The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921



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Tulsa Reparations Commission
The city of Tulsa, Oklahoma is haunted by a past that remains unresolved - The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.  The Oklahoma State Legislature authorized your commission in 1997 to research this devastating event. After 3 1/2 years of research during which the Commission has investigated the riot, locating and interviewing many survivors and descendants, and searching through stacks of historical documents and records, the Commission delivered their report to the Governor, the State Legislature, the Mayor of Tulsa and the Tulsa City Council.  The commission will now determine what, if any, reparations should be made to the survivors of the race riot, their descendants, or others.
Statement of Endorsement:
GUIDED by our commitment to justice and the findings and recommendations of "The Tulsa Race Riot, A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921," submitted to Governor Frank Keating, the Oklahoma State Legislature, Tulsa Mayor Susan Savage and the Tulsa City Council on February 28, 2001 and
WHEREAS the Tulsa Race Riot is consistent with a pattern of White, riotous assaults upon African American communities throughout early 20th century America; and
WHEREAS according to the Commission's report, the following events occurred on May 31 - June 1, 1921:
* On May 31st, the Tulsa Tribune ran a story covering the arrest of a young Black man jailed for assaulting a White elevator operator based on accusations that were later recanted.
* The Tribune edition also contained an inflammatory editorial that not only suggested but incited that there would be a lynching. Following release of the paper, frenzy spread across the White Tulsa community in anticipation of a lynching and across the Black Tulsa community in defense of one.
* In the presence of approximately 2,000 White Tulsans, 75 African Americans, some of them World War I veterans, met the Sheriff at the Courthouse, offering to assist in protecting the prisoner.
* A struggle ensued between a White Tulsan seeking to disarm one of these veterans and rioting began as a result of the gun being fired.

* The City of Tulsa Police Department deputized 500 White Tulsans, many of which were largely responsible for the damage suffered by the African American Greenwood business and residential community;


* The State of Oklahoma mobilized a unit of the Oklahoma National Guard that subsequently received a machine gun from the City police that was mounted on a flatbed truck and used against the men, women and children of Greenwood.
* Through the night, fires were set and fighting continued as Greenwood's war veterans and citizens defended their community from the White attackers, inclusive of men dressed in State National Guard uniforms, City of Tulsa Police uniforms and under the specially deputized badged authority of the Tulsa Police Department.
* At daybreak, Greenwood faced an overwhelming assault and massacre by 5,000-10,000 White Tulsans covered by a second machine gun, airborne gunfire and/or the dropping of incendiary devices, whom prominent and youth members of the Ku Klux Klan probably helped to mobilize.
* The organized Whites emptied homes, detained residents, murdered those resisting or found to be armed, looted homes and businesses and set them ablaze; and
WHEREAS according to the Commission's report the 18-hour event resulted in:
* Around three hundred deaths, according to the Red Cross official report, accounts of credible witnesses, eyewitness accounts of "bodies of blacks stacked like cordwood on Tulsa streets, black bodies piled on trucks, and on trains" and with circumstantial evidence from renowned physical anthropologist, Dr. Clyde Snow, a member of the Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot that points to the existence of mass graves;
* 40 square blocks of 1,265 homes looted and then burned to the ground, including hospitals, schools, and churches owned primarily by African Americans;
* 150 businesses leveled also by fire and, in some instances, incendiary devices thrown from the air in the Greenwood district now popularly referred to as the "Black Wall Street" of America;
* 6,000 Black Tulsans involuntarily arrested, detained and released only upon being vouched for by a White employer and/or citizen;
* 9,000 homeless and living in tents well into the Winter of 1921 and;
* An entire generation's inheritance robbed of a people who dared to "lift themselves up by their bootstraps" and live the American dream, only to have it rendered an eternal nightmare.
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