Tulsa Race Riot
The Tulsa race riot changed the course of American history by actively expressing African American views on white supremacy. Before the events of the Tulsa race riot African Americans saw the white community taking justice into their own hands. Black citizens of Tulsa stood up against this sort of white mob. This escaladed into the Tulsa race riot. The Tulsa race riot and its effects weighed heavily upon the African Americans of this era.
The first event was with the Industrial Workers of World (IWW), where they were blamed by Tulsans in bombing the house of a wealthy oilman. It began on October 29, 1917, when the home of a wealthy oilman was bombed in Tulsa. There were little clues to be found but as Scott Ellsworth reports in his book Death in a Promised Land, The newspapers were pointing the blame to the IWW(25). The secretary of the IWW was going to be the spokes person for the twelve members of the IWW in court, with the accusation of bombing the house of a wealthy oilman. Ellsworth reports:
The trial was brought to a speedy conclusion. Not only did Judge Evans find the twelve guilty, fine them $100 each, and committed them to jail, but five people in the courtroom who had served as witnesses for the defense arrested. The police were then instructed to transfer the seventeen prisoners that night to the county jail(30).
The police officers escorted the seventeen men into cars and took them to the county jail, but on the way they were halted by a group of armed men, which called themselves Knights of Liberty. Knights of Liberty took the seventeen men out of the car and tied them to the tree. As Ellsworth reports, They were wiped on their back and then hot tar and feathers were then applied to the bloodied backs of the seventeen men (30).
The second event, which showed that white Tulsans were hostile before the Tulsa Race Riot, was when Roy Belton killed Homer Nida a taxi car drive. On August 21, 1920, Nida was driving two white men and one white woman to a dance in Red Fork. While driving Nida notice something unusual about his passenger. Just before Red Fork, as Scott Ellsworth writes that Nida was clubbed on the head by on of the men with a revolver (30). They got outside of Red Fork were Nida was then shot in the stomach by one of the men in the car. Roy Belton a white former telephone company worker took a ride from Tulsa to Nowata; another passenger read aloud the newspapers accounts of the crime. As Ellsworth says, Belton remarked that he knew who the woman was in the Nidas cab (30). He was then arrested for shooting Homer Nida. When Belton was in the courthouse, thousand of white citizens of Tulsa waited outside for Belton so that justice could be server for the kill of Homer Nida. When Belton came out of the courthouse onlookers cheered as his captors shouted, We got him boys. Weve got him. Belton was then taken to the Jenks road were he then was lynched by the white mob.
White supremacy in Tulsa during 1917 to 1921 was soaring, white citizen of Tulsa thought with events of bombing a wealthy oilman home to the killing of a taxi cab driver that they should have take the law into their own hands. African Americans were terrified in the white citizens actions. African Americans felt that they would not get equal justice with the law, so African Americans had to stand together against white supremacy and challenge their authority. Which leads into the events that start of the Tulsa race riot. Dick Rowland work as a shoe shiner on Main Street. There were no toilet facilities for the boot shiners, so the owner of the shine parlor where Rowland worked arranged for the employees to use the restroom across the street on the top floor. So the morning of May 31, 1921 Rowland went across the street to us the bathroom. Dick Rowland got onto the elevator to go to the top floor of the building. Minutes later the young lady ran out of the elevator with scratches on her hands, but later many white Tulsans claimed that Rowland had attack the younger lady. With these claims from the whites citizens of Tulsa, African Americans became fearful for what was going to happen to Dick Rowland. Rumors were going around that a white mod was going to the courthouse to hang Dick Rowland. As the magazine article The Crusader reports, The white mob formed around the court house where Dick Rowland was confined, with the avowed purpose of lynching the Negro prisoner, a brutal challenge was thrown right into the face of the Negro population of Tulsa. And Tulsa Negroes took up the gaggle. A body of twenty-five colored men moved to the courthouse to protect Rowland and to uphold the law and order (5). The Negros of Tulsa were going to challenge the whites citizens of Tulsa so that Dick Rowland would get a fair trial, but it also showed that African Americans were taking a stand again white supremacy. The New York Time gives another article providing more evidence that:
The Negroes who gathered to defend the Tulsa jail against attack by the white mob, and to defend a prisoner confined in that jail against the murderous intents of white hoodlums out for a lynching bee— were not these Negroes acting in behalf of law and order, and in defense of the prisoners Constitutional right to a legal trial by his peers and with due process of law (21).
The white saw that the African American citizens were better armed, so as The Crusader reports, Armed mobs of whites now broke into hardware stores and pawnshops, taking weapons and ammunition (5).This is where the white mobs were getting hostile, they had more men and they were heavily armed. Then a white man approached an African American male and attempted to take his gun away from him. Shots were then fired which started the June 1, 1921 Tulsa race riot, the largest race riot that this nation has ever seen. As a CNN article wrights, Truckloads of whites set fires and shot African Americans on sight (n.pag.). Many newspapers reported saying fireman who responded to the alarm, were kept away. As a report for The Crusader, firemen made no attempt to fight the flames in the Negro district, but rather took up a position midway between the Negro and the white districts that would enable them to fight the spread of the flames to the white district(21). There have been some eye witness accounts that whites were flying airplanes The Black Wall Street or Little Africa which were the names given to the Greenwood district of Tulsa, laid in ruins from the white mobs.As the Tulsa Tribune reports on the following days of the Tulsa race riot, that the Nation Guardsmen under command of Adjutant General Barrett patrolling the Negro section, now a smoldering mass of blackened ruins, at 2:30 this afternoon and with the city under martial law, , which took a death toll of nine white men and boys, 68 Negroes (1A). After the race riot African Americans were put into camps so that they would not cause another upraising. With all of this information, it does not show that white citizens of Tulsa did anything wrong. African Americans were at fault with this uprising, even the Major of Tulsa to the Commissioners states, Let the blame for this Negro uprising lie right where it belongs on the armed Negroes (n.pag.). This clear evidence shows that the white supremacy in Tulsa was enormous. White Tulsans had gotten away with a crimes of murder and property damage. The Independent and Weekly Review reports that a property loss of over $1,500,000, the complete destruction of the Negro garters of Tulsa Oklahoma (646). There is no clear evidence on how many people die in the Tulsa race riot too. For the magazine Economist it stated with its eyewitness accounts of dead bodies stacked like cordwood against a fence, and tossed by the dozens into the Arkansas River (29). There were also many unmark mass grave sights were dead bodies were buried. In all African Americans were arrested and put into camps, while white citizens of Tulsa were hero for protecting the city.
The Long-term effects of Tulsa race riot brought many people of different race together learning and remember the events of June 1, 1921. The effect of the Tulsa race riot has been show in the civil rights era. As Scott Ellsworth reports In the 1950s and 1960s black civil rights leaders used the threat of bringing up the riot as leverage in negotiations with white leaders in Tulsa (60). The commission of Tulsa has been working since 1997 to create a better picture of the violence that led to the destruction the citys black business district. The magazine the Jet report, that the commissioners recommended restitution ranging from a memorial and scholarships to direct payments to survivors and their descendants (9). There is also been a controversy about the number of deaths during the Tulsa race riot. In 1999 historians came to Tulsa trying to find the correct number of deaths. In a Goble-News article historians believe close to 300 people died during the violence of the Tulsa race riot (n.pag.). In all black citizen of Tulsa became very close do to this tragedy that accrued on June 1, 1921.
The Tulsa race riot changed the course of American history by actively expressing African American views on white supremacy. Certainly I feel with the available facts in this research paper, that the whites were the aggressors for the events leading up to the Tulsa race riot and the start of the Tulsa race riot. African Americans were simply there to stand up against the white supremacy and to provide the African Americans Tulsa their freedom and equal justice.