Oprah Winfrey's OWN cable network is developing stages a mini-series documenting one of the ugliest and least known chapters in United States history. Oprah is re-telling the story of the "Tulsa Riot of 1921".
It was once known as "Black Wall Street”. Some of America's most prominent lived in Tulsa, just north of downtown. There were black owned grocery store, clothing stores, theaters and restaurants, but with a few minutes, it was all destroyed.
The growth of the oil industry made Tulsa, Oklahoma a rich town by 1921. Its predominantly black section, Greenwood, achieved a level of wealth that earned its name as the "Negro Wall Street of America." African Americans comprised about 12 % of the overall population. Whites’ responded violently to the accomplishment of African Americans began organizing "whipping parties" that arbitrarily assaulted blacks on a daily basis.
Tulsa Riot of 1921,that devastated some 40 city blocks in the mostly-black Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
There had also been several lynching in the vicinity of Tulsa, a major Ku Klux Klan hub, and blacks armed themselves for protection. The riot of 1921 was the culmination of these racial tensions.
In 1921, a 19 year old black man named Dick Rowland took a break from his downtown job as a shoe shiner to use the restroom at the top of a nearby building. Sarah Page, a 17 year old white girl who was operating the elevator there, claimed that Rowland assaulted her. Rowland was arrested the following day and incarcerated at the local courthouse.
Before the incident had been investigated, the May 31 Tulsa Tribune reported that Rowland, who was identified only by his color, "attacked Page, scratching her hands and face, and tearing her clothes off." That evening, a crowd of whites began to gather outside the courthouse in response to the paper's assertion that Rowland was going to be lynched.
The sheriff tried unsuccessfully to disperse the crowd, which by 10:30 PM had grown to nearly 2000. A group of 50 to 75 armed black men, who previously had been turned away, returned to the courthouse to help the sheriff defend Rowland.
One of the white men tried to disarm one of the blacks, a shot was fired, and the two groups opened fire. Vastly outnumbered, the blacks retreated to Greenwood.
Records kept by the Red Cross estimate that "1115 houses and businesses
belonging to black people had been burned down, and that another 314 had been looted".
Sarah Page refused to prosecute Dick Rowland: follow-up investigation found that Rowland had stumbled into the girl as he was getting off the elevator, and all charges were dropped.
What’s so unbelievable with the Tulsa Riot of 1921 is that all these people lost their life and all those business and homes that were destroyed based on a LIE. Mr.Philly Librarian
- Scott Ellsworth, Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982).
- John Hope Franklin and Scott Ellsworth, eds., The Tulsa Race Riot: A Scientific, Historical and Legal Analysis (Oklahoma City: Tulsa Race Riot Commission, 2000).
- Eddie Faye Gates, They Came Searching: How Blacks Sought the Promised Land in Tulsa (Austin, Tex.: Eakin Press, 1997).
- Loren L. Gill, "The Tulsa Race Riot" (M.A. thesis, University of Tulsa, 1946).
- Robert N. Hower, "Angels of Mercy": The American Red Cross and the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot (Tulsa, Okla.: Homestead Press, 1993).
- Mary E. Jones Parrish, Events of the Tulsa Disaster (Tulsa, Okla.: Out on a Limb Publishing, 1998).