black citizens on Greenwood Avenue heard word of a potential lynching, they took up arms to defend Rowland from the mob. Around 30 men headed to the Tulsa County courthouse but were ordered home by the sheriff and a Black deputy.

Over a thousand white men, angered by the sight of armed Black men, attempted to raid an armory on May 31. By nightfall, around 2,000 people were gathered at the courthouse. Another group of 75 armed Black men returned to the courthouse but were again ordered to leave.

Accounts vary as to who fired first, but it was reported that a Black man shot into the air after being told to hand over his pistol. The shot kicked off a gunfight, leaving several dead. The white mob vastly outnumbered the Greenwood militia and they chased them to their neighborhood. The mob shot at any Blacks they saw, looted stores, and began firebombing homes.

The Oklahoma National Guard took to the streets to calm down rioters with little success. Firefights lasted into the morning hours of June 1, and Greenwood residents were forced to flee after their neighborhood was essentially burned to the ground. Because historical accounts of the incident have been lost, destroyed or altered, it is difficult to confirm one aspect.

Reports say that six World War I biplanes bombed the Greenwood homes with several families still trapped inside. By the afternoon of June 1, martial law was declared and thousands of Black citizens fled the city or were detained by armed forces.

Historical accounts vary about how many people were actually killed but The Tulsa Race Riot Commission estimated in recent findings that nearly 300 people died.

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5 thoughts on “The History Of The Tulsa Race Riots [VIDEO]

  1. Ms Curly on said:

    I had never heard about this until may 15 years ago. Of course it was not taught is school in the 60’s or 70’s, they were too busy teaching us lies about Christopher Colombus.

    • specialt757 on said:

      You’re right Ms. Curly, this was not taught in any of my primary history classes, not until college did I learn about the Black Wallstreet, but of course a glossed-over version similar to the one above, of course because the records were “lost”, destroyed or altered, to fit the white version.
      It’s no wonder why now, today, people are trying to “erase” our history because of the dirty low-down ish whites have done and continue to do. They even attempt to recruit some of us colored folk, (Mr. Ben Carson) to help with their dirty deeds, saying “look, see we’re not racist, we got a black friend”.
      They are so ashamed of the history of the United States they won’t even give accurate accounts of how they stole, lied, raped, and murdered to get what they wanted from anyone. Now people want us to forget all about what happened, saying “well what has that got to do with today?” A LOT! It’s gotten to the point now that all the races are mixing together so there won’t be any more truly black, white, Hispanic, etc. we’ll just be one gigantic mess of people. Just another way to wipe out or distort our history. What a shame.

  2. What occurred back in the day in Oklahoma proves how jealous White folks have been and still are of African-American’s.

    Whenever we have taken two steps forward in advancing ourselves-here they come attempting to stifle us again.

    Which is why we need to UNITE once again for the cause. There is STRENGTH in numbers!!!!!
    Power to the PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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